Monday, August 21, 2006


A DIY bicycle kit for a large dog

Sydney is getting bigger and stronger each. He's more than 70 cm to the shoulder blades and getting close to 40 kg. No fat, all muscles and energy. Plenty of energy.

I used to bike holding his chain in my hand on the handlebar but that was getting impossible.  He is still (one big) puppy so he has zero impulse control. When he sees something he likes he stops dead in his tracks and you can image how that feels when he his attached to the handlebars of a bike. An accident waiting to happen in other words.

I found the Springer on the internet and I have been looking for local animal shops that carry it, or something similar, but I didn't have any luck. Until I went to Norway on vacation this summer. Stopping for a lunch break I found the Walky Dog in a shopping centre. I was ready to buy it when I noticed that it was made in Italy. The car was already more than full so I decided to buy it when I came back to Italy. Or so I thought…

Coming back to work in Milano in August is great. The city is practically empty and there is -no- traffic. A paradise in other words, unless you want to buy something. The Walky Dog web site would accept orders but they, like the rest of Italy, were closed so I would get it in September sometime.

In the end I did the only thing I could think of; I went to a local hardware store and bought the necesarry ingredients to build my own:

  • 1 m piece of round wood: 3 euro
  • 2 pack of  collars for 1 inch tubes: 2.20 euro
  • 4 pack of eye screws: 1.75 euro
  • 2 meter elastic cord: 3.10 euro
    (+ one old old hook for the colar…)

Enough material to build several DIY Springers. Which was just as good as it took me several attempts to get it right.

I should have known better; never use a Version 1.0 product. It basically broke the moment Sydney started pulling for real (after 10 meters). The thin collar and screw never stood a chance. Back to the hardware store to buy a heavy duty version of the tube collar. But Service Pack 1 met a tragic end as well. I had used 60 cm of the wood which was way too long. It broke the first time I hit the brakes:

Service Pack 2 introduced several changes:

  • Shorter stick (from 60 cm to 25cm)
  • Strengthened the critical area of the stick with iron wire

It lasted a lot longer. Until we met the first dog when the thick screw was bent. It looks better than the first screw but it was clear it wouldn't last many trips:

Service Pack 3 strengthened the screw. I cut it as short as possible but it was still a bit too long as it bent under stress.

The final XP Version:

  • Improved security (I strengthened the screw with a couple of nuts)
  • Improved the user interface by hiding the ugly metal wire with some blue tape :-)

Here is Sydney inspecting the final version:

I am sure the "professional" devices are better but the DIY version works for me. The rope fits over the seat of the bike and I can easily take it off and unscrew the stick to take Sydney for a walk. I had fun building it and even more fun biking with Sydney as it is a lot safer:

  • Keeping Sydney's chain on my hand the bike would move when he slowed down or sped up. The stick is attached to the frame of the bike so he ends up pulling me instead of throwing me off the bike if he runs or stops.
  • Sydney would try to run in front of the bike if he saw something interesting on the wrong side of the road. With the stick he cannot. The rope is so short that he can only get even, but not in front of, the front wheel.
  • I can keep my eyes on traffic instead of trying to watch traffic, sydney and things that could distract Sydney at the same time

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