Daily Archives: 02/28/2018

How to Train a Trail Dog

Dr. Dew with Snoop Dog

Fewer things bring a smile to a mountain biker’s face then a well-trained trail dog. The best of the best can scrub jumps like a world cup racer, take ninja inside lines, stay right on your wheel, and wag their tails with pure delight at the end of a great descent. Training a trail dog takes time, but if done well, you’ll always have a buddy ready to ride with you, no matter what Ma Nature may have in mind. The old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” may hold true, as it’s best to groom younger dogs for riding. Considering training your pup? Here are a few tips:

Tip 1: Start ‘em young, but not too young. While training puppies new things is typically easier than older dogs, it is crucial you don’t run your puppy too hard at too young of an age. Experts suggest waiting until the puppy is about 8 months old before you start running them longer distances. If eight months seems like forever, consider starting with short hikes in the woods with your dog. This will get them familiar with the type of terrain you’ll bike on. Hike on trails with obvious paths so they understand how to follow a trail. Keep them on a leash and heeling close to you so they know to stay near. Once they become comfortable with your pace and surroundings (and don’t have a tendency to bolt), let them off leash. Give them vocal queues to keep them near you, and reward them for doing so. Jog a little bit to see if they are apt to keep up with you. If not, put them back on the leash and jog with them so they understand that they need to stay with you.

Mike the trail pup

Tip 2: Once comfortable off leash try playing hide and seek. This may seem silly, but there may be occasions when you outride your dog and you’re separated. Instead of panicking that you’ve lost each other, a quick game of hide and seek will have you reunited in no time! Go back to the familiar paths where your dog first learned to walk off leash. Have the dog sit and stay while you go hide behind a tree, out of sight. Once hidden, whistle, or yell, “OK!” When the dog finds you, reward him again so he knows he’s always supposed to find you.

Roscoe the trail dog Photo by Ian Coble

 Lacy Kemp (front) and Roscoe the trial dog (back)  Photo credit: Ian Coble

Tip 3: Teaching your dog how to drink out of a hydration pack is a great way to ensure he stays hydrated on warmer days. There’s not much magic to this, but ensure you can keep a consistent stream of water coming from the hose so Fido gets adequately hydrated. Practice at home before you hit the trails on hot days.

Tip 4: Speaking of hot days don’t run your dog long distances on days that are too hot. There’s no magic number, but use your common sense. If there aren’t constant streams for your dog to rest in and recharge, don’t take him if it’s too hot.

Tip 5: When ready to move to the bike, start by taking your dog on short rides on your bike while leashed. This can be dangerous, so make sure you’re confident on holding a leash while your dog runs alongside. Make sure the leash is long enough so your dog won’t get too close to your wheel. One thing I do is attach the loop of the handle to my chest strap on my hydration pack. That way if he pulls, he’s pulling from my center of mass and not likely to pull me off of my bike. Go slow at first until you’re able to have your dog trot alongside you without having him pull.

Tip 6: When your dog is comfortable running alongside you on a leash, take him back to the trails you first learned to walk in the woods off leash. While on your bike, have the dog sit. Unleash him and keep him seated. When you’re ready to go, start slow and call for him. If he gets in front of you, immediately give the command, “follow,” and stop and place him behind you. Reward him for getting behind you, so he understands he needs to stay out of the way. Most dogs understand this quite easily, but repeating the behavior until he grasps it will ensure better behavior when on a longer ride or with a group.

Kona Senior Engineer James Westerfield and Shadow

Tip 7: Once you’ve mastered your local stomping grounds, take him on a longer ride. The same rules apply. Leash him until you’re ready to go, then ensure he’s following alongside. As he gets more comfortable on more rides he will learn to explore and come back to you. Practice the “hide and seek” rule on rides, too, to reinforce that behavior.
Tip 8: The best rides for your dogs are rides that aren’t incredibly fast. Remember, they’re running the entire thing. A 20-mile ride for you is a massive day for your dog. Try to take him on rides with multiple water sources. Try to stay away from super hard packed, steep descents. This type of terrain is bad on the hips and joints for your dog. Just like us, dogs love the loam!

Roxy the trail dog doing some product testing w/ Kona product managers

Tip 9: After a long day of riding, give your dog a massage. Have him lie on one side and massage his hips and shoulders. Stretch his legs. Make sure to do both sides. Just like people, dogs need to recover from a big day on the bike. Choose your dogs rides wisely. Don’t run him every day, and give ample resting time between big runs.

Tip 10: Make sure he knows how great of a job he’s doing. In between segments, stop and tell him he’s a good boy! Dogs love to be rewarded verbally and will always appreciate the positive reinforcement. But the most important thing of all, have fun!


Bruce Wayne guarding his owner’s Hei Hei.

Title image by @andyvathis

Scott Countryman reports from the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo

Racing the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is one of my fondest mountain bike racing memories of all time. I don’t remember exactly when I first raced the 24HOP because it was so long ago but I think I was 15 years old. A riding buddy asked if I wanted to be on a team with him and it seemed like the cool thing to do so I said yes not really having any idea what it was or would be like. I bought some lights, went night riding a few times, and then had an incredible time at the race.
The event is like nothing else I’ve ever done. Held on private ranch property in the middle of the desert, mountain bikers descend on a normally empty plot of land and create a city. 24 Hour Town has a population of over three thousand and exists less than one week per year. There are streets, vendors, a local radio station, and a non-stop party. Whether you are there to throw down or just have a good time, you can’t help but partake in the shenanigans.

I went to 24 Hour Town this year as part of a four person team made up of some local shredders that are also part of the Enduro racing community. We usually prefer to get rowdy on big squishy bikes but also enjoy some good hard pedaling from time to time. And having just started back on the training schedule, I had no expectations for the weekend of racing. My only goal was to beat my course personal record of one hour and two minutes.
Race weekend kicked off with a lot of unexpected rain. From when I left home Thursday night to Saturday morning, it seemed like it rained more than it didn’t. The 12 miles of dirt road to get to 24 Hour Town became a mud bog and ended up getting closed to vehicles without 4wd. Luckily my little van and I made it through before it got too bad but it was looking like the race would be a sloppy mess. When the sun finally came out Saturday morning, you could literally hear cries of joy all around camp. The clouds burned off and the dirt started drying out leaving crisp clean air and the most heroic dirt any desert has ever seen.

As most 24 hour races do, the Old Pueblo begins with a Le Mans start. The lucky first lap riders, like myself, line up there bikes at the exchange tent and walk up the road a quarter mile to the start line. At 12 noon, a shotgun blast starts a stampede of racers awkwardly running to their bikes in XC mountain bike shoes.

I got a good start position near the front of the pack before the run began and as I was nearing my bike to jump on I noticed a familiar looking fellow running next to me. Lance Armstrong! Say what you want about him but he will always be a legend. And I just passed him. While running. At a mountain bike race. Odd. But that didn’t last long; a few minutes later ripping across the first dirt road section called “The Bitches”, Lance zoomed past me. I jumped on his wheel and tried to hang on but was quickly popped.
After the first couple miles of dirt road, the race course is mostly single track. Twisting and turning around every kind of pokey cactus you can imagine, it can feel like a high speed slalom of impending death. Though it is not rough, this is where having mountain bike skills can pay off. Carrying speed around corners with confidence you will not end up getting acupuncture can save you a lot of time; and a little after the halfway point I caught back up to Lance. Surprisingly as soon as he heard me behind him, he pulled over and let me by. “Thanks Lance!”
I buried myself to finished the lap coming in just under an hour. Passed the batton off to my teammate, and as I was exiting the exchange tent I saw Lance roll in. Not trying to brag or anything, but I beat Lance Armstrong at a mountain bike race! At that point I felt like I could throw in the towel. My goal for the race was to beat my personal record of one hour and two minutes which I just did. And I beat Lance Armstrong while doing it so I could chill out for the rest of the race, right? Nope. If I have a number plate on my bike, I’m going hard.

Each lap after the first felt like it would be my last and there was no way I could hold the pace I was pushing. I was feeling muscle twinges on lap three, my first night lap; managed to keep the cramps at bay but came in with a much slower time. After changing my electrolyte intake, my lap times started falling again and they kept falling all the way to my last lap, number six, which ended up being my second fastest lap of the race.

My teammates had similar experiences. Crushing first laps, dark times around half way (no pun intended), and a resurgence after sunrise with killer final laps. We had worked our way up to fifth place and held it all the way to the finish. For a couple enduro racers at a cross country race, we were stoked!
First race of the year and first podium of the year! As I have said before, this time of year can be a little odd; I am putting in a lot of work to get in shape for race season but with no real gauge on how the fitness is coming along. A preseason race like the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is a great test and I think I passed with flying colors. With new motivation to train hard I am looking forward to kicking off the Enduro race season at the South American EWS races in a month. Wish me luck!