Bikejöring doesn’t mean that a dog simply runs next to a bike. The dog pulls the bike when doing this sport, it is similar to dog sledding. A famous Slovak musher, Marcel Dučák, will tell us what equipment you need for it, what dogs it is good for, and also how the race looks like.
Bieköring belongs to dog racing disciplines, such as mushing, skijoring or canicross.
In this case, it is a pair of a pulling dog and a cyclist. Although it may seem that it is not difficult at first sight, it is certainly not a sport for any dog or any bike owner. Marcel has been doing bikejöring for 10 years and he will tell us who it is good for and what you need for it.
Marcel, if I wanted to start with bikejöring, I guess it’s not enough to only take my dog, a harness, a bike and simply go cycling. Both partners probably need some kind of training first. Let's start with the person. How skilled should be the cyclist?
Balance is essential, it’s not necessary to be a trial master.
It's also important to choose a good partner. Is this sport good only for draft breeds or is enough if the dog enjoys pulling? Does its size or age matter?
This sport is for all dogs. However, it’s important to be considerate and to take into account the size and the age of your dog and set the pace accordingly.
What commands should the dog know before we put the harness on? Should it also be perfectly controllable? How should we prepare it for pulling a bike?
The basic command is STAY. Then, also direction commands are very useful. Usually commands GEE (to the right) and HO (to the left) are used, because they are very different words. It’s perfect if your companion already knows canicross basics and it should also be fit enough. It should be fun in the first place and we don’t want to put the dog off because of the exhaustion.
Are there any differences between the harnesses for the individual draft disciplines? What other equipment does the dog need?
There are many kinds and brands of harnesses. A bikejöring harness should be long and cover the whole body. It is possible to use the same harness as for canicross or scooter. We also need an elastic leash and it’s good to use an “antenna” (a holder for the bungee leash), so the leash doesn’t get entangled in the front wheel. An antenna is mandatory equipment at European and world championships.
Does the bikejöring bike need any specific adjustments?
Functional brakes are crucial. A mountain bike with the mentioned antenna is suitable.
What terrain is normal for bikejöring? What is the elevation gain?
There are usually forest paths, meadows and fields. It should mainly avoid asphalt and rough surfaces and stones. The elevation gain varies, it depends on the type of training, if it’s for strength, technical perfection or for speed. For example, uphill is good for strength trainings, flat paths with minimum elevation gains are used for speed trainings.
How long are races and what speed do racers achieve?
The races are usually sprints which means they are 3 to 7 km long. The average speed depends on the track, it is influenced by the surface, the elevation gain, jaggedness and technical difficulty. The fastest ones go at about 30 kmph even on the most difficult tracks. On fast tracks, the average speed is about 35 kmph and the maximum speed is up to 47 kmph.
How often racers fall when doing bikejöring?
It depends on the racer:). My statistics is about 3 times per season. Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid it when going on the edge. It is important not to scare the dog because of it, not to create a negative memory, so I try to praise my dog for waiting for me when I’m still flying.
Is it possible to train for bikejöring during the whole year?
It’s possible to cycle when the ground is dry, muddy, snowy and in water, but it’s not possible with icy surfaces. It’s also wise to avoid high temperatures.
How should a pair start with bikejöring, are there any schools or instructors?
There are groups on social networks where enthusiasts arrange some trainings and where you can get advice and read about experience. Website Behejsepem.cz organizes collective trainings for canicross beginners and advanced racers, trainings for push scooters and weekend camps where you can meet experienced instructors who will give you advice for the beginning.
If we want to go on races, how often should we train? Is it a good idea to include other activities in our training (than bikejöring itself)?
I would definitely separate training for a dog and training for a person: a dog should have strength and speed training. Swimming and freerunning are great options for summer trainings. Also, balance exercises are good for strengthening the body and coordination. It is important to monitor your companion, because it’s easy to overdo it with trainings.The number of training sessions depends on the season.
The person’s training is also crucial, his/her performance influence the results during the race. Technical skills are also important, because it is fast and off-road and the dog is able to turn much faster than a cyclist. I try to train 4 to 6 times in a week. I test new training methods for better endurance and mostly strength and speed, because races are quite short when speaking about their duration. I also go to a sports doctor who recommends training practices based on tests.
What is your greatest achievement in bikejöring?
3rd place at the European Championship ICF 2016 in Nové Město na Moravě, zhe Czech Republic
3rd place at the European Championship ICF 2017 in Italy
4th place at the World Championship IFSS 2017 in Poland
What do you enjoy so much about this sport, what has it brought into your life?
I’m fascinated that dogs like it that much, how enthusiastic they are about working hard. This sport has brought my partner into my life, many friends, a lot of experience, nice moments as well as troubles. Thanks to it, we have travelled and got to know a part of the world.
Do you have any message for those who would like to start with it?
Don't be afraid to ask. It’s much better to learn from the experience of others than from your own mistakes. You can see what a bikejöring race looks like in the following video:
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