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Urban Mushing: Bikejoring

As any Siberian Husky owner can attest, finding new forms of exercise to keep such an active and smart breed mentally and physically stimulated can be difficult. Bred to crave work, the Husky is well-suited to many types of activities, besides the traditionally thought-of dog sledding. Within the past 30 years, pastimes which fall under the description of “urban mushing” have provided ways for Husky owners to exercise their dogs in a manner that fulfills the innate drives of the breed. Urban mushing encompasses any sport that involves a dog or team of dogs pulling a vehicle or weight across dry land for the sake of transportation or competition. One such activity that will be described here is bikejoring.

Bikejoring involves a single dog, or a team of dogs, harnessed to a towline that is attached to a bicycle. The dog(s) run ahead of the bicycle and work to pull the bike and musher across trails or grassy meadows. Although bikejoring is primarily a recreational activity, competitions are occasionally held in conjunction with urban mushing events or dryland sledding competitions. The objective of bikejoring is to provide a dog with an enjoyable outlet for his need to exercise and work, while also enabling the owner to have fun.

Any bicycle can be transformed for bikejoring by rigging an attachment above the front wheel. It is very important that the dogs not be attached to the handlebars or to the musher, as this could lead to an extremely dangerous situation. Special care must also be taken to ensure that the dog(s) cannot become tangled in the front wheel. Bikejorers typically use makeshift materials, such as PVC pipes, to suspend the towline above the front wheel to avoid this problem. From the towline, an attachment runs from the bike to the harnessed dog(s). A number of companies, such as Alpine Outfitters and Nook Sack Racing, offer equipment specifically made for the bikejorer.

Bikejoring requires a level of confidence and adventure-seeking from the dog owner. Mushers should always wear protective gear, and reliably train their dogs to follow basic commands, especially “slow down” and “stop.” A musher should be prepared for any number of scenarios, especially the instance when the dog(s) see a wild animal and decide that chasing is more fun than listening. A bikejorer should never travel in heavily trafficked areas unless completely confident in the ability of his or her dogs to follow commands.

As of 2006, bikejoring became an event officially sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association in the United States. During a race, which is held on a dirt road or trail, dogs pull their musher across a multi-mile course (typically about four miles). To avoid a pile-up, mushers are started in intervals and the team with the fastest overall time wins. Although bikejoring is relatively new in the United States, there is no doubt that the sport’s popularity has taken off, with competitions occurring in many states across the country.

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