ABOUT Cycling with Bears
Asheville is a biker’s paradise for both off road and road cycling. And bicycles trump cars for getting around in downtown Asheville, but when you leave the in-town streets and head out for the open road, the Blue Ridge Parkway or any of the many biking trails, there is one thing different about cycling around Asheville—black bears. Yet, despite their daunting appearance, black bears pose little danger unless they’re surprised. Fortunately, bear attacks are extremely rare, but you do need to be “bear wise”. They are wild animals and can weigh as much as 600 pounds. So, LOOK, BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! And never try to outrun a bear. Like dogs, they have a chase response and they can sprint more than 30 mph.
REI co-op has a great website dealing with wildlife encounters while biking. Here is what they have to say about the subject of black Bears:
The cyclist is usually the one at fault when an animal gets scared. Picture it. Here’s some old black bear, hunting for berries and grubs when suddenly the flash of sun on metal and the sound of tires interrupts its rummaging. If it doesn’t spot an immediate escape, it may believe it is trapped. And no creature likes to feel trapped. Your job, then, is to calmly allow the bear time to gather its wits and escape. This is tougher than it sounds. Your first reaction is the flight-or-fight syndrome. You want to avoid confrontation as much as the bear. The urge is strong to slam those pedals and spit flames from your tires to escape. Resist it. In most cases a bear can outrun you.
Instead, come to a stop. Start talking in a calm, clear voice. Talk about the nice bear and how you’re sorry for interrupting its snack time. Get off your bike and position it between you and the bear. Either hold your position or start slowly backing away. Most black bears are happy to retreat quickly.
In some cases, the bear will rise up on its hind legs. This allows the bear to see and smell you better. A bear’s sense of smell is one of the most acute in the animal kingdom, estimated to be 100 times more powerful than a dog’s. Their eyesight has long been regarded as very poor, but that opinion is changing. It’s a good bet that if you can see a bear, it can see you.
If the bear stands, just keep talking and keep backing away. If you can move uphill, do so. This gives the bear more opportunity to escape, as it will choose the path of least resistance. In still rarer cases the bear may lay back its ears, lower its head, make a “woofing” sound and open its jaws. It will look like a nose guard getting ready to sack the quarterback. It could be that you have come between the bear and her young. Bears sometimes make bluff charges. Stand your ground; don’t “play dead” with a black bear. Don’t run. Having your bike between you and the bear is still the best idea and can serve as a last line of defense. If the bear approaches, shout, make noise, stand tall, throw small rocks. If it makes contact, fight back vigorously. Ideally, you can give the bear enough room so it will leave before your confrontation escalates to this point.
Asheville has been called many things—weirdest, happiest, quirkiest place in America, Santa Fe of the East, New Age Capital of the World, Paris of the South, Beer City USA, Most Haunted, Sky City and others. It has many secrets, mysteries, and legends—some factual, some alleged, some exaggerated and some just plain lies.