As both an avid jogger and a new parent, Phil Baechler faced a dilemma: how to spend time with his son, Travis, without forsaking his favorite pastime. First he tried running while pushing baby carriages, and quickly discovered they were “awful for running and they come to a complete stop on grass or sand.” So Baechler branched out on his own. “I got a piece of pipe for the axle and a couple of bicycle wheels, and put something together,” he explains. But the two-wheel version didn’t work “because when you were running you couldn’t steer well. So I added another bicycle wheel in front.” And behold, Baechler’s necessity had made him the father of an invention: the Baby Jogger.
Since then Baechler, a 35-year-old copy editor and outdoor writer for the Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic, and Travis, now 20 months, have expanded their horizons to include local 10-kilometer races. Moreover, Baechler, who ran “before they invented Nikes,” has refined and marketed the buggy Baby Jogger, which costs $200 (plus $10 shipping). It consists of a frame of aluminum tubing with three 20-inch pneumatic bicycle wheels and a nylon canvas seat, complete with safety belt. To date he has sold 100 Joggers. Although they have been advertised only once in a small running magazine, Baechler can’t keep enough in stock. “One guy at a race,” he says, “bought one right out of my hands.”
An Air Force brat born in Illinois, Baechler lived a nomadic existence until his family moved to Tucson in 1961. His four years at Palo Verde High School, where he ran on the cross-country team, was “the longest time I’d ever been in one spot.” Disillusioned after three years at the Air Force Academy (“It was the Vietnam War and I wanted out of there”), he got a journalism degree from the University of Idaho.
Nowadays even wife Mary, 28, a midwife who until recently preferred horseback riding, is jogging. “The whole family can run together without one of us having to take time out to be with the baby,” says Baechler. “The joke is I built the Jogger so I’d run more with Travis. But now the business is going so well, I find I’m running less.”
Better not tell Travis. His first word was “ride.”