May 21 2009 by Jason Fogelson
I love my motorcycle. I also love my dogs and cats. Until recently, I had resigned myself to the fact that my two loves would always compete. Spending time on my motorcycle meant time away from my pets; spending time with my pets meant time not riding my bike.
If you've got a small dog or cat and you're a motorcyclist, your two hobbies do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can take your pet along for the ride.
Several manufacturers build motorcycle-specific pet carriers, designed to be strapped to the seat or tank of a bike. These vary from soft-sided fabric pet carriers to hard plastic kennels designed with tie down points and additional interior padding. Check out the carriers from Scootworks (starting at $167) for a stylish motorcycle-specific pet carrier appropriate for dogs and cats up to 20 lbs.
Another option is to replace or supplement your pillion or luggage rack with a pet seat. Your pet will need to be harnessed into the seat, but will share your open-air experience, riding in the open wind. Frank T. Destro, Jr. Custom Upholstering will build you a custom pet seat out of plywood, foam and leather that will match the style and design of your ride. The Snoozer Pet Rider Lookout (starting at $100) is an off-the-shelf solution for pets up to 24 lbs.
If your pet is bigger than a breadbox, there are still options. A pet harness, which tethers your dog securely to your body, could work if your pal is particularly mellow and you're very tightly bonded. The Beast Rider (starting at $519) will accommodate dogs up to 75 lbs. According to the Beast Rider website, their product is "an ergonomic, hand tooled leather with shearling carrier and harness system. It positions your dog directly behind you, the rider, on the passenger seat. This is the only proper place on a motorcycle for a passenger, whether human or animal."
Another option for pet travel for motorcycles is to choose a sidecar hack, like the Ural Retro (starting around $10,000). Your pet can curl up in the sidecar, safe and secure and within your line of sight.
Don't forget accessories for your motorcycle-riding pet. Beast Rider's K-Noggles are comfortable leather goggles, providing eye protection for your dog, starting at $95. You can even find Harley-Davidson licensed apparel - hats, jackets, boots and scarves - for your dog or cat.
Keep in mind, motorcycle travel is not ideal for pets. If your pet is very nervous or energetic, they might become a distraction on the bike, and could even create a hazard for you during riding. And none of the products that I've discovered do much for pet safety in the event of a crash, so your pet will be subject to the same, or even greater, risk while motorcycling as you are, except that your pet will not be making an informed choice when they get on the bike. Check your own level of comfort before choosing to bring your dog or cat along on a motorcycle ride, and test out your rig carefully on short, low-speed rides before heading out on a long trip.
My dogs and cats are staying home on my next trip, but you never know - there might be a sidecar hack in our future. Then my two favorite hobbies will meet, and we'll all be the happier for it.