Bear in Mind
Tips for biking in griz country.
There’s no way around it. Mountain biking in grizzly country comes with inherent risks. Thinking “it won’t happen to me” can get you into serious trouble. When riding in bear habitat, be prepared by following these guidelines.
Avoid Dusk, Dawn, and Nights
Riding during these times will greatly increase your risk of encountering or surprising a bear. Bears tend to be more active at these times, and low light impairs observation.
Encounters with bears are more likely when riding fast. Surprised bears tend to be defensive and thus more likely to attack. Riding fast can be especially dangerous when there is little sight distance, as you increase the odds of surprising a bear at close range. Take it slow in areas with sharp curves or thick vegetation.
Warning bears of your presence reduces the chance of surprise encounters and attacks. You can make noise by riding with bells, but shouting actual words is the best method. “Hey Bear!”
Encounters may occur anywhere, at any time of the day. Bears often use maintained trails; stay alert for tracks, scat, and feeding sites. Listen for anything moving around in the brush. Don’t ride in an area with fresh bear sign. Avoid areas rich in bear foods, like ripe huckleberries.
Carry Bear Spray
Bear spray can stop aggressive bear behavior during surprise encounters, if you have time to deploy it. Carry it on your person, where you can reach it quickly—not in your pack! During an attack, riding partners can come to your aid by spraying the bear with their own canisters. This may save your life.
Don’t Ride Alone
Single riders are much more likely to surprise a bear and be injured or killed. Riding in groups reduces the risk. Multiple people tend to make more noise, and larger groups may intimidate an otherwise aggressive bruin.
A version of this originally appeared on the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) blog.