Have Your Dog and Ride With Her Too

Riding motorcycles with your dog
The author with her German Shepherd co-pilot, Moxie.

At the end of a 10-day motorcycle trip south from New Orleans, my husband Greg and I arrived at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where we planned to spend a couple of years working remotely, supporting a non-profit and enjoying the wonderful riding. However, a few months in we made a fateful decision that imperiled the latter. We adopted a nine-week-old German Shepherd puppy that we named Moxie.

After those first nerve-racking weeks as new dog owners, the New Year’s holiday presented the opportunity for a riding trip to Mexico. As we packed our panniers and secured the tank bags and duffels, it nearly broke our hearts to read the abandonment in those sad puppy dog eyes!

Eventually, we made it out the gate and down the road and all the way to Mexico for a few days on the coast. However, all along the way we lamented leaving Moxie behind. So, although it seems quite obvious in retrospect, it honestly struck us as inspired when, during the ride, Greg mused over the intercom, “You know, we should figure out how to bring her with us on a motorcycle!”

Riding motorcycles with your dog
The author and her husband Greg enjoy their two-wheeled adventures along with Moxie.

I was skeptical. It felt like having your cake and eating it too. But for Greg, the metaphorical gauntlet was thrown and so our bold endeavor began as do all those of the modern era: we “Googled” it!

We discovered trailers and sidecars but dismissed them, preferring to maintain as much of the original form and physics of my BMW G 650 GS as possible. Now, when you search “motorcycle travel carrier,” you find a variety of clever do-it-yourself creations and even a few commercial products. Parenthetically, the cutest are those that involve carrying a small pup in a tank bag or backpack. Unfortunately, our Moxie was on course to grow into a large beastie and few commercial carriers contemplate such large dogs. The few that do are bike model-agnostic and tend to look the part.

So, Greg set to work sketching, measuring, cutting and welding. His first try fell flat. Inspired by the motorcycle pizza delivery boxes that are ubiquitous in Guatemala, the carrier was ugly and heavy. It threw the GS’s handling out of whack and strained the chassis.

A little dispirited, he put Frankenstein’s failed dog carrier aside and hit pause on the project. Then, a couple months later Greg’s self-described moment of inspiration struck. He shook me awake and exclaimed, “The carrier doesn’t need to carry her!”

The next day he left for the workshop and a few days later he brought home the K9 Moto Cockpit. It’s a semi-enclosure of metal tubes that look like crash bars suspended along either side behind the rider. The cushioned bars secure to Moxie’s harness at several anchor points to prevent her from leaping out to chase cats or from being launched in a sudden stop or crash.

Riding motorcycles with your dog
The trick to the carrier is that it doesn’t have to actually carry her!

The exciting part is this, and I’ll repeat the pun because it really is a giggle, the carrier does not “carry her.” It has no bottom. Instead Moxie lays on a cushion, which itself lays directly on the seat and luggage platform. This means her 65-plus pounds rest entirely on the motorcycle like a cross between passenger and luggage.

Now, of course, Moxie is neither exactly passenger nor luggage, but she is certainly a member of the family. That means her safety is most important. All of the best commercial carriers provide for harnessing the dog rather than allowing for an easy get-off. Our initial tests indicated harnessing as the better option and our subsequent riding experience has definitely confirmed it. For more about the build and safety, check out this video and to see how we secure her before a ride watch the beginning of this one.

Riding motorcycles with your dog
Moxie travels everywhere with her family.

OK great, you’re thinking, but how does a slender woman lift a 65-pound German Shepherd onto a motorbike? Initially, Greg constructed a small platform that unfolds to be used as a step. However, when we began teaching Moxie to “saddle up,” we found that the promise of Guatemalan blood sausage sent her leaping directly onto the motorcycle seat and into the cockpit. From there, the training process went: sausage, “turn around,” sausage, “sit,” sausage, “lay down,” sausage and strap her in.

Finally, it came time for trial runs. At first Greg ran alongside while I foot-paddled the bike and feathered the clutch. After a couple of laps on the dirt road along the river beside our house, the clutch slipped out, my feet came up and we were riding!

Riding motorcycles with your dog
The author and Moxie.

It feels a little like carrying a duffle bag–only different–and also a little like carrying a passenger–only different. About the best I can do to describe riding with your big dog is to say it’s like love, sex and chocolate: it can’t be described, only experienced.

So, I guess on one level this story is another among many that celebrate the proverbial “can-do spirit.” On another level, however, I suppose there is a lesson–dare I say moral–and it is this: sometimes with a bit of cleverness and some hard work, you can actually have your dog and ride with her too!

Riding motorcycles with your dog

Jessica Stone is a former international aid worker who, with her husband, Greg, started Ruff on the Road handmade dog apparel to beautifully and ruggedly equip dogs for adventure while creating dignified work-to-empower indigenous Guatemalan artisans. Jess’s German Shepherd co-pilot Moxie shares their motorcycle travels and outdoor adventures around Mexico and Central America in a video series called “On 2 Wheels + 4 Paws”–think Motorcycle Diaries meets A Dog’s Purpose. Come visit ruffontheroad.com to experience motorcycle adventures through Moxie’s eyes and the lessons she learns along the way!

5 COMMENTS

  1. Like the article. Been taking my dog with me for years on a Gold Wing. On my rig, since it has a high backrest, he can stand up and move around even with harness strap on. I will send photo through your “send this file” link.

  2. How do you overcome the animal quarantine requirements and the vaccine records that are different for each border crossing? Not all countries allow dogs, especially not Muslim dominated ones.

    • Hi Lynn, so far we’ve taken Moxie into Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. Each one has required slightly different paperwork. For example, Belize requires that you submit your documents several days beforehand to receive an import permit. Honduras and Mexico look at your exportation permit from the country of origin and the health certificate and vaccination records from your vet. In each case, of course, you have to pay the accompanying fees. Truthfully, we’ve been surprised at how easy and straightforward the processes have been at the actual border. In all cases, the officials have been friendly and the only issue has been to have patience while they sort through your documents and try to make sense of everything!

    • Hi there, Copper. We are not selling the K9 Moto Cockpit because we’re riding with our hair on fire with the dog apparel. BUT we prepared a detailed Build Guide with measurements, materials, diagrams, photos, and descriptions. It will be up on the ruffontheroad.com soon. If you buy $50 or more in dog apparel, we’ll send it as our free gift, otherwise the Build Guide is $40. Drop us a note on the contact page (https://www.ruffontheroad.com/contact) if you have any questions or if you don’t want to wait for the Build Guide to be up on the website.

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