You are currently viewing Off-Road Riding with a Dog on the Back: A Tragicomedy

Off-Road Riding with a Dog on the Back: A Tragicomedy

I ride an Adventure Development Vehicle (ADV) bike, a BMW G650GS. Although I like going off the main road, I would rather it be well-paved with unsightly black pavement. However, even though I really like the riding and touring aspects of adventure motorcycling, I don’t really enjoy the off-road portion. Since I began carrying my German shepherd, Moxie, on my back in a carrier, I’ve come to adore both even more.

However, the irony (or maybe tragedy) in my distaste for off-road riding stems from the fact that I ride and reside in southern Guatemala’s highlands. Even many of the major highways are unpaved here, and you can always count on steep, rocky, and badly maintained roads if there are any unpaved ones. That is, at least, the situation during the dry season; add mud, landslide debris, and seasonal rivers to the list once the six-month rainy season starts.

For a biker, this means that you will need to do a lot of off-road riding in order to see any of Guatemala’s most breathtaking natural attractions. And so I do, girl up, air down, deactivate the ABS, and launch into tragicomedy—not with joy or confidence, mind you.

When I first crashed while riding up to the Cenote de la Candelaria, for instance, I lost control of my bike and ended myself wedged between it and a tree. After hitting a rock in the second collision, I threw my front end skyward like a rearing bronco before collapsing like a humpback diving back into the ocean.

And then there was the hour spent riding down to Semuc Champey’s turquoise lakes. Not far from our location, on a little drop, I was passing an approaching car. Exhaustion triumphed over talent and chance in the off-road rider’s rendition of rock, paper, scissors when I overcorrected and fell in the bushes.

Although Greg, my companion, crashes more often and harder than I do, that’s primarily because he enjoys the challenge and cheerfully pushes himself to the brink of tip-overs, get-offs, and sporadic hospital trips. Did I mention that I dislike off-road riding?

Although tip-overs are an inevitable aspect of off-road riding, I have made every effort to prevent them. Even so, I have logged several hundred kilometers of off-road riding over the last three years. You would think that my confidence and expertise would have increased significantly as a consequence. But for one simple reason, it hasn’t.

It turns out that you often acquire experience without developing the appropriate ability or confidence when you approach things halfheartedly or with the sense that you are being forced into them. For this reason, I have never referred to myself as a “off-road rider,” even after all the miles, the painful lessons learned, and the victories of surviving and arriving at my objectives.

Really, that’s how I would have ended it—constantly trying to escape it and then gritting my teeth, heels digging in, and a bitter smirk on my face as I eked through it. That is, until I began taking Moxie along on my motorbike ride.

After only one week-long motorcycle journey without my German shepherd, Moxie, I resolved some years ago that we would never again leave her behind. We thus started looking at motorbike dog carriers. Since there were no acceptable adventure carrier solutions for a large dog like Moxie, we created the K9 Moto Cockpit on our own.

I urged on utmost care right away. It was partially due to my worries about riding with Moxie and partially to my fear for her safety. However, Moxie quickly became comfortable with it, and within an hour, we were riding through the twisties of Guatemala, and I was introduced to an a new world of adventurous motorcycle riding.

There was no turning back now. Moxie would now accompany us on all of our motorbike excursions, which meant a lot more hiking, camping, and taking random people selfies. The problem was that we were still in Guatemala; mountains still surrounded us, and the national initiative to repair roads had made no headway at all.

Riding a Dog Off-Road

I attempted to avoid it, but once again, we’re talking about biking in Guatemala. I also attempted to let Moxie fall behind and run. She can barely keep up for a few kilometers, but she still enjoys it. Greg is always willing to ride my bike through a tricky stretch, but he doesn’t believe that a road qualifies as a “technical section” just because it is “unpaved.”

Moxie weighs seventy-five pounds, and the K9 Moto Cockpit carries her in part like a travel bag and partly like a human passenger. This indicates that Moxie’s canine heft is spread as evenly as possible for a two-wheeled dog. However, carrying extra weight makes your bike heavier and less maneuverable, making off-road riding more difficult. It is only physics.

That’s how I ended myself riding Guatemala’s uneven roads with a hefty, hypervigilant German shepherd on board, but still with the same bike, distaste, and insufficient abilities as before. I also made the decision at that point that slogging my way through the off-road was no longer a viable non-strategy. I had to take responsibility not only for my bike and myself, but also for my beloved K9 copilot.

I therefore enrolled for the second time in Off-Road Level 1 with our neighborhood BMW instructor. However, this time, I was fully focused, I wasn’t digging in, and I was really interested in learning the methods for doing it correctly and securely.

After three years of riding together, Moxie and I have already covered several hundred kilometers of off-road terrain. Occasionally, I drop her to sprint ahead, and other times, Greg cycles beside me through the challenging “technical sections,” which are often the last washout or gully before we arrive at the campground.

I wish I could tell you that there was a turning point in my understanding, when I realized there was delight in off-road riding that I had never experienced before. That time hasn’t arrived and most likely won’t. Even on the most well graded fire road, I will always choose blind, corkscrew twisties in the middle of a torrential downpour in the dark fog. However, I’ve come to tolerate off-road riding and even approach it with a cautious optimism.

It’s hardly the type of profound realization you would anticipate discovering at the end of a tale about “overcoming your fears.” It doesn’t finish with me racing over a broad river, slicing through thick sand, or avoiding a rocky, narrow path. But if psychology as I understand it is right, that’s how we start to develop confidence. By inhaling deeply, embracing a challenge rather than feeling pressured to accept it, and allowing yourself to reflect, discuss, or write about it afterwards in order to draw lessons and learn from the event.

Journey Around the World with Moxie

I still find it difficult to refer to myself as a “off-road rider” as my sense of my own abilities is more determined by my level of confidence than by the amount of experience I have gained. Nevertheless, and perhaps most significantly, the way I know I’m prepared for anything greater is the little confidence boost I get from facing the off-road as a challenge rather than running away from it and being angry about it.

And therefore, this is something greater. Moxie and I are biking across the globe together at the beginning of 2022!

We have hundreds of kilometers of challenging off-road ahead of us before we reach this thrilling destination, which worries me. However, I am eager to take on this task, and I hope that by sharing my hardships and victories, I will encourage other women to overcome their worst fears.

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