Test Drive II: The Mall
I took the new stroller out to King of Prussia Mall on Thursday—which means I also tested the new car seat. Austen still hates being strapped into anything, but he seemed to prefer the more upright ride of the convertible car seat to the infant carrier. I was a little unnerved by the fact that his head flopped forward onto his chest when he fell asleep on the way to the mall, but he didn't seem to mind.
I've gotten the hang of folding the Zooper, and it's not super heavy considering all the stuff that's on it, so it wasn't too hard to heave into the trunk and back out again. Getting Austen out of the car seat and into the stroller proved no more difficult than taking the infant carrier out of the car and strapping it to the Snap 'n Go frame, so it turns out I was worried about nothing there.
I was surprised to find that the Zooper was harder to steer in the mall than in the city; apparently its suspension and tires are better suited to rough terrain than smooth. This theory was confirmed when I followed the pedestrian path from one mall building to the other, as it happens to be paved with an uneven brick design. What used to be uncomfortable with the Snap 'n Go, the Zooper handled like a champ.
The Zooper also proved difficult to steer with one hand (unless you're going in a straight line—but then, that's not really steering, it's pushing), but I think this was partly because the stroller was harder to steer in general on the smooth mall floors. The wider stance of the Zooper, which I love because it prevents wheel-kicking, was a bit of a liability at the mall; I ran into more displays than I usually do with the Snap 'n Go.
On the plus side, Austen seemed to enjoy facing out, and he got a lot more attention than usual because people could actually see him. Overall I'd say that while the Zooper is easy enough to get in and out of the car and is comfortable for the baby in the mall, it really is better suited for the Urban Jungle than the Mall Crawler [these are Baby Bargains terms].
This impression has been confirmed in the couple times I've taken the stroller out and about in Philadelphia since the mall visit. The Zooper seems to beg for rough terrain; it loves potholes, uneven pavement, cobblestones, you name it.
I also got a chance to try one-handed steering when it wasn't rainy and blustery out and found that it's almost as hard to steer with one hand in the city as at the mall. Part of this is probably due to the fact that the baby's weight is lower down and further back than in the Snap 'n Go (that is, what you gain in curb-jumping ability, you lose in one-handed manueverability). I did discover yesterday, however, that one-handed steering improves with a lighter touch. A common move for me is to back out the door of Starbucks with a coffee in one hand and to swing the stroller around to forward-facing position with the other, and at first I found it almost impossible with the Zooper. Loosening my grip a bit solved the problem, and I can now perform the same trick almost as easily with the Zooper as with the Snap 'n Go.
One thing I've been disappointed about with the Zooper (though I don't think I could have done much better with any standard stroller): the basket accessibility. I somehow failed to notice a silver support bar below the seat and above the basket (I think it was obscured by the back of the canopy), which makes the opening to the basket fairly narrow. I wasn't able to get my two bags of Whole Foods groceries into the basket on Friday without unpacking them. (Actually, this might save some bags, and thus the environment; I can just throw everything into the basket loose and forego the bags entirely.)