Getting around

How to travel with your dog on a bike in London

By October 26, 2018 No Comments
Small dog in a bike basket with his owner

Have you ever dreamt of taking your dog on a bike with you? In the last few years we met dogs cycling in London with their humans in different fashion, so today we bring you experiences for each bike riding method, with tips on how to train your dog and travel safely around town directly from riding dog owners.

Dogs on Bikes in London

We often meet a little dog with his human, darting on a bike, on a busy London street. But there are also dogs who travel on two wheels in a rucksack, trailer, cargo bike, or trotting along! We started collecting stories and got some perfect representatives for the different ways of travelling: Lluwi, Luna, Gus & Glitch, and Lily, whose humans will tell you more about it!

In this post we will also share tips about safe routes and free downloadable cycling maps and a shopping guide for all the gear you may need. Before diving into London dogs’ experiences, just a note: there is always an ineliminable risk in riding a bike with your dog and this is an activity that is not for everyone (please be safe!).

#1. Dog bike basket

Small dog in bike basket

Small dogs can easily travel in a basket placed on a bike. Lluwi the Pomeranian is one of those and he has been cyclying with his owner Gerda since when he was about one year old. “Once he was big enough to sit in the bike basket we thought that he is such an adventures dog that we have to give this a go!”, she said.

Basket riding training

Gerda introduced Lluwi to basket bike riding step by step. “Firstly we made the bike basket soft to sit in by putting a throw and a small pillow on the side. So he feels comfortable and supported. We got him used to it by having him sit in the basket while we were still in the garden, then slowly started to move the bike and I walked next to it slowly on the road”, she explained.

“At first he was unsure and tried moving around, so constant reassurance and a small treat was needed. He became more and more confident with each trip and now will get comfortable and sit still the whole journey and enjoys the ride.”

Pros and cons of dog basket riding

Pros: “There is definitely more pros to this: for example your dog gets stressed while going on public transport or they don’t like small spaces so being on a bike will mean that they are more in control and are able to see more which hopefully mean that you can still travel to the places you want to go. You also get a lot of attention from the public and a lot of ‘awwww’s’ as not everyday you see a cute doggy on a bike.”

Cons: “One problem would be is that sometimes when he sees other dogs he tries to sit up and I get worried he will fall out, so I stop and comfort him back in and carry on. Also going over potholes you have to be very careful as he can feel it a little more so you have to carefully go around them or slow down.”

Dog basket gear

“At the moment we don’t use any special gear besides a harness and a lead, but I would like to get him a special dog carrier-backpack special for bikes. The only problem with that is that they are wrapped in, which is safer than being in a basket, but with Lluwi he is such an independent dog that he wouldn’t like being wrapped in a carrier so its not for every dog. I would also love to buy him small goggles so he could use them when its really windy as a lot of wind hits him when cycling, so we keep looking for the perfect solution to protect his eyes”, notes Gerda.

On the market there are special baskets which have a mesh cover on top for extra safety. For instance, Maria, owner of the next dogs up, had used Trixie dog basket (link in the shopping guide below).

Tips

Gerda shares some tips from her experiece with Lluwi:

  • “Be careful on the road as with dogs you never know what they will do next, so you have to watch the traffic and watch the dog at the same time. Be aware of how your dog reacts to traffic noises if they feel disstress stop and carry on training another day. Don’t forget that if you feel relaxed your dog will also feel it too and will be calmer.
  • Use whatever [gear] works for you and your dog that will make the journey smooth and enjoyable.
  • Don’t be scared to try cycling with your dog as its an amazing way to spend time and take them to really lovely places. Be safe and enjoy the ride!”
  • If using a bike basket make sure you use a harness [instead of a collar] as there will be more support to his body so you can attach the lead and hold it in your hand.”

#2. Doggie Backpack

Girl and her little dog in a backpack ride a bike in London

Maria with Glitch in her backpack. Photo courtesy of Maria

Rescue dogs Gustavito (who has a blog and social media) and Glitch (with whom we previously went on some adventures) sometimes travel with their mum Maria on her bike. Gus started riding with her when they were still living in Spain, 6 years ago. They have used different gears, including a basket closed on the top from Trixie and a doggie backpack, which she got after having tried a baby carrier with an added belt for security.

Training

Maria shares her experience teaching her dogs to ride safely and says treats are the key. “At first we had a normal open basket. I put him in there, at first not moving, and gave him treats, then moved a bit and gave him more treats. He was a bit nervous at the beginning and tried to jump from it, but then he realised it was ok and comfortable when he was tired!”, explains Maria.

Pros and cons

“The open basket was obviously quite dangerous, as the dog could jump off. The closed basket is quite safe, although as Gus is a bit heavy for the rear wheel, it makes riding quite hard. The backpack is also very safe and comfortable, but after a bit it starts feeling heavy on the shoulders”, notes Maria.

Girl and her dog carried in a baby carried on a bike

Maria and Gus in his baby carrier. Photo courtesy of Maria

Tips

  • “I would say always have a closed carrier. With an open one, even if you have a harness and a lead, the dog can jump an destabilise you. When I had Gus in the open basket, I decided to leave him off leash (this only works if you are not riding on a road!) as it was safer for him to be able to jump out.”
  • The baby carrier was definitely not the best option, but it was the only one I had at the moment! An open basket can work for non-dangerous areas. A close basket is safe, but you have to check if the weight of the dog will be a problem riding-wise. A backpack is very convenient, again it will depend on the size and weight of the dog.
  • Always keep you and your dog safe! Teach your dog to stay calm in the carrier you have chosen, it can be very dangerous if they get nervous and you fall from the bike.”

#3. Cargo bike

Dogs on cargo bike on river Lee in London

Earlier this year we went on an adventure on a cargo bike with Hattie & Humphrey the Fox Terriers (which you can read about in this post). This is definitely an option for dogs who wouldn’t fit in a basket or sack. There are different types of cargo bikes that you can hire or buy. There are 2-wheel and 3-wheel cargo bikes of many different brands: Bakfiets, Nihola, Babboe and more.

In London you can hire a dog-friendly cargobike for the day or for longer periods of time at CarryMeBike and they also sell cargobikes, so you can try before buy. You can read about all tips for a safe and enjoyable experience in our previous post.

Cargobike brand Nihola also sells a special dog cargo bike, that has a door at the front, making it easier for larger dogs to get in the box, and apparently has a way to secure the leash at the bottom of the box (but there are no photos available). In London these are available for purchase at London Green Cycles.

#3. Dog trailer

Luna the corgi rides in a bike trailer in London

Credits: screenshot from video courtesy of Alastair

Luna the Corgi, who we previously interviewed for the Office Dog Series, travels in a trailer attached to her dad Alastair’s bike, and she has been doing it for 4 and a half years now. Alastair explains that he started with her from a very young age, when she was 4 months old.  “She always loved it because there was always a park at the other end of the ride!”, he added.

Pros and cons of a trailer

Pros: “Pros are definitely that you’re super visible and cars give you a LOT of room. I stick mostly to the center of the lane and have never had any trouble with cars or buses. The trailer doesn’t in any way change the balance or handling of your ride so for me has always felt like the safest option for both me and Luna. If I fall off the bike, the trailer doesn’t tip and it’s the same the other way round too.”

Cons: “The cons is that it’s heavy and bulky. You need a good bike with good gears and a decent place at work to store the beast (the trailer, not the dog).”

Luna the corgi in a dog bike trailer

Credits: screenshot from video courtesy of Alastair

Tips for a safe ride with a trailer

  • “Go slow and avoid the pot holes.
  • Also attach lights if you’re cycling after dark. Lots of easy to attach LED options are available on Amazon etc.”

Gear

Alastair explains that he has owned 3 trailers in total and the choice is somewhat limited. “I’ve found that each trailer lasts just over a year if you use it daily in all weather conditions so really there isn’t a huge distinction between the options. The one piece of buying advice I would give is that you want the trailer to have a soft bottom. We had one with a wooden base and poor luna bounced around quite a bit until we added more pillows!”, he adds.

Having a look online, there are a few different brands of trailers. One that seems quite versatile and we saw used by another Londoner as a stroller for an old dog too was Pet Ego Comfort Wagon Bicycle Pet Trailer (video here), which you can find on Amazon here. Taking into account Alastair’s suggestion, though, you should add pillows on the bottom of this one.

#5. Running along with a dog bike harness

Lily the newfoundland runs along the bike with her bike special leash

Lily the Newfoundland, who we interviewed at the very beginning of our Stories feature on the blog, has been cycling with her owner Sashikanth since she was a year old, once or twice a week, when she had a ton of energy and Sashikanth realised that simply taking her for a 40-minute walk was not enough.

“Her recall was terrible so off leash exercise was prone to me running around the neighborhood chasing her. So, I looked into equipment that would allow me to cycle with my dog running leashed to the bike somehow. I first thought I could simply hold her leash in one hand or tie to handle bar but quickly realised what a big mistake it was with a 40 kilo puppy running like a mad man”, said Sashi.

“I introduced cycling to Lily when she was around 12 months old, but should have done it when she was about 18 months old. Lots of positive reinforcement. I held a treat in one hand, handled bar in the other and gave her treat when she was nicely waking alongside the cycle for not more than 20 feet. I did this everyday for a few days until she got the hang of the exercise.”

Her cycling sessions have never been longer than 20-minutes per session, Sashi highlights, normally 10 minutes to get to a park nearby, let her off and play with other dogs and do some scent detection training, and then cycle back. Now that she has gotten a bit older Sashi has taken up other activities to exercise her.

Video: The video below is courtesy of Sashikanth, and please note that it is a collage of videos. Lily normally trots rather than running on concrete and she gets frequent breaks during their cyclying.

Gear

Sashikanth carried out much research before deciding on what harness to get for the purpose. “After my research I narrowed down to two types of leash – one of them is a straight rod that hangs horizontally from the seat (actually the stem that holds the seat) and the other a more flexible one that sits near the axle on the rear wheel, one from Bike Tow Leash”, explained Sashikanth.

Sashi talked more about the physics of the solutions and why he chose the second one. “I read into the history of the person who invented the bike tow leash (apparently an aeronautical engineer) and was impressed with how he addressed the physical challenges. For example the first leash I mentioned is simply too high from your centre of gravity which means it is very easy for a strong dog to pull you over. With bike tow leash the centre of gravity is pretty close to the ground and it’s virtually impossible for the dog to pull you over. I’ve had instances where Lily gave chase to squirrels and foxes we come across and never pulled me over. As long as you keep your butt on the cycle seat you will be fine – that means that if you stop for some reason and not seated then the dog will easily pull you and the cycle over as I found out myself. I definitely recommend Bike Tow Leash.” You can find Bike Tow Leash on Amazon at this affiliate link.

Safety tips

  • “First speak to your vet and see that she is cleared from a health point of view. Ideally these kind of structured exercises are best for when the dog has stopped growing as improper exercise can do more damage than lack of exercise. So always consult with your vet to about any new structured exercise you are looking to introduce.
  • If you are using bike tow leash (or any other leash equipment) it is very important to pay attention to the speed at which you are riding. Always keep up with the dog rather than the other way around.
  • Think of the temperature outside – don’t over exhaust your dog.
  • Make sure your bike brakes are in good condition in case you need to do an emergency stop (only because your dog has stopped) you need to hit the brakes. Otherwise always aim to come to gradual stop.
  • As with any structured exercise it is always important to warm up your dog. I would take her for a gentle jog for 10 mins before upping the speed.
  • Think of the surface you are exercise your dog on – high speed running is not suitable on concrete surfaces.
  • Take your dog for a run when there aren’t too many distractions (e.g. avoid areas with dogs running off leash). Don’t try to run a marathon, get her used to the new regime. First try a leisurely jog 0.5 miles every two days for two weeks. And then increase it to one mile and gradually from there on. Don’t exercise for more than 20minutes like this. Also never go out on the main road or with roads with moderate to heavy traffic.”

#6. Dog bike seat

Small dog sitting in his bike dog seat with his owner

Credits: photo courtesy of Becky

Becky and Rambo the rescue dog have been using another way to travel by bike together. Becky got him a dog seat for her bike and has been very happy with her choice ever since.

“Rambo is an amenable rescue dog, who was introduced to his Buddyrider [dog seat] aged 8. The first time, we coaxed him on by covering it in blobs of peanut butter. He’s still a little nervous getting into it, but once he’s in he seems to enjoy the ride and the view”, she recounts.

Pros and cons

“The pros are that he’s safely secured in a harness so cannot launch himself off in pursuit of cats. The weight’s near the centre of the bike so it feels quite safe. Also the human rider gets to view the world out from between two little ears, which is cute. The cons are that the dog can’t jump out in case of an accident: we only use it on quiet routes, though we do know people who use one to commute every day. And the top weight it can carry is 11.5kg. You really need a kick stand on the bike so it doesn’t wobble while you’re getting the dog in place”.

Gear

Becky has been using Buddyrider. She says, “As far as we know, the Buddyrider is one of a kind. Sometimes they sell out but they seem to be in stock at the moment. It’s not cheap but it feels sturdy and well made, it was really easy to install and you can take it on and off the bike without hassle. Final tip, measure your bike before you buy. It fits most types and sizes but the specs are on the Buddyrider website and it’s best to check.”

Dog on Buddy Rider

Credits: photo courtesy of Becky

?️? London bike routes ?️?

Let’s be honest, cycling in London is quite dangerous and incidents are frequent and can be pretty serious. So if you decide to bring along your four-legged, you may want to plan your ride on a quieter route, if not in parks, at least on cycling paths and quieter streets with little traffic.

?️ Apart from the 8 Cycle Superhighways completed so far in London, which tend to be pretty busy anyway, there are a number of Quietways (continuous and convenient cycle routes on less-busy backstreets across London), which maps you can download for free from TfL’s website here.

?️ There is also a really nice webiste London CycleStreets, where you can input your starting point and arrival and will suggest different routes indicating in green the quietest stretches.

London dog on a bike in a basket

?? Your dog bike shopping guide ??

So you have a dog, you have a bike, and you have a route. Now you just need the gear to put all together and start your dog-friendly bike riding! Below you can find some essentials for your dog bike ride, from bike gear to dog and human accessories to be ready for it (contains affiliate links). Enjoy the ride!

Other accessories:

For the human:

ENJOY!

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