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Mike Cherney on Black Bears

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THERE’S THIS SWEET GRAVEL LOOP CALLED MDK which I ride a bunch ‘cause it just has everything and it’s right out the door to catch a quick blast of endorphins. Approaching the summit of the first climb I’m motivated… one with the effort and dialed for the upcoming descent that’ll drop me into Goods Gulch and the climb out over Shoefly. Rolling over the top, shifting into the large gears, gaining speed, tucked and floating on the bike over the uneven terrain, totally in the flow and the moment. Then, wham, out of the brush on my left comes this black bear (Ursus americanus), 10 feet in front of me and already up to speed running breakneck in the same direction I’m going.

For 300 feet it’s me and the bear blasting down the gravel road. I’m hang’n right on it’s ass, holler’n, “Go bear go!” and it’s sending up dust like a beer-blurred motocrosser. As quick as it came onto the road, it dove off into the trees and gulch below. Frigg’n super rush of adrenaline, heart rate pinned and a 110 degree left turn just ahead. Made my day.

A FEW DAYS LATER I’M TESTING SOME CROSS/ADVENTURE TIRE COMBOS to be ready for Noel’s ‘Pain Train Endurance Race’ in Oct. So I mount up some other rubber and head back out to that MDK loop to make comparisons. Same route that I raced the bear on, but this time I’m looking very carefully around me as I ride while pushing the new tire combo as hard as I can to find it’s limits. I’m testify’n that a 47mm front tire w/ 35psi is so much more fun than a 35mm @ 55psi.—duh! This loop finishes up with a 3 mile run on Kingsbury Rd. coming off Shoefly, rolling and twisting, always downhill on gravel surface back to town. The fun factor and speeds are very high with the big tires soak’n up the terrain.

I’m reflecting on bears and the lack of seeing them this time around. A quarter mile before the road goes back to paved and into town, I get this big black dot in the far left of my vision… big black dots are not usual in the woods. Brakes duly applied and rolling to a stop, I see two bears standing in a spur road, check’n me out about 30 yards off. Mama bear is giving me the evil eye and cub bear slinks behind mom, peaking out to see what’s gonna happen. I’m talk’n calmly to them, asking if they are finding water and enough food, they’re look’n at me. A few moments go by and I guess mama bear feels I’m no threat and turns the cub and self up the spur and away they go.
Now I’ve lived in bear country for 14 years, I ride constantly in the backcountry and if I see a bear or three every year I feel fortunate. The first five years I saw zero bears and was think’n, how rad was everyone else getting when they told me their bear stories? Now just in the past three days I’ve seen three bears, and I raced one of them down the road. And, I had never before spotted a cub. Payback for 5 years of no bear sightings, or is there sump’n unusual going on ‘round here?

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