How to Pick a Bikejor Bike
Here are some things you want to consider when choosing a bike:
-What trails are near you -are they super smooth, rail trail style? Are they root-y, bumpy, rugged?
-Do you plan to use this bike for both dog & non-dog stuff? Is the non-dog stuff going to involve road riding?
-How much pull does your dog have? The bike that would suffice for Tink is VERY different than the bike that's good for Bolt + Hannah
-How committed are you to this?
-What's your budget?
Types of bikes - hybrid (good for smooth rail trail + road), mountain bike (for rugged trails) or fat bike (for snow or really rugged trails & you don't want to feel the bumps so much)
Types of brakes - rim (cheapest, found on most general level hybrids, general level mountain bikes), cable disc (a step up in terms of stopping power but depending on your dog's pull power, I find these need a lot of adjusting), hydraulic disc (the best for stopping power + should require the least amount of adjustment per my bike shop but not standard on average priced bikes)
I started with a hybrid bike that I just had around from one summer when I aggressively tried to go a full month in-between filling up my gas tank. I used to bike from Roxbury to North End to Somerville - all over the place. So, when Tink & I started bikejoring, that bike was around and I used it. Upside - $0 was invested on the bike to get going. Downside - hybrid bikes are not built for the majority of the trails I found to bikejor on. Trails around here are often paved (not great for the dogs' joints / feet so we don't use em) or bumpy as all heck (not good for hybrid bikes). I kept having to take the bike to the shop for brake adjustments, etc and the guy would say what the heck are you doing to this thing? Also, the rim brakes were not ideal for times when I got to borrow a second dog & had more pull power. So, finally, I started looking for an upgrade.
I started searching for a fat bike because I reasoned it would be good year round. Found one relatively cheap on facebook marketplace, I think it was about $275 & had cable disc brakes. It's a lower end model, a Framed, but I figured fine to start there. This thing is heavier by far than the hybrid & is like riding on marshmallows - it's slower going but MUCH less jostle-y.
Turns out, I don't wanna go slow so I went to the bike shop & walked out with a Trek higher mid-level mountain bike with hydraulic disc brakes. The thing is VERY light and I love this bike the most out of all of them (except then I got a rig and now I love that the MOST most). The brakes have not needed an adjustment yet, they hold up to Bolt + Hannah, I love this bike. But, it was just around $800 or $900. And once I upgraded the bike that much, I felt the need to upgrade the bike rack to a hitch style which was another $125 or so for the hitch plus $600 ish for the rack (Thule).
My advice is - if you have a low power (aka smaller in lbs dog or a dog that's just kinda out front running along but not pulling to the fullest extent of it's ability), go with a Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace used mountain bike (with whatever brakes) to start. If you'd got a beast animal, just do yourself a favor and skip the rim brakes. Go with disc right off the bat. And if you are pretty sure you're going to get into this & go with it then skip the cheap bike & get the right bike. If you aren't sure, maybe try borrowing a bike a few times.
2/21/20 Addition from Rachel M - Just want to add in my two cents re: wheel size. Bigger is better for obstacle roll over! I love my 29” wheels on my mountain bike and 27.5” on my fat bike. Definitely with trail conditions I’d prefer 27.5 or 29. If I feel confident I can easily roll over an obstacle safely (regardless of whether the dog could actually pull me over it or not) it really does help in my opinion. Fat bikes generally are 26x4, there aren’t many that are 27.5x4 so if you are going the fatbike route, I think a 26” is okay. But on a regular mountain bike I’d never buy 26” if I had the choice."
(below images are my actual mountain bike + a sorta further off image of Bolt & Tink & I w the fatbike)