After Saturday’s hot ride in the hills, on Sunday Stoker and I decided to do a completely flat and relatively short ride from home. From our house there are quiet country roads in all directions and we found a nice 32 mile loop without any back tracking required. Or stopping either; traffic was so light that we never had to put a foot down once for the entire 2 hours of riding.
As we turned off of Cox Road and onto the delightful east end of Baker Road (lovely shade and smooth as glass pavement), Stoker reached down for her water bottle, even though she wasn’t thirsty. She was assuming her role as tail gunner.
Cyclists complain about aggressive, distracted, or careless drivers. But on a quiet Sunday morning in the Linden area countryside, we are much more likely to have an incident with man’s best friend, who is not always so friendly toward cyclists.
The most serious injuries ever suffered by one of my riding friends were the result of a run in with a dog. Paul was descending Chili Camp Road behind another rider, something he has done dozens of times. No one had ever seen a dog on this stretch of road, but suddenly one appeared and chased the rider in front of Paul. Then the dog suddenly veered in front of him and stopped, and Paul crashed hard. Some crashes are at least partly the rider’s fault, but not this one; Paul was riding safely and there was absolutely nothing he could have done to avoid this except not be on his bike. His injuries were serious but thankfully not life threatening, although he had to endure several days of hospitalization and a long recovery. If he had not been wearing a helmet he might have had severe brain damage or even died. You have been warned.
Stoker was pulling out her bottle because a few weeks back we were chased by a fairly aggressive barking dog along this stretch of road. Every cyclist has their own method of dealing with these unrestrained and uncontrolled animals. Mine is to yell ‘Bad Dog!’ loudly enough to strain my vocal cords. ‘Go Home!’ is another verbal defense. I actually got bit while riding once, badly enough to require 6 stiches. So I really put a fortissimo effort into it. One thing I learned from that bite; if you can’t outsprint the dog and he gets close to you, stop pedaling, and if necessary dismount and try to get the bike between you and the mutt. Dogs will snap at your pedaling legs because they are in motion and resemble a rabbit or squirrel that they want to catch.
Another good technique that usually stops the dog in his tracks is to spray water at him/her. When I’m riding my single bike this can be a bit of a trick; the dog is running beside me and barking and I must steer with one hand, avoiding him or any other riders around, while reaching down to grab my bottle from its cage and shoot a stream of water his/her way. But on the tandem Stoker is in charge of dog deterrence tactics and this allows me to keep both hands on the bar and (hopefully) keep the CoMotion under control. She was taking no chances and arming herself in anticipation of an encounter. Her preparation proved unnecessary; the dog did not appear.
On this Sunday spin, we did meet a dog on Walnut Road accompanied by two young kids on a skateboard and a scooter. We approached the big bounding German Shepherd cautiously, and Stoker got her bottle ready. He wasn’t at all aggressive but he did lope along beside us for a while, a little too close and unpredictable for comfort. Diane asked the kids his name and they said ‘Bruiser’, which was not exactly reassuring. Eventually we were able to get past safely and ride away without incident.
Stoker and I love dogs, and anyone who follows us on Facebook knows how our dog Luke owns his peoples’ hearts. But sometimes when we are out on our bike we wish some dog owners would take the county leash law seriously.