One rack to rule them all
When DutchDog Design approached me to review their Dutchdog Britch rack and Doggyride cocoon bag I had some reservations. I have never carried my dog on my bike and have never successfully made him into a decent trail dog. He’s reluctant to run alongside the bike and prefers to instead act as an anchor which must be dragged. Because of his (Pikachu’s)determined nature, I wasn’t immediately sure that I could offer a decent review of a pet specific carrier, however, after seeing the rack for the first time my thoughts changed entirely.
Dutch Dog Design has been around since 2003 pioneered the “biking with your dog” experience or so they state on their site. The Doggyride cocoon bag is one of their flagship products. Its a pet-specific over the shoulder bag with a handlebar mount and seatbelt harness point, it is a great way to move a pet from point A to point B but didn’t catch my interest as much as the other item (more details on the bag later). This is where the Britch rack comes in. If you don’t own a pet then fear not, this rack still has lots to offer you so keep reading. The DutchDog Britch rack offers a frame mounted, front or rear pannier rack which fits most bikes and needs no existing holes, threads, or specific mounts. Now my interest is piqued.
Made of tougher stuff
The Dutchdog Britch rack comprises of a steel clamp which attaches to your frame on either the downtube or seat tube via four M5 bolts and some wingnuts. The frame is protected by thick rubber inserts which worked way better than I had imagined for frame protection and security. The steel mount is industrial in size and manufacture but this product is all about utility, and it delivers that professionally. The top of the rack which connects to the mount via four more M5 bolts has a clever kink in it which means the rack sits parallel to the floor on the front or rear. The difference in angle between a downtube and seat tube is huge and the design of this product impressed me every time I switched it from front to rear. Flip the top section upside down when moving the mount from the front to the rear and it sits beautifully flat and ready for use on either end. The rack can carry 80lb front or rear, that’s 36kg or 5.2 stones for the arcane British among you. That’s 20%-30% more than you can carry on the most expensive rear frame mounted racks on the market and this rack retails at around half the cost.
The one thing you notice immediately is that this rack is LONG, extending 3cm beyond the front wheel of my 700c commuting bike. The full rack is 43cm long which is very long indeed but this alludes to the potential use for such a rack in modern cycling. This rack carries big and heavy things in a utilitarian way. The most useful aspect of the Dutchdog Britch rack is the Britch basket adaptor. This is a bit like a road bike cleat which clips onto and off of the rack in one very simple motion via a sprung clip pin on the front of the Britch. The cleat requires 4 small holes in the bottom of any bag you wish to use, Then a pair of plastic plates bolt to the cleat from the inside of the bag. The genius here is that this cleat can be mounted to any bag you already own by simply adding the holes. Another notable design here is that the cleat fits both straight and at 90 degrees so that bags can be mounted in either orientation without the need to refit the cleat. Do you already have a nice North Face waterproof duffel bag? Clip it on. Do you work as a cycle courier on the weekend, those giant Deliveroo bags will clip off and back on super fast. Is your dog too big for the Doggyride bag?, attach your normal hard case pet carrier to the Britch instead. The (basket adapter) cleats are available separately for $14.95 so multiples can be purchased and fitted to anything for any occasion, the carrying possibilities are literally endless. The Britch also acts as a trailer mount for the Dutchdog designed trailers, I didn’t have a chance to test these but the quality looks to be in line with the products that were tested. Towing a trailer isn’t likely the main use for the Britch but if you do buy into the complete set of items from Dutchdog then they will open up a whole range of possibilities for luggage and pets.
Having mounted the Dutchdog Britch to the rear of my bike I am reminded of the steel seat brackets from the Hamax bicycle child seats. The rack sits in almost exactly the same space as the Hamax ones do. The Britch, however, has none of the flexible “suspension” of the child seat bracket and remained super stiff throughout my use. The rack could indeed be used to securely carry a much heavier child than a standard Hamax seat is capable of (which is 22kg), if a seat were made available (hint, hint). The Bracket was tightened to just 8nm on the four mounting bolts but did not move at all during my weighted tests. Ideally, you own a steel or aluminum bike as this clamping force would not suit carbon or titanium frames. The weight distribution is based over the centre of the bike which is a nice plus versus a standard pannier rack which can slow steering and damage hubs prematurely. The Doggyride Cocoon bag attached using the cleat system stayed put surprisingly well even when ridden off-road, something that I don’t suggest if your pup is on board. There was a little rattle in the roughest terrain but on a pavement, the basket adaptor cleat system works very well. The cleat itself is made of plastic which did worry me slightly as a small crack could send everything tumbling at an inopportune moment but it handled my testing without fault. For further reading about cycle commuting and racks in particular, why not read an older article (this one is a series).
The brute force
I have never been a fan of high mounted weight on the back of a bike so after a quick test on the rear, I moved the Britch rack to the front of my bike. Due to the frame mounting, the Britch stays central as the handlebars move, this can be a little disconcerting at first but you quickly get used to it. The downtube brake cables neatly tucked around the mount as it was tightened to the downtube. One downside which became apparent was that my drop handlebars fouled on the bag when steering to 30 degrees either direction. On my bike, the bag had to be used in its sideways configuration which sits further forward on the rack. This change allowed clearance for full steering with drop bars and is a nice benefit of the cleat system. This issue wouldn’t be found on bikes with any other style of handlebar so it is a small niggle since my bike is perhaps not the target market.
Due to the frame mounting, the ride quality of the bike was only affected by the extra weight added, which is substantial. The addition of the extra side panniers (available as an option) would mean that the fully loaded Dutchdog Britch is a bit of a Brute. On the plus side, the handling of the frame mounted Britch rack is superior to a fork mounted rack as the steering is not weighted. The bike handles like it was supposed to and is more similar to riding a cargo bike than a weighted pannier. When the rack is fully loaded it can be easy to forget that more braking is needed to come to a full stop as you are enjoying the ride so much. Due to the weight, riding with the Britch attached when you are not loaded is a little cumbersome as you realize that you are carrying extra weight for no benefit. It is possible to detach the half of the rack via the four side bolts, this saves 50% of the weight but leaves you with two steel prongs protruding from the front of the headtube. In my tests, I found it easier to spend the extra 5 minutes to remove the unit completely when not using it. The process is a little fiddly but nothing complicated. The Wingnuts could be replaced by a threaded hole or even a hinged clamp to speed this process but for now, this is what we have.
That’s my bag, baby
The Doggyride bag itself is a solidly constructed unit which looks like it will take a lot of abuse before seeing any damage. The Cocoon has a handy place to harness a leash on each side to make sure your pet cannot jump out. The top of the Cocoon is a zippable mesh dome which pets will be safe inside when zipped whilst still being able to smell the great outdoors. The bag even comes with a waterproof cover if the weather turns during your outdoor expeditions. Handily the bag can be placed in a car seat and has a seatbelt slot for safely getting home after the adventure. For small dogs and cats (or other furry friends), this bag is a very useful piece of kit. Taking a small pet for a spot of bike camping is not easy if the distance is more than they can walk, this bag enables a bike only method for the trip which wasn’t easy with previous products. The bag comes in an XL version but I suspect that only small dogs will be comfortable for longer rides as the version tested would have been fairly tight for a large cat. Even if your need is nothing more than the occasional trip to the veterinarian this bag can be a way to avoid car travel completely. I’m always a big supporter of that.
As previously stated, the manufacture of the Britch is industrial, I believe that Dutchdog has manufactured down to a price to appeal to the particular market of leisure cyclists who are unlikely to spend high-end money on an occasional use product. The design and material could be reworked to save weight with a future incarnation. Even a full aluminum model with a slightly lower max weight could be popular with a wider range of cyclists than just those wanting to tow their four-legged friends. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the bike-packing version at some point.
The Dutchdog Britch is a highly versatile product which will suit pet owners with almost any size animal using the bag or trailer. The versatility of its mounting will greatly help this. Further than this though, these racks and the cleat attachment system could and should be adopted by courier companies (or individuals) who will benefit daily from the ease of use. Their broken shoulders will rejoice as the bag is speedily clicked into place after each collection. Their tired forearms will be eased by the nimble steering of the frame mounted weight. Even their pockets will be pleased with a product which retails for less than one day’s food delivery work. By creating a good dog carrier, DutchDog has created a great delivery product and placed themselves to take over the courier market with a product like no other. Sure, it would be nicer if it were lighter, easier to mount and a little quicker to fit but at this price point, I suspect that there is a large market for these racks in every city.
Keep an eye out on our Youtube page for a fitting video coming soon.