Bikejoring Background and History
The exact date of the origins for Bikejoring isn’t known, it is a sport that developed out of traditional sled dog mushing. Bikejoring is performed on dry-land and involves a dog or two being harnessed to a bike we will talk more later on the equipment that's required.
This bike is ridden by either the dogs owner, or trainer as they might be starting out or a professional team, or someone hired to run the dogs on the trail.
There are two different ways to have the dog pull the bike. Most choose to have the dog harnessed to the front of the bike and some like to have their dogs run alongside the bike and have special equipment attached to the bike we will go into more detail on that below.
While sled mushing is the grandfather of all mushing sports, it’s likely that Bikejoring came out of skijoring, another popular dog sport. The sport typically takes place on trails that weave through the forest and mountains. Because of the rough terrain, mountain bikes are the suggested type of bike for Bikejoring and ones with front and rear suspension is probably best.
There are many competitions and events throughout the year and across the country for Bikejoring. Even internationally, there are several competitions to take part in if you’re feeling like your team is ready for a true challenge overseas.
The UKDA is affiliated to the BSSF https://www.thebssf.org.uk who are a full affiliated member to the ISSF https://sleddogsport.net The IFSS is the International Federation of Sleddog Sports and hold the world championships each year.
The UKDA hopes in the future to have some of its members participate for Team GB at the ISSF World Championships.
Types of Races
There are two different races that you can participate in during a Bikejoring competition. The first is a direct race. Everyone is lined up at the start and then released at the same time. Dogs and their riders have to navigate along the trail. Whoever reaches the finish line first is the winner. With a location where harness lines might become crossed, a timed race is performed instead. During this race, a team is released one-at-a-time. They have to complete the trail as quickly as possible. The team with the shortest time is proclaimed the winner and both are lots of fun.
Getting Started With Bikejoring
Dogs need to be trained as speed and equipment is involved. Otherwise, they’re going to be leading you here there and everywhere but the trail. They also need to be trained to behave well with other dogs and its nice to have well behaved dogs. The last thing you need is for your dog to drag you and your bike to another team and their dogs because they want to play with the other dog or worse they are aggressive towards other dogs.
You need to first ask yourself does your dog like running, has it been harnessed before, will it pull when harnessed if the answer is yes then your on the right track, if its no then additional training is required.
The basic training always starts with walking. If your dog tends to dart from side-to-side while walking, then they’ll likely do the same when they’re running except now you’ll be attached to them and that needs to be addressed, always start by walking at a safe pace and if your dog won't go out in front its fine just by your side to start with.
Once they have started listening to your commands and are walking the right way, you can push them a little harder with their fitness. They need to become used to wearing a harness and pulling a weight. You might want to consider canicross training to start with even if its only very short distances. This involves attaching the dog to yourself. It offers a smaller weight and gets them used to towing something or someone.
If you want to increase strength, then have weight pulling is also good but remember the dogs age, fitness, health as after all first and foremost it should be fun for the dog.
There are essential commands that your dog needs to know in order to be able to participate in Bikejoring. The most important is the Stop command. Other important ones to teach them are 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 to pass around an object or another rider.
Besides commands and training, having the right equipment is just as important to get started with Bikejoring and we can help and advise you on what suits you and your type of dog the best, as a UKDA member you automatically get BSSF membership included which can give you discounts on training equipment with special discounts.
The Bikejoring Setup – What Equipment Is Needed?
Your first piece of equipment should be a mountain bike. It needs to be robust and able to sustain impacts so good suspension and definitely good brakes. With the bike, you should absolutely have a helmet and a pair of goggles for your safety. Helmets should always be worn when on the bike as accident do happen and you want to go home after a days racing. Goggles should be impact resistant because you’re likely to have a lot of gravel thrown back at your face and body and they can shatter if not the correct type of googles.
Gloves are not essential but certainly helps keeping those hands warm and can help maintain a good grip on your bike. On your bike, you should have mirrors attached, so you can see what’s going on behind you. Also maybe a side back for some emergency equipment.
Inside those bags, you should have lots of water for both yourself and your dogs. A first aid kit should be included with your dogs in mind. Your bike may also need repairs, so it’s a good idea to bring spare equipment to fix it up in an emergency.
You’ll also need a gangline which attaches the dogs to the bike. If you have more than one dog, then you’re going to need a neckline. This is the line which keeps the dogs together and is readily available online or from our BSSF sponsors as is all the other equipment and clothes. Harnesses are another crucial bit of equipment for your dog. You should take them in to get fitted so the harness fits them perfectly. Booties are another protective gear that your dog can benefit from when traveling across harsh terrain and these can be strange when your dog first wears them and they will look quite awkward to start with but they take time like anything else getting used too
Most of all be safe and have fun.
We will be holding events & taster days for both canicross & bikjoring so keep an eye out on our social media page https://www.facebook.com/eventsukda/.