Mountain Biking With Bear Spray - Now More Than Ever a Worthwhile Precaution
As a 20 year veteran of cross country and down-hill mountain biking I have run into my share of wild life.
On only three occasions were those bears.
Once in the mountains east of Seattle I was riding alone when my chain broke and damaged my rear derailleur.
It was getting dark when, while attempting to fix the damage I heard a thunderous crashing about 50 meters to my left of the trail.
My cousin who lived in the area at the time warned me that a female black bear and her cub had recently crossed his property.
Black bears are nothing to toy with as they have a nasty habit of consuming their human victims unlike grizzly bears who will move off after they have eliminated the threat.
I had no doubt what the noise was and I was five miles away from the trail head with a broken bike.
I shortened my chain after removing the rear derailleur which left me with three front gears and a lot of anxiety.
As I began to ride I heard the bear crashing through the woods nearly keeping pace with my now slower progress.
My chain popped off a number of times while attempting to ride out, forcing me to stop and put it back on.
This caused even more anxiety as the crashing in the forest to my left sounded ever more like a bulldozer knocking down trees than a black bear.
I made it out of the forest and back to my car by dark without confronting my burly tormentor, but it could have ended differently.
It was 1991 and no effective bear repellant spray existed then.
Riding alone was a fool's errand, and I had no defense against attack.
With current bear populations exploding, it is certainly even less safe to go into the forest unprepared.
I now carry bear spray with me whenever I ride off road.
I have it in a holster built just for the purpose and this in turn attached to the left shoulder strap of my bike pack for fast access with my right hand.
This is important because bears can move fast, even from a standing start.
A bear only fifty feet away can be on you if you are too slow on the draw.
Speed and quick access are important! Wild boar populations are also growing by leaps and bounds across North America and an encounter with one of those can quickly become fatal.
They are most often responsible for charging and cutting the femoral arteries of their human victims with their scissor like tusks and even the females can be aggressive and dangerous.
Bear spray works well to fend off attacks by wild pigs and works well against mountain lions too.
As a mountain biker, considering the growing predator populations and further encroachment into the wilds by my fellow bikers, I recommend to always carry bear spray with you into the forests.
Sometimes bad things happen on a good day, and when it comes to bear spray; it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!