Down The Trail – Remembering Our Favorite Stories From 20 Years Ago

Remembering Our Favorite Stories From 20 Years Ago

Normally, when we think of bike safety, we think of a helmet and solid riding skills. Rarely are knives and pepper spray considered standard mountain biking equipment. In fact, most of us feel safer in the mountains than we do riding around our local streets. However, whether you do your riding just minutes from the freeway or many miles from the closest strip mall, you are heading into the wilderness where you are seen as part of the food chain.

The February 1997 issue was chock-full of the types of stories that put Mountain Bike Action on the map. The issue included a six-bike full-suspension shootout, a huge buyer’s guide and plenty of product tests. Among our favorite stories from this issue, though, was one that had absolutely nothing to do with testing products. It was titled “How to Go for a Ride Without Being Eaten Alive.” Here are a few of our favorite excerpts from that somewhat-goofy-but-still-relevant story.

Beary big problem: These are a few of our best tips, should you ever encounter a bear on the trail.

1. Dismount your bike and place it in front of you to appear larger and provide some protection.
2. Talk firmly at the bear.
3. Never make direct eye contact.
4. Show no fear, even if the bear stands up (much easier said than done).
5. If the bear charges, he may be bluffing. Again, it’s important to show no fear. (We actually wrote this as if you wouldn’t be soiling your chamois by now.)
6. If you regularly ride in bear country, pepper spray is your best defense. Carry a can of this in your pack.
7. When riding, make noise, such as whistling, singing or talking. This alerts the bears to your presence so they will leave you alone. (Today, we would recommend using a “bear bell,” which constantly rings so you can save your singing voice for the shower.)

Bear Humor: A bear walks into a bar and sits down and the bartender asks the bear, “what can I get you?” The bear looks at him with a long stair and takes a while to respond. Then the bear orders a sandwich and a beer. The bartender then looks back at the bear and says “what’s with the long pause”.

Sean McCoy dodges another cougar and this one is too close for comfort. Must be the Aloha print riding jersey that caught it’s eye?

Ghosts on the trail: Cougars, also called pumas or ghost cats, are North America’s largest carnivores (bears are omnivores). Mountain lions are a terrifying thing to see on the trail, especially because they don’t fight fair. They are usually likely to attack a rider from behind.

These are a few tips for handling such an encounter:

1. Dismount and put your bike in front of you.
2. Look the lion straight in the eyes. (Don’t mix this up with the bear advice.)
3. If attacked, fight back with anything you have, including fists, rocks, your bike or cash.
4. Don’t forget that can of Mace, because it will be your best defense in this situation.

Don’t let those long eyelashes fool you: You’re never going to see one of these on the trails in North America. Honestly, we don’t even know why this photo was in the archives, but we liked it, so we included it anyway. This little guy is much less likely to maul you, so there’s no encounter advice needed.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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