Don’t Run Into Bears On A Bike Ride

The other day I rode my bike up the climb to Gumboot lake. The ride is gorgeous. It’s on a very isolated, bumpy one-and-a-half lane forest service road. The climb’s a solid 10 mile effort with a short, very steep section at about the 8 mile mark.

What’s now memorable about every ride up to Gumboot is the memory of a freaky bear encounter I had on that short steep section two years ago.

On the decent, there’s a section leading down to the steep segment where I get up to 45 mph on the little road. It’s exhilarating, but a little bit dicey on the forest service road surface. At the top of the steep section I brake to about 35 mph before turning right to face the extra steep part. On this day, I rounded the corner to see a bear walking across the road about 150 meters ahead of me.

What made it crazy was that I was on the section where extreme braking only gets me down to a manageable speed, but may not get me stopped. But that wasn’t what alarmed me.

Mount Shasta On Today's Ride.

Mount Shasta On Today's Ride.

Following faithfully behind the sow were two very small cubs. My wind-tearing eyes saw them as a couple little black dots walking slowly across the road. This was getting surreal.

I’m not very afraid of bears. Black bears in our area have run like scalded cats when they’ve seen me on runs or other bike rides. I also spend considerable time bowhunting for elk in the grizzly country of Montana. However, I’d never before found myself barreling down on a sow and cubs clad only in lycra, astride a carbon fiber ‘potato chip’ for a vehicle.

I know that a sow will ‘wuff-wuff’ her cubs up into a tree, so I started trying to imitate a sound that I could only imagine. I was going 35 mph downhill, with watering eyes, while ‘wuffing’ loudly. Closing in fast, I couldn’t believe that I might find myself in amongst an angry sow and her cubs.

But the cubs hustled to catch up with their mom and they all made it safely into the brush.

Was it my clever wuffing, the fact that they’d have cleared the road just in time anyway, or the ridiculousness of the situation (lime green colored goofball coming silently toward them at 35 mph) that made them lumber out of the way?

I think it was the cleverness.

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