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A fantastic adventure in Germany’s Sauerland — bikepacking with a dog

Stephan Peters | lifeCYCLE magazine

A fantastic adventure in Germany’s Sauerland — bikepacking with a dog

Mountain Biking Collection by Martin Donat



1-5 h

/ day

39.3 mi

5,250 ft

3,875 ft

If you’ve ever had a dog, you’ll know that everything changes from the moment they move in. Where order once reigned, wondrous chaos quickly develops, while the calm of yesteryear gives way to a lively vying for attention.

The more boisterous the new dog, the more stressful the first few months can be. But no amount of nibbled shoes, sleepless nights or nose poking at all the windows can hide the fact that a new best friend has entered the lives of the once calm household. Despite all the chaos that the new family member brings with them, it quickly becomes clear that there’s nothing better than doing things together. And that's exactly what this Collection is about: the first overnighter with my Dalmatian, Sancho.

The route

It soon became clear that Sancho loves to run and has a lot of stamina. Dalmatians are running dogs and they once accompanied old fire department carriages as ‘living sirens’. From our very first mini bike ride together it was evident that running was his thing. And so it was only a matter of time before we embarked on a somewhat larger journey.

I chose the route for this adventure carefully – since so much was so new to Sancho, I wanted to play it safe and, if in doubt, be able to cut short or break off without major problems. The Rothaarsteig trail served me as a rough route. It leads through the beautiful landscapes of the Sauerland, but is always within reach of civilization so we could’ve quickly visited the next bus stop or a hostel if needed. Because the Rothaarsteig runs partly over pretty bumpy trails, I altered it a bit here and there, taking our route on alternative gravel paths.

About two-thirds of the way through, I picked out a cosy wooden shelter in advance to set up camp for the night – this way we had a long first day and a shorter second day with plenty of time to get back home. We were both absolutely happy with the results of my planning: Sancho was able to run off-leash most of the time and I was happy to have perfect gravel conditions. I can highly recommend this route to you and your furry nosed friend to follow!

Cycling with a dog

If you want to go on a bike ride with your dog, you'll have to adjust a bit to your new companion. How fast can he run for a long time at a stretch? What distance can he cover? How often does he stop for a sniff or a drink? I quickly discovered that my average speed is significantly slower when Sancho is with me. Not because he's so slow – when it's uphill, I don't stand a chance – but he stops here and there. We take regular hydration breaks, and we're just more leisurely overall because ultimately we want to have a good time.

My most important tip is to relax and pay attention to how your four-legged friend is doing. This way, you’ll quickly get into the groove and be a good team. You should keep in mind that your dog will be exhausted much faster in warm weather than in cooler temperatures. A blistering hot mid-summer day is certainly not perfect for your adventure together.

Overnight stays with a dog

In the summer, this issue isn't quite as crucial because it doesn't get as cold at night. However, if you're touring in the fall like I was, keep in mind that your four-legged friend – depending on breed – will freeze at night. I was a bit too optimistic and had assumed that my sleeping bag and a sleeping pad would be enough. For Sancho I had an additional dog blanket with me, however, it quickly turned out that he also preferred to lie on a cosier pad. It didn't take long until we were sharing my sleeping pad and sleeping bag. It wasn't really comfortable, but at least cosy and pleasantly warm. Next time, I would probably bring a second softer pad for him. If you have some tips for me in terms of dog luggage, I'm happy to hear them in the comments 🛏️🐶🏕️.

So that I wasn’t carrying too much, I left out everything that wasn’t essential. With me were a few dry clothes, food for Sancho, two water bottles (one for the dog, one for me), the bare essentials of spare parts and a multi-tool for the bike, and of course, a sleeping pad and bag. For food, I had a few rolls with me and planned a stop on the way. The night in the hut was very uncomfortable but somehow also beautiful. We snuggled up and warmed each other. Lots of noises startled Sancho a few times at night and twice he went on a short foray through the brush. When it finally got light in the morning, we were both glad to be moving on. Still, I had a feeling Sancho thought this adventure was pretty cool too!

Make your own adventure!

No two human-dog teams are alike. You know best what your four-legged friend likes and how long he can last. Therefore, this Collection is only meant to be an inspiration for your own adventures. Nevertheless, the Tour is a good starting point for your planning. Maybe you take it as a basis for your own trip and adjust the stages to fit your needs. The route is not only suitable for an overnighter with a dog, the low-traffic Tour is well-suited for a family outing. Along the way, great viewpoints and many other highlights await you. A good plan is a good adventure.

I made a video of our Tour to share with you:

On The Map


Do it yourself

Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.

Bikepacking with a dog in Sauerland

41.6 mi

5,400 ft

4,050 ft

Last updated: April 28, 2023

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Bikepacking with dog, day 1: Brilon to the Heath

    27.0 mi
    5.2 mph
    4,125 ft
    2,925 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Out of Brilon, into nature! This tour has some vertical meters to offer, otherwise it is easy to master for humans and animals. Above all, Sancho was pleased that he was allowed to walk without a leash almost without a break.


    Our personal highlight was definitely the TrailGround Brilon right from the

    translated byView Original

    by Martin Donat

  • 01:55
    12.3 mi
    6.4 mph
    1,125 ft
    950 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Day 2 on the overnighter tour with my friend and dalmatian Sancho. The cold night in the refuge didn't seem to bother him, in any case he was bursting with energy in the morning and wanted to continue running straight away. I gladly granted his wish, because it finally made me warm again. The tour continued

    translated byView Original

    by Martin Donat

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    39.3 mi
  • Duration
    07:06 h
  • Elevation
    5,250 ft3,875 ft

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