BOB IRONMAN SPORT UTILITY STROLLERLightweight, versatile running stroller

Because my wife and I always enjoyed running together, we knew a running stroller would be a must-purchase item once our first baby was old enough to support his own neck. And not wanting to make running any harder than it already is, I did a little research on what would best suit our needs.

That was 1998 and we settled on a top-of-the-line Baby Jogger with 20-inch wheels. Admittedly, I settled on Baby Jogger mostly because of their heritage as the first company in the now competitive industry of running strollers.

I quickly found it was incredibly difficult to keep the Baby Jogger's front wheel aligned. It always pulled to either side depending on how I adjusted the quick release skewer. I even did a race once, with the stroller, and was incredibly annoyed that I was spending half my energy trying to keep the stroller rolling in a straight line.

By 2001 we had another baby and we purchased a double stroller from a Baby Jogger spin off company called Dreamer and we've been very happy with it. Though its sheer size and bulkiness tend to make it a hassle to take in the car and assembling and folding it takes a few minutes.

So when I was recently introduced to the B.O.B. Ironman Sport Utility Stroller, I was more than happy to take it through the paces. I think the name is really cool. Though as a former Ironman, I don't really care whether that association is there. In fact, I'm almost kind of embarrassed that I'd be using this stroller to advertise I have an association with "Ironman." I just want the thing to work well.

Just as an aside, B.O.B. stands for "Beast Of Burden." Hmmmm. Are there times we think of our children as little beasts? Okay, nuff said. I won't elaborate.

Using the B.O.B

What really impressed me most about the BOB is how easily it folds down and back together. Seriously, this stroller is amazing in that regard. To take it from a folded position and ready to stroll, all it takes is a quick pull on the handle and the whole stroller simply snaps into place.

It's so amazing that I was having fun with my 5-year-old saying "Okay, who wants to use the stroller?" while I'd snap the thing up from a folded position and he laughed hysterically at how quickly this folded pile of fabric and wheels could instantly turn itself into a full-fledged running stroller.

To fold it back down for transport in your car's trunk is another three-second operation. You just squeeze a lever on each side of the handle, which drops the handlebar, then you pull a padded cord near the bottom that folds the whole thing up. The wheels are all quick-release, including the rear ones.

The rear wheel quick release is not like a normal bicycle wheel, instead it's more like a mountain bike seat post release. You can quickly remove the rear wheels by pulling the quick release lever and sliding the wheel axle out. That should take you another three seconds.

Only 20 pounds

One of the big pluses for the BOB is the fact it weighs only 20.4 pounds. If you're like me and live near a lot of hills, you'll appreciate not having to push a heavy stroller, plus a kid's weight up every steep hill.

I find the 16" wheels have excellent rolling resistance and the alignment is dead on straight. Actually, the BOB Ironman tracks a straight line so well that one of the minor inconveniences is you need to lift the front wheel off the ground and twist the whole jogger to either side in order to turn.

For my three-year-old, who's just about 30 pounds, this is no big deal, but as you get to 40-plus pounds, like my five-year-old, turning takes a little more of an effort because you need to pull the handle down and get the weight off the front wheel.

My wife doesn't like lifting the wheel to turn, but I prefer it. In my opinion if you're any kind of serious runner you don't want to spend your time trying to shimmy the stroller one way or the other. With the BOB, I just put it on a line and, presto, all I need to do is run behind it. And if you're dealing with little guys, under two, this isn't even an issue.

The lightweight frame is made of aluminum alloy while the fabric is made of rip-stop polyester. And the yellow Ironman model color really gets attention. I can not begin to say how many times I was stopped when taking the BOB to places like malls or street fairs and everybody wanted to know what kind of stroller I had and where they could get one. The BOB's yellow is a bright attention grabber.

I'm also a big fan of the canopy positions. I remember when I had my old Baby Jogger there were countless times my wife insisted I run the stroller backwards so our baby's head wasn't exposed to direct sunlight. With the BOB, you can choose from three different canopy positions, so that in the down mode your baby is completely in the shade.

The BOB also can be adjusted to several reclining positions to that your little one can sit up and check out the scenery or lay back and snooze away as you hammer out the miles.

My unit also came with a handlebar console that includes two water bottle holders (or kid's formula or juice bottles) and enclosed compartment for holding keys, money or whatever. There's also a storage area below the main cradle for larger items such as blankets, towels, diapers and extra clothing.

Another nifty feature is the 2-position shock absorbers that really dampen the ride depending on the weight of your child. They claim you can carry a 70-pound kid in the BOB, but I think the practical limit is more like 50 pounds. By that size, most kids don't want to be cooped up in a stroller anyway.

The 5-point seat harness with sternum strap is pretty easy to buckle but can accidentally pinch your fingers if you're not careful. The parking brake works off a front caliper brake and is good as long as you keep it adjusted properly. That said, these strollers aren't meant to be left alone or parked on a hill using the brake.

When you combine all the features and available accessories, you quickly come to the realization that the BOB Ironman Sport Utility Stroller is the Cadillac of the stroller industry. This baby (no pun intended) has everything you need to keep running seriously while bringing the little tot along for the ride.

At a suggested retail of $335, this BOB is definitely not the cheapest stroller on the market. But if you're a serious runner, strollers are a category where you shouldn't look to save a buck or two on bargain brands. For more information, visit www.bobtrailers.com or call (800) 893-2447.


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