Having a dog is great. Riding a bike is great. But for many people, these two favorite activities have been incompatible unless you were talking about sticking the dog in a basket or cart, a place that your pooch may not tolerate for long.
What dog-loving bike riders (or bike-riding dog lovers, if you will) should be glad to learn about is a device called the Springer, which now allows one to take a dog along on a bike ride. It's a harness contraption that mounts to a bike, allowing your dog to ride alongside as you leisurely pedal along.
Bracket Has Spring-mounted Leash to Absorb Your Dog's Pulling
The Springer is essentially a seat post-mounted bracket for your bicycle, which then supports an arm that extends out to the side of your bike. A leash/cord then comes out from the end of a sturdy spring and connects to your dog's collar. The heavy-duty spring and low-mounted position on the bike really do minimize the effects of the dog's tug on the bike (up to 90% damping effect, according to the Springer website), and the extension of the device out and away from the bike will help keep the dog from entanglement with pedals and wheels.
There are several other safety features built into this that I found particularly impressive. First, the Springer design allows for three different fastening positions for the cord to the Springer arm, depending on the weight of the rider and the strength of the dog, in order to make the device's responsiveness and give appropriate to what is needed. For instance, a child or small adult with little dog will use the lowest setting; a strong, full-sized adult riding with a strong heavy dog will have another setting.
Second is the Springer's built-in safety release which allows the harness to release quickly in the event of the dog runs on the wrong side of a post or hydrant as you're riding along.
Springer: a Good Way to Exercise Your Dog
Many people have found the Springer a great way to get out on their bike and spend time with their dog, getting quality exercise for and with their pup, which is a big part of having a healthy and happy dog. However, there are a couple things to be aware of if this this something you're considering that will help make this the best experience for you. First, a bit of practice for both you and your dog is a helpful approach; in particular, starting slow to allow both of you to get accustomed to the Springer is a good idea.
Second, although most cyclists have found the Springer to be very effective in allowing them to control their dog and ride relaxed while on the bike, there is always the surprise factor that may never be possible to anticipate. A big part of this is knowing your own dog. Some riders report that their dog will ignore other canines while trotting out on the Springer, but show them a cat or a squirrel and they'll be prone to erratic movements, maybe a jerk or hard tug as they attempt to chase or change direction. A big part of this is just knowing your dog and developing some experience with the Springer so that you can be more alert to situations that might excite your dog and cause it to yank.
Third, even though your dog will likely enjoy the Springer and love going along with you for a ride, there will still be limits to speed and distance. If you're the type of rider who likes to go out for a two-hour, 30 mile ride, averaging 15 mph, that's good for you but unless you've got some kind of spectacular dog, no normal pooch will be able to sustain that kind of output. As in any situation, you will want to be alert to your dog's fatigue and hydration needs. And in warm weather particularly, overheating and even heatstroke in your dog is something that you absolutely need to keep an eye on.
Other Things to Know
The Springer is a great product, nicely designed and easy to install even for people who don't consider themselves to be mechanically inclined. You'll need a 13 mm wrench for the initial installation. After that however, the bracket mount stays on the seat post, but the rest of the Springer device removes quickly and easily when not in use.
The Springer generally costs between $100 and $130 dollars, depending on source and tax/shipping.
All in all, if you're a dog lover who rides a bike, this is going to be something that allows you and your dog even more ways to enjoy being out and active together.