Biking is becoming ever more popular, with people flocking to use bicycles for their preferred method of both exercise and relaxation. Union Cycliste International reported that 2020 was the biggest year for bicycling in the USA since 1973; and 2021 is poised to surpass that record. This is no surprise since cycling has a low impact on the environment, is a good way to get around quickly, and also opens up opportunities to experience the world around you. And why not enjoy biking with your dog? Indeed, there are few better ways to get around with your four-legged friend than on a bicycle.
Related: How to Travel Better with a Dog
Safety first when biking with your dog
As fun as it is to bike with your dog, choosing the right option that works for both you and your pet is important. For smaller dogs, a front or rear facing carrier or bike trailer are safe and simple ways to transport your under 20 pounder, especially if you live in a busy city. However, you will need to make sure that the carrier you choose can secure your dog with a restraint and is able to withstand the weight of your dog. You should also consider investing in a pair of Doogles or other types of sunglasses to protect their eyes from dust and dirt.
If you have a larger dog that enjoys exercise such as a Husky, Labrador, Golden Retriever, Spaniel, Weimaraner or a hyper cross breed (gotta love ‘em), biking with your dog is a great way to burn off that boundless energy. But there are things to consider before you hit the road.
Should my dog be leashed? Unless you are in an environment where your dog will not be distracted from your path, it is a good idea to leash your dog to the bike. There are many devices that allow for this safely. This bike leash is just one example.
How long can my dog keep a faster pace? Before biking with your dog, you should understand their limits as to exercise. Consider the need for training your dog to run next to a bicycle. First trips should be short and slow so your pup can understand the arrangement. Work your way to a pace that is comfortable for them. Watch them carefully for signs of fatigue, dehydration and distraction. Don’t encourage your pooch to sprint for too long even if they are enjoying the pace, especially if they are a snub-nosed breed. Don’t forget to offer them water after a good biking session.
Courtesy of Pixabay
Start biking with your dog on easy park trails
Before you head out on vacation, it’s a good idea to consider what’s on your doorstep. Many bike trails are also dog-friendly, and that extends to local parks and areas of natural beauty. The US Department of Interior has a very handy roundup of such areas, listed state by state. In particular, they recommend the Ridge to Rivers System in Idaho and the various National Wildlife Refuges set across the USA’s urban conurbations. Just make sure you know the local rules. There are times when you’ll want to let your pet off the leash, and there are several parks where this won’t be allowed. Also, and again, you’ll need to ensure you cycle at a dog-safe pace.
Off the parks and onto the roads is where many cyclists will opt to choose before their next big trip. For owners of smaller to medium sized dogs, who can be placed in a carrier on the bike as opposed to needing to be taken on lead, this is a real option and one that can help you to experience a bit of city history. Many cities have good policies on dogs when it comes to museums, and there are plenty of art installations outside, too, where you can easily dismount and go for a walk around. Cycling with your dog is not prohibited, either, but it’s important to be extra careful on city streets and among traffic.
Longer dog-friendly bike trails
Past your own front door, biking gives you the freedom to go pretty much anywhere you like, often to awe-inspiring places and backdrops, and doing so with man’s best friend in tow only enhances the adventure. The United States, with its many varied climates and sights, offers a few key trails to try out. For urban dog owners, The American River Parkway, California offers a quick way to get out. According to arpf.org, the trail has a dozen access points and an abundance of trees and wildflowers, making it a great area for your dog to explore.
Furthermore, it features areas in which you can fish, swim, kayak, or run, as well as paint, relax, or watch a sunset. For sure, your rest stops will never be boring.
Other parks offering pet friendly bike trails are
Arcadia National Park in Arcadia, ME
Katy Trail, Clinton, MO
Banks-Vernonia Trail, Portland, OR
Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe, NV
Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe, NV
Maah Daah Hey Trail, Waterford, ND
Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest, Asheville, NC
Withlacoochee Bay Trail, Crystal River, FL
Gatlinburg Trailhead, Gatlinburg, TN
WCU Hiking & Mountain Biking Trailhead, Cullowhee, NC
Losing yourself in the wilderness
If you and your furry pal are after something more on the wild side you can bike the George S. Mickelson Trail, South Dakota, where ghosts of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane still roam according to Parks.gov. You can explore the prairies, pine and ponderosa forests, all of which will provide a wealth of sensory adventures for your pet. Afterwards, you can stop off for a picnic while your dog enjoys a refreshing doggy paddle in the cool lake.
Other examples of wilderness biking trails that allow pets are Cowboy Trail, Norfolk, NE and The Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Pennsylvania to Maryland.
An honest to goodness road trip
Why not combine all these adventures together into a long road trip? The Active Times highlights one such trip which is 8,000 miles cross the USA trail cycled, over months, by one owner and their pet. Road trips are famous for their ability to help draw the travel experience out into a really long and enjoyable stretch – an opportunity to learn about yourself and, with your pet there, your best friend too. With the open view towards cycling and pets seen in the urban areas, parks, trails and wilderness of the country, you’re sure to have a good time.
Don’t be surprised if cycling becomes one of your favorite pastimes. Of course, you want your best friend there alongside you wherever you may roam. Biking with your dog is a great way to do this. Make sure that they are safe along the way and enjoy the time you share outdoors wherever you are. You and your pooch have fun while riding hand in paw.
Jane Sandwood is a freelance writer and editor who spent over a decade in the tourism industry.