What is ‘Bikejor’?
Bikejor is the sport of cross country biking with your dog attached to your bike, it can be much faster and more exhilarating than canicross and is particularly suitable for dogs who really embrace running.
What do I need to start bikejoring?
Aside from the obvious (a mountain bike, safety equipment such as hat, glasses and gloves), you will need a comfortable fitting harness for your dog, an attachment for your bike and a long bungee lead to connect you both.
The dog harness will take the pressure of pulling away from your dogs throat, which is essential if your dog is going to be pulling in front of your bike. More information on how to choose a suitable harness for your dog can be found here:
The attachment for the bike helps to prevent the line from dropping into the front wheel if your dog slows down or stops suddenly. It is not a fail-safe but will dramatically reduce the amount of tangles you have. More information on how to choose a bikejor attachment can be found here:
The bungee lead is the shock absorbing element of your equipment and protects both you and your dog from the force of your dog pulling suddenly. When bikejoring, the line length needs to be longer than with canicross to help ensure your dog has enough space and is running clear of the front wheel.
A brief note on bikes
You can start bikejoring with any bike but one which is substantial enough for cross country riding is best. A basic ‘hardtail’ mountain bike is a great starting point. Brakes need to be good and many bikejorers prefer disc brakes as for safety reasons you will need to rely on them!
How do I start training for bikejor?
The best way to start your training is by training voice commands on walks, decide early on what your left and right commands will be and try to get a good ‘slow down’ command from the outset.You can use your line or lead to guide your dog in the direction you want them to go and also physically slow them down when you use your ‘steady’ commands.
There are no hard and fast rules about what commands to use and people often use different ones but traditional sled dog commands are based on:
Gee = Right turn
Haw = Left turn
Hike / Mush = Go forward (starts or encourages the dog to move)
On by = To pass another dog or team of dogs
Straight on = To stay straight on the trail if there are many options
Easy = Slow down
Whoa = Stop
Things you can do to encourage your dog to run out front:
Use a higher pitched voice to signal you would like them to up their energy and prepare them for activity. It might sound silly but dogs do respond to pitch changes in voice and if you raise this your dog will learn this means fun!
Go out in a group with more experienced dogs. Dogs learn from each other and will often naturally compete with their peers
Get someone to run or bike in front of you. Again dogs naturally like to chase and by having someone in front of you, they may be more motivated to stay out front. You can even use a favourite toy to encourage your dog to fetch it.
However, try not to rely on this method and always encourage your dog to run independently because it is not always advisable to train your dog to chase! Use the method as a tool and work on building your dogs confidence.
Our advice at K9 Trail Time is to try and find a group of people who have kit you can borrow. Failing that, have a look at all the options available to you and speak with people who have used the products you are looking to buy.
We try and test all the products on our website http://www.k9trailtime.com so that we can provide you with useful information and comparisons.
You also need to check where you are allowed to train with a bike or scooter locally, as this can be more complex than canicross.
We recommend taking out some kind of sports insurance to cover yourself, when training and racing.
Some Forestry Commission land requires you to have a permit to train and these permits generally require £5 million public liability insurance.
The thing to remember is keep it short (at first), fun and safe, when you get more confidence you can then work on getting faster and even enter some races!
Happy trails! 🙂