There’s something different about the way my bike handles. It alternates between dragging me back on the hills and pushing me forward as we crest them. When we round a bend, I glance back to check the line I’m taking on the corner. There, behind me, is the reason for my caution: a bike trailer carrying our new Golden Retriever puppy, Lula. She's looking out contentedly.
Check out the dogpacking hashtag on Instagram and you’ll find adventurous folks taking their dogs on some epic trips. These canine world travellers are usually either small enough to be in crates attached to their owner’s bike or are pulled along in adapted open cargo trailers – and trained to jump in and out when required.
From what I’ve read, the on-bike option saves the hassle of a trailer and keeps your dog close to you, which they may like, but raises the bike’s centre of gravity. A trailer can be more of a pain (if you have to hike your bike over rough terrain, for example) but keeps the weight low and leaves room on your bike for luggage. A single-wheeled setup is better off road, following in the bike's tyre tracks with less side-to-side rocking than a two-wheeled trailer, but harder to handle when not attached to the bike.
We thought a two-wheeled trailer designed specifically for dogs was the best starting point for us as we looked for a way to include Lula in the pedal-powered part of our lives. So we hired a Burley Bark Ranger. With this, Lula the puppy could be safely enclosed in an environment not too dissimilar from her existing car or house crates. We hoped this would mean she would, with a bit of gentle encouragement and lots of treats, take a liking to the trailer. Fortunately, she did.
After a few short trips into town, we felt she was ready for a longer ride through the forest. With regular helpings of treats, she was happy to watch the world go by as we rode and to get out to stretch her legs when we stopped. She got to enjoy more of the forest than her young legs would allow on a walk, and we got to ride together as a family. Back home, we used the trailer to get Lula to her puppy training classes and to take her into town. On these outings, tired from the excitement, she’d regularly stay inside the trailer for a nap when we arrived home.
Our experiment had shown that we could get Lula used to travelling by bike. But puppies grow fast. She could soon walk far enough to get around locally, and she was also getting heavy. As our hire period came to an end, it was time to pack up the trailer in its comically large box, hand it over to the courier and think about what might come next.
It's clear that taking 30kg of fully grown dog on rides in our hilly part of the country will require electric assistance. Maybe this is perfect excuse to buy that e-cargo bike I’ve always wanted.