Baby on Board: Jogging Strollers
Jogging strollers—those funky three-wheelers you see whizzing about with baby on board—are practically standard issue for moms and dads who want to stay active.
“I couldn't always get to the gym, but I was always able to get exercise with our Baby Jogger,” says Victoria, a mother of two who lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts with her husband and daughters. She jogs with the stroller on weekdays, and takes it to the beach or to trails at a nearby state park on the weekends. “The fresh air is great for all of us,” says Victoria.
With a minimal design that consists of metal tubing, canvas seats, and mini-bicycle-style wheels, they are lightweight and a breeze to push and maneuver. Originally designed to accommodate runners, jogging strollers are built with plenty of leg room, so they won't hinder your stride. Not feeling fleet of foot? Running is optional; walkers enjoy the ease-of-use just as much, though in-line skating is a no-no.
You can find joggers to accommodate one, two, or even three little ones. Because joggers don't have the same support as a standard stroller or carriage, it's a good idea to wait until your baby has control of his head (generally around six months of age) to go for a spin. Very young passengers will appreciate reclining seats, and a rolled towel or car seat neck roll for head support. Most jogging strollers have a weight limit of at least 75 pounds, which means you can bring your child along until about age four or as long as you can convince her to sit still.
On the downside, jogging strollers are bigger than your average stroller, making them more cumbersome to store and transport. They're also pricey. Expect to pay over $250 for a single model. Mini jogging-strollers are less expensive, but there are tradeoffs: small overall size and 12” wheels mean a bumpier ride and less room for baby.
Some stroller companies also offer less expensive three-wheelers, but they are not necessarily intended for jogging. Plastic materials and small wheels keep the price down, but they result in a less durable and less comfortable vehicle for pusher and passenger.
What to Look For
Not all jogging strollers are created equal. Phil Moore of LadySport in Vancouver is a father of four who has been selling jogging strollers since their introduction in the early 1980s. He gives these buying tips:
- Look for a five-point safety harness. Usually made of cordura nylon or canvas straps with plastic buckles, the harness secures your child around the shoulders and waist and between the legs.
- Ask about extras. “Find out what's included and what you have to buy separately,” recommends Moore. Sun canopies and carrying baskets, for example, aren't always included. Think about your climate, as well. A rain canopy offers wind protection, too, and it may be worth the extra money to be able to go out in all kinds of weather.
- Check the brakes. A handbrake that works like those on a bicycle is generally standard. You squeeze the handle, and rubber grippers put pressure on the wheels to slow or stop. Because handbrakes aren't always effective on inclines, an extra parking brake that stops the front wheel by engaging a sprocket can be nice, especially if you'll be stopping along the way. “If you just plan to go out, run, and come back and the stroller won't leave your hands, you probably won't need it,” says Moore.
- Test the handlebar height. Look for a bar that meets at or just below your waist, and walk and run with it to make sure the height is comfortable. Most aren't adjustable. “When you're running with the stroller, you can't pump your arms and you don't want to bend at the waist,” notes Moore. “Also make sure you can comfortably grip the bar fully for safety.”
- Determine wheel size. Most companies give you a choice of wheel sizes: 12, 16, and 20 inches. The bigger the wheel, the smoother baby's ride and the easier the stroller will be to push. If you'll be sticking to smooth pavement, 16-inch wheels are a good choice. Serious runners and trail walkers should opt for the big ones. “The 20-inch are the best choice for off-road,” says Moore. They soak up bumps and travel well over all kinds of surfaces grass, gravel, sand, bark mulch, even snow. Just remember that bigger wheels add bulk and cost, too.
- Alloy or steel? You can often choose rim material. Alloy is lighter, but also more costly, and probably not necessary unless you're training seriously and going long distances where every ounce counts.
- Put it together. Assembly tools should raise your eyebrows as a sure sign that too much work is involved. The front wheel should have a quick-release mechanism so you don't have to unbolt it, and the back wheels should also come on and off with ease. Before you buy, ask the salesperson to take it apart and put it together for you. ("If the clerk flounders, you're better off finding a store with a more knowledgeable staff," adds Moore.) Then try it yourself, and remember you'll get quicker with practice.
- Look for added value. If you're into cycling, too, you might want to consider a convertible jogging stroller/bike trailer. Models with three large-size wheels work better for jogging than those that convert with a smaller front wheel.
Before you hit the road, take a few simple precautions to make sure your precious cargo stays safe. Use the tether, a simple strap to loop around your wrist, in case of a runaway stroller. If you'll be out at dusk or twilight, Moore suggests adding reflective stripping so you can be seen easily by cars, bikers, and pedestrians. As your child gets bigger, make sure little hands can't reach the wheels where they could get rubbed or snagged in the spokes.
Look for ASTM International certification to ensure that the stroller meets the most rigorous standard set by the jogging stroller industry. However, ASTM testing is not required by law, so not all manufacturers participate.
ASTM International website. Available at: http://www.astm.org/ .
Last reviewed November 2009 by
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