Philippe Schlesser was casually riding his bike along a woodsy trail in Kamloops, British Columbia when a bear tried to waddle across his path, nearly causing a collision.
A GoPro attached to Schlesser captured the June 7 close encounter that spooked them both, sending the bear off in the opposite direction and the biker several feet forward where he skidded to a stop.
Schlesser started to make growling noises to keep the bear away, which appeared to work.
“Looking at the footage later on, I noticed that the bear was running in parallel with my direction,” Schlesser told Storyful. “I got scared, the bear got scared, and we both went our ways.”
The Kamloops Bike Riders Association (KBRA) wrote on Facebook that Schlesser, a member of the group, ran into two teenage bears, and “mama was likely close by.”
“Sharing so we can give them lots of room. Please keep pets on leash or consider leaving them home until this family moves on,” the group continued.
Cam Marshall, KBRA vice president, told local outlet CFJC Today that encounters with bears while biking are rare, but a reality of spending time in the wilderness.
“Even though it’s close to residential, it’s still a wilderness grazing area. There is a juvenile bear with a couple of young cubs. They’ve been there in the area for a few weeks now,” Marshall said. “It was a startled bear running across a startled rider. Those types of occurrences are very rare. We’re in their neighborhood out there, so it’s important that we’re aware and use our heads. We live in Canada; we’ve got bears.”
What to do if you encounter a bear while biking
A calm mind and knowledge about the types of bears you might run into are your most valuable assets, according to experts with Recreational Equipment, Inc, an outdoor co-op.
All bears can get scared when a biker who’s skidding through sharp turns and speeding downhill disrupts their peaceful rummaging for berries. But with grizzlies, a startling experience can more quickly turn into an aggressive one compared to black bears.
“If you must ride where grizzlies are active, avoid riding solo. In addition, control your speed on routes with lots of twists and turns, and make noise as you enter turns,” experts say. “Some riders will attach a small cowbell to their bikes so they make plenty of noise.”
If a grizzly charges at you, only fall until it contacts you. If you have to play dead, lie face down with your hands covering your neck. The bear will likely retreat once it realizes you are no threat.
But don’t play dead with black bears, experts say. Sometimes they make “bluff charges” to protect nearby young and most often prefer “the path of least resistance.”
“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,” the REI experts say. “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.”
In more serious scenarios, always position your bike between your body and the bear and continue talking in a calm voice.
“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.”