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Light Intro to Things that Sled: Kicksleds

Let me start out by assuring you I am no expert. I learn more each day, each season and try to ask questions to draw info out of people who know more than I do. But! I have been through a few versions of 'which sled should I buy' so recently I was invited on a podcast to discuss this (and you should check out the podcast, Pawsitively Dog-Powered Podcast!) so thought I'd write down some notes as a follow up.

Case 1: Tink & Bolt

When I started mushing, I had just one Tink, a 45ish lb Rat Terrier / Boxer / etc mix. We canicrossed in the summer / fall, lightly bikejored and had fatbiked over our first winter. Then we got Bolt (most handsome man), who was a proper sled dog but, at that time, without the full on sled dog drive. Winter came along and I thought maybe we could try out sledding. So, I posted in either Mushers Exchange (North America) or Mushers of the Northeast (US) and yadda yadda, landed a kicksled loaner for the season. And here's a video of our first go round with it (yes, my lines were absurdly long & yes, we are missing a neckline; also, shout out to our buds Mr. Maru & Crew skijoring in front of us & one of our very first buddies, Winston, who very sadly crossed the rainbow bridge much too early, all our wishes that he is running fast and free).

The kicksled we were using was pretty similar to this one by akkosports

Which brings me to a few of my first points:

1) Yes, your dog can kicksled with you. But my dog is small, but my dog doesn't pull much. Yes, I know, that's fine. You will have to help (if you can imagine, there are kicksleds out there just meant for people to kick around by themselves) but yep, it can be done (obviously, train your dog, etc, etc, but I'm assuming you started with canicross or bikejoring already).

2) You will notice that the kicksled pictured above has a rope-y thing tied around the underside of the basket - this is the bridle and what you would connect your lines to. Some kicksleds don't come with this so you have to DIY it (particularly ones that were more built for humans to kick alone)

3) Most kicksleds are appropriate for just one or two dogs

4) Brakes - this kicksled (and many), don't come with brakes. If you have a Tink-style pup who trots along and listens pretty well, you can just drag your foot to slow / stop. Totally fine. If you've got a more power-pup, you'll want to make sure you buy a kicksled with a drag mat or claw brake or that you have one or the other (or both) added. If you're running some Hannah beasts (she's my 3rd sled dog and came full of passion for the sport), you might want to add in a snow hook as well.

5) Most kicksleds fold or can be made to fold fairly easily by removing a few nuts and replacing them with wingnuts instead. This is a really sweet feature & very useful when you lack storage space or car space or don't want to strap a wooden sled to the roof of your Prius.

6) New or used? If it's the middle of winter, it's pretty likely that all of the kicksled designers are going to be out of stock so your best bet would be to post in a local mushing group to see if anyone has something that are looking to sell or loan for the season. If you want new, try to think ahead and buy in the spring, summer or early fall.

7) What are your intentions? If rec only, then get whatever fits your budget, whatever you can find used, whatever one floats your boat the most. If you intend to race with it, check out your local races and see what their requirements are (some require a sled bag, even for kicksleds, so you'd want to make sure your kicksled has that option or be ready to create one), some kicksleds have baskets and some don't - races may require a basket, etc. The new IFSS rules for the two dog class make it sound like a proper sled would be more appropriate (link to those here, click into Regulations and then Race Rules, open the document and then scroll down to page 18 section 42.2 Sleds)

Some more kicksled options:

Finally, if you've got two strong pullers or plan on having two strong pullers, you might be better off just going with a proper sled right off the bat. In that case, stay tuned for part 2 in this series where I discuss sleds, sleds vs kicksleds and so on!

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