The Small Dog’s Guide to Distance Cycling

Oct 29, 2015    /    luna the traveling pooch

If you’ve been following along, you already know that this September I took my first vacation in two years, packed everything I owned on the back of a vintage Swiss military bicycle, and cycled from the Swiss border across France all the way to the Atlantic Ocean…all with my small dog, Luna, in tow.

Obviously, Luna and I were an unusual cycling duo. We (she) inspired a lot of smiles, laughter, and questions. And I didn’t see any other cycle tourists attempting the ride with a small dog.

Which is why I’m writing this post.

I think we make a lot of assumptions about what is and isn’t possible in life. We want to travel…but can we do it with kids, a dog, a partner, a job? We dream of taking a pilgrimage, starting a business, cycling across a country, or [insert your own wild dream here], but we assume that we need to wait until the dog has passed on or the kids are grown or [insert other responsibilities here].

But here’s the thing: most things are more doable than we think.

Luna in the basket

You can travel the world with your kids or your wheelchair or your depression. You can walk a pilgrimage with PTSD. You can cycle across a country with your dog.

Perhaps you’ll do those things differently. Perhaps you’ll travel slower or limit which countries you go to. Perhaps you’ll need to do more research. Perhaps you’ll need to come up with a creative way to secure your Yorkshire terrier in a bike basket.

But the point is that our assumptions are often worth questioning.

Just because no one else is cycling across a country with their dog doesn’t mean you can’t. And actually, several of us already are.

So, today I wanted to remind you to see life in terms of possibilities. And also to tell you how Luna and I managed to propel ourselves across France this September.

Luna cycling

Training Your Dog for Cycling

If you want your dog to do something new and foreign, start small. To get Luna used to the bike basket, first I put her inside it on the floor in the house. I gave her treats and treated it like a fun game. A day or two later, I put it on the bike and simply walked her up the road and back, cooing praise at her. I did this several times over at least a week before I rode around the block with her in the basket. And then we went a little farther (and a little farther again). And all the time I would let her take breaks to walk or run alongside the bike as well, pedaling slowly and guiding her away from the wheels with commands she already knows from early training.

Everything went slow and I started her training months before we attempted the ride. We also did two long day rides in Slovenia on quiet back roads to prepare.

Luna with the bike

Setup: Securing Your Dog

I tried several setups on the bike before settling on one that felt best. First, I started with our trusty Sleepypod Air—Luna’s beloved “house” (carrier), which I also use for air and train travel. The air has a number of straps and pockets that allow it to be secured to a rack.

I wanted to have Luna on the front of the bike so that I’d always be aware of what was going on with her (if a truck had her panicked or she was sick or whatever), so first I attached the Sleepypod Air to the front rack. We rode like this a few times and it seemed like the safest option for Luna, safe inside the carrier (which gets top safety rankings) if, heaven forbid, we did have some sort of accident.

That said, I worried that she’d get too hot in the carrier on sunny days and I wondered if it would be a nicer experience for her if she could be out in the fresh air, smelling and seeing everything clearly.

Which is why in the end I settled on a deeper- and wider-than-usual basket—formerly a shopping basket from a grocery store—secured to the front bike rack with zip ties. To keep Luna from leaping out en route, I attached two leashes, one to each side handle, and clipped both to her harness in the center of her back. They were loose enough that she could adjust her position, but tight enough that she couldn’t get enough air to jump out of the basket.

I also had our trusty Sleepypod Air (which folds up flat and was secured to the back rack on my bike with bungee cords) with me just in case I started feeling nervous or Luna didn’t love the new setup or we needed to take a train (which happened several times for day trips and, of course, at the end of the trip).

Of course, Luna also got to run or walk when we were on low-traffic bike paths (no cars, few to no cycles), and when she did that she was free and off-leash.

Luna relaxing on the way

Packing for the Trip

In addition to her carrier, Luna’s gear included: a towel that she rode with in the basket (for comfort), a baby blanket that could replace the towel if needed and/or be used for her to snuggle up to in hotels, poop bags, a tennis ball (that I was mostly too tired to ever pull out), one tug toy, one sweatshirt for cool mornings/days, sunscreen (which she shares with me), dog shampoo for sensitive skin, allergy medication in case of serious allergic reaction, heartworm pills, and, of course, her harness, collar, and two leashes.

Luna

Accommodations on the Road

The good news about France (and Europe in general) is that it’s easy to find dog-friendly hotels. They might charge an extra fee (but they also usually charge an extra fee for double occupancy, so that makes sense), but most places—from budget to fancy—were totally okay when Luna and I showed up at their doorstep unannounced.

And when I was super exhausted and didn’t want to go asking random hotels about their pet policies and prices? I looked for Ibis Budget and Ibis Styles hotels—a chain I knew took dogs, would have Wi-Fi and acceptable cleanliness, and charged rates I could usually afford.

And thus Luna and I made our way just under 1,500 kilometers across France, an ever-unusual pair of travelers conquering the world one wacky journey at a time.

Questions? Thoughts? Toss them in the comments below.


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2 Comments
  • Ali
    October 29, 2015

    Luna is so cute!! I love all the cute puppy pictures, but especially the one where she’s digging in the sand at the beach :) I never realized you used an old grocery shopping basket for her on the bike!

    Like you said, our assumptions are often not as true as we think they are. The biggest thing holding most of us back from doing something we’ve been dreaming about is ourselves.
    Ali recently posted…Krabi, Thailand 4 Islands Tour ReviewMy Profile

  • helena
    October 29, 2015

    I love how wonderfully well you take care of yourself ~ Luna and your willingness to take on a new experience. Give it all you’ve got. Inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing…I’m smiling…a great way to start my day.

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