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I don’t know about you, but when I commit to a mountain bike ride I consider it a sacred trust. If I can crawl out of bed, I am going to be at the trailhead, and usually on time. In my 31 years of mountain biking I have had a few biking buddies that also lived by this code of commitment. However, I also have had a slew of riding partners who are commitment challenged.

If you have been biking for any length of time I am sure that you have had someone bail on a ride. If not, consider yourself lucky. Some of my friends are so reliably unreliable that I am sure they have created their own excuse Rolodex like Jerry Seinfeld.

Of course, we have all heard the litany of excuses. It could be the elements: too hot, too cold, too wet. Maybe it is the trail conditions: too dusty, too muddy, too much snow. Maybe it is their condition: too tired, too hungover, too sore, boils, diarrhea, constipation, headache. Maybe they will blame someone else: “My spousal pass was revoked,” or “my girlfriend needs for me to go to the farmer’s market.” Sometimes they will blame their bike: “I have a flat tire and I haven’t had a chance to fix it.” Or they might blame a household appliance: “I didn’t hear the alarm.”

Pups love powder days

Pups love powder days

Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, the list goes on. Now and again, the excuses might have some validity, but more often than not they are weak.

Through three decades of riding I have had three riding buddies that have joined me for hundreds of rides with a perfect 100% attendance record. Never once have they let me down. I like to call them “Team No Excuses.” Team no excuses is made up of my current pups Poki and Tula and the late, great Simon the wonder dog. As the saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend, but I should add that dogs are also man’s and woman’s most reliable biking buddies.

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My pups love to join me for a ride, and it brings me great joy to have them along. I especially enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces when they realize that they are invited to go along for a ride. This is pure, unbridled enthusiasm! Simon used to get out of control as soon as he saw me getting together any outdoor gear. To calm him down I would often put him in my truck even if it was an hour or more before I was to head out. Just knowing that he was going to be included in the ride made him calm down.

Poki and Tula are more subdued as I gear up. The big question on their minds as they watch me prepare for a ride is whether or not they will be invited along. They will follow me around the house with all eyes watching my every move. Once they get the signal that they are “in,” all is forgiven. Poki is all business as border collies are wont to do. She beelines right out the door. Tula hangs back while I lock the door and then pogoes three feet off the ground all the way to the truck.

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Tula doing her pogo routine

I have to say that once we are at the trailhead I am somewhat embarrassed by their behavior. I don’t unleash the hounds until I am totally ready to go, but once they are released all hell breaks loose for the first 100 yards of the trail. Poki is yelping while running in front of my bike, spinning donuts over and over. Tula is by my side, also barking while doing her pogo routine. While this has me grinning from ear to ear, I look forward to hitting the point on the trail where we move from this over-excitement to trail focus.

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Moving along on the trail is really a hoot. If you have never experienced riding at high speeds right on the heels of your pup, you are really missing out on an exhilarating experience! I also enjoy chill’n’ by the side of the trail while sharing snacks and enjoying the view with my best friends. While our trailside conversations tend to be one sided, my pups are great listeners.

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While I thoroughly enjoy riding with my human friends, it is nice that I can totally rely on Team No Excuses. Come rain, sleet, or snow they are a go. Maybe the only downside to biking with pups is that they never chip in for gas. But when I think about it, my friends rarely do, either.

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# Comments

  • Adv1nSC

    OK, I will be one of the first to comment. Probably will be unpopular with many.
    Unleashed and uncontrolled dogs on the trails are a menace. They are unsafe to other riders and can potentially chase and harm wildlife. Your posting displays such unleashed animals. Pet ownership has its responsibilities. Those responsibilities do not stop when you are riding. There have been many a times when an uncontrolled dog has crossed my riding. Either of us could have been injured and a bike wrecked. Most trails I have ridden have leash laws that are often disobeyed by irresponsible pet owners.

    • Jeff Barber

      I agree that unleashed dogs can be a hazard to mountain bikers… but possibly less so than leashed ones. Coming up on a leashed dog unexpectedly means not only could you run into the dog (or owner) but now there is a fall hazard connecting the two. And the dog can’t get out of the way, even if he has the sense to do so. 🙂

      The wildlife issue does seem like a valid concern.

      I once had a dog who wasn’t super friendly so we always walked him a on leash. Sometimes unleashed dogs would trot over to “say hello” and invariably, the owner would say, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” My reply: My dog isn’t, so get your dog away from mine! Unleashed dogs can be hazards to themselves too.

    • Bob Ward

      I have encountered way more uncontrolled (and unleashed) mountain bikers on the trails than dogs. One of my main responsibilities of being a dog owner is to keep them happy and nothing makes them happier than going on a ride. With that said. . .we know when and where to ride where we will not cross paths with too many riders. I recently moved to Lake Tahoe, and I am encountering happy biker dogs on most rides. The key is being responsible. . .whether you are with a dog or not.

  • Malio

    I understand that people love their dogs and want to be active with them. But I have to with AdvnSC: unleashed dogs aren’t safe or fair to other riders in singletrack trail parks. When my friends and I get the rare opportunity in our busy schedules to ride in bike-specific areas, we find unleashed dogs extremely unpredictable and just plain obstructive when we’re trying to enjoy our favourite sport. It really boils down to owner responsibility and consideration.

    • Bob Ward

      It is totally about responsibility and consideration. Knowing when and where to take your pups is key.

  • Angel K

    Thanks for the insight. How do you specifically train your K9s to stay near you? I try to take my 2 year old golden retriever as often as I can, but opt for days when the trail is empty so she doesn’t run into another biker. She enjoys running with me so much that she take off to run with any other bikers passing by, which I worry, may be misunderstood as chasing, esp if they have a fear of dogs. Also, my dog sprints full out for the first mile, many times doubling back to find me, that’s she’s tired by mile 2-3, and I have to take a million water breaks to get her to 5-6 miles. So taking her on an all day outing isn’t an option, any recommendations?

    • bikenhiker

      I also have a Golden, 1 yr old. I sure like ridin’ with him. Better than hiking because I’m too slow for him without wheels. I only take him when it is unlikely I’ll see anyone else, and if I do, I have his leash in my pocket, which I quickly slap on him and get off the trail. I keep him behind me but he will overtake me on the climbs if he can get around. There are some very belligerent hard core bikers on some trails that show no courtesy whatsoever, even when hiking, whether I have the dog or not. Road rage behavior has no place out in the wildlands.

    • Bob Ward

      You are spot on. . . biking is the best exercise that I can give my dogs. Many mountain bikers that might be critical of dogs on the trail are the same ones that don’t slow down for hikers or dogs.

    • Bob Ward

      I plan to submit an article on that subject very soon. Stay tuned. My older dog was never good with pacing and would wear herself down. She has dialed this back as she has gotten older but because of her age, I have scaled back the rides she is invited on.

  • Big ragu

    Bob, I’m with you. I love riding with my totally unleashed dog. Where I ride, it is completely acceptable and I almost never see anyone on the trails. The argument that dogs may chase or harm wildlife is comical to me. First, they are wild animals and can handle a little chase- 2nd, my dog is trained to point, not chase. Either way, it seems like an exaggerated issue contrived only to be further dampen a wet blanket.

    • bikenhiker

      It’s also the dogs scent, at least that’s what Mr Ranger has told me. And they are predators… I’ve seen a rot chase down and kill a deer. I only take my dog where he’s allowed and do not let him chase anything – I keep him under control. Coyotes can lure dogs into a trap, and then there’s rattlers certain times of the year.

    • David Matthews

      Yeah, wild animals, my Welsh Terrier has been quilled 5 times by porkies and skunked twice. He chases anything that moves, including deer (he’s 5 now, so the chase is less than a minute). You and I know it;s their instinct…and joy in life. I hate reading about these naysayers who want all dogs leashed…then go ride in Central Park!!

    • Bob Ward

      I have also seen the occasional road kill along the trail from a small critter getting run over by a bike. Stuff happens. Here in Lake Tahoe most of the critters my dogs might chase are tree squirrels. They chase for 20 feet and then they are safely up a tree.

  • rynoman03

    I love taking my oldest Jack Russell Tucker out with me. I carry extra treats in my back pocket when he gets a little off trail but for the most part he’s all about staying on the trail. It creates a great bond between you an your four legged friend. I think i’ll take him out tonight, he deserves it!

    • Bob Ward

      Jack’s are great biker pups.

  • Jackasspiper

    I loved this article. There’s nothing more fun than riding with your pups. And then I read the comments, and it reminded why I hate running in to people. For every fun person I run in to, I run into 5 people who just seem like they want an excuse to complain. Boohoo, there’s a dog on the trail, maybe if you were a better person dogs wouldn’t bother you so much. Whiny people are the problem, not the the dogs.

    • Bob Ward

      Totally agree and thanks for the kind words.

    • RobertD

      🙂

  • gawdodirt

    Ok, I see the unleashed and uncontrolled dog side of the discussion. And the other side as well. I had a female Aussie who was good either way. When she was unleashed, she was NEVER uncontrolled. Always looking at me for guidance, right next to me and my bike, all the time. Yet, at the same time, I see dogs on those stupid “fishing reel” leashes, uncontrolled, a lot of the time I ride! Also, certain breeds are asking for trouble. These breeds in this story, are known for obedience, intelligence, athleticism, and compatibility with most other breeds. As long as you’re Alpha Dog, they’ll follow you anywhere. Loved this story!

    • williedillon

      Retractable leashes are the worst. Seems like it’s always people who don’t know how to train their dog that use them (often people with small dogs (nothing against small dogs)).

  • rushrider6

    Bob-

    I love seeing pics of you and your dogs in MBAction mag!
    I started my heeler/husky mix riding with me- and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for both of us!
    I mostly ride alone- and the companionship and enjoyment he shares with me on the trail is irreplaceable!
    As soon as he sees my bike out- he’s ready to rip!

    To those claiming that unleashed dogs are uncontrolled-
    Unleashed does not equal uncontrolled.
    My trail dog is a highly intelligent, highly trainable mix of breeds.
    He is in far more control out on the trail than anywhere- he is working and focused.
    He is trained to remain behind my rear wheel at all times, to stop when I stop, to ignore others on the trail unless i give him permission to greet them, and he does not chase wildlife, because he is focused on working with me.
    When we are out and see people ahead of us, i make him stop and stay and i ask how they feel about dogs. i always carry a leash in my pack and will happily put him on it when we pass if it makes others comfortable. At this point I’ve never had to though.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there letting dogs run loose that they shouldn’t. They are out there- giving those of us acting responsibly a bad name.
    But please don’t assume that we or our dogs are bad or out of control just because the leash is in the pack- take it on a case by case basis.
    Chili and I hope to see you out there to show you what a _good_ trail dog really is.

    • Bob Ward

      I love stories like this. . .and there are many great rider/pup teams out there.

  • williedillon

    I love taking my dog mountain biking. I only do it where I know there will be few or no riders, though. But you’re right, seeing your dog running in front of you is an amazing feeling; it’s hard to describe. And sometimes my dog will move so fast that I have a hard time keeping up, but it makes me push harder which can be fun. Just remember if you’re biking with your dog that they can’t do marathon rides. Dogs want to please their person so they will push themselves past a healthy limit sometimes. Make sure they get plenty of water and rest breaks, start them out with short rides, and don’t keep riding when it’s clear they’re too exhausted (tongue hanging out the side, etc.).

    • Bob Ward

      You are one of the enlightened ones. If you think following behind one dog is fun, watch the antics of two dogs jockeying for position. I also enjoy (to a point) of the gravel spray that they kick up as they accelerate ahead of me.

  • Zeds Dead

    I ride with my dog from time to time. Being a Weimaraner he will and can run all day. I worked with him on forest service roads and off leash areas before ever taking him to a trail. For the first 100 yards he is shot out of a cannon but once he gets the initial excitement out of his blood he settles in at the side of my rear tire or just behind. He rarely ever runs in front. I have crossed paths with many bikers and hikers with him in tow. Sometimes they have dogs themselves. He sometimes stops to sniff other dogs but rarely pays the other riders any mind. He answers to my call if his attention wonders or he becomes distracted. But the joy he gets from running and the excitement he displays is contagious. It gets me stoked when I see him shoot down the trail at 15-20 miles an hour or hear him right on my rear tire as we wind down some skinny single track. I think he loves the downhill and flow of a good trail as much as I do.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I get it.

    • Bob Ward

      Zeds Dead. Thanks for sharing your story as well.

  • mongwolf

    Right on Bob. Wow, I can’t believe I missed this article till now — one of my favorites topics in mountain biking actually. Dog are man’s best friend AND they were born to run. Put the two together as their master is actually able to keep up with them as they do their thing (running), and you have magic in the air. Dogs’ enthusiasm on the trail is so catchy and inspiring. I’m all for more dogs on the trail even though I don’t own one. And if the equestrians don’t have to pick up the horse dung, why do dog owners have to pick up the poop. Just sayin’ … … and thinking of Palmer Park in COS.

  • Moto Bike Mike

    Years ago we had a black lab that went on rides with me near home (not public trails). One day I went out and he was lagging behind. Thinking he would go home if tired, I continued the ride. By the time my loyal friend dropped out, he nearly died of hyperthermia. I was clueless about such things back then but quickly learned that his loyalty overrode his self preservation. Also, dogs are genetically different, even in the same breed. We had one chocolate lab that was young but unable to keep any reasonable pace. After the black lab incident, I discontinued taking him early on.

    Currently we have 4 dogs. One is a 3 year old female boarder collie. She is a real sweetheart but runs wild if let loose outside of our invisible fence. She is obviously not a trail biking pup due to this. The point is, it really depends on the individual dogs physical prowess and personality traits as to their fitness as riding buddies.

  • crackerman

    Great read. My pup Ivy is the same way. Always stoked to ride and I’ll put her in my truck sometimes and hour before, just to calm her down as she’ll wait for hours knowing she’s going for a bike ride. Her excitement modivates me on the trails as well as she rips through the woods and you can see joy on her face.

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