Driving to work yesterday, I heard a story about some dudes mountain biking in Montana. It is fairly old news, but I am just hearing it, so here goes. The story is told that the lead mountain biker rounds a curve at approximately 20-25 mph, slamming into a nearly 400 pound grizzly bear that was on the trail. The rider is thrown over the handlebars, breaking both wrists and a scapula before the very upset bear attacked him and ended the rider’s life. It was later reported that the bear did not consume any of the rider or cover the body to return later. The bear killed rider and moved on. Here is where it gets interesting for me, as a study of human behavior or just plain curiosity.
The rider who was following the lead bike rounds the curve and sees the grizzly standing over the cycling with bristled hair and completely focused on the rider that was down. The second rider takes a split second to decide and bolts back up the trail in the opposite direction to get help, being that he no cell phone, bear spray, or weapon. Pedaling with all he had, the rider goes about a mile and hears traffic on a road near him. He then picks his bike up and cuts through the woods to the road to flag down help. Back to my question . . . what would you do?
The very first thing that came to mind for me, if I am stopping a good distance from the accident, is to make a lot of noise to get the bear’s attention and hopefully get him to come in my direction. Wait. I think a grizzly can run flat out at around 30 mph. Could I pedal fast enough to maintain my distance over uneven ground and possibly uphill in sections? Reasonably not . . . even with adrenaline kicking in. Then again, with a full-grown grizzly in my slipstream, I might be able to find the power. So what is another alternative? Do I use my bike as a weapon to defend my friend? Throw rocks? Or just do what this guy did?
Human nature is self preservation. Fight or flight. Many of us, being an armchair quarterback, would say that we would absolutely do this or that. Not so fast. Does it matter that the guy is my buddy and not a family member? I think so, if I am being honest. Say that it was my wife or one of my children in the accident. Without question, I would throw my body and bike into the bear at full speed to hopefully get him to turn his attention on me and leave them alone. I know this for a fact. Some would say that my actions would only get us both killed. Maybe, but I would die fighting with everything I had to protect my family. But in this story, it is a riding buddy. I have some real good friends with whom I ride frequently. In reality, I think I would have probably done exactly what the following rider of this story did. With time to think (and that is crucial to this story), it seems like the only thing the man could have done for his friend. A meandering bear just feeding on berries and walking through thew woods could possible be scared off with human voices or by waving your bike over your head, but an extremely pissed off bear that was just slammed in the rib cage by a mountain bike at 25 mph is not going have much a care about you, your screaming, or you waving your bike.
What say you?