If you love biking, and you also have a dog, then the chances are you will never get the 2 of then to mix well together. With all those moving parts, and dogs being what they are; trying to hold a leash with one hand, a handlebar with the other, and not being pulled off sideways off your bike onto your face, or having the leash get tangled up into the chain probably doesn’t sound all that appealing.
If you live somewhere like the country or a quiet part of town, and your dog can be relied upon to do as they’re told, then letting them run off the leash might be the easiest and safest way to combine being outside with your dog and you on your bike.
But that isn’t always going to work
Dogs are dogs. Even the smallest terrier or the cutest little lap dog still has the hunting urge and the instincts of a wolf at heart. Just one mouse/rabbit/squirrel or other dog can ruin your day, and have the wolf in our canine friends reacting in the worst possible way.
As for myself, there is nothing I like more than taking me, and my mountain bike off along the back of a mountain trail and letting my dog run wild. I love it, and so does he. I get to go off adventuring, and Charlie (red setter/spaniel cross) gets to run at speed for the entire day.
The downside is that Charlie is too large to fit in a rucksack till we get to the mountain, even though it’s only a few miles away; I don’t feel safe wedging him between the handlebar’s and me; and as much as I love him, I almost killed him the last time I tried riding with him on a leash. The dog has absolutely no road sense whatsoever.
So it made sense both from a practical and Health and Safety point of view, to not mix the 2 activities together. It also meant that more often than not, Charlie got his walk and I didn’t get my ride.
Sure I could have loaded the bike onto the car and driven somewhere to combine the two activities into one, but it was a hassle; and it also seemed to jar with my whole tree hugger, eco, environmental mind-set thing I have going on. It’s not all about keeping my Brad Pitt six pack on the go, you know. Ahem.
At least all of that was true up until about 6 months ago when I got myself a dog carrier for the bike. It’s literally a trailer for the bike that Charlie sits in and we can head off together whenever we feel like it. It has literally changed our lives.
So with that in mind, I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks about dog transportation. Is there a transport option for every dog that’s compatible with bikes? Well, from what I can see, yes there is!
Dog Carriers and Baskets
Dog baskets are really the best option carrying smaller dogs. Generally speaking, they will either attach or strap on to the handlebars or on the rear luggage rack of the bike, should your bike have one. They can range from something as simple as your standard old school bike wicker basket to full-fledged ‘let’s go to the moon’ full on ‘I’m packing,’ style. The good news here is that most of them will literally just click in as easily and as smoothly as fast as this sentence was to read.
For a single dog, up to a maximum weight of around 20-25lbs, a bike basket of some sort could be your best option. The smaller the dog, the more appealing and sense it makes it utilize a front mounted bike basket. Baskets tend to be by their nature, also less expensive than dedicated dog trailers.
Essentially there are 3 types of dog basket dog carrier available:
The classic style of basket, the type you’d expect to see Mary Poppins riding along with. They are of the decidedly classic market, and depending on how the wicker was sourced, the most environmentally friendly variety available.
Wicker baskets are far tougher than they look and will last a long time if dried out properly when they get wet. They are also bio-degradable if not painted or dyed.
Because wicker baskets are not air tight, they will also keep your fur coated friend cool in the summer months. However they can be a nightmare to clean if your dog rolls on dead animal and gets some of that rotting carcass ground in to the fibers of the wicker.
The basket shown here is from Cambria Bike
Wired carriers and baskets
Their main strength is their ability to hold a bigger weight than a wicker basket and the fact they’re easier to clean if they get dirty. They are the better choice for the larger dog, and more often than not will attach to both your handlebars and front forks.
Wire baskets tend to be airy and it is a good idea to get your own padding for the base.
The basket shown here is from Cambria Bike
You know the stuff proper rucksacks are made from? That’s what you’re talking about here. They are tough, cool looking, and normally come with little pockets and hand size pouches to put stuff in. They are often lined as well with some nice comfortable waterproof padding.
They may seem like the most outdoory and practical solution, but they’re actually the least rigid, and sometime your dog may feel like they’re just sitting in a large bag that swings from side to side.
They may also help unbalance you as well. They are more suited to the smaller dog, but even then there will be some sway when you ride.
The basket shown here is from Modern Bike
Before you buy
Before you buy, you need to be aware of the following:
- Don’t just look at the weight limit when sizing your dog for a basket. Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, so just because a basket says it will hold your dog, make sure your dog is comfortable when sitting in it.
- Will your do be comfortable? Look for carriers that have nice soft lined materials. This will your pooch more snuggly, and will iron out the bumps in the road for him.
- Weigh your dog before you buy a basket. Most baskets come with weight limits, so know if you need an extra strong one, or whether one made out of cotton wool would be better.
- When attaching the basket to the handlebars, make sure it’s secure and doesn’t slip from side to side when riding. Just because it doesn’t move when it’s empty doesn’t mean it won’t when your dog is in it. Also while your dog should be comfortable in his basket, any balance adjustment on his part, will also affect the balance of the bike.
- Don’t buy a bike carrier or basket, throw in your dog, and think it will all be ok. Get them used to the basket before you head out. Place them in the basket when it’s not on the bike. When they are used to that, put the dog in the basket, on the bike. Once they’re used to that, try walking your bike with the dog in it. The last thing you need is a terrified dog going crazy unbalancing the bike and causing you to crash because you didn’t take the time to get them used to it first.
- Does your dog go with you everywhere? Will there be times when you could really do without the carrier fixed to the front of your bike? It’s always a good idea to make sure how easy it is to get the basket or carrier off your bike when you don’t need it.
- When you park up your bike, don’t leave your dog on the bike. A resting bicycle, even with a stand, is not the most stable of machines; and neither is a fidgety dog….
- Don’t take your dog mountain biking in a basket or a carrier. Sure it sounds cool, and fun, but it will just be dangerous. Be realistic about where you can and can’t take your dog in a basket.
- Stick to as smooth a trail as you can. No matter how much padding a basket or a carrier has, your dog will be jostled like a rodeo rider if you go over rough terrain.
- Make sure that if your basket comes with padded material that it can easily be removed and put back in. Dogs love to get wet and muddy whenever they can, and the last thing you want is for your bike carrier to be pongy beyond belief.
- Wire dog baskets will of course alleviate the whole odor issue, and be easier to clean by virtue of the fact you can just rub them down, but then you have to get a blanket or cushion that fits, and will keep your dog comfortable.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Having a dog in a front mounted basket will make steering your bike harder. The heavier the dog, the harder it will be to steer. Also remember that you will be more front heavy than you were before. Obviously this is more likely to affect the handling of the bike, the heavier the dog is but remember the bike will be front heavy, so leaning the body back when braking and using the back brake first before the front brake is more important than ever. So if you have a dog heavier than 20-25 lbs then…
Trailers for dogs are exactly what they sound like. They are trailers, for dogs. Ostensibly these are primarily for transporting the medium to larger size of dog, generally above 20-25 lbs, or for moving more than 1 dog at a time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get one for smaller dogs. It just means they’ll have that little bit more room to stretch out in.
But choosing a trailer is a little more involved than choosing a basket. So here’s some handy pointers and things to look out for when choosing a trailer:
- Make sure you get the right size. It’s just like choosing a basket. Get the one that’s right for your dog. There are a variety of different sizes of trailer out there, so do a little research and make an informed choice.
- Make sure you get a trailer that has a hitch that is easy to get on and off, that’s also easy to do so when the dog is in the trailer. Also make sure it feels secure. It shouldn’t feel shoogly, or loose.The last thing you want is to look over your shoulder when you corner and see your dog and your trailer going straight on.
- Make sure there is adequate weather protection. Dogs will get along just fine usually in the rain and the cold when they can run and keep warm naturally, but it’s a different story when they are just sitting there in the middle of the trailer.Also remember, in a trailer a dog can’t go lie in the shade if it gets too hot, so make sure it has some sort of sun protection element to it as well.
- Ensure the trailer is balanced. The more balanced the bike, the easier it will be to ride, and the less chance there will be of the trailer tipping and you ending in the grass verge.
- Staying with balance, what is the trailer like when it corners or you pull the brakes. Does it impede your normal ability to turn, and how does it affect your stopping distance? This might not affect you, but one thing I noticed when shopping for my trailer was that most trailers have a top speed advisory given by the manufacturer.
- Are there sufficient reflectors and high visibility material on the trailer? Having a dog trailer will block your own bikes reflectors, so it’s good to check.
- Are you experienced pulling trailers? If not, make sure you get used to pulling the trailer before you put your dog in it. You don’t want to appear uneasy to your 4 legged best friend.
- Give your dog time to get used to its new mobile home. Like with a basket, don’t just throw the dog in and set off. Panicked dogs are dangerous in a bike trailer if they try to get out. The bigger the dog, the greater the danger.
- Are the wheels removable and will the trailer fold away and collapse when not in use? Dog trailers can be used as crates, or handy holiday homes if on vacation.
- Does the trailer come with its own harness and hook on points for your own harness? Again, don’t use an ordinary leash and collar combination. If there is an accident and the dog falls out, the last thing you want is his legs being tangled up by a long leash at speed…
- Is the padding on the floor going to be comfy enough on its own or do you need to get an extra layer for your pooch?
- Do you need to add your own plywood floor to the base of the trailer? How heavy is your dog?
- Finally, and after safety perhaps the most important! How easy will the trailer be to clean out and keep smelling lovely?The floor/mat should be held in place by something like Velcro or ties that are easily removable after a ride and walk in the mud, and conversely also seem easy to clean. You don’t want the floor to be slipping and sliding all over the place. Your dog will not like it.
Which one is right for you?
I hate to say it, because when it comes to things like this, I am very cheap; but really what you go for will probably mostly depend on your budget. Dog carriers and dog trailers are something of a niche product in most parts of the world.
What you go with will also depend on what you plan to do with your dog, and where you plan to go. Some of it will also come down to what your dog thinks about the whole plan.
Some dogs hate cats, some dogs’ think they are cats. Some dogs will chase cars, and some will chase their own tails. Each dog is different. Some will take to a basket or carrier like a duck to water, and others might need a little convincing, and some dogs will never go for it.
Get a trailer or a basket, throw the dog in and off I go?
No. That isn’t safe. Whatever you do, get yourself a dog harness to attach to the carrier. Most of them will come with one already, but check to make sure it’s adequate. This keeps your dog more secure, and restrained in comfort.
There is also less chance they will unbalance you as the rider if they suddenly try to set off after a cat or squirrel. Your dog also runs the risk of choking or breaking their neck if they do somehow either fall out, or jump out.