History and evolution of brake designs with a novel idea…
There are four or five types of dog sled brakes. None of them work very well and the best can only prevent the sled from crashing into the dogs. Before the Iditarod era there were no more than three styles (not counting the Siberian pole dragged between the legs or on the side like a Telemark skier) as illustrated below in the WWII US Army sled dog field manual, Dog Transportation: the center board and the hinge variation were the most common; the slew brake was rarely seen; the rough-lock method was for use in emergencies that could be anticipated but not any help unless you saw the disaster coming and were able to stop and wrap chains or coarse rope around the runners (and limited value on glare ice.)
In the early years of the Iditarod and other mid distance races in rough terrain a common problem became obvious with the prevalent center board brake. After the first half dozen racers came down the same hill standing on the brake the rut in the middle of the trail might be deeper than your leg from your foot to your knees. The snowmobile track brake was first introduced as a training device to make the dogs work harder and to create less damage to trails especially where distance mushers shared trails with sprinters. (Even so the sprinters complained, preferring to have perfect training trails without appreciating that racing trails were not. When the dogs were so well trained on perfect trails that they did not pay attention where they put their feet the result was metacarpal fractures if they stepped into holes or onto hard moguls.)
Around 1980 my Iditarod sled business was booming and I developed another solution, a brake with two claws, each positioned close to the corresponding runner. If there were ruts from braking the runners of following sleds would drop down into them.
The Alpirod brought mushers from around the world to experience new horrors in trail conditions; from that time on many brake systems included both double claws and rubber or plastic tracks with snowmobile carbide core studs. Often the rubber track, the “tapis,” could be lifted or dropped as needed. The photos below show a design where the two are loosely coupled to respond to different conditions, including bare pavement! On pavement the carbide studs in the track slowed the team slightly but emitted smoke and brimstone.
Here is the new idea:
Do mushers still run in conditions that need this? If you have and recognize what it’s for, let me know.
At the end of the day… no, it took more than one day… when all was said and done, uploading, editing and cropping these photos, it was as frustrating as going down a bare road in Sesto, Italy, but at least writing and publishing this post did not cost me $20,000.