Making the transition from canicross to bikejor

Many people who come into the dog sports begin with canicross because it is the easiest way to exercise your dog and also the simplest way to train your dog to pull in a harness. However, if you’ve ever attended a race which has the bikejor classes too, then you’ll have seen how much fun the competitors have at the faster speeds you can achieve with the wheels. It doesn’t appeal to everyone but once you’ve trained your dog to pull you, it can be very tempting to have a go at either bikejor or dog scootering to get that extra speed for a more exciting run.

Bikejoring is great fun and you can really get up your speed on a bike to go at your dogs’ pace – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

If you are thinking of giving bikejor a go then there are a few things you should know which will help you get the best from your experience.

The first thing you need to make sure of is that you have trained strong voice commands. When canicrossing it is easy to correct your dogs’ direction and quickly grab your bungee line to prevent any mishaps. However when you are on a bike there is no option to do this, so your dog must respond to your voice signals for directions and control otherwise you could end up causing an accident if your dog isn’t listening to you.

It doesn’t always go right at the best of times, so make sure you’ve trained your voice commands as best you can! – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

You also need to make sure the equipment you are using is suitable, don’t be tempted to ‘botch’ it with home made bikejor arms and lines. There are plenty of clubs now who may have equipment they can loan you to have a go with your dog and there are a small number of businesses offering training for the dog sports now. If you choose to borrow club equipment remember they are not liable for anything you do and might not be able to offer the ‘training’ you require but using the correct equipment will at least give you an idea if you’d like to do more bikejoring, so you can get your own kit to use later on.

Getting the right equipment for bikejoring will give your dog the best starting experience

We would suggest that it is quite important that you train solo on the bike first before attaching your dog. You might already be a skilled mountain biker and in this case you will be giving your dog the best chance of doing well at bikejoring by being in control of the bike and yourself first. However if you’re getting on a bike for the first time in a number of years (which was the situation we were in) then it is worth hitting the trails without your dog to gain some bike skills that you can utilise when you do attach your dog. Without having a basic skill level on a mountain bike you could be putting yourself and your dog at risk of harm, so just get used to being on a bike again and then you can help your dog get the best possible start to bikejoring.

Bike training without your dog can only be on benefit to you and your dog when you do try bikejoring, so try this first if you haven’t been on a bike for a while

It can be very helpful to find someone knowledgable to help you get started, we mentioned above there are a few businesses offering training now and some clubs also offer training weekends and camps which can be a great way to introduce your dog to something new. We recommend that you never try bikejoring first on your own, always take someone along with you who knows you and your dog just in case something unforeseen happens. Bikejoring can be great fun but always make sure someone knows where you are as accidents can happen in the most unexpected circumstances!

Make sure you are not on your own when you first start bikejoring or that someone at least knows where you are – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

It is also worth educating yourself on the rules regarding insurance and rights of way when bikejoring. Many Forestry Commission sites require permits to be obtained for anything where a dog is attached to a ‘wheeled vehicle’ and the public liability insurance required to obtain a permit is £5 million. This might seem excessive but in a blame culture it is worth checking what you are covered for with your dog, as hitting into a person or another dog with your bike could be costly. Riding on roads is not permitted at all with a dog attached and it’s not good for a dogs’ joints anyway to be moving at speed on hard surfaces. With canicross a few road sections won’t do any harm but long stretches on tarmac at the higher speeds you can achieve on a bike can damage your dogs’ pads and joints.

Your dog might have been canicrossing for years and covered many miles with you on foot but always start bikejoring with short sections, to allow your dog to get used to the increase in speed. Too many people seem to think that because they can run 10 miles canicrossing they can go straight out and ride 5 miles with their dog on the bike. Being able to run at full pelt attached to a bike is a very different experience for your dog, so make sure you are not challenging your dog to begin with and keep it fun for them, leaving them wanting to do more.

Bikejoring should always be fun for you and your dog, so keep it short and simple to begin with – Photo courtesy of Matt Eames

If you want to know more about making the transition from canicross to bikejor we have a few recommendations for businesses, clubs and individuals who could potentially help so get in touch if you’d like to know more but we hope you’ve found this blog helpful as a guide on how to make the experience the best it can be for both you and your dog. Happy trails!

 

 

 

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Bikejor for beginners – A reading list

The coming of the new year has seen many more people looking to take up the sports of running and biking and more importantly for us here at K9 Trail Time, people wanting to run and bike with their dog. Last year I wrote a blog containing the main blogs I have written to help you get started in canicross, so I thought it was about time I did the same for bikejoring.

Bikejoring is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK - Photo courtesy of Mel Parry

Bikejoring is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK – Photo courtesy of Mel Parry

I wrote a bit about getting started in bikejor here:
Getting along to an event is a great way to learn about the equipment and training - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Getting started with the help of friends is a great idea – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

The next two links are an introduction to the equipment and how to train
getting-it-wrong-on-the-bike

Training is important to avoid accident! Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

The following blog focuses on which bikejor attachment might be the one for you
Rower-land Bike Attachment

Getting the right equipment is important

The below blog contains a few tips for those beginning with their dog in bikejor
With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country - Photo courtesy of Chillpics

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

And lastly if you want to bikejor race with your dog, the racing blog I wrote might be of interest.
We have now competed in two European Championships in both Canicross and Bikejor

We have written about how to get started racing

There is some duplication in these blogs but they give you the very basics you need to know about equipment and training and briefly explain the sport of bikejoring for the beginner. If you have any specific queries then please do contact me emilyt@k9trailtime.com and I’d be happy to help you get started with your dog in one of the sports we love.

Bikejor: A Brief Introduction

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.

Bikejor is fast and fun for both of you - Photo courtesy of horsesforcourses photography

Bikejor is fast and fun for both of you – Photo courtesy of horsesforcourses photography

Dog Harness

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:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/harness-consultation-questions

Bike Attachment

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:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/bikejor-attachments-which-one-for-you/

Bungee Line

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!

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country - Photo courtesy of Chillpics

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

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.

Getting someone to run out in front of you can help teach your dog to pull - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Getting someone to run out in front of you can help teach your dog to pull – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

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! 🙂