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'She's a great companion': Canmore man and his dog are 'bikepacking' around the world


John Freeman and his six-year-old dog Mira are driving south to finish their trip through Mexico then onto South America. The two are set to conquer the North and South American leg of their goal to bikepack in seven continents.

"In a couple of days I'll be at the Mexican border and I'll continue riding down to Chihuahua and then over into the Copper Canyons," said Freeman.

"A friend is going to meet me there and we're going to do some exploration through the canyons, they became famous from the barefoot runners of the Tarahumara Indians so we'll explore this intricate canyon network that's larger than the Grand Canyon actually."

Freeman rides a custom-made titanium bicycle with a frame that has been lengthened to accommodate a large basket on the back to carry Mira.

Bikepacking is a combination of bike touring and backpacking and it's been Freeman's passion for the past eight years.

"I probably have been averaging about 30,000 kilometers a year," he said. "Which actually is more than the average person drives in a year, maybe not here in Alberta, but for most people, yeah."

His companion Mira is a Border Collie/Healer cross and a working dog who's keen to run. She's been riding with Freeman since she was a puppy.

"Our first trip together was when she was three months old," said Freeman. "That's the youngest you can fly internationally because of the vaccinations and we flew to Spain and we spent five months riding around the country."

Freeman said Mira runs and rides when she wants and can hop in and out of her basket on the bike while it's moving slowly.

"In terms of how much she does walk her or run throughout the day, it's probably somewhere between a half and a full marathon every day that she's on her paws," he said.

This summer, the two tackled the Tour Divide race where riders are self supported while riding from Banff to the Mexican border and they completed it in 28 days.

"It's 2,700 miles (4,345 kilometres)," he said. "So, you know, we're just under 100 miles (160 kilometres) a day and I have a 40 pound (18 kilograms) dog plus the food, so an extra 50 pounds (22 kilograms) and the average competitor who's well equipped, their entire loaded bike is less than that."

Krista Hawlling has spent the last month riding with Freeman and Mira. She wants to learn about “dogpacking” and is getting advice so she and her golden doodle named River can ride together.

"It looks a lot easier than it is, they make it look super easy," she said. "For us the issue was getting River used to the basket, making sure she doesn't jump out and she didn't, that was just my fear."

While Halling is learning about dogpacking, Freeman is learning about animal care.

"When I'm not trying to peddle around with my dog, I'm a veterinarian, more specifically, orthopedic surgery is my specialty," said Halling. "We've chatted a lot about his care of Mira, which I'd say he's doing such a fabulous job and he started picking my brain about nutrition and about energy requirements for Mira."

Freeman enjoys not only riding with Mira, but also seeing the reaction of people when he passes through small towns.

"They're looking and they're smiling," he said. "So imagine riding all over the world and everyone's smiling at you and thinking ‘how cool that is,’ so I mean, that's the biggest gift that I got from riding with her, it's terrific."

Freeman expects his worldwide adventure will take about five years and he's excited to get back on two wheels.

Follow Freeman and Mira's adventure on Instagram @Mira_La_Perra or on their YouTube channel @OmniTierra. Top Stories

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