Review: Into the fray with Baby Jogger's classy City Go/Mini GT travel system
New Atlas' Loz Blain has been making babies again, and the good folk at Baby Jogger have been good enough to provide him with a means to carry them about. The City Go/City Mini GT combination travel system is a modular kit that lets you go from home to car to stroller with ease.
Becoming a new parent is a pain in the butt. Before all the baby smiles and cuddles and high fives and Dr. Seuss books, there's a period of up to a few months where your new bundle of responsibility does lots to make your life hard and nothing to make it easier.
Having a watertight baby equipment setup won't make your life amazing in these trying first months, but it can raise the floor of your sleep-deprived zombie-walking experience and give you one less thing to worry about.
The Baby Jogger people tell me that Halle Berry and Julia Roberts use their gear. Well, if it's good enough for Hal' and Jules, it's good enough for us. A month ago, I took delivery of a City Mini GT stroller, a City Go baby capsule, and a bouncing baby girl.
Together, the first two form what's known as a "travel system" in the baby world. That's a modular arrangement with a comfy baby carry basket you can click into a secure base in your car, then lift out and click it into a stroller to make a pram. So if the kid's asleep, you can leave her peacefully dreaming in that basket as you move from home, to car, to supermarket diaper aisle, to wistfully looking in the window of a travel agent, to car, to home again without having to disturb her too much. It's a terrific idea, and not one that's unique to Baby Jogger by any means.
As the father, my role in this whole newborn situation is fairly clear: keep the 4-year-old from tearing the house down, look after the dog, give mum whatever breaks I can. And crucially, assemble "travel systems."
City Go baby capsule
Bring it on, I say. Let's start with the car seat bit of the City Go, which is the base the baby carrier clicks into in the car. If your car has an Isofix/Latch system in it, then easy, you just click that in. Mine doesn't, so you thread the seat belt through the holes, then snug it right down and lock it tight with a belt lock.
Then you make sure your kid gets to lie at a comfy angle by adjusting the six-position twist jigger to raise and lower the bottom of the seat base. There's a pair of spirit levels to help, it's a piece of cake.
If you live in the United States, that's pretty much it. You can click your little baby basket into that base securely and drive off. Terrific!
Here in Australia, our babies are apparently more valuable, because somebody has seen the need to create more laws around baby gear. This includes a mandated tether strap that comes from the back of the seat and loops around the front of the baby capsule. It feels like a bit of an afterthought as implemented here – the City Go is a click and go system without it, but a click and find the strap and loop it around and stuff it under the canopy and hunt for the dinky little clips and wiggle the strap in and exhale deeply and go system with the tether strap installed.
Let's be clear: top tether straps are great if you happen to crash your car. We're all for 'em. But it's pretty clear the City Go wasn't designed to have one originally, and the way it's been tacked on here makes it more fiddly to reef into place than the fifty-buck secondhand carrier we used for our first kid.
Not to mention, it dangles there loose and messy when the capsule's not in the car. You can tell Baby Jogger's not particularly happy about this situation either, as they provide a little bag to stuff it into. But I can assure you, any spare time a new parent has will be spent looking deeply at the bottom of a wine glass, not stuffing tether straps into bags.
The capsule itself is good for about the first 12 months. It's got an easily adjustable headrest that scales with the child, and a three-point harness arrangement with an easy release that makes strapping the baby in pretty much fuss-free.
It's also got a removable, washable cover. That's handy, because babies give exactly zero hoots whether this is a Halle Berry-grade celebrity baby capsule, and will find creative, lateral thinking ways to vomit and urinate on it. It's also got a fold-down canopy that keeps the sun out of the baby's eyes, and that four year olds will abuse because it looks like a clam shell when it opens.
Is it comfortable? Well … it looks comfy to me. The fabrics are soft, the padding seems … padded, and thanks to the spirit levels, my confidence that it's at the right angle is at an all-time high. I asked the baby for her opinion, and she yelled and squirmed and farted. At least, I hope that was a fart. Dear Jesus, do I hope that was a fart.
The City Go capsule and car seat base retails for AU$449 in Australia, or US$229 in the United States, where you have to pay an extra US$20 if you want it in black, for some reason.
City Mini GT Stroller
The second part of this "travel system" is the stroller, and Baby Jogger has aimed to make this gear useful over several years. By itself, the City Mini GT is a full-size stroller you could sit a lazy six year old in, despite how scandalous the idea might seem that you could have six year old knees and not want to use them.
Add a pair of adapter brackets, and you get yourself a platform you can click the City Go capsule right into. An uber-pram, if you will, that fits together seamlessly and looks super streamlined in black and charcoal, with cognac accents.
Real talk, though, I'd be happy to have this thing look a bit dorkier if it was easier to get the capsule to click onto the brackets. It's one thing fiddling and fumbling about with an empty capsule, but the minute you've got a baby in there, the capsule gets pretty heavy and the stakes get pretty high, and the moments when you're searching for whether you've got both tangs in the right spot and wondering whether it's really clicked in, or just kind of half clicked in, those moments are not the ones where you love this system the most.
With the capsule locked and loaded, you're off to the races. No wonky shopping trolley action here, the City Mini GT is mechanically A-grade and rolls like a dream. It's so easy to steer you can do it one-handed.
The handle tilts up and down super easily, so parent-switching is pretty much fuss-free, and the little red brake lever does exactly what it says on the tin, giving you a good feeling of security when you're stopped on a hill, or clicking the capsule in and out.
The highlight of this little sucker, though, comes when it's time to fold it up and stick it in the back of the car. You reach down, lift it up by a little release strap in the bottom of the seat, it folds up by itself, and you stow it. It's such a beautifully simple process, it brings a tear to my eye. Or maybe I'm just tired and emotional, I don't know.
Mind you, the Australian government finds a way to stuff that up for you, too, with a couple of locking straps you're supposed to pull around underneath the legs and clip in every time you put the stroller on its wheels. These straps prevent the City Mini GT from doing its self-folding party trick, and turn a three second process into a thirty second process that you need to bend down and fiddle around for.
However, unlike the tether strap in the car, there's no police ready to jump down your throat if you simply forget those straps ever existed. I've searched the forums on this, and opinions seem to break down into three groups. The majority say "the minute I stopped using those stupid straps, I started loving this stroller so much more." A smaller group says "well, the government has mandated those straps for a reason, so I shall be a good citizen and continue to use them." And a very small group of battle-hardened veterans chimes in with "yeah I've got an eight year old who likes to fold the stroller up while his baby brother is in there, so I'm using the goddamned straps." I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, but we have used the straps exactly zero times and been perfectly happy.
In practical terms, there's a basketty area underneath the main seat you can stick a bit of shopping in, and it doesn't seem to squash too much too badly if you're totally sleep deprived and you fold the stroller up with your shopping in it.
If you decide to do a little self-maintenance and take this thing out jogging, good for you! Slightly less good for the baby, but then a healthy parent is a patient parent and you've gotta get your exercise wherever you can. Baby Jogger takes its brand name seriously, and provides a little suspension system on the axle of the front caster wheel to smooth out the kid's ride as you're pounding the pavement. That's a nice touch.
The City Mini GT retails for AU$799 in Australia, and US$379.99 in the United States, and it's worth mentioning that Baby Jogger has a ton of other strollers that can be adapted to fit the City Go capsule as a "travel system" depending on what you're into.
The final word on this whole BJ "travel system" needs to go to my long-suffering wife, who looked up from behind droopy eyelids and said "it's beautiful, and it works, and if I was Halle Berry I'd get one too."
Product page: Baby Jogger