Friday Group Ride #474

Friday Group Ride #474

It wasn’t the first thing she told me, which struck me as very odd, because if I had a story like that, I think it would be the first thing I said to everyone I met. Instead we exchanged  pleasantries and went about our business pretty casually, only eventually to have her say, “Oh, I tripped over a racoon yesterday.”

She is my trail running friend, and I am often impressed by her drive to run all the trails in all the weather and all the conditions. It had been dark, pre-dawn, and also pouring rain. Her headlamp began to give out after the first mile, but she ran onward, only to kick something soft in the trail and spill over forwards onto all fours, at which point she looked back to find an angry, growling racoon staring back at her. Do racoons gravel? Maybe startled, wet, kicked ones do.

I was immediately reminded of two other events, both of which occurred to cyclists I know.

One weekend morning I arrived home from some youth sporting event to find my neighbor on his front steps nursing at a scrape on his elbow. What happened, I asked, assuming he’d fallen off his bike somehow. Turns out he’d been off on a solo ride, when all of a sudden a deer burst from behind a tree right next to the road. He t-boned it and went over the bars. This I did not believe at first, but then he asked me to check out his bike, so I did, and what I found was fur stuck in his levers, actual tufts of fur.

His wife asked how the deer had reacted. “It was out of sight by the time I hit the pavement,” he answered.

Then there was Mike, riding casually down the bike path. All of us have this experience of riding along and encountering squirrels, little brown balls of fluff darting across in front of us. Some people I know have even run over them. But Mike didn’t. His squirrel had the unfortunate luck to be caught in Mike’s spokes and decapitated, its tiny head fully severed from its body, and Mike sprawled on the ground with his bike in a heap.

I have been hit by cars, and I have hit cars, but I have never had an encounter like any of those above. Somehow I’ve never run over my dog while mountain biking, though he (and his predecessor) certainly put themselves in harms way more than enough times.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is your strangest encounter on the bike? Maybe you hit a person? Or an armadillo? You ran over a snake? Or bought a tire and tube from a sentient aardvark?

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  1. Ethan

    Getting chased by a buffalo, believe it or not they are faster than my going downhill. Other times they just stand in the middle of the road like they own the place.

    1. Steven Down

      Deer scavenging in a rubbish bag at close to midnight outside a caravan is startled by man on mountain bike ride returning from post group ride session in the pub. Deer bolts but has to run towards the mtber who in turn is now startled. Deer quickly realised the trap, veers right so they are now headed in same direction down a gentle slope. But mtber is going faster and lodges deer’s rump under right bar end for what seems like a few seconds. Mtber panic brakes; deer is released. Mtber holds the bike up, makes in home, tells family and friends all of whom ask how much he’d been drinking that night. Deer returns home and tells family who universally agree “bloody cyclists!”

  2. Chris Constantino

    I hit a bird in flight. It was a small sparrow that flew in front of my front wheel. I rolled right over it. I was going too fast to know what its ultimate fate was. I doubt it was good.

  3. Mike

    I ran over a little rabbit, going downhill I see it running along the side of the road, at the last second it decides to run across my bows. I’m pretty sure with the crunch that I heard it was a quick death.

    1. Miles Archer

      That reminds me of another one. I had a squirrel run along side my road bike and get right underneath my cranks. He ran along for a moment and I was trying to figure out what to do. Then he found a gap and bolted out the other side.

  4. Alanm

    Riding down a long straight farm road on a quiet sunday morning. Up ahead in my line is a dark object, probably a carcass, I file it away and move left after checking for cars. Fifty feet and closing fast I see it is a carcass….with a buzzard on top of it. Before I can swerve he sees me and hell breaks loose. Massive wings open and he leaps straight up, catching his claws in the cables on my handlebar. Now I’m blind, coasting with his body in my face and his wings frantically beating the sides of my head. After 20 hours or maybe 10 seconds he gets untangled and flies off. Back in control I stop and look back. He’s sitting on a tree branch, looking unhurt and eyeing me. We’re both trying to process what the F just happened. I pick a few pieces of dead meat out of my cables and ride on. I assume he does about the same.

  5. Miles Archer

    I was doing a triathalon in Marin County near China Camp State Park about 5 years ago. I was on the bike leg that winds around the hills next to the bay. It was early in the morning and the road was damp. I came around a corner and suddenly there was a small buck in middle of the blacktop. I was startled, got down hard on my brakes and nearly went over. The deer was startled too and did the Scooby-Do running fast without going anywhere thing, his hooves sliding over the slick pavement. He eventually got hooked up and bounded away. As I skidded to a stop, all I could see was his antlers. They weren’t big, but boy would they have done some damage.

  6. Aar

    I got deer fur caught in my road brake levers without going down. The deer tried to cross the road in front of a group of us who were flying downhill. It’s hooves slipped on the pavement and she stumbled as we all slid off the backs of our saddles and braked as hard as we could. She got off the road before we reached her. I was on the side the deer was headed for and must’ve stopped braking just as I was clipping her tail.

    It was in Bedminster, NJ of all places.

    1. Lyford

      I’ve had a close calls with grouse or wild turkeys exploding out of the roadside brush just a few feet in front of me.

      I hate seeing critters get hit, so I’ll usually stop for turtles or snakes and help them off the road.

  7. Zach Owen

    Kansas – 2013. Training on gravel for DK early one morning. Out on some backroads as the sun was rising. The combination of low light, enough tempo to generate warmth, and a brain still clearing the cobwebs of slumber meant I wasn’t attuned to my surroundings. I noticed motion up ahead on my right. Assumed it was a stray cat or dog. As I got closer I realized it was a skunk and was now fully awake, and utterly unaware of the recommended tactics for not alarming the critter. I wasn’t nearly as concerned about a possible kinetic interaction as much as I was an aromatic interaction. Fortunately it let me by without incident, for which I was grateful. But nowhere near as grateful as my family and coworkers were.

  8. Dave M

    I was riding some singletrack in the dark early one morning and an owl was flying about 6 feet above me using my headlight on my helmet see. He rode with me for about 200 feet before he flew into the trees. Very cool experience.

  9. Kimball

    On a cycling vacation a couple summers ago in central Oregon with a couple of buddies, after a great morning ride and breakfast, we headed back to our rental house on a very windy paved cycling trail through the woods. The sun was out making for dappled light that made it a bit hard to see but I was aware of lots of squire activity on the forest floor as they hunted for nuts to stash for the winter. I heard laughing from Ben and Pete behind me and when we got to the house Ben who was right behind me asked me, “didn’t you feel something back there”? I really hadn’t but apparently a squirrel had tried to jump through my back wheel and had gotten launched about 20 feet straight up, landed next to the trail and ran off. Ben who was close behind saw it all, but Pete, who was slightly further back, just saw the squirrel come down and was wondering “what the hell”?

  10. Chuck

    I’ve hit a deer motorcycle riding. Totalled the m/c and killed bambi. But walked away from it unscathed (thanks to full race leathers with armor inserts).

  11. David Noble

    On a pre-dawn ride to work I saw a coyote on the other side of the road. It ran beside and behind me for over half a mile. I was not sure of its intentions. The road was low uphill grade and I was not distancing the coyote, and he was not giving up. Eventually in an area with a street light I swung off the bike and put bike between me and coyote. A passing car saw the scene and stopped; I dove into car. My panic state and sweat fogged windows of car. Eventually coyote left, but not before he left teeth marks in the bike seat. Friends at work asked what the coyote was thinking. I told them the coyote declined to participate in post-event interviews and would not sign the disclaimer.

  12. TomInAlbany

    I have a friend that woke up in the ER after a deer jumped out from the side of the road and into a group of club riders. He had to be told what happened. To recall whatsoever.

  13. KG

    I’ve had many encounters with wildlife, but my most interesting few have been with people. I commute along the Mississippi river north of down town St Louis. I could write several posts about strange encounters, but the one that sticks out was an evening commute. I saw a group of people gathered on the trail north of some abandoned buildings. As I got closer I noticed that there were professional lights, cameras, and loud rap music coming from large speakers on wheeled carts. There was one guy facing the camera rapping with many scantily clad ladies dancing around him. I wasn’t sure at all how to move through the group, so I just slowed and picked a line. I was midway through the group next to the guy rapping along to the music, when a guy in suit put his hands up signaling me to stop. Right as I put a foot down, he signaled me again to dance along with the guy rapping. I don’t dance. I pushed myself forward out of the shot after pausing for a second to take it all in. The director of the video told me that I was great. So I have a cameo in a rap video now. The director in the suit told me the name of the rapper, and I forgot it by the time I got home to tell my wife. I’ve always wondered if I made the final cut. My team kit did match well with the ladies dancing, so I’m hopeful.

  14. KPG

    I was about nine years old, was riding with friends, and had my hands filled with cat tail seed pods (don’t ask, I was nine). A beagle started chasing us and ran in front of me. Front wheel over the dog and I was on the pavement. Not sure where the dog went but I remounted and rode away. Nine year olds and steel bikes from the fifties are almost indestructible.

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