BY: MATT MCCAIN
I think I am like most parents. When your kids are born (right after you finish counting fingers and toes) you start thinking about who they are going to become. What will they like? Will they be outgoing or shy? Will they be smart or athletic or both? I remember sitting with my son a few years ago after bringing him home from the hospital just hoping he would like some of the same things that I like. My wife and I enjoy being outdoors and we love cycling. To be perfectly honest, my wife doesn’t usually show much interest in the products that I test and review. When I sent her a note asking if she wanted to try this out, she spent thirty seconds checking it out on the website and another thirty days wearing me out with questions about it before it arrived. I have to admit, her excitement about the Pod from Baby Jogger started to get me excited as well.
Baby Jogger was started almost thirty years ago by Phil Baechler. Phil was a journalist, jogger and father who realized that if he was going to spend time with his new baby as well as his passion for running he was going to need a better mousetrap. A traditional stroller simply isn’t built to handle jogging (some of them are challenging to just push through a mall). He set out to build a stroller that would be able to handle terrain variations while having the stability to be safe at faster speeds. The first baby Jogger came out in 1984 and the first dual (accommodates two infants) arrived two years later.
Less than two years after I held Maxwell and wondered what type of person he would grow up to be, I held his brother Tyler and thought the same thing. (I am assuming something like this inspired Phil to develop the double stroller). The latest version is the one that Baby Jogger sent to our family for review. The baseunit is called the “Pod” and it is the starting point
for cus omizing the “stroller” for use. I am hesitant to call it a stroller, as it seems to belittle what it is capable of doing. (Similar to referring to a Paralegal as an Attorney’s “Little helper”). The Pod is designed to convert to a stroller, a jogger or a pull behind for almost any bicycle.
Assembly was very easy and my wife did it before I even got home. According to her, it took more time getting it out of the box than it did to assemble. As a parent the scariest words in the world on a package are “Some assembly required”. I once ordered a wooden canoe and the company sent me a tree, a pocketknife and instructions on how to carve it. I guess it could have been worse, they could have sent me a few seeds to grow the tree myself.
The interior has several nylon pockets that are perfect for holding goldfish, sippy cups and a die-cast Lightning McQueen (at least that’s what my kids use them for). The seat and five point harness are well padded and there was no fear of pinching the kids when clipping the buckles closed. One of the features I liked about the interior was the recessed mesh behind the kids’ heads. It allows plenty of room to accommodate helmets although my little guy is too short to take advantage of it yet (the next growth spurt will probably solve that issue).
The Pod will zip up until it is almost completely enclosed. There is liberal use of mesh to allow air to flow freely through it including a mesh bug screen for the front. I wouldn’t expect mosquitoes to find their way in, which is super important to me. There are several reflectors to increase visibility; however the good-looking red one they sent to us attracted plenty of attention. The handle is height adjustable with a comfortable bend. There is a brake lever in the center of the handlebar that operates the rear drum brakes. The brakes worked great however I would have liked to have seen a lock mechanism on the brake lever to quickly lock the rear wheels. There is a large pocket on the back of the stroller that is big enough to hold plenty of gear. We actually used it to hold the stroller wheels when we were towing the pod behind the bikes. We were able to ride to the beach, quickly detach the trailer bar and install the stroller wheels.
As I said, the rear pocket is large; unfortunately it obscures the rear parking brake that is located in the center of the rear axle. You should be able to reach up with your toes and lock it down but it was a little difficult to do so as the pocket hung over it. The reach to the foot brake was easier for me (I’m 6’2”) however it was tougher for my wife who is 5’4”. It could be easily corrected if the foot pedal were a little longer or moved to a more accessible location, but in the grand scheme of things a very small detail.
Folding the stroller in half is very easy. There are large handles on either side that are easy to grab
and pull upward. You can hear the click as it releases and folds in half. It can be lifted by the same
handles for storage. With almost three decades of building high performance strollers this baby
handles like a dream.
As a Stroller
To use the Pod as a stroller is as simple as installing the two eight inch wheels on either side of the front of the chassis. Now, I know to anyone who is childless (why are you reading this review?) it may not seem important but being able to steer a stroller one
handed is really important. You are either going to be drinking coffee or talking on the phone and many strollers have the alignment
of a thirty-year old shopping cart. The Pod tracks straight. The thing that I found most impressive is that you could hold the handle anywhere on the bar and it still wanted to go straight. One
of our strollers (we have a 1 year old and a 3 year old, we have many strollers) has to be held dead center or you don’t know
where it may go. Even our expensive double can be difficult to steer while holding a cup of coffee.
There are several accessories available for storing cups and
phones that make it easier to manage with one hand. The Pod looked very wide when I first saw it and I thought it would be difficult to handle through the mall. It actually turns tighter than any other stroller I have used and when I checked the measurements it is actually narrower than most of the top selling, side by side, dual strollers.
As a Jogger
As a Jogger
To convert it to a jogger is also easy and accomplished without tools. Remove the
stroller wheels and install the 16” wheel into the center mount. There is a retention
pin and lock and you are ready to go. We found that we like using the jogger wheel
when we go for walks through the neighborhood at night. We live in a quiet neighborhood
without sidewalks so everyone walks on the side of the street. The larger
wheels eat up the asphalt.
As a jogger the Pod still tracks straight as an arrow. Steering with the jogging wheel
can take a bit to get comfortable with, as the front wheel doesn’t turn. It is very
easy to correct the path of the jogging wheel by pushing down a bit on the handle. It
takes the weight off the front wheel and direction is easily corrected. Frankly, I don’t
think I would want a jogger with a wheel that did turn. I think there would be a lack
of stability that would be a little scary, even at the ridiculously slow speed I would
plan on running.
As a Tow Behind
Ok, so this was really the part I wanted to know about. I have had the single child
seat on my beach cruiser for a while but it meant that I could only take one of my
boys at a time. It also meant that I couldn’t give my wife a break from all three of us
because somebody was staying with her. Our physician advised us that we should
wait until the kids are at least twelve months old before putting them on the back of
the bicycle. You will see that most infant helmets are not designed for children any
younger than one year. Tyler received a helmet for his first birthday and thankfully
the pod showed up a little over a month later.
Using the Pod as a tow behind was also very easy. The only tool needed was a
wrench to remove the axle nut on the bike and install the steel-mounting bracket and
then replace and tighten the axle nut. The trailer bar clipped into the same hole as
the stroller wheel and locks into place using a pin and retention clip. For additional
safety there is a strap to hold everything in place in the event something went wrong.
The interesting thing about towing the kids is that you don’t feel how heavy they are. Don’t get me
wrong, you’ll know there is sixty pounds of kids, stroller and snacks behind you but it doesn’t feel that
way. My wife who hasn’t been training was motoring around the neighborhood pulling both kids with