An Awesome Gal and Her Awesome Pup

Since my border collie came to live with me a few months ago, I have been learning how to incorporate a dog into my car-free lifestyle. I had a bike respite coming up, and I didn’t want to leave my four-legged friend out of the fun. So, I spent time figuring out how to tow a dog on an overnight.

In preparation for a longer self-contained bicycle trip, Astro and I scheduled a mid-August shakedown overnight. The purpose of a shakedown ride was to figure out anything that might not be working logistically or mechanically with the bike, and to learn if there was any additional equipment needed. For our overnight, we went from Missoula, Montana, up the Bitterroot Valley to Bass Creek, camped for two days, then rode back home.

I was very worried about the weight I’d be pulling around. My bicycle without gear probably weighs somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. I carry 15 to 20 pounds of gear, not including the trailer, which weighs 22 pounds. Astro weighs 55 pounds, and I weigh 160. That’s more than 270 pounds that I have to push/pedal up hills and across many, many miles. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit of trepidation.

Soon, though, I was little disappointed in myself for doubting my own strength as a cyclist. We got over the set of hills just as easily as when I ride with no gear. Coming into the town of Lolo, I wondered if I'd see any other loaded touring cyclists on the road -- and, as if in magical response, a voice from behind me said "hello." It was a young man heading toward Seattle, now traveling the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. We stopped in Lolo and chatted for a few minutes. Of course, as we chatted, a motorist stopped by to talk with us about bicycle touring, as he had ridden the TransAm a few years before.

There’s something about this crazy thing we do called bicycle touring that seems to fascinate people and draw them to us.

As we left Lolo, the temperature had cooled off a bit, so I decided to let Astro burn off some energy. I hooked him up to the side of my bike via the Springer. He ran full force, giving me a break by pulling me and my load, for about two miles, then he slowed down and we worked together for another three miles. After a break to rehydrate Astro, I offered the pup the opportunity to ride in the trailer some more, which he eagerly accepted.

Even though I had friends meeting me at the campsite with food and other supplies, I still wanted to simulate being out on our own. So in Florence I stopped into an IGA and bought supplies to make dinner. Then, a few miles later, we hit the steep incline of Bass Creek Road, which dishes up a tough, 2-mile climb to the campsite. I let Astro out of the trailer and said, “Let’s hook up!” He obediently stood next to the Springer hook-up, and together we pulled our rig up the hill.

On day two of our shakedown, we went for a nice hike up Bass Creek, on which Astro was expected to carry his own gear.

Next, we rode into Stevensville, about a 15-mile round-trip, for burgers and beer and to pick up groceries for dinner and the next morning's breakfast. Later in the day, we hunkered down in the shade and rested. Astro grew tired of the flies and got up and walked over to our tent and looked back at me. Then he waited. I got up to see what he wanted -- obviously, he wanted in the tent! I opened the netting door, he got in and laid down, and then looked at me as if to say, “Close the screen and keep the flies out!” He hung out on his own for about two hours. He’s so funny.

The next day we arose early, packed up, and headed back to Missoula. My colleague Arlen, who joined me for the return ride, seemed a bit impressed by how well I handled the hills with all of the weight. That’s because I’m so awesome. And so is Astro.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: In nearby Stevensville, there is a great brewery that allowed me to bring Astro into the patio. Stay an extra night, pack a lunch, and hike up the Bass Creek Trail to the reservoir, and then farther to the waterfall. The view is totally worth it.

Favorite local bike shop: Hellgate Cyclery in Missoula.

11 responses so far ↓

Joanna - Dec 10, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Thanks for this post! We just got a Border Collie pup (who looks a lot like Astro) and are trying to incorporate him into everything we do, which includes bike touring. I hope he likes it!

Amanda - Dec 10, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Hi Joanna,

Two tips for traveling with a dog: become an early bird so you get out and do most of your miles before the heat of the day. Expect 25-35 mile days on average. And take every opportunity you can to stop and let your pup explore and play. You'll remember all the places you played most of all.

Alan - Dec 11, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Great post. What trailer do you use, and did you have to train your dog to get in and stay in it?

Patrick - Dec 11, 2012 at 8:48 AM

I also travel with my pup on my bicycle touring adventures. See them here: www.worldsbetweenlines.com

Louie - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM

So rad! I've got an 90lb border collie mix that I've really been wanting to take touring. The weight seems daunting but your trip is inspiring to give it a go. After all, there's nothing better than bikes and dogs. Combining the two makes sense no matter what happens. Cheers!

Amanda - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Hi Alan,

We use a Burley Tail Wagon. It is rated for up to 75lbs. Astro wasn't very fond of it when we first got it, but I got a pillow that fits perfectly in it and that made it better. It didn't take a whole lot of practice. At the beginning, I had to lure him in with treats, and he would cry a little bit during the beginning of our rides, but he got over it. He still prefers running alongside to riding in the trailer, but when he gets tired, he's all about hopping in and letting me pull him.

Amanda - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Hi Louie!

Just remember that with the dog, your daily mileage will be low, 25-35 miles, 50 at best as a long day. It really is a lot of fun to take the dog with you and they love it because they get to be outdoors with YOU 24/7.

Sachi - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Although we haven't tried touring, our 15lb terrier mix gets to go on lots of outings in the bike trailer. We have attached a carabiner to a line tied to the straps in the trailer which clips to his harness. (terriers don't have great impulse control) Also we have a rolled, Ensolite foam pad in the bottom to give him something to stand on. Just found this website from the travel section!

April - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Sounds like a great adventure. I have often thought about trying this with my dog Molly. This gives me some inspiration!

Amanda - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Hi Sachi,

I use an ortho dog bed in the trailer to give Astro some comfort too. If I have the front window open, I also tether him inside the trailer as you mentioned, because he often will want to get out when I'd rather him not get out.

Molly, keep posted to the Adventure Cycling blog. I reviewed a few different dog trailers this past spring and summer so there will be some more helpful information there.

Thanks for the great comments!

Petey - Mar 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Your are Awesome! and so is Astro! Thank you so much for sharing this.

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