A Rough Riding Guide for Newbies
If you and your pet are new to the world of bicycle trailers then both of you may have to learn some new disciplines: for the owner, new skills may have to be developed to adjust to the differences that towing a trailer behind your bicycle demands; for the dog, a sense of contentment inside the cabin has to be nurtured to keep any journey stress-free. This isn’t as daunting as it may first sound, and you may find that you and/or your four-legged friend already possess some, or all, of the aptitudes required for safe travel with a bike trailer.
With the above in mind we’ve put together a little guide which hopefully highlights the main things to consider for both pilots and passengers! Most points will seem like common sense whilst some others might require more thought and work. But for all the points preparedness is the aim and we will try and cover all the main considerations towards that end below. These will hopefully ready you and your dog for your maiden journey and help it to go as smoothly as possible!
Trained dogs your dog crate-trained?
This is the most important item on the list to consider because it’s essential that your dog remains calm and happy within the cabin of the trailer. The safety of both owner and dog are, obviously, the top concerns when out on a road and the stability of the trailer is crucial. A dog – especially a large one – that is not content in the cabin and wants out (tethered inside or not) can cause imbalance in the trailer and, in turn, the bike. A crate-trained dog will more likely not want to try and escape his or her confines.
Having said that, you may find that even if your dog isn’t crate-trained it remains content and calm within the cabin with its owner in view as well as the interesting, ever-changing scenery! There’s really only one way to find out how you’re dog will cope and that’s with a safe dry run or two (see below). If your dog does tend to panic, however, you could try some of the techniques used for crate-training. Here’s a helpful link on the subject from the Humane Society’s site. The absolute full training may not be necessary or applicable as far as a dog in a trailer goes, but many of the aspects of helping a nervous hound to become content and calm within a small space could be utilized.
practising with a dog bicycle trailer Dry Runs.
If dog and/or owner are new to towing a trailer then practice runs in a safe space are a good idea. With so many variables and unknowns in the equation it’s best, obviously, to recognize any potential problems before you and your pet set out to do it for real. Rehearsals will help in so many areas: familiarizing both dog and owner with the general feel of this new way of traveling; furnishing the cyclist with valuable experience on they and their bike’s perform whilst towing the trailer; Seeing how the dog behaves and acts within the cabin (see above); acclimatizing the owner to the acceleration, braking and cornering performance of the whole setup (see below); familiarity in safely assembling and connecting the bike to the trailer. And this is to name just a few areas where practice would be very beneficial. Take your time and get yourself and your friend as prepared as possible for your first real journey!
learning to tow a dog trailer with a bikeTowing skills. This might seem like a blatantly obvious point but it’s worth making anyway: cycling with a trailer in tow is not the same as cycling without one. Pulling a trailer behind you requires slightly different disciplines when out on the road. The added length, weight and cornering ability of the whole setup dictates different ways of cycling. Due to the extra weight everything will feel less responsive than normal. It will take more time to build up speed and more time to stop. This, coupled with the extra length your vehicle now has, means your previous cycling estimations – on the time needed to cross a street, for example – will have to be increased. The new dynamics of starting or stopping on slopes should also be taking into consideration, as should your increased turning curves. As mentioned in the point above, practising in a clear, safe area first will aid you in these new ways and get you more accustomed to what you can expect on the real roads or tracks. Even when well-rehearsed, however, it’s best to set off very cautiously on your first real trip. Go slowly and anticipate stops, starts and turns well in advance and, until you get used to things, exaggerate the time and space you’d think you’d need to perform these actions.
safety with bicycle trailersGeneral Safety.
Dog bicycle trailers usually come with various safety accessories included. Typical extras are reflectors for low light conditions, flags for increased height visibility and cabin leashes (or hoops for leashes to be connected to) in order to keep the passenger safely within the trailer whilst being towed. Some trailers come with even more safety aspects built into their designs such as reflective stripes, parking brakes and roll cages. Some of these extras may be unnecessary for some but essential for others depending on the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ the trailer is to be used. Make sure you employ them accordingly. Another important safety aspect to be adhered to is the maximum weight capacity of the trailer. This should not be exceeded and we would suggest that your passenger, plus any additional extras, should come in comfortably below that limit.
cycling with a dog trailerYour first journey together!
And so you and your best friend are ready to go on your first little adventure together: your dog is happy within the trailer; you’ve practiced and become used to the difference a trailer makes to bicycling; you’ve become familiar with the changes in accelerating, braking and cornering; all relevant safety options have been utilized and now it’s time to set off! But… We would suggest that for a first excursion a fairly unambitious, local route is decided on. This might sound a little boring but there are other aspects of cycling with a laden dog trailer that you’ve probably not yet experienced – even with all of your rehearsing! Understandably, cycling is harder work with a trailer involved – both for yourself and your bike! Traveling even a modest distance will give you a good idea of your performance and a more realistic notion of how far you could possibly go (and return) in a set amount of time. A short run the first time out is also advantageous should any malfunction occur with either bike, trailer or the connection between the two – better to find out locally!
Once you are comfortable cycling short, local routes, however, and you plan on eventually going further afield, slowly build up the distances you travel – but always stick within you and your dog’s limits – take breaks when either you or your furry friend require them! On longer journeys be sure you set off well equipped. Take along your bicycle repair equipment, cell phone, enough water for you and your dog and his or her leash – just in case! Make sure any other equipment you may include doesn’t infringe on the trailer’s maximum carrying weight. And just a few more words of advice: whether you plan on traveling a few blocks locally or miles out into the wilderness – take your time, take good care and enjoy each other’s company!