One of the more aggravating problems I face as I grow more enthralled with the sport of mountain biking is finding a partner to ride with whenever I want to hit the trails. I don’t expect people to be able to drop everything for a weekend and join me all the time, but I’ve found that many times my hopes of a weekend getaway have been thwarted by simple lack of interest among my riding companions. That is, all my riding companions but one: Bryn.
My dog, Bryn, loves nothing more than to hurtle down a trail behind me, sticking to my back wheel as if urging me to push it just a little bit faster. While I’m unsure of her full capabilities, I have taken her on 10-15 mile mountain bike rides where she kept up with me unperturbed throughout the entirety of the ride. One time I even put her through a rigorous 6-mile ‘time trial,’ where she clocked in at a blazing 4:40 mile pace!
While dogs are no replacement for another person for myriad reasons – conversation, camaraderie, the joy of a shared experience, safety, to name a few of their interpersonal flaws – they do provide a certain solitary companionship that is unique and different from riding with a peer.
Dogs are almost the perfect companions, one reason being that their enthusiasm and energy is contagious. Often I find myself grinning instead of cursing as I ride up an interminable climb because of the antics of Bryn jumping on top of a log, sprinting after some critter into the underbrush, or otherwise charming me with her playful personality. Distracting on the ascents, keeping up on the descents, what more could someone ask for in a riding partner?
And their companionship provides more than just a whimsical distraction from the more mundane aspects of mountain biking. Dogs truly love the experience of running alongside a bike, making their owner’s experience more enjoyable by association. I can get Bryn to run faster and farther when mounted on a bicycle than I ever can get her to go when running on a leash. She tends to lose interest in running after about 6 miles, but with trail riding, her interest is boundless. I think that this is partly why she can go such long distances while running alongside my bike; she wholeheartedly enjoys chasing after her two-wheeled friend beast while surrounded by the exotic sights, smells, and sounds of the wilderness.
I think my perspective is clear: while the experience is most fulfilling with a peer, if unavailable some weekend, one need not look further than their four-legged friend for the perfect riding partner.
Footnote: This in no way is meant to be construed as me putting myself on a pedestal, or getting on my soapbox, or some other cliché term for me reprimanding what I consider unwarranted behavior, but I do want to pose my personal perspective on dog selection if in the market for a four-legged riding partner. Full-bred dogs appear to be a nice choice when selecting a canine because they mitigate the guessing game as far as temperament, athleticism, and personality are concerned. If this is the route you choose to go, most people believe that the Vizsla, Weimereiner, Husky, German Short-Haired Pointer, German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a handful of other breeds are your best bet for long-distance riding.
But breeding is not a perfect science, and you still may be disappointed with the result depending on the quality of the breeder, the health risks inherent in certain breeds, and the simple luck of the draw, not to mention the price-tag. If patient, finding a mixed breed pup that is part of any of the breeds mentioned above at your local shelter or dog rescue can prove to be a more rewarding endeavor in the long run. These mixed breeds often rival the athleticism of their purebred counterparts, have less health problems, and cost less money. However, if interested in a purebred, first look into some of the local shelters and rescues to see if they have any of your desired breeds up for adoption, because purebreds are sometimes given up for adoption too.