As a mountain biker in southwest Montana, I can't help but think about bears, especially this time of year. My assumption is that I can have an interaction on any trail in the state, and that on many trails, that interaction might involve a grizzly.
Because of that assumption, I've long been searching for the perfect solution to my bear-spray-access problem. In the pack does me no good; hip belts are less than ideal because of the time it takes to deploy; and sternum straps aren't secure enough. I've seen other bikers who keep their spray in their water-bottle cages, but then where does your water go? Plus, cages weren't designed for bear-spray canisters, so the canisters don't fit snuggly. That means a Titan Strap or the like is necessary to keep the canister from jostling free, and now you have a deployment issue, since a tightly strapped canister is difficult to remove quickly enough to thwart an attack.
In about a month, I'm headed into the backcountry for a multi-day bikepacking trip. I'll be in bear country—grizzly country—and I'll need bear spray. In an effort to finally solve the accessibility problem, I got myself two Chuck Buckets from the bag company, Oveja Negra. Oveja Negra makes bikepacking-specific bags that strap to your bike, and while Chuck Buckets are designed for keeping essentials like water and snacks close at hand, my bear spray also fits perfectly. In the picture below, I even have a raincoat balled up beneath the canister. Now my spray is ready to be deployed, and I can even deploy it without getting off my bike.
After just one ride utilizing the new system, one thing is clear: the Chuck Bucket stays where it's told, even on rocky, technical trails like Hyalite Creek. Two Velcro straps attach the bag to your stem and handlebars, and a third removable strap attaches to your fork's crown. These three points of contact kept my canister secure without getting in the way climbing or descending. The bag is lighweight and a simple cinch cord allows for one-handed opening and closing.
While I've only had a limited sample size to draw from, and I didn't have the opportunity to deploy the spray, so far the Chucket Bucket seems like a good solution. I did practice popping the safety of my bear-spray canister and timed myself. Or I would have but couldn't count to one fast enough. That's progress over all other systems I've tried.
Stay tuned for updates after more field testing.
If you're interested in purchasing a Chuck Bucket or other bags from Oveja Negra, visit ovejanegrabikepacking.com.