Bikejoring, which is the sport of dog-powered mountain biking, is well-established in Europe and is gaining popularity in the United States, as well. Because of the sport's relatively simplistic nature, bikejoring does not require an excessive amount of equipment. However, there are a few key pieces of equipment that are needed to participate in bikejoring.
If you have access to a mountain bike and a strong, energetic dog, you are already well on your way to becoming a bikejorer. These are the two most important pieces of equipment used in bikejoring, but there are several smaller pieces of gear involved in the sport, as well. For instance, equipment is needed to attach the mountain bike to the dog. This typically involves a specially designed harness and a bungee-style leash. Additionally, it is recommended that the bikejorer wears goggles, gloves, and a helmet. Along with having the proper equipment, it is important that bikejorers know where to engage in the sport. Bikejoring is best performed on trails that run through woods or fields.
Bikejorers must have access to a mountain bike in order to participate in the sport. Given that bikejoring usually takes place on trails that weave through forests and mountains, bikejorers need a bicycle with reliable brakes and a solid frame. It is recommended that the mountain bike be equipped with rough profile tires in order to successfully traverse outdoor terrains. It is also a good idea to have the bike inspected by a professional prior to bikejoring to make sure that it is structurally sound. A loose bolt or flimsy material could lead to an injury, especially when dogs are involved.
Along with having a mountain bike, bikejorers must have a few accessories to make their experience as safe as possible. There are risks involved with bikejoring and the proper precautions must be taken to avoid injuries.
Side mirrors are typically attached to the mountain bike to allow bikejorers to see what is going on behind them. This is particularly important during bikejoring competitions. Saddle bags are also attached to the mountain bike to provide storage for spare gear and emergency equipment. Saddle bags typically contain plenty of water for both the cyclist and the dogs. First aid kits should also be included for emergency situations. Because bikes may need repairs along the trail, it is also a good idea for bikejorers to keep spare parts and tools in their saddlebags.
The most important accessory that you will wear is the helmet. Because bikejorers are likely to fall off the bike when training and performing in competitions, helmets must be worn at all times when bikejoring. Additionally, bikejorers should wear impact-resistant goggles to protect against gravel and rock thrown back at their face. Along with goggles, gloves are recommended, as well.
The dog plays the main role in bikejoring. Bikejorers have the option of using either one or two dogs to pull their bike. Bikejoring dogs do not have to be particularly large or heavy, but they must enjoy running. Although it is not necessary for bikejoring dogs to be heavy, larger and stronger breeds tend to have an easier time pulling the bike along the trail.
It is important that bikejoring dogs are in excellent physical condition. The sport is not recommended for puppies with growing bones or senior dogs with mobility issues. It is a good idea for bikejorers to have their dog obtain a health check from a veterinarian before having them participate in the sport. Additionally, dogs should gradually build up their physical fitness through training if they have not properly exercised in a considerable amount of time. Training begins with teaching the dog how to walk in a straight line. Dogs that weave from side to side when walking will do the same thing when running.
Bikejoring dogs should also be familiar with basic commands. The most important command that bikejoring dogs should know is 'stop'. Dogs that do not respond to this command are likely to forget about their master on the bike behind them. Other important commands include 'slow,' 'leave it,' 'gee' (the general command for right), 'haw' (the general command for left), 'straight,' 'hike' or 'mush' (to begin), 'yield,' and 'on by' (pass around an object). Once the dog has mastered the basic commands, their strength can be increased by having them wear a harness and pull weight. This can be done initially through canicross training, which involves attaching the dog to the person with no bike involved. This method allows the dog to get used to towing weight in a low-stress environment.
One of the most popular bikejoring breeds is the Siberian Husky. Along with being familiar with mushing activities such as bikejoring, huskies work well together and are easy to train. Additionally, huskies are strong and are capable of running for long distances.
Another popular dog breed in the bikejoring community is the Pit Bull. Like the husky, pit bulls are quite strong and are quick learners when it comes to training. The Alaskan Malamute and the Samoyed are also excellent choices for bikejoring dogs.
Dog booties are optional, but they are a good idea for bikejorers traversing across particularly rough terrain. Booties are worn by the dog and protect their paws from abrasion on harsh surfaces such as snow, crushed rock, and gravel. Booties should be secure enough that they do not fall off or get pulled off, but they should not be so tight that they cut off the dog's blood circulation. Dogs tend to stumble over booties initially, but adapt over time if they are fitted properly.
The gang line is essentially a leash used to attach the bike to the dog's harness. Because standard dog leashes are not appropriate for bikejoring, gang lines must be used when practicing the sport. A leash with a strong metal spring that absorbs, pulls, and tugs is great for bikejoring. Additionally, the leash's bungee line should be designed to avoid getting tangled in the wheels of the bicycle.
The harness is a crucial piece of equipment in bikejoring. The harness is worn by the dog and keeps them attached to the leash. Dogs should be equipped with a well-fitting harness that is specifically designed for bikejoring. Harnesses ensure the appropriate distribution of strain across the dog's body. Harnesses should have comfortable padding, be made of breathable materials, and be as light as possible without sacrificing durability. Leashes should never be attached directly to a normal collar because this applies too much direct pressure to the dog's throat.
If you are using more than one dog to pull the bike along, a neckline is used to keep the dogs together. Necklines are useful for reducing tangles in the leash and help the dogs match each other's pace when running. Necklines are typically about 30 centimeters long and equipped with a small carabiner on each end to attach to both of the dogs' harnesses. Without a neckline, it would be difficult to keep the two dogs side by side and prevent them from drifting apart.
Bikejoring is typically practiced on trails that wind through forests, mountains, and fields. When practicing bikejoring recreationally rather than competitively, it can be somewhat challenging to find trails that are suitable for the sport. Trails must be wide enough to accommodate both the bikejorer, the dog, and other trail users. To protect the joints of the dog pulling the bike, it is not recommended that bikejoring be performed on asphalt for long distances. Soft trail surfaces are much more forgiving on the dog's joints.