Cutting Edge Child Transport

On our last trip Outside, we spent $1500 on a stroller for our toddler.

We were in the market because airline baggage handlers in London had just demolished our previous model, a Peg-Pérego, while loading it onto a plane. It was the third good stroller we’d lost to airport ground crews in just over a year.

We spent the better part of a day in Crocodile, a baby store on Vancouver’s West 4th Avenue, considering all of the models they had on offer. The range was overwhelming.

Remarkably, each brand carried celebrity endorsement which had been generated by the paparazzi photo mill. Gwenyth Paltrow prefers Maclaren strollers. Julia Roberts likes Valco.

We’re in the Kate Hudson camp as proud new owners of a Bugaboo Frog.

Initially, I have to admit, I felt a bit nauseous about spending that much money on a stroller for my kid. It was some consolation when we also bought a bag specially designed to protect our investment from those clumsy folks who handle airline cargo. Apparently, we are not the only poor sods to have lost expensive kit to their ten-thumbed hands.

Another point of comfort is the comparative return on investment we enjoyed over other wheeled devices that folks are inclined to blow wads of cash on. Like mountain bikes. A few of my friends have spent more on a bike than I did on a stroller. Their toys generally sits in the basement or shed collecting dust and cobwebs. At best, their wheels might see action the odd Saturday afternoon.

My Bugaboo Frog hits the pavement every day — rain, shine or (soon) snow.

After a couple months with the Frog, though, I take even greater consolation in the fact that, as marketed, it’s a technical marvel. Hands down, its simply the most flexible, capable, healthy stroller we could have purchased. It was designed from the ground up with a new approach to stroller technology. Knowing this warms the geek-cockles of my heart.

I’m able to carry my son safely in pretty much any position (it’s advertised to have dozens of possibilities, though I use just a few) and in any weather. This degree of flexibility was daunting at first, as it seemed complicated, but regular use has made adjustments second nature.

This is the difficult issue surrounding stroller buying for many parents these days: there’s an awful lot of industrial design that goes into almost every model which makes them pretty complicated. Strollers have become as much breathtaking feats of engineering as transportation for children, especially when you consider the typical concept of a stroller.

In New York earlier this year, for example, after a previous airline stroller mishap, we purchased a Graco from the Toys”R”Us in Times Square.

It did all the things a stroller was supposed to do. It had wheels, a canopy, could hold the kid upright or laying down, had plenty of cargo space for shopping trips, and even had a handy little cup holder on the handle.

Within moments we regretted the purchase. The behemoth weighed in at 40 pounds and, though it folded up elegantly enough, required two hands and a strong back to manipulate and lift. There were countless instances I was forced to leave the unit wedged in a turnstile as I chased my son down to prevent him jumping on the A-line to Brooklyn.

Fortunately, after this experience, we learned that no two strollers are alike. There’s actually an incredible array of form and function. What drives each model’s technical design is a focus on a specific lifestyle.

The Maclaren, for example, is perfect for urban parents who use public transit a lot. Our Frog is designed for moms and dads with cars who like to visit a variety of terrain, from the sidewalk to the beach. Of course, the well-known Canadian-made Chariot is the SUV of strollers, a hefty carriage that suits the active family.

When considering the Frog, the health of our son was predominant in our minds. We’d intentionally limited his time in an infant car seat when he was younger to avoid damage to his developing liver and kidneys. Now that he was larger we wanted something that would support his growing frame (and our aging backs).

The Frog, we learned, is specifically designed to properly support the spine of a sleeping toddler. When reclined it doesn’t lay flat like other strollers, with the child’s feet dangling. Instead, it retains a bent knee position and full support of the child’s legs, protecting spinal development.

Plus, when collapsed, the Frog comes apart in two pieces, the carriage and the seat. Fully assembled, the stroller weighs only 18 pounds. When taken apart, I’m able to handle each piece easily with one hand and my son with the other. That protects my spinal development.

The Maclaren line of strollers are even easier to manipulate. The lightest weighs barely twelve pounds and folds up in a single, natural action.

But it was the distinct, attractive elegance and bold colouring of the Frog that won us over. The Maclarens just look a tad too Martha Stewart. And those Chariots could be mistaken for somebody’s weekend spare-part Go-Cart project.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I realize that’s partially why I was willing to pay so much for a stroller: it looks so cool. With technology, be it a stroller or a cell phone, the aesthetic approach can sometimes be more crucial to its success than its engineering merits. Fortunately for me (and my pocketbook) the Frog fulfills both criteria. Now we’ll see how that special bag holds up as we head off on a trip to the UK.

Copyright 2005 Andrew Robulack
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, July 29, 2005