Before participating in your first bikejoring race, you need to get familiar with the rules that apply for yourself, your dog and the equipment.
Which rules apply depend on which federation the event lies under. Most national federations and clubs follow the rules of one of the two big federations: IFSS or ICF.
The International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) and European Sled Dog Association (ESDRA) joint to form the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) in 1985. Their goal was to apply for International Olympic Committee recognition. Every other year IFSS organize World Championships and European Championships. IFSS covers a wide range of classes within bikejoring, scooter, skijoring, pulka, canicross, rig and sled on dryland and snow.
The other big federation is International Canicross Federation (ICF), focusing on mono dog classes within canicross, bikejoring and scooter. They also organize European and World Championships, where both elite and hobby athletes can meet.
In this article, we will focus on a selection of rules from IFSS and ICF. Please note that the information is based on the rules valid in February 2021. Please check the federation`s rules before racing as updates might occur at any time. There, you also find more information about everything you need to know about bikejoring competitions.
Dog’s age, health and welfare
Dogs participating in a bikejoring race must be at least 18 months old.
All dogs must be identifiable and vaccinated. At most races there are mandatory vet checks before the competition starts, to make sure the dogs are fit to run and have all the mandatory vaccinations. If a dog seems unfit or incapable of safely completing the trail, the Race Marshal can disqualify them on IFSS races.
Females in heat are allowed to start.
The competitor must ensure his/her dog shows no aggression towards other competitors and dogs.
The competitor has to accept losing time if the dog wants to drink, refresh or make a sanitary stop along the way, according to ICF rules.
In bikejoring, you mostly compete with one dog only. At most races the classes are divided by gender and age, so you have junior, senior and in some cases veteran classes, separately for men and women. At some events, they also divide the classes in addition based on breeds, and the acknowledged sleddog breeds have a separate class.
In IFSS races you have the following bikejoring classes:
- DBMJ: Bikejoring junior men (16–18 years)
- DBWJ: Bikejoring junior women (16-18 years)
- DBM: Bikejoring elite men (19–99 years)
- DBW: Bikejoring elite women (19–99 years)
- DBMV: Bikejoring veteran men (40-99 years)
- DBMV: Bikejoring veteran women (40-99 years)
In all competitions, except championships, there should be classes for young children.
In IFSS races, a class can be broken down into separate classes for dogs of the acknowledged sleddog breeds (Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Samojed, Greenland-dog, Canadian Eskimo dog) that hold a valid pedigree from F.C.I. (Fédération Cynologique Internationale), CKC (Canadian Kennel Club), AKC (American Kennel Club) or KC (British Kennel Club). These classes are called RNB (Registered Nordic breed). Registered Siberian husky teams (RNB1) can be separated from other RNB teams (RNB2). To break down a class, it needs to be a minimum of five teams in each class.
In ICF you have the following bikejoring categories:
- Juniors men (15- 18 years)
- Seniors men (19- 39 years)
- Masters Men I (40-49 years)
- Masters Men II (50-59 years)
- Master Men III (60 years and more)
- Juniors women (15-18 years)
- Seniors women (18-39 years)
- Masters Women I (40-49 years)
- Masters Women II (50-59 years)
- Masters Women III (60 years and more)
Certain bikejoring gear is mandatory.
In IFSS races the rules state that the dog must wear a padded harness and be attached to the bicycle or to the driver, by a tugline with shock absorber at all times. If the line is attached to the driver, it shall be by hip belt of specific measurements and requirements. The expanded line shall not be less than 2 meters (6.6 ft) in length and a maximum of 3 meters (9.8 ft) long expanded, when measured from the rear of the dog to the front axle of the bike.
Muzzles are prohibited in IFSS races. In ICF however, the use of a muzzle may be required if the dog shows signs of aggression. In both federations collars that can be hooked as a full choke is forbidden.
Your bicycle must be equipped with working brakes on each wheel. All drivers must wear a helmet approved by a national test registry. Studded tires are not allowed.
When participating in ICF races your dog’s line can only be attached to the bike, under the steering bar and above the bicycle fork. The line has to be fixed to the front of the bike through a proper installation which may not be longer than the wheel of the bike. The line must be shock absorbing and may not exceed 2.5 meters when fully extended. It is mandatory for the dog to wear a harness that does not injure the dog.
You must wear gloves and a helmet. The bike must not be equipped with any metallic mud guard.
In the IFSS bikejoring class, the distance is minimum of 2 kilometers, maximum 8 kilometers.
In ICF bikejoring races the distance may not exceed 7 kilometers, with a minimum of 5 kilometers. The distance of the trails per category also depends on the climatic conditions. The technical commission has to verify the temperatures and if needed the trails will be made shorter.
All teams must follow the trail set by the organizers.
In both IFSS and ICF races, there are trail markers showing where to go and where you have to be cautious. The look and function of the markers are thoroughly described in the IFSS race rules:
- Red markers (Turn markers, round shape): Used at all intersections and crossings involving turns, placed approximately 20 meters (65 ft) ahead of the point in question at the same side of the trail as to which the teams shall turn.
- Blue markers (Straight ahead/confirmation markers, square shape): Used to indicate the correct trail after a crossing or turn. These markers should be used beyond all intersections, turns or blind corners which are marked with a red marker and every full kilometer along the entire trail.
- Yellow markers (Caution markers, triangle shape): Used to indicate portions of the trail where slow, cautious passage is recommended, for example steep downhill or very sharp turns.
- White markers: Placed at the start of the Finishing Chute with the distance remaining (Usually 800 meters/2625 feet for bikejoring) to indicate the beginning of the “No-right-of-way” zone.
Passing other teams
When overtaking, the overtaken team shall make unimpeded way for the passing team. On the command “Trail” the participant and the dog are obliged to hold the same side of the trail and stop pedaling according to IFSS rules.
In ICF races you have to say «Piste» to pass another team. The competitor being overtaken has to let the other team pass. He or she must hold the dog close to him/her during the passage. In the last 200 meters, the competitors do not have to hold the dogs short when there is another team passing, but they may never disturb the other team.
You are advised to train overtaking before entering a competition.
Right of way
In IFSS rules it is specified that the team with the lead dog farthest ahead shall have the right of way in the event of a dual start, at the end of the chute or whenever two trails join together.
During a heat starting with a pursuit start, no team has the right of way during the entire heat. No team shall prevent another team from passing by blocking the trail or interfere with a dog passing.
If teams are passing in opposite directions on a single trail the team going downhill has the right of way. On level terrain, the Race Marshall determines and announces whether incoming or outgoing teams has the right of way prior to the start of the race.
In the «no-right-of-way» finishing zone, no team has the right of way over a finishing team.
In bikejoring, you and your dog are a team, and both teammates has to share the effort during the race. In ICF rules it is specified that the competitor will be disqualified if he/she is inactive and lets him/herself be pulled by the dog without helping. However, it is always the dog that decides the pace.
Pulling the dog or forcing the dog to move forward by any means is strictly forbidden. You can not pass your dog during the race but have to stay behind him or her.
If a dog becomes unfit or refuses to advance for any reason, the driver is not permitted to finish the heat, according to IFSS rules.
If spectators want to encourage a team verbally this is allowed, but in ICF rules it is specified that this can only be done standing still. Running or riding a bike beside the competitor is strictly forbidden.
For more in-depth information about bikejoring rules, please take a look at your federation’s rules.