Riding a Bike With a Small Dog
One of the oldest methods of transportation dates back to the 1880s … the bicycle! A marvel of engineering that forever changed the world on almost every continent. Although there are no tips on riding a bike with a small dog, my biped Mom loves a blog called Girls and Bicycles that deals with trying to get North Americans to see the bike as something other than a “sporting” activity.
This North American perspective of biking as a sport has people using bicycles that are for either racing or mountain biking, rather than the traditional “European Style” shape meant for real transportation. Something to use to go to work, do your groceries, even take your kids to school and basically stop using the car for every small errand. In our opinion, no sport bike is a good options as a green city method of transportation. Honestly, who wants to wear lycra? Who wants to lean forward with all your weight on your wrists? Why not have a bike that does not hurt your back? Ladies, you really want that ache “down there”? Why not sit upright, with the “flat foot on the ground” option when you stop? Why not be comfy on a wide comfortable seat? You know, as they have had and used in Europe forever. Not to mention, form and fashion can mix. But we digress.
So with this in mind, here is a special post on travelling with your dog – by bicycle using a dog basket or trailer.
There are multiple options in terms of baskets for small dogs. Mom rides the fantastic Electra Townie. It comes with an optional stainless steel wire basket and Mom had a custom Betty Basket Liner made. Tara, who owns “Betty” was kind enough to create my one of a kind liner (now available on her site in your own custom fabric choices!) although she had never made one that was dog friendly before. Yes, I was the first and I can attest to the fact that a lot of thought went into it. There was a need for:
- an opening for the chain to pass and hook from the metal basket to my harness for safety,
- a cushion to soften the ride and act as a booster seat so I could see over the basket edge,
- the basket to be easy to remove, with me and all other supplies inside, and be slung over the shoulder as a bag so that we didn’t have to worry about basket theft once the bike was locked up.
The basket is divided by a small fabric partition. My cushion on one side and on the other an array of small pockets helps keep all the supplies and potential purchases from spilling out or jumbling up inside… and into me. We liked this option since I am so small. It means that there is a multifunctional aspect to this choice. It is a doggy bicycle basket and grocery bag all rolled up into one – and it is pretty! You can watch an old YouTube clip of me in my basket when I was about 5 months old!
There are other options out there. In her research the bipeds found beautiful wicker creations, as well as some very fancy pet baskets with little shade covers etc. So do the research and find the one that works for you.
Something to consider is whether you want your dog in the front or in the back. Just like for kids seats there are pros and cons to either choice. It is not known which is safer, but the front-mounted option is the most popular.
Front Basket Mount: Front-mounted baskets are preferred by some for the ability to communicate and see your dog at all times. Some may say this is a hazard as the rider may focus too much attention on the pet sitting in front of them and neglect the road. Front-mounted baskets can also make steering cumbersome, making it difficult to turn. Some bipeds dislike that the pet is riding in the basket directly in the path of a head-on collision.
Back basket Mount: Many bipeds that use a saddle pack may be used to the extra weight and different balance in the rear. Some may prefer the rear-mounted baskets because they are usually larger than front-mounted ones. Rear mounted baskets tend to make a bike rear- and top-heavy, which can cause it to tip when the rider mounts, dismounts, comes to a full stop, or pushes the bike. Your pets head is also easily swung from side to side in a rear-mounted seat, especially if the rider must pedal hard up hill or from a standing position.
The greatest risk with pet bike baskets is the weight distribution on the bike and the increased risk of the bike tipping over when the rider mounts or dismounts the bike. This is a risk for both rear- and front-mounted bike baskets.
Trailer: Admittedly there is a size limit for dog bicycle baskets but big dogs also have options. They now have dog trailers you can hitch to the back of your bike. This is a great option for those that want to do some serious long distance yet know their big dog can’t run the mileage ahead in its entirety. It is also a good option for those with multiple small dogs or seniors. Many prefer the trailer to the basket because it means that the dog is safe should the bike itself fall over. The trailer has two wheels and is only 2-3 feet off the ground versus the height of the bike. Some people don’t like the fact that the trailer “sticks out” into traffic behind them.
The most important things to remember are:
- Is there a harness safety mechanism in place? (I tried to jump out once and the harness saved my life since we were in motion)
- Can it absorb the shock? (roads and sidewalks are not always perfectly smooth surfaces it can and often is a bumpy ride)
- Is it big enough for your pet? (Not too big or the dog will be jostled about but not too small – they must be able to turn around)
- Ventilation is key. Many baskets are not made of breathable fabrics and can get very hot very fast!
- Can it be installed on your bike? You’d be surprised but some bikes and baskets/trailers are just not compatible. Make sure the basket does not impede your full range of motion.
There is a fun benefit of having a basket for your small dog. Most patios in North America have to adhere to the bylaw that prevents a small dog from joining the biped for a drink and a bite to eat. Here in Ottawa , Dogs are often attached just on the other side of the barrier with owner in arms reach. This is just not safe for small dogs. My bipeds put me in my basket – and the bike is locked to the fence. This allows me to be on the other side of the fence and yet off the ground and safe from being stepped on or stolen by strangers. It also has the benefit of putting me at eye level and arms reach. I get to eat!
Things that you should never leave without for a bike ride include: lots of water, harness and leash, poop bags, cooling pad if really hot and in my case doggles to keep my eyes safe from debris and UV rays. Biking is a fun and enjoyable activity for bipeds and their canines. So go ahead and take to the trails and roads and have some good old fashioned fun!
Riding a bike with a small dog is fun! If you don’t believe me – then read this wonderful article on p.49 of Momentum … featuring yours truly!