As Dragon Babe approached her sixth month, we started searching for a proper jogging stroller for running in the park, with a view to bringing her to stroller-friendly runs later on. There is, of course, no need for a specialist stroller to bring baby for a stroll in the park, but we were looking at doing more than just a couple of hundred metres around a lake. Regular long-distance outings on varying terrain would cause significant wear and tear on a regular stroller plus rickety rides of an hour or more for the poor passenger! So off we went to see what’s out there as far as contraptions for the runner baby (though I’ll admit it’s really more for the runner mom) are concerned.
We looked around at the usual parenthood expos and baby-goods stores. As we expected, jogging strollers aren’t very commonly sold in Malaysia. Some brand names sound like they could be jogging strollers, but are in fact regular strollers styled like jogging strollers, and do not have the features that are typically characteristic of a stroller intended for running. This meant that there would be very limited opportunities to try out various brands before making a purchase, so we had to proceed on the basis of product reviews and brand reputation.
The search went online, and one day, a pre-loved BOBgear stroller from an owner in Singapore turned up. We didn’t set out looking for something particularly unique at all, so we were quite amused when the model turned out to be the official stroller of the IRONMAN Triathlon. The BOBgear IRONMAN was a beauty, complete with the official logo embroidered on the hood. The cool factor immediately shot up sky high (never mind that I can hardly be said to excel in the swim and bike departments). It was in yellow, too (a favourite colour), was in excellent condition, and altogether a great bargain. Needless to say, it now sits in our house! ;-D
What does one look for in a jogging stroller anyway? A feature of such strollers is that the front wheel should be lockable to the straight-ahead position when used for running, for stability. Try running while pushing a regular 4-wheeled stroller for a while and you’ll find it almost as difficult to control as a supermarket trolley. (By the way, jogging strollers have 3 wheels, rather than 4.) While some strollers offer the option of the front wheel being either lockable or unlocked so that it is free to swivel when used for purposes other than running, the front wheel of the BOB IRONMAN is permanently locked in the straight-ahead position. This does limit this model to jogging/running use only, as it’s rather more challenging to make a turn without a freely-moving front wheel, unless the places you frequent have wide open spaces and are not crowded. However, once the stroller is on the move, the ride is smooth and stable. There is also a handbrake (a lever located on the handlebar) which comes in useful when you find yourself on a downhill terrain.
According to the specifications, the stroller has a weight capacity of 31.8kg (i.e. weight of child plus any items you may place in the various seat pockets and bottom storage basket) with the seat level adjustable by folding — so the stroller will last us quite a while. As with most jogging strollers, the 5-point harness (as opposed to the usual 3 in non-joggers) ensures quite a snug and secure fit for baby. The hood is adjustable, and a feature I found very useful (especially when pushing a younger baby) is the large, see-through viewing square so you can keep an eye on the little passenger.
It collapses and unfolds effortlessly, and is manageable with one hand – a plus point in the portability department in addition to the lightweight frame. However, do bear in mind that the wheels are larger and bulkier than your average stroller, so you do need a relatively uncluttered car boot in order for the collapsed stroller to fit in comfortably, unless you also go through the motions of removing the wheels (I probably won’t find myself doing that unless it was for a long-distance drive and I have to also pack luggage into the trunk!)
Another potential limitation would be the fact that the BOB’s handlebar height is not adjustable, though I would imagine this not to be a problem for most people, unless your height measurements lie on one of the extreme ends of the scale. According to the product specs, the handlebar height is 102cm from the ground, so you will essentially be holding on to something about the height of a classroom metre-ruler. I’m about 5′ 6″ and my arms are stretched out quite comfortably at waist-level.
I’ve tried the stroller on some short (<5K) runs at the park which has a mix of pavement and asphalt, on gentle slopes. The runs were short mostly because I always ended up at the park at a rather later, busy, hour, which made for some tricky maveuvering amongst the evening family crowd… and mosquitoes! I found the Runner’s World article referred to earlier useful for tips on maintaining proper running form while running with a stroller (at the end of the article after the product reviews). In particular, the first tip really hit home – it was too easy to slip into the tendency of holding the stroller at arm’s length, with arms straightened and weight leaning forward towards the handlebar (sort of like how not to run on a treadmill). More practice needed!
The plan is to make a race debut with our stroller some time later in the year – perhaps at the Terry Fox Run. Do wave if you see a bright yellow three-wheeler with an IRONMAN logo – it might just be us!