Saturday, 2 August 2008

Urban Cycling Stories

I caught an episode of The Montel Williams Show this morning, (an American chat show on ITV3 for the majority who have probably never heard of it - and it's my job to watch it ok!) and as a picture of two women on mountain bikes was shown, I turned the sound up. We went into the commercial break and I noticed the theme of the show was "When Animals Attack", hmmm, this could be interesting.

When I first went out to ride in California I heard a horrific story about a mountain lion that had attacked some cyclists on the trail - this couldn't be the same story could it?

Back to the show and Montel was talking to Anne. She'd been out riding with her friend Debbie one day on their local trails somewhere in America. Anne had ridden ahead slightly and came across a man who had stopped in an inconvenient place on the trail and was holding a second bike. He asked Anne if she knew whose bike it was because he'd just found it lying by the side of the trail. Anne thought he was joking and that his mate must be somewhere in the bushes answering a call of nature, and rode on.

A hundred yards on, just around the next corner, a 120lb mountain lion pounced on the back of Anne and bit down on her head and cycling helmet, dragging her to the floor. The cat was constantly readjusting its grip and grabbed onto Anne's cheek, tearing it partially off. At this point Debbie came around the corner and heard her friend's screams. A 'tug-of-war' ensued, as they described it, with the lion trying to drag Anne down into the gorge by her face, and Debbie desperately clinging onto her legs! Some more people came to help and threw whatever they could find at the cat to get it to let go. Finally it did, and ran off.

Anne was air lifted to hospital, and as the helicopter took off the pilot spotted another body, the owner of the abandoned bike. The mountain lion was hunted down that night and shot, only to find that it had attacked and killed the other rider, Mark Reynolds, earlier on that morning before the attack on Anne.

It's easy to forget just how easy we have it riding bikes in the UK sometimes; apart from our own stupidity and maybe the odd nutter, there's nothing we really have to worry about. I often pop out for a ride, especially in the summer, in shorts and t-shirt with just a water bottle and a basic tool kit safe in the knowledge that my life isn't in danger.

I'm sure this complacency will bite me in the arse one day. It's come close a few times (especially the Downieville incident a few years ago!) and for a while I will make sure I take food, a long sleeve top, first aid kit, space blanket and other sundry essentials with me on every ride. A dozen rides later and I'm back to the minimum.

I'm heading out to California again in a few weeks so this was a poignant reminder to retrieve a few survival essentials from my winter walking rucksack and throw them in my Camelbak. You never know what might happen...

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