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MaineMade Double Driver Dogsled
reviewed by Mark Hamilton
A number of years back Sue and I began using a four-wheel "Tom" cart from Fritz Dyck for our fall training seasons. Within a couple of weeks of first putting our "Tom" cart into service we had two well-trained and conditioned teams, each with a reliable command leader. We also finally understood exactly what was meant by the statement, "You can't train until you can control."
Since then, every time we take our dogs out it’s treated as a "training run". We never just run our dogs anymore. But a problem always developed for us when the snow came and we switched over from our cart to one of our sleds. Training became more of a chore. Our old sprint sled isn't particularly good for carrying a passenger and while the freight sled excels at carrying passengers it's a major chore to haul yourself forward and then up and out over its high sides from your position on the bed.
This year, in late summer/early fall, we purchased a Double Driver sled from MaineMade Dogsleds, the sled you see pictured above. The Double Driver is configured so that the front driver is the command driver. The command driver's position has both an aluminum bar brake with two replaceable carbide tips and a drag pad. The back driver also has a bar brake. The Double Driver is a modified toboggan sled, which gives anyone sitting on this sled's front seat a pretty nice place to ride. You have a solid bottom of UHMW plastic under your feet so you sit naturally with your feet either dangling or resting on the bottom. This surface extends forward to the brush bow, which eliminates most of the snow that would otherwise be thrown into you face by the dogs' feet.
As fate would have it this season we experienced an extremely warm fall. We actually believed that, having purchased a new sled, we were now doomed to having a snow-less winter. Our training didn't begin until November this year, and even then it warmed up again. With only a couple of weeks of training on our dogs, the weather changed again and early this December we got snow, a full 12 in. (30.5 cm.) in one snow fall. Deep, powdery snow covered everything. Two days later, a second storm delivered between 2 to 3 in. (5.1-7.6 cm.) of sleet. I mention these events only as explanation as to how we are in the position to offer you a review of the MaineMade Double Driver sled so early in our season.
I'm going to start my review with something very important. Don't for a moment think that a sled this big - 65 lb. (29.5 kg.) and 114 in. (290 cm.) long - drives like a barge. The sled is quite flexible, carving turns into the snow as nimbly as many smaller sleds. But the Double Driver is also very well constructed and feels solid under your hands and feet. There are a minimum of screws and bolts on the sled, most joints are lashed. And your feet rest on some of the most secure foot boards I've ever experienced. All this, coupled with its responsiveness to steering and braking input, immediately gives the driver confidence in the sled. We find it a joy to drive.
The Double Driver was designed with sled tour operators in mind, but it is also an ideal sled for training sled dogs. From the rear driving position the trainer can quickly hop off and be up with the dogs, no need to even stand up first. Also, catching the sled and hopping back onto the rear driving position is easily accomplished. The trainer (or even a second trainer) can also sit in that comfortable seat in front of the command driver. It's an easy position to get up and out of as your feet are already down and on a secure surface.
By the way, that platform behind the command driver which sort of looks like a seat is intended as the mounting point for one of the sled bags MaineMade Dogsleds has designed for this sled.
The front, or command driver's position, has a great big drag pad that easily accommodates drivers who are comfortable standing on a drag pad with both feet. The pad works just as well for those of us who only use one foot. The pad is always available, it does not store in an "up and away" position, which also means the command driver cannot easily peddle. You would have to stand off-set on one runner and peddle to the outside the runners. In my opinion, for people training teams of Inuit Dogs, talking about the effectiveness of the brakes is far more important, and the brakes are everything we've come to expect of drag pad/bar brake assemblies. There is one exception here however - there are two bar brakes on this sled, a comforting feature for larger teams of ISDs and on difficult trails.
From the command driver's position you really aren't aware of all that extra "stuff" behind you when the team is moving. The only thing that you are aware of as being different is your inability to peddle between the runners. When I'm at the second driver's position it actually doesn't seem at all odd to me to have someone standing in front of me. Sue and I have both stood together on the back of one of our sleds in the past during training runs because of the problems with the seating arrangements on those those two sleds, and it's easier to stay warm while mushing when you stand and move around.
What MaineMade's Double Driver sled lets us do is use the same style of training that we use with our four-wheel Dyck cart, only on snow. We can control, and therefore we can train. We haven't used the sled for a full season yet, nor have we racked up lots of miles on it, but it certainly looks like we’re going to be very happy with the Double Driver. We'll give you a follow-up report after the end of the season.
Is there a useful product you'd like to tell everyone about? Email your experience to firstname.lastname@example.org or snail-mail it to Mark Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791, USA.