Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bikerafting Dog Platform

Spring/summer/fall bikerafting season is quickly approaching and we've been mulling over ways to improve the experience. It must be noted that we complicate the experience of bike + raft by being hopelessly enamored of our beloved canine companions who we insist on bringing along with us. And frankly, who insist on coming along. It is our dogs' experience of bikerafting that we have felt requires the most improvement. To wit:

The Law of DOGravity says that in any situation or circumstance, the dog will gravitate to the highest point with the best view.

This has served well for the most part in our bike + raft + dogs adventures to date. They seem happy enough to find a princely perch on top of our backpacks on top of our bikes on top of our rafts. Initially this seemed to be an adequate platform for them... in calm water. But it only took a few journeys in rougher waters to learn that having our small-footed friends laying or standing on top of our bike frames and wheels creates a doggie leg entanglement danger -- and entanglement is perhaps the number one no-no in boating.

After one moderately traumatic leg-caught-in-wheel incident (Sprocket, the AMH, actually screeched for a moment) we decided they would need better platforms from which to enjoy our aquatic adventures. We wanted a platform that would not collect water, would not be slippery when wet, would provide some grippiness for dog paws, and would be light and packable. Ideas like tables and pillows were thrown overboard as being impractical. Perhaps a fabric? We settled on the idea of a plastic mesh cloth with elastic cord loops and plastic clips on the corners. We purchased our materials and began the construction process.

The fabric platform concept immediately proved popular with the dogs who waited no longer than for us to lay out the fabric before they took their perches upon it and wouldn't get out of our way. Fabric was laid over bike-on-raft and our co-experimenters gave their initial impressions and suggestions. We cut fabric to shape and sewed corners -- with help from our JRT Zeek. Soon we were nearly done, or seemed to be -- as nearly as could be told through the haze of passionate cursing that arose as we attempted to sew the shock cord to the fabric. The task overwhelmed our sewing machine. An attempt to hand sew the shock cord to the fabric soon produced another cloud of profanity as needles broke, fingers were pricked, blood was spilled, and we realized it might take us days to finish in that manner.

Rescue came in the form of a quick trip to an upholsterer's shop where we were kindly treated with immediate service and headed back to our experimental laboratory for further testing of our new bikerafting dog platform/tarpaulin/trampoline devices. Raft on patio. Bike on raft. Tarp stretched over bike. Hooks in place. Then, add dog.

The results? Satisfaction! If it all works out as well on the water as it has on the patio, it seems like we have an excellent season of bike+dog+rafting ahead of us!