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.