Growth Spurt -> Stroller Shopping
I think we might have discovered the reason for Austen's run of sleepless nights last week: Somewhere during that time he grew another 2", give or take a hair. That means he's roughly 26" long now, the limit of the infant car seat that we've also been using as a stroller bassinet. Consequently, Al and I spent Saturday afternoon stroller and convertible car seat shopping. (Last night my friend Jean pointed out that as long as Austen doesn't mind sitting in the infant car seat, we can continue to use it on the Snap 'n Go stroller frame; we just can't use it as a car seat beyond 26" or 20 lbs., which Austen must also be getting close to.)
We actually performed this exercise last weekend as well, but we ended up not buying anything because (a) at the time, Austen had yet to undergo this crazy growth spurt, and (b) we didn't find the stroller of our dreams at Babies 'R Us. We did find a convertible car seat that we liked (one of the Graco ComfortSport models), but again, as Austen had yet to spurt, it didn't seem urgent to buy it that day.
Post-spurt, the pressure was on. Pressure sometimes makes me stupid, as is evidenced by the fact that when we went out shopping this weekend, I forgot to bring the Baby Bargains book I'd had on hand last week, and I also forgot to print out the specs on the strollers we were most interested in from the Zooper and Maclaren websites. Duh. These things probably would have helped, because the choice wasn't obvious.
It was pretty easy to rule out the Peg Perego and Ingelsina models we tried—they were too short for me. Ditto any brand of jogging stroller (although Zooper's Boogie was kinda cool)—too big and too heavy for daily use in the city. It really did boil down to the non-jogging Zooper and Maclaren models, but which model and which manufacturer?
We tried out a floor model Zooper Swing, which was on sale for the incredibly low price of $149. Although we liked how light and steerable it was—and the fact that it included all kinds of accessories—we abandoned it as an option because the access to the basket area wasn't great, and (more importantly) one of the pegs on the reclining seat didn't fit properly in its notch. Seemed like a defect—and therefore a deal breaker—to us. Because we only saw the Swing and the Boogie on the floor, we asked if the store (a Babyland USA) had any other Zooper models. We expected to be told WYSIWYG, but one of the sales guys said he thought a whole shipment of Zoopers had just come in. Another sales guy was kind enough to remove a Waltz from its box and assemble it for us to try.
While he was working on that, we tested out a Maclaren Techno Classic (I've looked at the product comparisons on the Maclaren website, and I honestly don't know what the difference is between the Classic and the XT). I loved the fact that the handles were adjustable... except that raising them to their full extent didn't stop me from kicking the wheels as I walked. Al fared better with the handles in their lowest position and had no complaints about wheel kicking.
Both of us loved the clear plastic peek-a-boo window on the hood, as it gave us a clear view down onto Austen. This is an important feature for me, as I'm not sure I'm quite ready not to see Austen when we go out on our walks (currently he faces me in the Snap 'n Go). We also both appreciated the sleek, no-nonsense styling and especially the compact fold.
Next we tested out the Zooper, and I found that while the handle bar was 1.5" lower than the lowest Maclaren handle position, the fact that it stuck out rather than up meant that I could walk more upright. That, coupled with the wider wheelbase and single rather than double rear wheels, also meant that I didn't kick said wheels when I walked. Brilliant. I also preferred the single handle bar to the separate handle grips; it made it easier to steer with one hand, which is key for someone like me who makes an almost-daily trip to Starbucks and then continues on, pushing the stroller with one hand and drinking a hot beverage with the other.
Al and I made several trips up and down the aisle with both strollers, agonizing over the pros and cons of each as we went. Here's what our discussions boiled down to:
|Maclaren Techno Classic|
|Pros||Minimalist styling; compact fold; adjustable-height handles; great maneuverability; perfectly-positioned peek-a-boo window in canopy; foot-activated front wheel locks.|
|Cons||Narrow wheelbase and double wheels leave little room for feet of driver; handles extend up rather than out, so I had to bend over to steer no matter what setting they were on; small basket with terrible access; high price that doesn't include
|Pros||Handle bar allows for one-handed steering; great maneuverability; wide basket with easy access, good for shopping; wide wheelbase and shallower handle angle allows for upright walking without kicking wheels; $90 less than Maclaren—all accessories included.|
|Cons||All that extra stuff means it's bulkier, with a less-compact fold; peek-a-boo window in canopy not positioned directly over child; god-awful Fabreeze-like smell that gave me a headache and a mild allergy attack.|
Overall, the biggest pro for the Maclaren was the minimalism (and related compact fold); the biggest con was the wheel-kicking issue. I was afraid we'd buy this stroller, and after kicking the wheels a few times, I'd be miserable. The biggest con for the Zooper, honestly, was the smell; the biggest pro was the fact that I could walk in an upright, relaxed position without kicking the wheels.
Since the wheel-kicking issue seemed the most important one, we ended up going with the Zooper. We're hoping that leaving the stroller unfolded in the basement or garage for a while will cause the smell to dissipate, and that even if it lingers for awhile, the fact that we'll be using the stroller outdoors will help keep headaches at bay. Surprisingly, cost didn't really matter too much; I think both of us were OK with anything under $300 (which of course ruled out the $700+ Bugaboo Frog right off the bat). It was nice to save a little money with the Zooper, though.
The real test will come when I get brave enough to actually stick Austen in the new stroller and take him out for a spin—and when we try to take the Zooper on an airplane. The latter will be happening rather soon, as I'll be booking plane tickets for an April trip to San Francisco tonight.