I do most of my running with my little friend — my sweet 14-month-old daughter — in tow, so a great running stroller is an absolute must for me. In fact, my running stroller was the very first piece of baby gear I purchased when I found out I was pregnant. Literally, I went stroller shopping before I went crib shopping. In my typical, highly analytical (borderline OCD) fashion, I looked at Every. Stroller. Available. Nothing — and I mean NOTHING — came close to the Chariot CX in terms of features and function.**
The CX is Chariot’s top-of-the-line offering, and I’ll be honest, it’s not cheap. The Cougar, which is the next step down from the CX, has many of the same features and is just as functional (there’s a comparison chart here). However, there were a few key elements that really sold me on the CX. The stroller has a trim, aerodynamic shape, which is really nice when it’s windy out. I would never have been able to anticipate just how much a running stroller can catch the wind! The seating area is cozy and reclined enough for a little one to sleep comfortably. Unlike many other jogging strollers, the CX seat does not recline. However, my daughter has no trouble napping when we’re out running. When she was younger, I used the Chariot Baby Supporter accessory, which gave her a little more support. There’s even an Infant Sling for babies who aren’t sitting yet.
The stroller handles beautifully. It has a fixed front wheel, so to make a turn, I push down on the handles. Because it’s very well balanced, this requires little effort. The “flight deck” on the CX is wonderful. There are many hand positions available, which is one benefit over the Cougar. The handlebar setup detaches and can be turned over to change its height. This is fabulous if mom and dad are of vastly different stature. I’ve added a water bottle holder to my handlebar setup. Lower down, there’s a larger compartment with an elastic-rimmed lid (the lid is red in the photo) that holds quite a bit.
I love that the bottom compartment folds up and out of the way if it’s not needed (or if the runner has a long stride). The CX also comes with a little accessory bag (grey in this photo) that hangs from the handlebars. There’s a small mesh pocket that’s perfect for a phone or iPod, and the bag has enough capacity for a jacket, snack, and set of keys. It also comes off the stroller and can be used as a small backpack (which I love for trips to the zoo!) The base of the accessory bag clips to the stroller, so it doesn’t swing. As a safety feature, there’s glow-in-the-dark material in several locations on the stroller. No, not reflective. Literally glow-in-the-dark. This is awesome, because it means the stroller is visible even if there isn’t an oncoming car providing light. There’s also reflective piping in many locations on the stroller, which further increases visibility.
I live in Arizona, so sun protection was a critical factor for me in selecting a running stroller. The CX is very impressive in this area; this was one of the biggest selling points over the Cougar for me. There’s a 3/4-length UV-blocking panel that folds down and is held in place by velcro tabs. Because of the tabs, it’s possible to adjust the length of the panel depending upon the angle of the sun. The sides of the stroller are mesh and allow for airflow (the back is also mesh). However, if the sun is intense or if it’s raining, there are UV-blocking panels that zip onto the sides. In this photo, I’ve partially unzipped one of the side panels. The panels can be removed completely and stowed in a pocket on the back of the stroller if they’re not needed.
While there’s no reason to close up the stroller in fair weather, there’s a cover for rainy days. The cover has two parts: simple mesh — which allows air to flow through and is useful if the stroller is being used as a bike trailer (more on that later) — and a waterproof panel that zips down. If it’s not raining, the plastic panel unzips and stows near the top of the stroller with the help of elastic loops. The mesh cover provides extra protection for really sunny days. The grey protuberances near the front of the stroller are stowage for regular stroller wheels. While it’s certainly possible to use the CX as a regular stroller, the fixed running wheel makes it both very long and somewhat difficult to maneuver indoors. Chariot sells accessory stroller wheels that attach to the grey protuberances, pointed either up or down. When the wheels are oriented downward and the running wheel is removed, the CX functions like a regular stroller. The wheels can be mounted oriented upward for storage, or removed completely.
Both the CX and the Cougar have tons of accessories available. There’s a bike conversion kit (either can be pulled as a trailer), a hiking conversion kit, even a cross country ski conversion kit! Besides the accessory seats for younger babies, there is a baby bunting for cold days. The upside of this is that it’s possible to use just one stroller for a multitude of activities. The downside is that everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — is sold as an accessory. Both the CX and the Cougar are sold as a chassis only; the only included wheels are the two in the rear. On the one hand, this means it’s possible to buy only those accessories you’ll actually use rather than paying for unnecessary components. On the other hand, things add up pretty quickly. The CX1 chassis (which seats one child — there’s also a double) runs $950. The running wheel is another $125. The stroller wheels are $75, and the bike kit is $75. I’m a member of REI, which I highly recommend for anyone who does any outdoor sports. Not only do I get a dividend each year, but REI sends out 20% off coupons several times a year, which really helped with the cost of the stroller. Still, the price tag definitely gave me pause (and heartburn). In the end, though, the CX (and I imagine the same is true of the Cougar) was the only stroller I found that I would consider a running stroller. Every other “running” stroller I looked at was more a…jogging stroller. I can’t imagine running very far (or very fast) with any of the other strollers I looked at. The other offerings on the market are cheaper, yes. But also more cumbersome, more top-heavy, less aerodynamic, less stable at higher speeds…and definitely less adaptable. One day recently, I used the CX as a bike trailer (with stroller wheels stowed) to pull my daughter up to the zoo. Once there, I popped off the trailer hitch (which stows on the chassis), locked up my bike, put the stroller wheels on (all these conversions are quick, easy, and require ZERO tools), and wheeled her around. Later that afternoon, I swapped the stroller wheels for the running wheel and did a 10-miler. Was the CX worth the money? Every last penny.
**This is a completely unpaid review. Chariot didn’t send me a stroller or anything like that. I wrote all this good stuff about the stroller because I just love it so freakin’ much. But if you’re from Chariot and you’re reading this and are super impressed and grateful and want to send me money? Let’s talk!