Author Topic: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!  (Read 12375 times)

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Offline Soulboy#1

Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« on: December 05, 2016, 05:03:24 pm »
Hello all. So I'm dripping out my questions on here as I work toward my trip to do the trans am trail east-west, end April/May 2017. I've been searching and reading as much as I can about the route and cyclists experiences. So I'm just putting my thoughts out there. A nagging question in my head relates to safety! Now over here in the UK the worst wild animal you could bump into would be a randy cow, thankfully we don't have many animal things that want/can to kill you. I know that's not the case in the US. We had reports over here a couple of months ago about a cyclist being killed by a bear in Montana, that kinda put the heebie cheebies in me. Is there any chance that you might come across something big and hairy sleeping underneath the stars? Also whats the go with dogs in Kentucky? Are they that bad? Should I be mindful of any other critters that might want to chomp on my bollocks?

Is pepper spray a must?

Thanks in advance for answers.

I shall be asking more nonsense over the co I got weeks.


Offline jamawani

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2016, 05:28:00 pm »
The dogs are probably worse than ever - been a few years since I have cycled eastern Kentucky, but things there are not good by any stretch of the imagination. Poverty, loss of coal mining jobs, prescription drug epidemic. Bootleggers have long ago switched from moonshine to pot - and dogs guard their plots. You can have packs of dogs come out after you. In rural Alabama a couple of years ago, I rode into the county seat and complained to the deputy about the problem. She said, "Jus' shoot 'em." I think my response was a stunned, "Oh!"

More important than pepper spray is an attitude of control. Yes, I've had some opera training, but if you blast their ears - with language that would shock your grandmother - they will always back down. I also ALWAYS jump off my bike in the direction of the dogs - not the other way. Plus, having a full-sized metal pump is nice, too. Dogs always freak out when you hold it by the bottom end and swing it with the pump flying out. I've ridden 100,000 miles and never been bitten, never used pepper spray - but I have been pretty hoarse from time to time.

About the bears - always ride and camp with a younger person. Bears have a great sense of smell and can tell who is the tender morsel. If you plan on dispersed camping, know how to hang your food properly and cook/eat 100 meters downwind from your campsite. Finally, NEVER eat in your tent - throughout the entire trip. The peanut butter sandwich you ate in your tent last week will still be a neon sign for Mr. Bear's nose even though you can't smell it.

Offline Soulboy#1

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2016, 05:35:22 pm »
Thanks for the candid reply although I was still sort of hoping for you to say ah do t worry about it there is nothing to worry about. So dogs in Kentucky aren't the most inviting. Did you always get off your bike or just pedal the hell out of there?

Is there a particular part of the trail the is more prone to bears?

Offline jamawani

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2016, 05:50:30 pm »
80% of the time effectively applied choice words do the trick.
10% of the time the dogs flee as soon as you jump off.
10% of the time it takes some real effort on the ground.
Watch their ears - as soon as they drop, you have them.
(If you keep pedaling, they will just keep chasing.)

The above numbers apply only to loose dogs - which is nearly all of them in E. Kentucky.

There a some black bears in the Appalachians in the East - not too many, not really an issue.
There are both black bears and grizzlies in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
I live in Wyoming and have cycled solo on remote dirt roads and have never had a problem.
But I always practice bear-country camping techniques.
Colorado and Oregon have only black bears - but wilder than their eastern cousins.

I will tell you that I am pretty certain that I have had a grizzly circle my tent on at least two occasions.
You can hear them snorting and the tracks are the size of dinner plates. But I was in the backcountry.
Nothing is 100% - but you could get hit by a bus the next time you cross the street, too.
If you are uneasy, make sure to camp in developed campgrounds in the Rockies.

Really, there is nothing to worry about - either with dogs or bears.

BTW - the same food cautions apply to raccoons - which are numerous everywhere.
They will rip your tent open to get to any food you have inside.

Offline jamawani

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2016, 06:07:45 pm »
PS - Article on how to hang your food.

I always pack 50 ft (15m) of good quality cording plus a carabiner.
Learning how to do this takes a few tries - but will give you greater confidence, too.
Nearly all developed campgrounds in bear country have bear boxes or hanging poles.
It's only when you random camp that you will need to do this.

PPS - NEVER eat in your tent.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2016, 06:09:53 pm by jamawani »

Offline jwrushman

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2016, 07:47:09 pm »
If you check out You Tube videos on PCT method for hanging food bags, you'll be fine.  And as important, when you're trying to throw your weighted bag over a tree branch, you'll provide hilarious entertainment for your buddies!

Offline John Nelson

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2016, 07:51:12 pm »
Dogs: Skip the pepper spray. If the dog is going to catch you, stop. The dog will lose interest.

Bears: Use good food practices and you'll be fine. Except with grizzlies. Grizzlies are unpredictable. Luckily there aren't many in the lower 48.

Offline RonK

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2016, 10:30:26 pm »
The OP seems to have overlooked what is usually a Brit's worst nightmare - snakes. And spiders.
Better remind him not to put his boots on without checking first. :lol:
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline Soulboy#1

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2016, 12:09:57 am »
I'd like to say I feel better after reading this but...........(audible gulp in London). So there will,be bears and from what everyone has written it sounds like your advocating camp in more populated places which I hope will be many. Yes spiders and snakes dont sound great but I have an Australian wife and have travelled their many times so I'm well versed about all things venomous with fangs (however any tips regarding their American cousins will be appreciated).

Has anyone come across a bear on the trans am trail?

Offline jamawani

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2016, 01:09:09 am »
I have encountered bears while riding in Grand Teton and, especially, Yellowstone numerous times.
But there will be "bear jams" whenever this happens - a hundred or more cars and RVs.
Just because a mama bear and her cubs want to cross the road and go up the hill.
Rangers do their best to keep people back - with mixed success.
It's a bizarre and sad scene - made worse by extreme TV, I suspect.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2016, 07:01:47 am »
Use good practices with regard to food, toiletries, and other scented stuff and having problems with bears will be very unlikely.  If something bad is going to happen it is far more likely to be in the form of a vehicular accident.  Ride safely, camp safely, and enjoy your trip.

You will be lucky if you even get to see a bear at all.  I know we didn't see any on the Trans America or the Southern Tier.  I did see a number of them when I did the southern half of the Sierra Cascades route.

Dogs can be an annoyance on the TA especially in Kentucky and Missouri, but they are not that big of a deal.

Offline zzzz

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2016, 08:52:53 am »
Do yourself a favor, if you're going to burn the psychic energy worrying about your safety, worry about something else, like vehicular traffic.

I rode from Banff to Fairbanks Alaska last August. I saw many bears. They either ran off or were indifferent to my presence. You can look up all the fatal bear attacks in all of North America by decade on Wikipedia and it comes to about 1 a year. By contrast there are 50 people killed by lightening every year. Take the precautions when camping that others have outlined above and you will be fine.

Your results may vary but when I did the transam  I came across 1 dog in eastern Kentucky that struck me as actually vicious. The rest were just annoying.

As an aside, it's natural to worry about what could go wrong before you leave but my take-away at the end of each of my 5 long tours was that I just experienced one of the very best chapters of my life. Even the stuff that happened that seemed like a problem in the moment gets folded into the narrative and kind of disappears as a negative. You are going to have a great time.


Offline John Nelson

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2016, 10:00:30 am »
Yes, bears are pretty far down on the list of worries. Just spend two minutes familiarizing yourself with the Bearmuda Triangle.


  • Guest
Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2016, 10:03:00 am »
Saw this guy while riding in New Jersey last year. But as noted, you will be lucky to see a bear. Been riding in Glacier National Park--a place that's known to have a bear or two--three times and spent 7 days in the backcountry there. Only saw one bear scamper across the road.

Be more concerned about deer, especially when descending at fast speeds. They can come out of nowhere.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2016, 10:41:48 am »
Bears: Do not store or prepare food, or eat, in your tent.  Store it properly (bear bag or bear lockers).  Stick to designated campgrounds in National Parks (which is required by regulation).  If you follow posted signs in bear areas, your chances of being eaten by a bear drop from unlikely to really, really remote.

Bison, elk, moose: read the brochures you get when you enter Grand Tetons/Yellowstone, and follow directions.

Lions: There have been a few confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the east in the last few years.  If you see one, you're really lucky.

Dogs: I'm a fan of Halt! pepper spray on a handlebar mount to deal with eastern Kentucky dogs.  Practice a time or two so if you're surprised by a charging dog, you can deter it by squirting in the right direction.  Get off the bike for a better aim if you have time.  Mount the Halt! in central Virginia and keep it available through Missouri, just in case.

Turkey: make sure your heart is in good shape, because if one moves in the ditch while you're passing, it'll scare the **** out of you.

Snakes: stay out of brush, and if you hear rattling, go the other way.

Turtles: if you see a green turtle with a long neck and tail, stay away from that snapping turtle.

Cows: if you can get past them, see if you can shoo them back into the fence they came out of.  Make sure you close and latch all farm gates, not that you'll have much call to go through them in the first place.

Recreational Vehicles rented by people who drive small cars back home: these are the worse killers in Yellowstone, and don't make the news because they're so common.  Wear bright colors, try to get off the road by late afternoon, find something else to do if it's foggy.

Despite this long list of things to worry about, don't worry about them.  Deaths are so rare they make the news in Britain, apparently.  Injuries are probably more common, but there's a large number of people who ride across the country, go visit the highlights of the tour, etc., that come out of it just fine.  If I had to make a list of things to worry about, it would start with how to drink enough water, how to ingest enough salt, what to eat, where to sleep, have I pumped up my tires lately, is there enough brake pad left, etc., etc.  Lions, bobcats, and bears are right above how do I secure and transport that half pound gold nugget I might find lying beside the road on my personal list.  Hey, it might happen!