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Have you seen the movie The Revenant? We have, and while I don’t think that the film is even close to Leonardo DiCaprio’s best work, in spite of all the awards that it won, the Grizzly bear attack seen is now forever imbedded in my brain. Of course, I always knew that bears could mess you up, but that extremely-intense scene pointed that fact out in technicolor!

I just learned this today: Hugh Glass, the protagonist in the movie The Revenant, was actually a ship’s captain, and a pirate!

A bear can mess you up!

Yesterday, because Rebecca and I both subscribe to a number of cycling related Facebook pages, we were each presented with the tragic story of a forrest service officer who was killed by a Grizzly. Apparently, the officer ran right into the animal while mountain biking with a friend at a high rate of speed (his cycling companion survived to tell the tale). Very sad.

From what we’ve read, cyclists can be at a greater risk in bear country when compared to hikers because they often travel quickly, and more quietly, increasing the risk of a surprise encounter, as the ranger in that story apparently did. So, since we’re planning on traveling in bear country, we should likely be afraid, right? Aware? Yes. Take appropriate precautions? Yes. Afraid? I don’t think so.

Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. – George Addair

As I said in my post about The Great Fear, we’ll be sure to take the necessary safety measures. That includes, but is not limited to:

  • Carrying bear spray
  • Making noise while underway (my gasping for breath and swearing may be loud enough)
  • Keeping food away from our camping area
  • Hanging food and/or using a specialized container for it. Maybe this one?

The following video, which I have yet to watch, is the one that everyone recommends for those who will be traveling in bear country. I plan to review it today.

Thinking outside the box, how do you think a Grizzly would respond if we got down and started doing this? 😉

28 Comments

  1. Hi Mike,
    You can talk about not being afraid, but you will be.

    • haha. If I come face to face with a bear, or hear scary noises in the night, I’m sure you’re right!

      I read a post this morning from one of the Divide racers. It said something to the effect that, there will be times when you wish you’d be killed by a bear (obviously relating to how hard and painful the race is). I thought that was funny.

  2. Mike,
    This reminds me of another biking story. I had just purchased a new road biker when I lived in Baltimore. Looking for a great ride, I traveled to Shenandoah National Park to ride Skyline drive. The climb up that road is incredible with miles of significant uphill travel. Late in the day, exhausted, I decided it was time to turn around. The road at this point was fairly empty. As I started down a significant hill, I was passed by a single motorcycle. As I continued down the hill, now doing about 35mph, the motorcycle disappeared around a corner. At that same time, I see this dark figure emerge from the woods and immediately recognize it as a bear (luckily only black bears in this area!). While I could see him/her, the bear had heard the motorcycle and was not looking uphill as it approached the road! It became very clear that if I hit the breaks hard, I was likely going to stop right about where the bear was (it was not on the road continuing to look downhill). I ended up yelling at the bear, which looked completely surprised, and it turned quickly and ran off the road. I ended up going by the bear just as it was leaving the road!

  3. I remember doing this when I was kid– Maybe you should too while Riding through Bear Country.. The Bears will definitely hear you coming!!

    youtube.com/watch?v=krPQ1PMM00Y

    youtube.com/watch?v=FLimv9aL2WQ

    Maybe this one?? youtube.com/watch?v=9kKFalYJKmE

    Who would ever thought!!?? youtube.com/watch?v=eDv4_4XlLUk

    Lol–

  4. I have first hand experience on bicycles making my presence known to all (human and nonhuman), in the immediate vicinity… baseball cards clothes pinned to the wheel frames, that’ll let them know you’re coming. Skinny balloons work better but their lifespan is greatly reduced.
    I’m sure you’re reading that bells are common in bear country and you could also have a simple plastic whistle around your neck.

  5. wayne (family membership) geizer - Reply

    heya guys and girls:

    While i was hiking in Ontario, Canada, i pretty much tripped over a huge black bear. The instant fear i had as the bear stood up and looked at me and my hiking buddy caused me to forget all the rules of bear contact and i turned to run like scooby freaken doo……. Good thing my friend broke the spell and told me not to. bear took a sniff and made a funny face and turned away and disapeared into the woods with a speed and agility that made me profoundly respect him. he followed us for a while, but not agressive and visible, just make noise, let us no to stay away from him. If you guys are doing world biking, do a quick search on bear deaths per year and then search tiger deaths per year. youll be shocked. keep your head up in asia. 🙂 . black bears gotta have a good reason to attack, will mostly run if the chance presents. brown or kodiaks are a different story. If you do mace a bear ( my friend knew a guy who did) keep in mind that that bear will destroy everything in a 10 ft circle trying to figure out what is getting him, knock over trees, push rocks, tear up the forest floor. so get outta range fast if you do. I wouldnt fear a black bear if i came across another, but would have profound respect for an amazing creature that it is.

    Cheers mate, all the best to you both

  6. My family and I have done quite a bit of riding in Alaska. I would recommend using a bear bell in areas that have limited visibility along the trail. Be especially vigilant around streams. Most of the attacks around our area have occurred on trails that are near salmon streams. We have come across both brown and black bears on the trails and in each instance we stopped and started slowly backing up to show we weren’t a threat. The brown bears slowly moved away after looking at us for a few seconds. The black bears have all turned and run. Fortunately there were never any cubs involved which really makes it a more dangerous situation. The bells can be annoying but it’s better than coming around a corner and going over your handlebars into a freaked out bear. My scariest situation was coming down a hill on singletrack with my family behind me and nearly clipping a young moose. His mother was none too happy and charged me while I tried to get my 11 year old turned around and going the other direction. Once we started pedaling away from her she calmed down but I think I was about 10 feet away from becoming her dance floor. Scary Sh!t to say the least!

    • Hi Javan

      I can imagine that it would be scary!!!

      You might be interested in the movie I linked in the post. I know it’s long but we invested the time to watch it last night. The expert in the film contradicts a couple of the things that you said worked for you (bells, backing up).

      • Good info in the video. When we’re hiking we do the calling out, loud talking, etc., and that seems to work well. The only bears we’ve seen while hiking were quite a distance away. When riding though, we’re typically traveling at pretty high speeds and the bells alert them to our presence without having to think about it while bombing down the mountains. When we’ve encountered the bears we slowly back in the other direction while still facing the bear. Thankfully it’s worked so far, maybe we’ll have to adjust that tactic. Just don’t turn and run. A friend of mine did that at Kenai Lake, running back to his truck and as soon as he shut the door the bear was looking in his window.

  7. You may also come across a Sasquatch or two– One never knows till it happens..

  8. About 20 years ago I had an encounter with a black bear in the 350 lb range and habituated to people so he did not run. My attempt to ” look big and make noise” did not impress at all and I would NOT try it again.. However after a few minutes, yes minutes of standing there, the bear simply ignored me and went back to ripping apart a log and I walked around him. He did not fear me at all. I remember thinking the bear was going to attack me and then realizing he was ignoring me. At that point I was no longer terrified. That has been my personal experience. I have heard scuba divers talk about sharks ignoring them and I think it is like that. Of course I am in the North East and the black bears here are not like grizzly bears. One more thing I noticed about the bear as I watched him walk away – he was very stealthy. If they stand still behind a tree or bush you can’t see them an they don’t make much noise. Our rangers tell me of bears that jump off 15 foot rock ledges at a full run and just keep going. None of them seem afraid of bears. I still hike and I do not fear bears, although I am very wary and I try to be quiet and listen and be aware. One amazing patch of high blueberries in the park is frequented by people and bears in August and they seem to stay apart. One sad note, the rangers let me know that the bear I encountered later that same day killed a large dog with one swipe of his paw as the dog attacked him. So, it would seem brains are your best defense. I have wondered what a can fog horn would do to a bear – I bet it would shock him and turn him around. But maybe he would just ignore it.

  9. The video is fascinating and funny. Kind of like bear stand-up comedy. Certainly challenges much (all?) of what I’ve been taught about bear safety! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Very good video, but overlooks the emotional impact of a bear encounter. I can still see, 20 years later, every detail, the light on the trees, the eyes of the bear with no fear in them. The video makes light of the emotional, I think. Then again I was fairly close. My point is the reality could be about as different as between reading a book about storms and being caught out in one.

    • There is no doubt that it would be a highly stressful encounter. The fact is though, the bear doesn’t care how you’re feeling at that moment in time. If you run, it’ll chase you. If you provoke it, willingly or becuase you were told to do something stupid, it’ll attack. I’d rather have statistically-backed info on how I should respond rather than wives tales. Whether I do so or not will be up to me at that time.

  11. Hey Mike and Rebecca. Can you PM me with some of the cycling FaceBook pages you are following? Cheers.

  12. I would think the bikes would make enough noise to warn any bears so I would worry most about camping out. Make sure the clothes you cook in are not the ones you sleep in. Put the cooking clothes in the food bag that gets bear-proofed appropriately.

    –Jeff

  13. Reading the article on the Forest Service Officer who was killed, repeats over and over that the speed and stealth of mountain bikes leads to bear encounters and that riders should slow down where visibility is limited. The guy who died was a fast rider who was very unlucky, crashing into a male grizzly at 25 mph. So that’s a whole other scenario than anything I have heard of before and negates a lot of the training if you really surprise one. Maybe some some type of sound generator like a baseball card in the spokes?

    • That’s been recommended by others, but who the hell would want to listen to that the whole time though? No one I know.

      It’s worth noting that the expert in the video I shared totally discounts the use of bear bells, another common suggestion. I’m thinking Led Zeppelin from a nice bluetooth speaker set. 🙂

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