A Straightforward Guide To A Bikejoring Setup
Safe accommodating trails and an awareness of outdoor safety will all help you along in your early days of bikejoring.
Before considering these aspects of the sport however you’ll need to assemble some essential equipment to begin your bikejoring adventures.
To begin bikejoring, you will need a few core pieces of equipment:
- a mountain bike
- a sled dog style harness
- a long bungee leash
- a bike to leash attachment antenna
Oh, and of course, a dog of a breed fit to lead the way on the trails.
Bikejoring resembles sled dog mushing with the main difference being that dogs are attached to and pull a bicycle or tricycle across dry land. To this end unsurprisingly there is some overlap between the kit used in both sports.
As mentioned above, there are four key pieces of equipment needed for a bikejoring setup.
If you are thinking about getting into the sport, you most likely already have, or are looking into getting, a mountain bike.
Bikejoring courses are set out over off-road trails with the dog + rider combo in mind so don’t tend to involve severe and technical downhill sections that you might find on dedicated mountain bike trails.
This means that whilst a full suspension bike would make the off-road trails more comfortable it isn’t entirely necessary. A lightweight bike with disc brakes capable of halting the four legged engine in front of you is far more important.
V brakes will of course still work but won’t be nearly as effective at slowing yourself and the dog at short notice.
For your dog’s safety, a harness designed for bikejoring is crucial.
The bog standard dog collar, if used for bikejoring, can be dangerous as the amount of pressure placed upon the airway can cause choking.
A harness that allows the stress to spread evenly across your dog’s shoulders and allow the airways to remain unrestricted is non-negotiable when taking part in this sport.
We use our trusty, stoutly made Non-Stop Freemotion harness for all sports that require a pulling centre that is above the dog.
The bungee leash
Rather than a static leash you’ll need a bungee leash, which will make the connection between the dog and a bike attachment antenna.
A long elastic leash, otherwise known as a tow line, is vital to buffer the impact of abrupt pulling and stopping motions, whilst the extra length will allow your dog to create separation between itself and the front tire.
In competitive bikejoring events, dogs and their riders are set off one at a time to compete against the clock. This reduces distractions the dogs may face and minimises the risk that long leashes become tangled with one another.
The attachment antenna
The bike leash attachment antenna, sometimes referred to as the antenna is a solid rod that clamps to the front of the bike and keeps the long leash from getting caught up in the front wheel.
There are plenty of examples where riders have fashioned their own antennas from materials laying about the home so you don’t need to pay top dollar if you don’t want to.
Bikejoring safety precautions
Proper safety precautions are an important part of any sport, bikejoring included.
Protective wear such as goggles, gloves, and long sleeved clothing will also aid you in staying safe.
With your dog or dogs running in front of you, there is a chance of debris being thrown toward your face. Goggles will protect your eyes, while the gloves and protective clothing will help decrease injury if you get thrown from your bike.
Just like you should when biking, be sure to wear a helmet when bikejoring.
Make sure you carry a supply of fresh water if none is available via natural sources around the trails. Seeing as dogs do not sweat, temperature regulation is far more complex.
For sled dog breeds especially who can cope with extremely cold temperatures, a warm weather run pulling a bike needs to be treated with caution.
Pacing your progress is essential as well. If your dog is not used to high-stress and speed activities, you may exhaust them quickly. Gradually introducing the sport to your routine will help you and your pet learn your limits and how to push them safely.
Is bikejoring o.k. for all dogs?
The breed, age, and temperament of a dog should be taken into consideration when starting the sport of bikejoring.
The sport was conceived originally to keep working sled dogs fit outside of the winter season when the snow coverage retreated and recently became popular in the U.S. after being long established in Europe.
It’s no surprise then that larger dogs and sled dog breeds that are known for mushing will best suit the sport although any breed can take part.
Needless to say it is not a recommended form of exercise for puppies, smaller dogs or aging dogs with health concerns.
Behavior, namely a dog’s confidence is worth considering too. If your dog is overly anxious, the speed of the sport as well as being shadowed at short distance by a noisy bike may overwhelm them to begin with.
What commands are used in bikejoring?
Making sure your dog understands and responds to directional and pacing commands is something that should be practiced before tethering them to a bike for the first time.
Some of the essential mushing commands include:
- “Mush or Go” – to begin
- “Stop or Woah” – to come to a full stop
- “Easy” – to slow down
- “Right (or more traditionally Gee)” – turn right
- “Left (also referred to as Haw)” – turn left
- “Straight” – to continue forward at crossroads
- “Leave it” – avoid or disregard distractions