Bike-Chasing Dogs…And Dog-Chasing Bikes

hemmelsride3By Jeff Hemmel — Let me say first, I love dogs. Truth be told I’m not so big on cats, but dogs are my kind of pet. Just not when they’re chasing me on my bike.

Most of the time, that’s not an issue. Leash laws and traffic combine to make things pretty quiet animal-wise on my typical ride. Every summer, however, I get the chance to escape to the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY. And while I absolutely love the climbs, the scenery, and the lack of traffic, I don’t like the increase in furry friends I encounter during the course of my ride.

About two weeks ago, I was just beginning the steep, lengthy climb back home when a particularly ferocious dog seemingly came out of nowhere. The dog’s timing couldn’t have been better. Given the abrupt steepness of the hill, I couldn’t outrun him. The road was also narrow and I was approaching a blind curve, meaning I didn’t want to chance making a turn and speeding back downhill. I had no time to grab my water bottle and give him a squirt, and was sure if I attempted to slow and unclip I’d either let him take a chomp or fall. With every turn of the pedals my calf inched closer to dog chow.

So I let instinct take over. I yelled. Then, unable to speed away, I hit the brakes, causing the dog to briefly shoot past. I can’t call what happened next any masterful plan – it was more like pure rage. But I planted my front wheel right on the dog’s tail, like Lance pouncing on Bradley Wiggins. Muttley veered left and I followed. He veered right and I followed again. The look on the dog’s face was sweet revenge, as he clearly didn’t like the idea that my spinning tire was not threatening to take a bite out of his miserable behind. Yes, it would have been a disastrous fall had I actually hit him, but all I could think of at the time was how delighted I was to be turning the tables. Instead of a dog chasing a bike, this was now a bike chasing a dog. Take that, canine.

It worked, albeit briefly. The dog finally broke away, and I rode past, stringing together a combination of curse words that I don’t think even a linguistics professor could decipher. As the dog sat down, I turned my attention back up the road. And that’s when I heard the unsettling sound of nails against pavement.

Yup, the angry pup was answering the bell for Round Two, and I hadn’t even had the chance to rest up in my corner. This time around I lunged for the water bottle, almost wiping out in the process. Problem was he was now attacking from behind, so every twist to see where he was caused me to wobble dangerously in the road. Eventually he made a lunge, and I got him with a decent squirt. One more and he ended the chase.

In the moments that followed, the reality of what had happened began to set in. Fortunately no cars had come along at the same time. I’d hate to think what could have happened had I been worried about both the dog and traffic. I also began to think about how close I came to falling while frantically twisting from side to side to track the dog once he attacked again from behind. I was furious…and scared.

And wondering what to do the next time around. I’m sure fellow Noob readers have had similar close calls. Any suggestions? I’m wondering about keeping a small air horn in my jersey pocket. Think a deafening blast at close range would scare him off?

Does anyone bottle the scent of a vet’s office?

The RunFar Time Trial

Every other Tuesday from April – September, a company called RunFar puts on a time trial in Austin. It’s an 8.12-mile course along the Mopac loop that I ride so often. But this, as they say, is the “Ride of Truth.” Riders are welcome to come out and see how they stack up against their goals, their previous personal bests, or that character who shows up all the time, and always seems to get the better of you.

I rode the time trial in May, and I’ll do it again next month. But in the meantime, I took a video camera out to this week’s event, and maybe was able to capture some of the atmosphere. Cameo appearance by my friend David at the end.  Temperature: 102°F (39°C).