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Valco Baby Ion

A baby stroller by Valco.

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Good looks, easy fold, and a push to die for!

  • May 31, 2010

When my mom kindly offered to buy us our first real stroller, I agonized for months about whether to ask for a BJCM or the Ion. My sister has a BJCM and loves it. It has that neat-o fold. And it's a darn sight cheaper.

I could not deny, though, that my heart wanted the Ion. Therefore, I was thrilled when the combination of an Albee 15% off coupon (that excluded Baby Jogger) plus some deft justification brought the prices within spitting distance of each other. After all, $229 for thhe BJ + $30 for the belly bar + $40 for the rain cover (never mind that I probably wouldn't have bought the rain cover) made the BJCM only $40 cheaper than the Ion. And what price love?

When I unpacked the Ion, though, I admit my heart sank. It looked so big there in my office. The steering was clunky, as bad as my Graco Snugrider (and that's bad). It had an unpleasant new-car smell. The fold looked huge to me. And the front wheel was clearly used. I thought I'd made a terrible mistake and envisioned shipping it back, paying the restocking fee, and just getting the BJCM that I should have gotten in the first place.

I'm glad to say that this story of stroller regret has a happy ending. Thanks to Valco, and no thanks at all to Albee Baby, I got a new front wheel setup within a week. This magically transformed the stroller from an old station wagon into a nimble little hot rod.  After leaving it unfolded in my office for a few days (to the admiration of all who passed) the smell went away.

Today it had its first outing, to the farmer's market and then to a supermarket. It performed beautifully. The route from the parking lot to our farmer's market is full of curbs and broken, uneven pavement. I wasn't expecting much from the smallish wheels, but to my surprise, it handled the rough surfaces with aplomb.   I really appreciated the smooth handling while darting between people in the crowded market. And, aesthetically, the Almond fabric looked fantastic with the basket filled up with vegetables! I also liked being able to toss my keys and phone into the little zippered seatback compartment.

We then stopped off at the grocery store, where I learned that the Ion truly is a one-handed steer. I was able to zip around and grab groceries with one hand while easily manoevering the Ion with the other. I never in a million years could have done that with the Graco Snugrider.

What I love about the Ion:

  • The immense sun shade. Rain threatened at one point, but I was serenely undisturbed, knowing that the wee guy would be well protected. To be honest, I was maybe just a little bit looking forward to using the rain cover. The rain cover's neat; it doesn't pull over the whole thing like a plastic bag -- it zips onto the front of the canopy and is very sleek (although perhaps not as water-resistant as the plastic-bag type).
  • STEERING. Smooth as smooth can be, handles uneven surfaces beautifully, turns on a dime.
  • Stable as heck. I was able to hang my work bag, full of junk and with a laptop in it, over the handle of the empty stroller. It didn't even think about tipping. Seat is solid and plush.
  • The brake. I hate having to step on two little tiny plastic levers. The Ion's brake pedal is single, large and has a smooth, positive action.
  • The crotch strap that goes from the seat of the stroller to the belly bar. I'm not sure it's serving any purpose, but it makes me feel more secure.
  • Deep seat with high sides. My son really seemed to like this. He rested his hands on the sides as if he were driving. I have no doubt that in a few more months he'll be hanging on the belly bar.
  • Easy fold. I was afraid that it would compare badly to the BJCM super-fold, but in fact it's easy as pie.

What I don't love:

  • Extremely minimalistic instructions. I was left with pieces of fabric and only my best guess as to how to attach them. Thank goodness for Janet's high-res pictures of her Ion. I'm still not sure that I have the back hood thingie on correctly; it is just hanging there a bit gracelessly.
  • Not the tiniest fold in the world. In order to get it easily into my (admittedly junk-full) trunk, I have to pop off the front wheel. Luckily, it is incredibly easy to pop off and put back on.  (Later note: once I cleaned out my trunk, I was able to get it in without popping off the wheel.)
  • The handle could be more comfortable. It's not terrible, but it's hard plastic without a particularly ergonomic shape. I'm thinking that one of the Stroll Air neoprene covers will add just the tiny bit of plushness it needs. Hey Valco, a bit of foam would have solved this problem entirely. (Later note: the Stroll Air 12" cover is actually only 11", and is a bit too short to really do the job. Still looking for a solution for this one.)
  • The upper part of the basket keeps coming unvelcroed from the lower part of the basket. Again, I'm not 100% sure that I have it on right. (Later note: time seems to have solved this problem.)
  • I'm not sure where/how I'll attach a cupholder. I'm actually wondering if the new Stokke cupholder would work, since the Xplory seems to have a similar handle.
  • No snack tray available, so if we feel the need I'll be trying to find an aftermarket one that's a good fit.
  • I'm thinking that the unusual handle will make aftermarket organizers/parent consoles a no-go. Luckily, the only thing it really needs is a cupholder; the built-in zippered compartment has plenty of room for everything else and is easily accessible.

Neither good nor bad:

Our son is 9 months old and a smallish 18 lbs, and it took us a bit of fiddling to get the straps tight enough. For a younger/smaller baby, I can see how you'd want the bassinet insert, or at least a Snuzzler.

All the cons are minor,  and I'm delighted with my new Ion.  I can see this being our everyday stroller for years to come.

What did you think of this review?

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June 01, 2010
Ditto what @EcoMama said -- what an indepth review and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your take on this "nimble little hot rod"!  I also love your breakdown of what you love and don't love about it, very helpful.  Thanks for sharing! :)
June 01, 2010
Wow, great and thorough review! The Ion caught my eye when it first came out, it looks really great! We have the BJCM and we like it, but we don't love it (seems like I'll never find a stroller I love!)  :) Good choice!
More Valco Ion reviews
review by . January 29, 2010
posted in Strollerland
High on the ION    A famous verse in Ecclesiastes says: "There is nothing new under the sun." And so it was true in biblical times, so it is in the world of strollers. But leave it to the family-owned company Valco, who's always tryin', to develop the Ion.First of all, it is beautiful. Look at the lines, the way the frame flows. The design incorporates the new "egg shape", and, like musicians who "borrow" other's riffs, the handle is borrowed from the original …
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The distinctive egg like shape of the Ion stroller maximizes the interior seat area allowing your child to travel spaciously and comfortably while still providing strength to the superlight chassis (the entire stroller only weighs 18 lbs!). The Ion also has one of the easiest and fastest folds we've seen on an everyday stroller. Features of the Ion include: Lightweight aluminum frame. Multi-position EZ recline Ergonomic handle, adjustable to 6 positions Lockable swivel tubeless wheels Peek-a-boo window in hood Round extended sun canopy Reflective binding and harness Large storage basket "1 Twist" compact fold system Tether safety strap Car seat adaptable Weight limit: 44 lbs Valco Baby is a family owned and operated company that has been creating strollers and other baby products in Australia for the past 30 years. Everything Valco Baby produces is made with the busy parent in mind, with the intent of creating versatile, easy to use products that will withstand the test of time.
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