April Vordermann is two weeks shy of being a year old, and she has been on bike rides in ten states, a number that not many kids triple her age could lay claim to.
Her parents, Bryon and Becky, started towing April in a Burley trailer when she was only a couple months old. She has tagged along on fat bike rides, gravel races, and bikepacking trips across the region. Bryon estimated that the family has ridden about 2,400 miles in the past year.
Bryon has been riding bikes his entire life and was once a professional BMX racer. Becky, an endurance runner and schoolteacher, just started last December, going for her and April’s first ride on Christmas Day.
“I didn’t think Becky would take off with it like she has. It’s really awesome,” Bryon said. “This year has changed my cycling for sure. I get to continue riding and do what I’ve done my whole life, and introduce Becky to something new. April doesn’t have to grow up to be a cyclist but it’s opening her up to the outdoors.”
As a baby raised in a bike trailer, April is happiest when she’s either in the middle of a ride or about to embark.
“If she’s cranky, we put her in the Burley,” Becky said. “She’s amazing in that thing. When we put on helmets, she starts smiling.”
It’s been a learning process but with thousands of miles under their tires, the Vordermanns think they have a handle on the systems necessary to keep a tiny person safe and happy during multi-day trips in the woods, at the mercy of the elements, out of cell range, and towing used diapers.
“We figured out that we have to pack it out if we pack it in. Turns out used diapers are a lot heavier.” Bryon said with a laugh.
They’ve encountered extreme heat in South Dakota, swarms of mosquitoes in Wisconsin, and steep hills in Teton Valley. During one ride on the back roads of Island Park, they came upon a large black bear.
“That really makes you think,” Bryon said. “But it’s all part of being out there.”
Their first family gravel race (and Becky and April’s first ever bike race) was in Sheridan, Wyo, earlier this summer. Since then they’ve raced in Ketchum and most recently completed Jay Petervary’s 60 mile Gravel Pursuit, which they described as the toughest event yet. They did several reconnaissance rides before the race, and the gravel roads in Island Park proved to be too rough and deep to ride on gravel bikes while towing the trailer. They opted for fat bikes instead.
Bryon towed the 70-pound Burley for 40 miles and Becky towed it for 20. They spent the last two hours riding in the rain, but April stayed warm and happy in her little bubble.
“We had to back the trailer up under the tent at the aid station to change her diaper,” Bryon remembered.
They finished the Gravel Pursuit in just under eight hours. Becky said that a summer full of riding helped her complete the event.
“I’ve had to work up to that,” she said.
The Vordermanns aren’t taking mud season off. They already have their permits for a three-day Thanksgiving trip around the White Rim in Utah. They’ll be doing several fat bike races at Togwotee, Grand Targhee, and Island Park, with and without the baby in tow. They’re looking forward to winter because singletrack is a lot easier to navigate with the Burley when it’s smooth snow, rather than rocky dirt. They also have ambitious goals for the future.
“We really want to spend a summer riding in Alaska in a couple years,” Bryon said. “We want this to be the norm: diaper changes on a blanket on the side of a dirt road.”
The Vordermanns have a blog called “Barefoot in the Burley: Growing Up a Trailer Baby” where they share stories and inspiration about life in the saddle. They really want to promote the family experience, to help other parents understand that having a child doesn’t have to spell the end of adventure.
“We’d love to connect with others who do the same kind of thing,” Becky said.