This is third in a series of essays by Taylor A Ritz on her cross-country bike ride from Maine to Washington with her dog, Dobby. Although not part of this series, her next piece will give you essential backpacking gear you need for your dog.
In the previous post, the author discussed what gear she brought on the 3200-mile bicycle trip. Here she gives real life information about how to bike your dog.
Northern Tier Essay Series
by Taylor A Ritz
When I decided to bikepack the Northern Tier, I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave my 8-month old dog, Dobby, behind. So I began researching how I could possibly bring Dobby with me. Most of the people I met along the way thought I was crazy for towing my 40-pound puppy behind me on a cross-country bicycle trip, but I couldn’t have completed this journey without him. If you’re considering a long-distance cycling trip with your dog, here are some questions to consider to set your adventure up for success.
Editor's note: We think our Tour de Fierce Ride Wallet is essential for bikepacking with your dog. It’s weatherproof, super lightweight, eco-friendly and securely holds everything you’ll need—plus a little bit more. You can slip your phone inside in the event of a downpour, and exterior pockets for treats!
How Will They Ride?
Where will your dog be when you are cycling? Though I’m sure there are some extremely fit dogs out there, my 8-month-old clumsy puppy was not one of them. If you’re going on a long bicycle trip, don’t be surprised if you start to cycle 40 to 50 miles each day consistently. Not many dogs can run that far every day. To bring Dobby with me, I attached a Burley D’Lite trailer to the back of my bike. I removed the baby seats and used my sleeping bag to fill the footwell. This gave Dobby a comfortable, flat surface to stand or lie down on while we rode. It had a sunscreen and rain cover to protect him from the elements.
Where Will They Sleep?
For me, this was a no-brainer. Dobby slept in the tent with me. I brought a 2-person tent for exactly this purpose. As temperatures began to drop at night in the later summer months though, Dobby would wiggle his way into my sleeping bag with me. If he had been full-grown at the time, we wouldn’t have both fit. If I were to take the trip again, I would bring him a dog sleeping bag or a camp blanket to use. He did have a small sleeping pad to provide comfort after our long riding days.
What Gear Do They Need?
Dobby is a short-coated dog, so I brought him a jacket to wear in the cooler evenings. For times when he would run next to the bike, he had a harness to distribute the pull weight off of his neck. While we were in camp, I attached him to a long line so he could safely explore our campsite without wandering off. Dobby had a collapsible travel bowl for his meals and water breaks and an antler to chew on in camp.
Can You Put Your Dog First?
This is the most important question to ask yourself if you want to bring your dog bikepacking.
You chose this adventure, your dog did not. Therefore you must put your dog’s needs above your own at every moment of your bicycle trip.
They should be the first task you undertake when you wake up in the morning and when you reach camp at night. All the decisions you make throughout the day will have to keep your pup in mind.
You will have to find dog-friendly places to eat and sleep. Some hotels or campgrounds charge a pet fee. Some don’t allow you to leave your dog alone. I can’t tell you how many campground showers Dobby had to take with me since I couldn’t leave him at our campsite.
Lastly, you must be willing to end your trip for your dog’s health. They may become sick, injured, or they may just be unable to cope with the stress of the trip. If you choose to bring your dog along with you, you must be completely willing to leave your adventure and return home for the sake of your dog.
Photos courtesy Taylor A Ritz Instagram: @wilderritz