Published on December 16th, 2010 | by Greg0
Micralite: Setting A New Standard For Strollers
Prospective and recent parents often balk when looking at all of the various gear that they’ll need. From baby monitors and bottles to cribs and playpens, it can be a bit overwhelming. And one of the most difficult purchases is a stroller, since they’re a bit hard to really try out, and a short term run through isn’t likely to serve as a good real-world stress test. Believe us, a stroller is certainly an item that will be taking some knocks, as it’s expected to hold a fair bit of weight under some pretty straining circumstances, including a child who likely isn’t inclined towards sitting peacefully.
It’s easy to give into the temptation, when browsing the aisles or seeing pictures online, to simply pick the cheapest decent model… or even the most expensive one. The former will likely be torn to pieces, if you can even get it assembled; the former will likely be more than you need. And there are as many options in strollers today as bicycles, making it even harder to choose when you aren’t sure exactly what to expect. Our advice: consider your needs carefully, as well as your budget, but don’t skimp- cheap wheels are abundantly awful, and smelly plastics and inconvenient straps and handles make for unhappy kids and parents.
The Micralite Toro is a stroller you might not have heard of, even if you browse the shops pretty carefully. It’s not carried commonly, though you can use their distributor’s site to find a local dealer. But, if you can find one or are willing to buy online, you’ll be happily surprised- the Toro is the best stroller system we’ve seen. It’s a bit expensive, but comes with a five-year warranty, and is available in a variety of colors (ours was a nice, neutral emerald green). And if can’t take our word, maybe Consumer Reports ratings carry some weight- it was their top-ranked luxury stroller.
To start with, it’s not difficult to assemble. We’ve seen some strollers that required some real work, but the Toro took about 10 minutes to unwrap and put together. Everything is nicely packaged, the instructions are excellent, and it’s immediately obvious that materials are high-quality. Pieces fit snugly, buttons are sturdy, and fabrics are durable. The basket on the bottom of the stroller wasn’t impressive, but the wheels were- extra-large inflated ones in the back offer a nice degree of shock absorbency, two pairs in the front make it extremely maneuverable. The handle is rotatable to some extent, though Dad may want it to reach a bit higher if he’s tall- but the good news is that it’s completely adjustable and the handlebars are easily replaceable and upgradable. Steering is a dream, whether up hills or over curbs, and the brakes work well.
One of the niftiest things about the stroller was the simple “one-handed” folding, where it remains upright instead of making you bend over to pick it up. Basically, you’re going to be spending a lot of time collapsing and re-opening a stroller, stowing it away when traveling and even at home or when not in use. And some strollers aren’t foldable; many of the ones that are end up catching your fingers or then being very difficult to get setup again. The Toro did take two hands for us, though we could hold onto bags or a baby and handle it. It takes only a few seconds, folds flat, and re-opens safely and simply. You don’t need to lock the wheels or do anything extra- it just works, and is a veritable engineering wonder. And it’s lightweight at 18 pounds, so it isn’t difficult for Mom to put in the van.
On the other hand, you’ll also be spending a lot of time carrying things, and here the Toro does leave quite a bit to be desired. The aforementioned basket offers little space below, and due to the balance of the stroller, hanging anything from the handles is not a good idea. It works OK while in motion, but if you let go, the stroller might tip backwards- not a good thing. There aren’t any accessible pockets, really, nor cupholders- perhaps not an issue for everyone, but we often stroll around the city and would’ve like a handy place for a cup of coffee. Larger kids might find the basket a bit snug- it will work great for younger tots, but the stated limit is 18kg (or about 3-4 years). The slightly-awkward bar over the actual basket can be handy and also serves to keep your child a bit safer, but it can also get in the way a bit.
We also ended up cracking our handlebars during a little bit of high-impact testing (don’t worry, no children were harmed in the making of this article). Luckily, their warranty service was excellent, and shipped us precisely the right part we needed with a minimum of fuss. Micralite also offers many options for the system as well, which we didn’t have a chance to try- accessories like a carrycot for newborns, a car seat, and fun winter warmers and animal print liners. Included, though, are the flip-up sun cover, a foot muff, and a decent rain cover which zips on. We haven’t even gotten to the positioning system, which allows you to adjust the tilt of the main basket- handy for interacting with the little one or for feeding and snacking. All in all, we wish that we could go back and ride in one of these- kids today have all the luck! At nearly $500, it’s definitely an investment, but one which should last quite a while and make life much easier… and parenthood just a bit more joyful.