Someone found their way to my blog this week searching for “TransRockies MTB bear sightings”, and as I’ve had a “bear” post in my head for a while, I thought I may as well satisfy their search!
Just before TR 09, a friend of mine got me a going away gift…a book about bears! Just what I needed…..this wasn’t your “I Spy Book of Bears”, this was a serious tome about bears, and bear encounters and how many people have come to a grizzly (ha ha geddit?!!) end at the “hands” of a bear. (Probably far less than the number of bears that have come to a sticky end at the hands of people, but there you go!). I didn’t read all of it, ‘cos the first chapter pretty much told me all I needed to know.
The author’s tactics for dealing with bears depend on which breed of bear it is you’ve just cycled into..if it’s a Grizzly, you stand still; if it’s a Black Bear, you climb a tree; and for a Brown Bear, you stand on one leg with a colander on your head and sing Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song*. Excellent, I thought, I’m now prepared for whatever the TR can throw at me wildlife-wise..except for one tiny snag. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure there’s only 3 types of bear I could be fairly confident of identifying – one’s big and white and lives in the Arctic, one is big and black and white and lives in China, and the third one is little and fluffy, lives in Australia and gets stoned on eucalyptus all day.
Now, I know Mark’s navigation skills aren’t up to much, but even he couldn’t get us so lost that we end up running into any of them..could he?
Anyway, I read on, and as I’d already figured, the author pointed that most people wouldn’t know (or care) if they were being eaten by a Grizzly, Black or Brown bear. Indeed, his advice was “if you meet a bear, shoot it, then work out what breed it was”. Not a great solution – a rifle wasn’t high up my list of “essential” items to take out each day (how many energy gels would I have to leave behind to carry that?!).
Anyway, I reckon there’s 4 approaches to dealing with bears in the TransRockies:
- Get one of these babies – OK, it might be heavy, but you’re gonna look awesome with that strapped to your pack!
- Bear Spray – as I understand it, it’s a kind of pepper spray, and some people did have cans of this stuff outside their pack. Some had it buried at the bottom of their packs, where it’s not gonna do you much good – I don’t think you can ask the bear to hold off eating you so that you can get your spray out to make it a fair fight! On the other hand, given that you have to be in “brown trouser” range for it to have any effect, you may as well bury it in your pack
- Bear Bells – a small bell on a spring that you attach to you, your bike or whatever. It rings, constantly. Every time you go over the slightest bump it rings. Every time you move, it rings. Every time you breath, it rings. Honestly, you have no idea how irritating it is to ride near someone with one of these on…I reckon you’re more likely to be killed by a fellow cyclist driven to “Bear Bell Rage” one morning.
- Get yourself a Hope Pro2 hub on your bike. Good, solid, Yorkshire engineering…and the loudest freewheel you can imagine….like one of those old fashioned football rattles (well, almost!). I don’t think a bear would come near you when it hears one of these buzzing away (unless of course, it mistakes you for a bee hive…..uh oh!)
Actually, there’s another approach….do nothing. I reckon unless you’re at the front (yeah right) or right at the back (possible, but hopefully not unless something breaks), any right-minded bear will be miles away from 300 noisy smelly idiots on bikes!
Having said all that, I didn’t see a bear in the 09 race. There was a rumor that some people near the back were forced to wait for 30 mins for a bear to clear off the path, but I don’t know if that’s true. Not only did I not see a bear, the only wildlife we saw whole time we were there were a teenage moose on the bus (obviously, we were on the bus, not the moose…I’d have taken a picture of that), some horses, some cows and some small brown unidentified furry things – and I’m pretty sure they weren’t bears).
Actually, I’ve just thought – maybe the person searching for “Transrockies MTB Bear Sightings” was searching for bears on MTBs..now that I’d pay to see!
* clearly this is complete and utter frontier gibberish – don’t follow my advice under any circumstances…and if you do, don’t come running to me when you get eaten