Whether you’re riding your bicycle to the park, the woods, the beach, along winding country lanes, or simply to the shops, every journey can be an adventure. When you can take your dog along for the ride, that adventure becomes so much more fun, especially when it’s shared with your best buddy.
For Linda Bussey and her Jack Russell, Bongi, the Buddyrider, was the perfect way to share adventures with her adorable canine companion. No simple ride to the park for this intrepid duo as they cycled with their camping kit-loaded bike over 1000 miles, across the north of the UK and far up into the wind-blown upper-reaches of Scotland. Not only did they raise smiles everywhere they went, but they also raised money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in the UK, a charity close to Linda’s heart as a family member suffers from the disease.
Bongi’s story started out as one to break the heart, but he was a very lucky little dog who was given a second chance at life after he was found abandoned, roaming the streets of Liverpool. He was rescued by friends of Linda’s just before he was due to be put down. Unfortunately, Linda’s friends had two elderly cats, who Bongi, then 18 months old and full of mischief, loved to chase. It was not a relationship made in heaven, so Linda agreed to take him in, to give this bouncy, life-loving, characterful little dog the best possible life she could.
Linda and Bongi were lucky to live in a very beautiful part of the UK, with lots of challenging fresh-air walks in the surrounding hills, however, Linda’s passion is bicycle touring and she struggled to find a way to take Bongi out with her on bike rides. At one point, she bought a trailer, attached a dog crate to it, loaded the bike with camping gear and Bongi’s bed, and cycled 50 miles off-road along the southern part of the Pennine bridleway in the UK. Linda described this as, “the toughest thing I’ve ever done on two wheels. The trailer was unwieldy, heavy and such a drag on the hills. To make matters worse Bongi hated being in the crate so much, in the end, he pretty much ran the entire route!”
Upon their return, Linda spent many hours searching the internet for a more practical solution. “There are lots of dog baskets out there on the market, but none of them looked very safe nor comfortable for Bongi”, says Linda. “And then, there it was, the answer- The Buddyrider, designed by a retired fireman from Canada to take his Jack Russell out on rides. Unlike a bike basket or a trailer, the Buddyrider sits between the rider and the handlebars giving the rider much better control as the extra weight is positioned over the center of the bicycle. Most importantly, your buddy is closer to you and has a great unrestricted view of the road ahead. It was one of those eureka moments, I just had to order one and give it a go!” Linda wasn’t sure if Bongi would take to the Buddyrider, “He was such a strong-willed little dog and wouldn’t do things he didn’t want to, so we just took small steps to get him comfortable at first.” It is recommended that you first put your dog in the seat while it is on the ground. Let your dog explore it, sniff it whilst praising and rewarding them. Once they appear to be comfortable with it, attach the Buddyrider onto your bike, making sure it is correctly attached and lift your dog into it. Walk around a little, reassuring your dog and rewarding them with treats. Once they are comfortable with this go for a short ride and gradually extend the distance.
It didn’t take too long before Bongi was asking to go up into his Buddyrider. The time had come! Out came the maps for planning a cycle camping trip. “The first trip we did was the Coast to Coast, from one side of the UK to the other. I remember feeling really nervous about the trip, my bike with Bongi on-board and all our camping gear was really heavy. I questioned whether I’d have the strength to do it, would Bongi be OK in the Buddyrider, was it safe for him?”
It took Linda and Bongi 4 days to cycle the 140 miles, a distance most adventure riders would do in a day. “These trips were never about speed or time, you have to be prepared to take it easy, take time out to let your dog run around, swim, play. The reward is a relaxed dog. Bongi would love it up front, his ears blowing in the breeze, nose sniffing out rabbits. He would absolutely soak it all in. We had a brilliant trip and the Buddyrider was as solid as a rock.”
The duo went on to complete another three trips, notching over 1000 miles and raising a similar figure in charity. “Each trip was different”, says Linda, “each had its highs and lows, from scorching heat on the Glasgow-Inverness trip to lashing rain and headwinds on the Outer Hebrides in the far north of Scotland.”
When asked which of their trips were the most memorable Linda says, ”Of all the trips, I think the Outer Hebrides was the most rewarding, it’s true, the weather was the worst of any of our adventures, but there was a magic about the mist-covered hills, the emptiness of the landscape. One minute we’d be going along effortlessly with the wind behind and the next, as we’d change direction, we’d grind to a halt as we’d meet the full force of the wind off the North Atlantic.
One thing that struck Linda on all of her trips was the kindness of people, “total strangers would rush up to us to grab a photo and then donate money to our charity. One guy in particular got chatting with me when we pulled over to ask if there was a campsite nearby. Later in my tent I was checking my Just Giving page and there was £60 from an anonymous donor, with the words, “hope you found the campsite.” I just burst into tears.``
Sadly Bongi passed away in March 2020 just as the UK was going into lockdown owing to the Coronavirus pandemic. He was 12 years old.
“Everybody who met Bongi adored him” says Linda, “he was full of character, made people laugh and those that knew him said he was more human than dog. He touched many people’s lives in such a positive way. I think the thing I miss most about Bongi is having him upfront on my bike in his Buddyrider, ears flapping in the breeze, so close I could smell his fur and kiss the top of his head as we rode along.”
His Buddyrider now hangs in the garage, well-used, sadly unused….for now….
We thank Linda for sharing her and Bongi’s adventures and hope you have all enjoyed her story and leave you with some of Linda’s tips for cycling with your dog:
- Before each ride, check that all the screws are fastened tightly to the bottom of the Buddyrider and the receiver that attaches to the seat post as they may come loose over time due to rough roads or terrain.
- Before riding check the set-up with your dog sitting in the Buddyrider. Ensure that the Buddyrider isn’t touching your handlebars or your knees on the upstroke. Make minor adjustments as needed.
- Watch the weather conditions, if it is hot, make sure your dog is hydrated and bring a raincoat and warm clothes for your dog if it is cooler out.
- While at a standstill, ensure you can touch the ground with at least one foot with your dog mounted in the Buddyrider.
- You may want to get your dog some goggles so their eyes are safe from dirt, bugs etc.
- Make sure your bike is in good repair.
- Ensure the harness is strapped correctly around your dog.
- If going for long rides, stop more often to let your dog stretch and move their body.
- Be aware of the roads and your surroundings and make smart choices for both you and your dog.
No matter how far you plan to go cycling, your dog can accompany you with the Buddyrider. Make sure they feel safe and secure. The experience should be fun and relaxing for them and you.