Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are Michael Paul’s alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

The world can be a dangerous place. As you venture into the wild, sometimes alone, many of you may ask yourselves, “should I carry something to protect myself in case something happens to me?” The answer is: yes… probably. It is better to have something and not need it, than need something and not have it. This article isn’t about gun rights or the 2nd Amendment, but about being prepared to defend yourself in the unlikely event something happens to you while riding your mountain bike.

I realize this is a polarizing subject, and has the potential to generate controversy in some circles, but this is a genuine topic. My intent is to spark discussion, and hopefully educate riders about why it is a good idea to be prepared in the backcountry, or on any trail that may be dangerous.

It is not uncommon for me to ride in the backcountry for hours and never encounter another human being. Protecting yourself is a good idea.

It is not uncommon for my friends and I to ride in the backcountry for hours and never encounter another human being. You should not ride alone and we all know this, but we still all do this at times. Dangers are still present for small groups too, so protecting yourself is a good idea.

First of all, arming yourself does not mean that you have to carry a firearm. In fact, it does not mean that you have to carry a weapon of any kind if you ride smart. If you generally ride in larger groups during the daylight in safer parts of the world, then your defense is your collective wisdom and sheer number. If, however, you tend to ride alone in very remote wilderness, then arming yourself seems like a logical, Darwinian necessity.

Truly, the initial thing riders have to consider is what they are protecting themselves from. Wildlife such as bears and mountain lions do not commonly attack riders, but they have and they will. Animals can also be aggressive when affected by diseases, such as rabies.

On the other hand, people may pose more of a threat than wildlife. I’m not talking about the belligerent hiker who fails to yield, but rather sexual predators that may be hiding in the woods, squatters on private land, or people manufacturing methamphetamines or other illegal drugs and do not want to be reported. Search the media, and you will find reports of this. Though rare, encountering these types of threats could be deadly.

I have come across quite a few bears in the wilderness. The best thing to do is remain calm, smear some honey on your riding buddy, and ride away faster than them

I have come across quite a few bears in the wilderness. The best thing to do is remain calm, smear some honey stinger gels on your riding buddies, and ride away faster than them. Steamboat Springs, CO. Photo: Mike Harris.

There is a difference between riding at night in urban areas and riding in the forest, but both have their own hazards.  Most of us hopefully associate our rides with being surrounded by the harmony of nature and away from the troubles of the metropolis. The problem is, as we encroach on the habitats of animals, we expose ourselves to a danger that no amount of Lycra can defend against. Being defenseless in the forest where only trees hear your screams is an excellent predatory environment for anyone or anything wishing to do us harm. Complacency kills, and even the familiar can be perilous, as Jeff pointed out in his night-riding article from Atlanta last year.

A bear bell worn on your person or pack is an excellent way to alert wildlife to your presence and hopefully help prevent an attack

A bear bell worn on your person or pack is an excellent way to alert wildlife to your presence and hopefully help prevent an attack. The constant jingly is a little annoying, but you get used to it, and it is better than having your face ripped off by surprised wildlife. When I don’t have one of these, I’m constantly flicking my handlebar bell.

Consider the following

  • Mountain lions kill mountain bikers–In 2004, Mark Reynolds was attacked and killed by a cougar.
  • Bears kill mountain bikers–In Alberta in 2007, a 34 year old woman was killed while riding her bike. Just recently Lance Crosby, 63, was killed and partially consumed by a grizzly in Yellowstone while hiking
  • Antelopes and deer attack bikers–in this viral video from 2011, an antelope attacked a biker on the trail
  • Moose have been reported to attack bikers–In 2014 in Kincaid, AK this moose charged a group of bikers. A similar event occurred in the same place in 2011! Another incident occurred in Montana this year, resulting in a broken arm and other injuries.
  • Squatters and drug traffickers attack bikers–Sadly, some of you may live next to a meth lab and not even know it. Many of these are in the woods, near trails, and those responsible for keeping their illicit activities secret may be willing to do anything to keep it that way. I was onced warned by a bike shop while visiting Oahu to not venture off trail for this reason. Two bikers were assaulted by squatters in 2012 and robbed near Johannesburg. Many of you may have also seen this viral video of a rider being robbed at gunpoint in 2014.
  • Hiker/Biker Animosity–Sadly, this is becoming more prevalent and can happen anywhere. There are more and more reports of hikers attacking bikers, bikers attacking hikers, and bikers attacking other bikers, often as a result of failure to yield. There are also reports of singletrack sabotage.
  • Equestrian/Biker Animosity–Though I have always had very favorable interactions with equestrian users, I occasionally hear about unfavorable ones. If you follow the Facebook page “Downhill Memes,” a user recently posted on 10/17/2015 a story about coming up on an equestrian on a dedicated downhill trail who threatened him with a gun!
It is an excellent idea to carry a whistle to signal for help or scare away wildlife. Many come standard on pack chest straps

It is an excellent idea to carry a whistle to signal for help or scare away wildlife. Many come standard on pack chest straps

There are lies, damn lies, and there are statistics.” —Mark Twain

The problem with statistics is that they are 100% if you are one of them. It is true that for most of our lives we will live in relatively little danger (thankfully), and this article is not meant to sensationalize the minority of mountain biking/hiking victims that have succumbed to predators. This article is not engineered to strike fear, but motivate preparedness. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of owning a firearm, much less using one, but there are other ways to project yourself should you encounter a threat on the trail.

Smaller versions of pepper spray easily fit into convenient places on hydration packs and accessed quickly

Smaller versions of pepper spray easily fit into convenient places on hydration packs and can be accessed quickly. This is something that you can take on any ride, even around the neighborhood, and leave it in your pack at all times just in case. Test them regularly and keep them clean though… they clog easily and won’t spray.

Tips for riding safely

  1. Be prepared–The most dangerous weapon you already own is your mind. Don’t put yourself in a position where you wish that you had done something differently. Trust your gut. If something or someone doesn’t seem right, it probabaly isn’t. Don’t ride alone if possible. Tell others where you are going, and when you will be back.
  2. Use a Bear Bell–Just like it is a good idea to ring a bell to alert hikers, it’s an even better idea to have a jingly bell that alerts wildlife
  3. Carry Pepper Spray or Bear Spray–It is rare that I ride alone in remote places, but sometimes it is the only way to get a long ride in. Even when I am riding where there are lots of people, I usually carry pepper spray.
  4. Consider a firearm in certain places–When I am riding deeper in the backcountry in a small group, one of us usually carries a small .45 (where permitted) even if there are 2-3 of us. To my knowledge, there are no documented bear attacks on humans who are in groups of 4 people or more, but better safe than sorry. Bear attacks are more common in remote areas, of course, such as national parks or deep backcountry such as Alaska or BC. Cougars usually only attack solo riders, but they attack from behind, so you may need to access your gun quickly in order to defend yourself. One of my female friends carries a revolver for this reason, so she does not have to worry about chambering a round if she only has one free hand because a cat is munching on the other one.
  5. cc5c73c00c5837063315ccb0a6e945bbConsider local laws–If you are considering a firearm for any reason, know the law. In Colorado, it is illegal to carry in Open Spaces but legal in National Parks. Regulations vary by state, but vary even more widely by municipality. You can actually open carry in much of Colorado, for example, (visible on your hip), but not in cities or municipalities such as Denver (where you can still carry concealed with a permit). Violators are typically punished by fines, but offenses may carry jail time in places such as New York. I cannot condone this personally, but I know riders who say that paying a small fine is preferable to losing their life in a wildlife attack or assault. As adults, I leave it to you to accept the consequences of your decisions, but I suggest following local laws. Here is an example from Jefferson County’s Open Space policy website, which encompasses a dense collection of multi-use trails in the the Colorado front range west of Denver: “Discharging or carrying firearms, crossbows, fireworks, explosives or projectile weapons of any kind are prohibited except as expressly mandated by Article 12 of Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, as amended.This includes paintball, BB, pellet, air, blow guns, rockets, crossbows, longbows and slingshots ($300 fine).”  National parks, Wilderness, BLM, and other open lands have completely different regulations. National Forest Rules generally state the following: “Discharging a firearm is always prohibited within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, occupied area, on or across a road, near or across a body of water, in a cave, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage.”
  6. Practice stringent firearm safety–If you’re packing heat, you certainly don’t want your gun going off inadvertently in your pack and injuring yourself or someone else, so don’t keep a round chambered, keep the safety on, and store it wisely if you choose to ride with one. Keep the pepper spray safety on too… power bars taste awful when laced with mace.
  7. Get trained–Owning and carrying a firearm does nothing for you if you don’t know how to use one. Practice frequently. I recommend taking a course and completing a concealed carry class if it is allowed in your state. This protects you in many areas where you can only carry a firearm concealed (i.e. a hydration pack), but also provides training and awareness of local laws. You’d be surprised how many “little old ladies” carry them in their purses or in their fanny packs while hiking. 🙂 Know which way the pepper spray fires too… speaking from personal experience, it sucks to get hit in the face with some.
Pepper sprays come in all varieties. If you expect to encounter larger wildlife such as bear, it is wise to purchase larger cans of dedicated "bear spray"

Pepper sprays come in all varieties. If you expect to encounter larger wildlife such as bear, it is wise to purchase larger cans of dedicated “bear spray”

Parting shots (pun intended)

I certainly don’t advocate that everyone carry a firearm while riding trails… in fact, that would be a terrible idea, and would be both dangerous and illegal in many areas. The purpose of this article was to shed light on the dangers that can exist to mountain bikers that we often don’t think about, because the majority of the time, mountain biking is bliss. Furthermore, I hope this piece generates a dialogue with our user base, sharing their experiences and opinions. I do advocate that, within the scope of your local laws and regulations, you arm yourself with something if you are in a position to be vulnerable (alone in the backcountry, sketchy neighborhoods, etc.).  Hikers and backpackers are encouraged to take bear spray when venturing into known bear areas, for example–why shouldn’t we, as riders, consummate the same precautions?

You didn't mean for it to do down this way but you're alone. It's cold and getting dark. You are 12 miles from your vehicle in deep wilderness. Strange sounds are stirring everywhere. It's all happened to us a time or two, but it is nice to have some piece of mind if you encounter danger.

You didn’t mean for it to go down this way, but you’re alone. It’s cold and getting dark. You are 12 miles from your vehicle in deep wilderness. Strange sounds are stirring everywhere. It’s all happened to us a time or two, but it is nice to have some peace of mind if you encounter danger.

Your Turn: How about you? Have you had any situations on the trail where you felt you needed some kind of protection? 

# Comments

  • Greg Heil

    About 3 days into my Alberta media trip last year, I noticed something interesting: every single person that I rode with, in a group of about 5 or so, had a can of bear spray strapped to their hip, easily accessible. While it looked uncomfortable EVERY SINGLE PERSON had one… besides me. After already having done a few solo rides that week, I resolved to stick close to the folks with the cans on their hips from then on 🙂

  • Jeff Barber

    Personally I will never ride with a gun but I do agree with most of your arguments. I might consider riding with pepper spray but I doubt I could get it out my pack fast enough to make it effective in most emergency situations. Heck, I have a hard enough time getting my pump out of my pack when I have a flat. 🙂

    I seem to recall hearing that there are two types of people: those who are wired for fight and those who are wired for flight. I’m definitely a flighter (and I would imagine many other bikers are too–it’s the whole idea of motion and speed.) So yeah, I have a hard time imagining standing in place to get a gun out of my pack to “fight” with a bear. My first instinct (right or wrong) will be to run.

    • Greg Heil

      So I haven’t acted on this yet (since I’m lazy and we have no grizzly bears around here), but after riding with one of these feed bags that attach to the bars, I’m totally down for getting one of these solely for carrying a can of bear spray: http://www.singletracks.com/photo.php?i=0&c=0&p=100247 Spray would be at the ready and easily within reach at all times–I agree with you that putting something IN your hydration pack makes it essentially useless 🙂

    • craZivn

      So what if someone is wired for flight, but is also really slow? Uh, just asking for a friend.

  • tomp

    I think that the idea of being prepared is very important, but I find that in this article the fear drum is being beaten a little harder than is helpful. I’m not an anti-gun fanatic, far from it. I have half a dozen guns. I think that focusing on external threats is less important than focusing on the kind of preparedness that is far more likely to matter. Having enough clothing and the right kind of clothing. Having tools and knowing how to use them. You’re much more likely to be harmed by having a mechanical you can’t fix and then subsequently getting hypothermic because you don’t have enough clothing to deal with being out longer than expected, like all night.

    I think the article way overstates the threat from wildlife. Two-legged wildlife is far more dangerous (and the article talks about threats from people), but even then, why encourage people to introduce fear to their hobby? The tacit suggestion of this article is that the world is full of threats, and more of us should consider packing heat. I call BS, and say be prepared and learn how to keep yourself safe, but don’t look to the woods with fear. As long as you keep your head on straight, that wilderness is plenty safe. Way safer than the roads you likely drive to work every day.

    • Aaron Chamberlain

      Man, I was trying to think of how to phrase my response to Paul’s article, but after your excellent comment tomp, I don’t really need to.

      Let’s say you do need a firearm to prevent an animal attack. What exactly is the scenario there? If the animal is far enough away that you have time to stop, open your pack, chamber a round, and prepare to fire, it’s probably out of the effective range for a packable pistol. And if it’s that far away, there’s no need to shoot. If a bear, cougar, whatever, drops out of a tree and onto your head, are you really going to have time to get your gun from your pack?

      And like you said, I don’t want to introduce fear into my hobby. Besides of course the fear of hitting that jump, drop, or riding in a “no fall” zone.

    • windhooverblue

      Yes, you would have time to get out your bear spray. Also, see my comment above. I was saved from a mauling by three feral dogs last year thanks to a can of pepper spray that I keep strapped to my handlebars. it all happened very fast, but I still managed to stop them dead in their tracks. As for mountain lions, check out my lil below.


    • Aaron Chamberlain

      Windhooverblue, I don’t disagree with your comment, but I was referring specifically to firearms, not bear spray.

    • Carolinadude

      Yeah, not a good idea to strap a handgun to your handlebars, lol.

    • Nancy Anderson

      Thank you for your well stated response, tomp. I 100% agree with your comments.

    • ACree

      Agree with Tom P. I’m an NRA type, but I don’t carry when riding, for a couple reasons. Guns are heavy and bulky. Carrying them in a way that is accessible while riding is very difficult, and carrying one buried in your hydro pack is useless. Pepper or bear spray is a much better idea. On a recent guided trip in Canada both of the guides on our trip had bear spray in their bottle cages. This product seems reasonable to carry in a jersey pocket http://store.kimberamerica.com/pepperblaster?SID=0bp2hubqgipj0j6utcjt3st985

      I DO think threats from humans are far more likely than animals, especially in the rural but not yet backcountry areas. The reality is that bears aren’t that hard to avoid for most of us, and cougars will kill you before you could react anyway.

    • TuacaTom

      Actually, the article is spot on for a discussion of being prepared. I live in Southern Arizona and both the Sonoran Desert and the many mountain ranges in the area have paths and meeting/drop areas used by people involved in drug dealing, human traffic/transport. I happen to ride alone 95% of the time far away from civilized help or cell phone coverage. I even came across a camp that was luckily abandoned but very near my residence in the suburbs. Staying alert and avoid areas where you get that bad vibe, no matter what you are doing, is the best defense. I would rather not tussle and shoot with anyone or anything, so being prepared but cautious is my game plan.

    • Mytchell

      Well put. Thanks for your insight.

    • craZivn

      My read of this article differed from yours quite a bit, Tomp. As a matter of fact I got exactly the same message from the article that you stated in your comment: “be prepared and learn how to keep yourself safe, but don’t look to the woods with fear.”

      It’s a matter of personal interpretation, but to me the tone of the article is about being prepared. I didn’t see the “fear” message that you did.

    • craZivn

      To Aaron, the scenario you outline is not realistic. First of all, if you’re carrying a gun, it’s not in your pack. It’s somewhere on your person and it’s already chambered (modern carry handguns are extremely safe in this configuration even if dropped, they generally have multiple safety mechanisms to prevent a discharge unless the trigger is pulled). There are only two steps: Draw and fire. Same as a can of bear spray.

      Secondly, a firearm will seldom PREVENT any attack, whether it’s from a human or animal. If you’re attacked, chances are you’re going to get hurt, maybe mauled, before you have a chance to defend yourself. But having a gun will raise your odds of SURVIVING the attack by stopping your assailant. Bear spray is probably effective most of the time, but if you get jumped by a big cat or a cranked-up drug addict, it may not stop the attack and, in a grappling situation, may leave both of you incapacitated.

      I generally don’t carry when I ride. But in the unlikely event that I’m ever attacked, I’d sure appreciate it if the rider behind me does!


  • fatlip11

    +1 on what TomP and Aaron said, I would consider one of those bags (like Greg mentioned) or some type of mount for pepper spray though if I was out in the back country.

  • Michael Paul

    Thanks for the comments guys and gals, and in light of some tragic school shootings, and even the recent Presidential executive order gun control, I realize this is a polarizing topic. I debated not writing it, but ultimately wrestled with the fact that it is a reality, people carry weapons of all types when they ride, and it is worth talking about. I submitted for publication months ago, FYI. No intention to offend. A couple of things I would like to clarify after reading the above comments, however. First, as few already mentioned: an ounce of preparedness is worth 10lbs of weapons. I stated this in my article (and several of my other articles), but it cannot be reinforced enough. Be smart, ride smart, trust your instincts. Second, this article is about all threats. I can see the point that one commenter made about animal attacks being overstated; that was not my intent. As I mentioned, animal attacks are rare, but they do happened, and I did my best to provide a few examples rather than just state they do happen. Attacks from humans, in many opinion, are more dangerous and real. Third, this article isn’t about firearms. In fact, as I put in my closing paragraph: “I certainly don’t advocate that everyone carry a firearm while riding trails… in fact, that would be a terrible idea”. I took examples of many self defense items, such as pepper spray, knives, etc… but the editor chose to put a photo of a firearm as the article thumbnail…which is fine. We don’t need to tiptoe around the mention of guns and bikes–you can see from the comments that a lot of riders have guns when they ride (one of the reasons that prompted me to write this piece)–in fact more than you can imagine…but I’ll say it again: the overwhelming majority of people do not need to carry a firearm when you ride. IF you ride in remote places, unarmed, then you are prey…simple as that…and you have no way to defend yourself. That is your prerogative. I choose to fight, as Jeff says, and I’ve had to before, because I ride in some very remote and potentially dangerous places…and love it. It has nothing to do with being an American (yes I am, and proud of it), I know riders from all over the world that own, use, and ride with firearms. You’d be a fool to ride in certain places without one. Bottom line: if you ride in remote wilderness, I DO recommend bear spray and a bear bell…it’s just common sense. Thanks again for reading…happy trails and be safe

  • Aaron Couch

    I’m concerned the focus of this article is more about getting attention than sharing relevant and useful information.

    Even worse, it’s sharing MISinformation:

    “I have come across quite a few bears in the wilderness. The best thing to do is remain calm, smear some honey stinger gels on your riding buddies, and ride away faster than them.”

    The best thing to do is not run at all and use bear spray.

    As a wildlife and mountain biking advocate, I can’t stand to see this kind of misinformation shared which could threaten either a mountain biker and/or a wild animal.

    The first sentence of the 3rd paragraph should have been in the FIRST paragraph. People determine the focus of the article very quickly, so if you’re talking about all ways to be armed, include that immediately as to not create confusion… Unless, of course, your focus IS on creating debate and confusion instead of sharing useful information.

    Furthermore, it seemed there wasn’t a lot of physical weight put on WHY you should be armed, but rather more was put into “scary statistics”. If people want to carry a firearm, then great! Fine! But how about clearly laying out the alternatives which can be just as effective or MORE effective in some cases.

    Thanks for taking my constructive criticism.

    • Greg Heil

      Hey Aaron, thanks for the comment. Obviously, the sentence you quoted was included as a form of comic relief while discussing an otherwise serious topic. Also, it’s worth noting that the author didn’t set this up as a “Should you arm yourself? Pros vs cons” article but rather as an, “here’s my opinion, take it or leave it.” For anything else, I’m sure Michael can respond directly. Cheers!

    • Scott_Beard

      I love how people saw only one word in the entire article “gun”.
      He discusses large groups and your mind being the BEST defense for all situations, duh. Beyond that it’s other things to consider and why. You were more reasonable than many but still only saw gun. There is other good info to consider here than guns.
      A whole other article could be on safety for accidents -maybe 2-3. But this was clearly directed at external threats.

  • Maureen Gaffney

    The best way to avoid getting hurt is to stay home. Mountain biking is dangerous. But then again, the single most dangerous thing we do is DRIVE A CAR. I am a woman and common wisdom has it that I shouldn’t hike or bike alone cause I might get assaulted. Well F$#@*% it. I will never stay home from a hike or a bike ride for this reason. NEVER. We had a recent trailside killing here in Fairfax next to a trail our whole community rides and hikes all the time. Meth heads. Horrible. Totally random. Much like car accidents, except WAY less common. I don’t ride alone on outback or gnarly trails, but that’s just for crash reasons. My understanding is that a huge percentage of firearm related deaths/injuries result from the weapon being turned on its owner. Bear/pepper spray and/or bell? Absolutely! Firearms? An affront to the soul of the sport. In my opinion.

    • Davey Simon

      The county still hasn’t done anything about the homeless camp that the meth heads spent the night in before the killing on Gunshot FR. They had already killed a woman in S.F. before they somehow made their way to the Fairfax homeless camp. Haven’t you been to the 7-11 on SFD in the morning? There is quite the colony. Have you followed up on how the Marin County D.A. is handing the case you mentioned? It’s very interesting.

      There is another homeless camp in Marinwood, where the old “graveyard” jumps used to be. Drug manufacture/distribution/sale, human waste, trash. They even set up a meth head “lean to”. Apparently the kids who dig still consider this area “hot”. So it sound like the Sheriff and MCOSD are still willing to roll hard on the kids who enjoy jumping, but they wont bother with real issues.

      You forgot about the 2nd murder here in Marin County Parks preserve property. The survailance cameras were all pointing up the hill trying to catch the Novato endurobro crew. I guess law enforcement still caught one of the murder suspects. Did you hear they almost cut one of the victims heads off? With a machete?

      But for once. I agree with you about something. Cycling and firearms don’t mix. With the exception of police or military (if there are any military units that still employ bikes). Or maybe bikepack/hunting during deer season? Simply being able to ride away from whatever the issue is the obvious advantage to the cyclist.

  • adventeur

    Some good points, however a gun is absolutely unnecessary for mountain biking. If you are attacked by a mountain lion you will never have the chance to pull out a gun and aim it. The world is generally a safe place unless like you said you are part of the 100% static where something bad did occur in which case a handgun is not going to improve those odds.
    I am far more worried about lightning than my fellow man. As for animals, bear spray will do.

    • lakecityrider

      Odds of being struck by lightning:
      USA population = 280,000,000, 1000 lightning victims/year/average,
      Odds = 1 : 280,000 of being struck by lightning

      Odds of being a victim of a violent crime:
      Males are victimized more than females, but not by much (18.4 vs. 15.8) per thousand. There are big differences per crime category; more men are victims of robbery and serious assault, the rates for simple assault are virtually identical, more women are raped.
      Odds = 18 : 1,000

    • adventeur

      lol those statistics mean absolutely nothing. Ever been stuck on a peak in a storm? or in the middle of nowhere on a bike? Not really worried about someone robbing out in the forest. Also for the violent crime statistics to be relevant it would need to have occurred while riding a bike! Seeing all that includes domestic abuse, gang violence and a plethora of other situations your are not going to encounter on the Whole Enchilada.

    • Lectropop

      Odds of lightning strike on the whole population may be pretty low, but it doesn’t consider risk groups. Your odds of being struck by lightning are likely much higher if you are a roofer, a golfer, a farmer, someone who rides a bike on a mountain peak, or someone who lives in Florida. Just like the North American odds of being attacked by a cougar are low on average, doesn’t take into account whether you live in Nebraska or Vancouver Island.

  • coot271

    Why is it that some get their panties in a bunch when someone brings up guns?? If you want to carry one with you, GREAT! If not, GREAT! We deal with the repercussions of our decisions. I dont believe Mr. Paul has any underlying meanings, just what he feels. I for one think it is a good idea, especially in urban areas where the human factor would be more of an issue as opposed to an animal. On that note, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Sullivan. A pistol is only a brick when it is not chambered with a round and worse if the user has not properly trained himself in with the proper usage/tactics. Practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. Be familiar with carry laws where you are/plan on riding. The mindset has to be there as well……could you take the life of a human being in defense of yourself or others? Are you prepared to live with that? Difficult questions, but something that must be addressed….and it goes for anyone carrying anytime or anywhere.

    Mr. Sullivan also brings up the holster situation…..yes indeed, research is key…..find something that protects/covers the trigger area to prevent an accidental discharge….there are some good ones out there.

    • Carolinadude

      As long as you’re safety conscious then you’re correct, you and you alone deal with the repercussions. But given the spotty record of irresponsible gun owners it shouldn’t be a surprise that people are worried about you folks having your guns accidentally go off on the trail, or when you take a spill, which could put the rest of us in danger. Who’s to say, after all, that those trigger covers are going to hold given a bad wipeout, or even that those who carry guns on the trails will even use them? Hell yeah we’re concerned. Got kids who go mountain biking with you, dude? If you did then you’d understand why some of us are concerned.

  • Corey Maddocks

    The most important question, which no one has raised, is how many grams do you gain from a loaded .45?

    • ACree

      approaching two pounds for 1911 style.

    • Aaron Chamberlain

      It’s more than that for a 1911. They’re typically around 2.5 pounds, and that’s unloaded. Add bullets and it’s going to be well over 3 pounds.

  • Carolinadude

    Or how many grams do you lose when your loaded .45 accidentally discharges and blows your pedals off 😉

  • mongwolf

    Obviously the degree of protection needed for a ride or hike depends on the region you are in and familiarity of the locale and its dangers. I agree cougars are pretty much a non-issue because they attack from above primarily or behind without warning. Attacks by black bear in North America are so rare that they are hardly a concern, but a slight one. I have encountered dozens of black bear in the forest in my career with no issue. If you are in grizzly bear country, now you have to more serious consideration. Professional foresters spending hours in the Alaskan wilderness oftentimes carry a bear gun with them … and this is not a pistol. =) If you are in polar bear country the concern level is even higher. Living in Mongolia, I am not infrequently alone in wilderness areas with an aggressive black bear species and many wolves. IMO, I probably should carry a gun, but I do not. I do carry two metals bowls that make a very annoying loud noise and a also a whistle in case I cannot back out of a situation quietly. I should probably start carrying bear spray also. But in all the hours I have spent in wilderness areas (but non-grizzly country) and with many encounters, I have never had a truly threatening issue. So preparation without fear is probably the right recipe in many areas. Now the worst encounters I have had are with feral dogs in the Midwest. One should assume that he or she is in immediate danger if you meet these animals in the woods. These encounters though few are often quite aggressive as many can attest to. Fortunately county sheriffs and Fish and Game personnel can usually handle sitings promptly and decisively.

    • Carolinadude

      Yeah, I wrote a comment about that above. It’s a problem along the backroads of western North Carolina for sure. That’s why I carry bear mace, which stops feral dogs dead in their tracks. Also, studies have shown that bear mace is more effective on black bear and grizzlies than smaller caliber guns–the sort of guns you’re going to be able to reasonably carry with you on a your mountain bike. A .45 handgun will only piss a charging grizzly off and will offer you little in the way of protection. And bear mace weighs a whole lot less than a .44 Magnum.

    • amercycprod

      I ride both on the road and off, sometimes with my two daughters. Most of the time, I am armed as protection against two and four legged animals. And yes, my girls are is familiar with firearm safety and proficient in use. As to an earlier reply by Carolinadude, guns don’t discharge accidentally and aren’t going to blow off your pedals. Most gun owner are responsible and carry appropriately and safely with almost no likelihood of an accidental discharge. You run a greater risk of being hit by an irresponsible cyclist going the wrong way on the trail.

      Become informed and possibly learn firearm fundamentals. It could save your life. In the meantime, responsible firearms owners will protect you…

  • cleebeauregard

    For anyone who’s never seen or heard of this particular device, I can’t recommend it highly enough for this particular application: the Kimber Pepperblaster


    Unlike traditional mace or pepper spray, this actually uses a charge to propel a stream of concentrated pepper gel up to 15 feet. I carry mine in a side jersey pocket, due to an inordinate number of large, unfriendly, and unleashed dogs in the area I ride. I’ve only had to use it once, when I was surprised by a German Shepherd and the dog was simply too close and I was in too high a gear for me to be able sprint away. Let’s just say that it was VERY, VERY effective and stopped the animal in it’s tracks from about 15 feet away. I have no desire whatsoever to be cruel to anything, man or beast, but when it comes down to either my being nasty or having a chunk taken out of my leg, well…sorry Fido.

    • Carolinadude

      My bear spray shots 30 feet.

  • john526

    My initial reaction to this article was of amazement, amazement that anyone would ever consider being armed, but since i live in the UK my world view and need is totally different. So it has been an eye opener reading the article and the comments.

    My reason for posting is to relay a bit of information that may or may not be of interest. A few years ago i watched a documentary about villagers in India trying to cope with tiger attacks whilst out foraging for firewood. The researchers solution was to get the villagers to wear a mask of a face on their backs which confused the tigers, the tiger could never seem to get behind the person which is where they prefer to attack from. Cougars by all accounts do much the same. Hope this might be a useful idea to someone.

    Happy riding.

    • Michael Paul

      It is sadly predictable to see some of the comments, particularly since most of them tend to gravitate towards gun issues. It has been interesting reading them, and very educational to read non-US readers post their views. I appreciate the comments, and I respect other people’s views. I want people to be safe when they ride, first and foremost using their mind and their wits. Sometimes situations require more. There is a bastardized GI-Joe cartoon saying that always makes me chuckle: Knowing is half the battle–the other half is violence. So true, if you’ve ever spent time in the “real world”. For better or worse, so many of us have not. Many of us sit aloft our carbon-fiber perches debating and complaining about first-world problems, when the reality is, right now, bad things are happening around the world as you read this. A woman is being raped. A child is being abused. A murder is occurring. People are being sold into slavery. That is the “real world”, the ugly part of it at least, and I would posit that most of us mountain bike to escape the worry of all of that. Sadly, however, we cannot even come together as a community and listen, digest, and respect one another. We are primed to shout our pre-position. The world, including mountain biking, is a dangerous place. There is no harm to responsibly protect yourself.

  • Sonofagun

    Great post, too many people opening their mouths in the comment section though…

    IF you feel your life is worth defending and IF you feel there is anything you might need to defend it from and IF you are willing to do so, this article and this post is for you. All others need not apply.

    Some people wear helmets, some don’t. Some use strobes, some don’t. Some people are allergic to pepperspray so it may not be the best idea for them but hey, knock yourself out. You can’t know what situation someone is going to find themselves in, just because YOU don’t have the knowledge, skills or capability to defend yourself doesn’t mean it is completely fruitless for everyone.

    I am a firearms instructor, I specialize in self defense. For most people out there on the trails the quickest, easiest and most effective self-defense tool is: http://www.amazon.com/UST-Marine-20-310-019-M-Hear-Me-Whistle/dp/B00HB3EMN0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1452166088&sr=8-4&keywords=emergency+whistle

    That’s right, a whistle. It weighs nothing, can be worn around the neck or attached to clothing/camelback straps and will DETER (not stop) a non-determined threat. It also doubles as being good for being lost and getting found.

    Secondly, a lightweight collapsible baton. Effectively, a stick. Relatively no skill or training required so long as it is stored somewhere you can access it. This is going to be effective against the majority of human threats. Human predators want an easy target and usually that’s not going to be someone on a bike anyways, but hey, if defense is a concern and you want to do something, it’s an option.

    Sprays: a warning. If you use them beware of collateral damage, meaning you. Wind direction, how much you spray or if you are even pointing in the right direction can incapacitate you just as much as anyone/thing else. But they are lightweight, easily stored on handlebars ready for immediate use.

    Knives: Most pocket knives are tools first and self defense weapons last, but if push comes to stab…

    Which brings me to my next point, it is prudent to, whenever possible, use the LEAST amount of “force” necessary to de-escalate the situation. Sometimes a whistle, a pocket knife being brandished or just running away can be completely adequate.

    And lastly guns. It takes a special kind of stupid to mess with someone with a gun, which is why banks have been robbed and pants have been soiled with nothing more than a finger pointed underneath a sweat shirt, though not a tactic I’d stake my life on. If the bike mounted police officers can ride with a gun on their hip, why can’t you? Off-body carry is generally frowned upon because you have less direct control over the weapon, your bag may get left behind, stolen from your vehicle or person, but likely you aren’t about to misplace the inseam around your waist. Guns come in many shapes and sizes and even the lowly .22lr has enough “stoping power” to incapacitate a human (though it would have to be the shot of the century to take out a grizzly). Carry appropriate to your skill, comfort and threat level.

    For those of you who need not apply, if your knickers are in a twist I urge you to bear in mind this is the highly edited version, attempts to not personally attack or belittle anyone in particular were made and I already know full well I’m an asshole… carry on.

    • mongwolf

      Great comments. As I mentioned in my post, I have carried a whistle for years. It is a great next step if backing out of situation quietly isn’t going to work. A .22 on a grizzly … … not “the shot of the century” … … but the shot of all history … … it just “ain’t goin’ a do it”. Last I knew the “grizzly gun” professional workers carry in Alaskan grizzly country first uses a heavy duty “shot” shell (shot gun pellet shell) aimed at the face to deter but not kill the charging bear. The second shot is a large caliber bullet aim just below the head. So if the first shot doesn’t stop the bear, you just lower your aim a small amount and pull trigger again. If that doesn’t work, well, you do other things including pray.

      In most areas where most mountain bike in the US, I bet the two greatest threat are other people (conflicts) and feral dogs. The third greatest threat is the Federal Government LOL which is no longer limited as directed by the constitution.

  • jeepmudder

    Excellent article!
    “The most dangerous weapon you already own is your mind” LOVE IT!

    Just being aware and prepared can make all the difference.
    Typically while biking I carry an expandable steel baton. It collapses to about 8″ long and can bring a would of hurt to anyone or anything that approaches with ill intent. Fortunately there are no bears in Kansas.

    Whatever you do to protect yourself, GET TRAINING!!!

  • nreamer

    Your Turn: How about you? Have you had any situations on the trail where you felt you needed some kind of protection?

    Yes, week before last. Riding alone, on a Tuesday, isolated area in a National Forest. At the end of the ride, I was tired, wet and muddy. I decided to ride back to the car on the road. Again, very isolated area. No houses, no signs of nearby habitation. Was riding relatively slowly up a long curving hill when I was surprised to see a pedestrian walking along the road, coming towards me on the other side. Something immediately did not feel right, so I watched him as I got closer. As I got within about 30 or so feet of him, he started over to my side of the road! He was dressed decently, but had an odd look. As I got closer, I noticed he had cheap tattoo work on both arms. (Not bashing tattoos, I just know good work from crap work). Then I noticed he had a weird look in his eyes, closely followed by the realization that he had a tear drop tattoo by his left eye, closely followed by the realization that I had put my gun in a water bottle pocket out of reach instead of the normal spot I carry it (when I carry it) in a snack pocket on the hip belt of my Osprey pack! (I put the gun in the water bottle pocket to better protect it more from the weather, and muck I knew I would be riding in!) Nothing happened thankfully. He just walked on by a few feet away with a smirk on his face. Did not say a word, even though I cheerfully said hello….

    This has made me think about this scenario. Carrying on a bike requires even more security than normal daily carry. That means it is slower to draw and present the weapon. I have thought about putting it in a gas tank style bag on the top tube, but my instinct would have been to get distance between him and me had he made any move toward me. Therefore, the gun stays on my person. I think I will refine my backpack carry method further, but I certainly have no regrets about carrying that day, or any day. Things do happen out there.

    I have had people walk into camp (armed with an M-1 Carbine hunting hogs. He turned out to be a nice guy, but first few seconds were freaky) and drive into camp at 2AM as happened when I was helping at a checkpoint for the Baja 1000 years ago. (I spoke no Spanish and was happy my tent had two doors as I was out the back door in a flash, putting distance between us and those crazy Mexicans.) Turns out they were lost and wanted directions) I thought 2 AM was a hell of a time to come asking, but then again, I was not the one that was lost in the desert.

    How we prepare (or not) to deal with threats is a personal choice. If you are going to carry, carry responsibly, just like the author pointed out repeatedly. If you are doing it right, no one will ever know you carrying, ever. I choose to prepare primarily for the two legged threats, but bears are making headway here, and having a pepper spray can certainly be effective against the two legged threat as well. I may integrate that into my plan. Thanks, good article.

  • mongwolf

    I have to repost this thought alone. I think the greatest threat to all of us in wildlands today is probably the Federal Government. LOL Sadly it is no longer limited in any way, shape or form. This in itself is truly unconstitutional and a serious threat to all of us in every aspect of our lives. Sadly so few Americans today have even read the Constitution or the Federalist Papers or the Amendments. Our founding fathers were very smart intelligent men. We are now seeing the edge of the cliff of not giving sufficient attention to their understanding and experience. Am I saying all federal lands are a bad idea? No. But the issue runs far deeper.

    • nreamer

      Good point mongwolf. Here is a link: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html Read Articles 1 – 3. It takes like 5 minutes. If you get adventurous, read the whole thing. The Federalist papers give tons of background on what the intent of the Constitution and the government should be. Our founding fathers were brilliant men. Think about what is happening today and what has been happening for years. Think about what is being decreed versus what the Constitution says the government can do. If you are an American, this should be important to you, no matter your party affiliation or your special interest. We are so fractured on our individual issues that we cannot join together to fight the greater issue of the government chipping away at all our freedoms across the board. Perhaps that is part of their plan….. Just because it is not your issue that is on the chopping block today does not mean it will continue to be so tomorrow. Biking is one of the things that I do to get away from thinking about all this. Part of me hates that it has come up on a biking forum. It truly tears me apart to think what is happening to the country I love and have served.

    • mongwolf

      Great post nreamer.

    • Brisco

      One should also read the Anti-Federalist papers for context. The exchange is remarkable. When a person sees, firsthand, the depth of thought that went into the creation of the American Republic, it inspires awe. To KNOW by reading their own words, instead of relying on the interpretation of some hack distorting it for their own purposes is priceless.

  • OverBuilt

    I always have my glock 43 with me. It’s small, easy to conceal, pretty much forget about it when I’m riding, and extra mags carry easily in all sorts of different pockets. I also do not roll with one in the chamber. I started carrying when I noticed several small huts along the trail I typically ride and realized I spooked some folks making meth. Luckily, I got a bad feeling, and was able to turn around and book out of there, but from then on, I have been carrying. Do what you feel comfortable with, and if it’s not in your good conscience to fire on a person that is threatening your life, more power to you. I do know Kimber makes a mace gun that has two shots and I believe shoots about 15 feet, that might be a nice alternative.

    For the others that don’t support this kind of discussion, and instead chose to rudely belittle the idea of protecting yourself…well, I will pray for you, and I hope you never find yourself in position to protect yourself against cruel and evil persons. As for the wildlife…I don’t ride around bears, and there’s only rumors of mountain lions in southwest Missouri…I do think the sound would scare them off, but I certainly hope I never have to take wildlife outside of their respective hunting seasons.

    I think, too, for the folks that speak of preparedness for weather/mechanicals far away from shelter, that this article must assume some prior knowledge of these things…how many articles Are available for proper dressing/preparation? How many cross related articles for back country adventure mention the need to be prepared for emergency medical issues (lacerations, hypothermia, etc). This was just an article touching on something that, for a good portion of the mountain biking community, appears to still be a taboo subject… I hope everyone can see it from another persons shoes. I certainly see the excellent points that the anti-carry-while-you-ride enthusiasts have brought up, and I applaud you for your positive view points. On that same note, it’s not really any of your business what another rider chooses to do. I feel, for my specific circumstances, riding in semi-rural areas very close to urban influences, that I am at a high risk for being targeted… Typically a bike is worth $500 to well over a few thousand dollars…plus cell phones and many other items make us look like big dollar signs to the right individual. Or, in my case – encountering folks involved in illicit drugs. I have also been trained to use my weapon. I practice drawing and manipulating my gun on a weekly basis and run scenarios through my head all the time – not out of fear, but out of preparation. I know I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all by myself. It is not something I want to dominate my thoughts when I am out enjoying Gods beautiful creation.

    • mongwolf

      Great thoughts ironhead. Keep yourself safe out there, and keep enjoying the beautiful creation granted to us.

  • Brisco

    Hi guys and gals,

    I believe this is my first response. I only check in occasionally. This is a topic that is near and dear to me. I am a VA resident, a veteran, a 2nd Amendment activist and a CCW permit holder. I was very active in the fight to pass VAs “shall issue” provision requiring that a permit be issued without undue delay unless the petitioner can be shown to be legally prohibited from having a permit. “They” used to be able to just deny people permits, or drag it out for years here in VA.

    Here is what I am not: I am not an employee of any firearm or accessory related company. I am not a basher of those who don’t like guns. If you don’t like guns, don’t buy one. I am not an expert on local and state law outside of my jurisdiction. I am not a law enforcement officer. I am not a victim. although I frequently ride in urban areas and have been accosted on more than one occasion.

    I wanted to touch on one thing that I think should have gotten more. Quality firearms don’t just go off. While firearms should be stored safely, they should also be readily accessible. If it is not accessible, then you are simply providing your robber with a firearm for his next crime…a firearm he likely removed from your unconscious, or worse, body. There are a variety of holsters available that make your firearm accessible and safe. I favor the Blackhawk Serpa which has a positive locking mechanism that is released by the trigger finger as the pistol is drawn. I have seen some guys where them upside down on tac vests, (I do NOT recommend this). This holster keeps your weapon extremely secure, available, and difficult for someone to simply snatch. It can be carried in a variety of ways. Retention, security and accessibility are the hallmarks of a good carry holster. Please consider this when making your decision.

    I do not recommend storing them in backpacks. Bad guys don’t let you go through your pack in the handover your stuff phase of the crime. Also, I have yet to find a belly bag I trust. A holster that is designed to positively retain your firearm is the only method I would recommend.

  • dpb1997

    I ride tons in the mountains and have seen lots of bears and never been concerned. That said, two summers ago I was riding alone one Sunday evening on Moose Mountain, near Calgary. I came around the corner to find a young Grizzly bear. Had mum been with him I would have been dinner that night. There was no time to draw a weapon or bear spray. I ride with a bell now. However, this incident makes me think more than ever about getting protection other than my seat post and seat…and harsh words…!

  • stumpyfsr

    Many riders spending money on lighter bikes and components. And now discussing should we add two pound pistol into pack… Doesn’t sound like a smart idea. Most compact handguns are ineffective against bear. What if pistol accidentally fire during a crash?
    Bear spray might do the same trick with less cost and weight.
    I rode in many remote locations and in urban areas as well and never felt the need to have a gun. I take bear spray if I ride in Montana or Colorado for extra peace of mind.
    My personal opinion gun should stay in the locked box while you riding.

  • western90

    While preparing to ride recently a guy came up and asked if I minded if he did some shooting nearby. After discussing trails I was subjected to a lengthy discourse on the politics of guns.

    But… It got me thinking about my defense posture in an RV, MTB’ing, and dirt biking in very remote areas and occasionally urban fringe (more concerning).

    One thing I came across is an extended infomercial. It is surprisingly analytical and rational, at least to me.

    The author makes an interesting case that most people who own guns for “self-defense” don’t understand the sheer speed of a human attack and the extreme difficulty of responding to a moving assault vs. a static target on a range.


    My summary: You need mindset, muscle memory gained from practice, and finally an appropriate weapon. Even more, you need situational awareness to avoid trouble in the first place.

    I found it quite interesting. I may buy the 20-hour video course. I might even buy a handgun some day.

  • Klembry

    It is a great responsibility, but I’d rather laugh at myself in old age for having carried for no reason, than die unprepared, leatherman included 🙂

  • Brisco

    I do enjoy reading the posts where people comment that a sidearm is ineffective against a bear so the idea of carrying is preposterous. I wish my amygdala was so unrefined that the concept of anything short of a bear attack was not worth considering. Different people ride in different areas, face different risks and have different skill trees. There are many uses for a sidearm other than slaying 800 pound grizzlies. I know this…if confronted by an 800 pound grizzly intent on making me second breakfast…I would rather have a small caliber pistol than nothing at all. In the tactical world we call this BTN. (Better than nothing)

    If you are wondering about whether or not you should buy a gun to take with you, you probably shouldn’t. You should buy a gun, engage the services of a qualified trainer, practice drawing from the holster you intend to carry, firing the weapon and placing accurate fire on designated targets, and then once it becomes a natural, fluid motion that can be executed without thought…go ahead and take it on your ride.

    There is also this misconception that guns will accidentally go off when dropped or during a fall. Guns don’t just go off. reckless handling of firearms result in incidental discharges. If you are under the impression that a gun can just go off, you should not be carrying…you are a danger to others, and less importantly, yourself.

    Others have commented that the 1.6 lbs of additional weight precludes it from usefulness. Why bother carrying water? You can live three days without water…sometimes we are confronted with lethal dangers that manifest in seconds. Weight should not be a determinant factor. Either you feel it is necessary, or you don’t. When I was in the Army everyone cried about carrying a protective mask…they are bulky and heavy and there is no comfortable configuration for carry. When the word went up and down the line that Saddam had prepositioned chemical weapons in preparation for the invasion…everyone became a fan and expert on the NBC mask.

  • Brisco

    I am not saying that a small caliber gun is better than bear spray…I am saying it is better than nothing. I am also saying that bear spray will land you in jail in an urban area while carrying a handgun is perfectly legal. Please refer to the part where different people have different challenges. I am freely admitting that your needs are yours and that you must address them as you see fit. I expect the same respect. My needs are not the same as yours and it is your reluctance to recognize that that leads us to this unsatisfying exchange. I am far more concerned about naked bears than furry ones…even though I visit their habitat on occasion…not frequently enough though to adapt to a different or enhanced self-protection regime. People get hurt when they are unfamiliar with the tools they apply in an emergency situation. I would more than likely have better luck hoping a bear simply laughed himself to death as I accidently spray myself with the unfamiliar bear spray than anything. However, I have carried a firearm almost every single day of my entire adult life. I am more likely to forget my credit card than my pistol. As a result, the familiar pistol would serve me far better than the unfamiliar bear spray. I know it does on the more commonly travelled routes I ride on. Not all of us live in bear country, yet threats still persist.

    I do find it interesting that those who approve of carry assume a laissez-faire attitude and tell others to do as they see fit, while those uncomfortable with the notion try to make those who approve feel as though we are unaware, uninformed, or obtuse.

    If you have a pistol that fires with an empty chamber…I want to buy it…it has a future in Hollywood. If you have one that fires on a loaded chamber, either you have a great lawsuit or you measured the value of your life and determined it was not equivalent to the price of a firearm manufactured by a reputable producer. I have done stuff that would make many of you adrenaline jockeys cringe, always with a loaded firearm at my side and never once feared accidental discharge due to equipment malfunction resultant of impact…even from the most rigorous activity.

    All I did was suggest that you get a great holster and train. You do you and I’ll do me.

  • Carolinadude

    I’m not sure why you think people are disrespecting you just because they give their opinion. And I specifically specified that bear spray was the better choice for bears and cougars–and nothing more. As for the pistol with the empty chamber—well, good for you for being mindful of others on the trail. I wish more people were like you. But some of the other folks on this thread have said that an empty chamber would not afford them the time they need to fend off a sudden attack. And I suspect these same folks will say that the trigger lock would also rob them of the time needed. And so these riders do put other riders at risk. Just last year, in fact, a cyclist had his gun go off in his jacket pocket and it killed him. Had the gun been positioned slightly differently in his pocket it could have killed the rider next to him. And what if that rider had been a kid? And this is why people have a strong opinion on this matter, and why someone’s choice does potentially affect the lives of others. I’ve provided you with the link to the story.


  • Brisco

    I do not think anyone is disrespecting me. I think people want to make decisions for me based on a deficient knowledge of the subject matter and that bothers me. It is after all a civil right. My original advice, had it been heeded by the reckless rider you anecdotally noted, would have saved his life. You and I are on the same side of this issue. You just felt it necessary to discount my opinion on how to address it with straw men while I afforded yours equal weight to my own. That isn’t disrespect…it is just a fundamental lack of respect.

    This is precisely my point. I specifically stated that a good quality HOLSTER with a positive retention lock (that incidentally adds ZERO seconds to draw time with just a minimum of training) will prevent all but the most colossal of errors and mishaps. The misunderstanding may be that you perceive it to be an inherently unsafe act to carry and that I feel that a minimum of precaution can produce conditions by which carrying a loaded firearm is statistically as safe as carrying a rock.

    The overwhelming incidence of accidental discharges regarding firearms have nothing to do with the pistol itself, but instead with the careless handling of the firearm. I am simply advocating for frequent, but safe carry. The path to safety leads straight through the holster aisle at the gun store. If you are carrying a pistol in your pocket, you are placing lives at risk. If you are carrying it loose in a bag, you are a moron.

    Also, carrying in a holster ensures that the pistol is ALWAYS readily available. With training, a pistol can be drawn and accurately fired in less than 1.5 seconds, even with a positive lock holster. The time it takes to get to a pistol is an excuse, not a reason. When properly carried in a holster, there is no time spent rummaging…you know where it is…exactly where you left it…in a safe carrying configuration.

    I remain consistent in my opinion that if you, personally, are not comfortable carrying, you simply shouldn’t. If you choose to carry, then you MUST be prepared to spend the time, money and resources to procure equipment and training of sufficient quality that will ensure the safety of you and the others within range of your decision. If you do choose to carry, carry often. The more one engages in an activity, the more rote it becomes and the less inconsistent and unsafe he or she will be.

  • Carolinadude

    Just because they’re concerned for the safety of their kids on the trail does not mean they want to make decisions for you. Show me one person who has said you can’t carry a gun on a trail on this thread. They might not think it’s safe, or a good idea, and their concerns may even be unwarranted, but nobody is telling you that you don’t have the right to carry a gun. The battle that you’re waging here is one that resides in your own head, dude. And given that you’re suggesting my evidence is “anecdotal” tells me that you’ve misunderstood my reason for providing you with the link regarding the cyclist who shot himself. It was provided only to point out that everyone’s not like you, and that there are people who will put others in danger on the trails when they carry a gun— given their blatant disregard for the safety of others. So there’s nothing anecdotal about it.

    Let me sum it up for you, fellow rider. You or anyone else has every legal right to carry a gun, with or without a trigger lock, while riding your mountain bike. It’s your right under the second amendment. That being said, it’s also the right of others on this thread, under the first amendment, to express their opinions as they see fit. You see the hypocrisy here? You get to carry a gun, dude, and they get to express their opinions as to why they think it’s a bad idea. You get it now?

  • Brisco

    Actually…it is the essence of anecdotal…I’m not going to beak out Webster’s on you…it is the very definition of anecdotal. Secondly…I am tired of arguing the same side of the issue with you. There may be no outright calls in the thread to ban the carry of firearms while cycling, but the sentiment is clearly expressed. If you think a pistol is going to save you from a grizzly you are mistaken is the common refrain…OK…all the grizzlies where I cycle wear hoodies and travel in groups of three or more. I have tried to no avail, to express that different cyclists face different challenges. My challenges are best met with the judicious application of the second amendment. That having been said. For those who choose to do so…it is my sincerest hope that they will exercise the utmost safety and participate in rigorous training. This has been my consistent message from the beginning and has not budged from it. Part of that is the selection and use of a high quality holster…the main and continuing point of my participation in this thread. The benefits of said use of high quality holster include, but are not limited to:
    1) Not shooting yourself by having it in your pocket
    2) not shooting someone else (See above)
    3) avoiding accidental discharges by having it loose in your pack (Again, see #1)
    4) Actually being able to deploy it in a timely fashion
    5) not having it included in the list of things you turned over to bad guys because you didn’t pay attention to any of the above
    6) continuity creates predictability…predictability is good.
    7) It is far less likely that the weapon will be lost on the trail.
    8) they make them for a reason…get one

    My ONLY point is get a holster and stop creating an unsafe environment for your fellow man…and stop trying to think for me. I know where I ride and the challenges I face. I promise not to comment on the Bear Spray editorial when it is released since, on THAT topic, I have NO IDEA what I am talking about. On this topic, I am an expert…with certifications and everything. Honest…I am bona fide. Get a holster and get trained or don’t carry. End of point.

    I have not tried to infringe on anyone’s first amendment rights in any way. I have made the mistake of trying to exercise two of mine at the same time by rebutting. Evidently, my exercise of my right to disagree is hypocrisy, but yours is sacrosanct. I am confused, are you the pot or the kettle? Me telling them that bear spray is not the medicine that every doctor orders for every malady is not quite the same as a fascistic, Draconian quashing of civil liberties. You get it now?

  • Carolinadude

    Having a conversation with you is akin to the Abbott & Costello Who’s on First comedy routine. I’m afraid if I continue conversing with you I’ll end up shooting myself because of the utter frustration involved. Happy trails, dude. Be safe.

  • western90

    Well the testosterone has started flowing in this dialogue so I’d just to like to take a break and acknowledge everyone for some great discussion and points of view. Thank you all.

  • Brisco

    Then let me say just a few more things…LOL. Look go back and reread all my posts without that massive chip on your shoulder and you will get a clear picture of how clearly wrongheaded your knee-jerk response to my I never said anyone was trying to ban the carrying of firearms. I never said half of the crap you attributed to me. The only thing I said is that I wish my amygdala was so unrefined as to think that a bear attack was the only thing a cyclist ever has to worry about…I made the exact same point in every single post. I encouraged those who want to carry to do so and those who don’t not to. You Sir, are looking for an argument where there is not one to be found.

  • Michael Paul

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Obviously it is a polarizing subject, as I stated in my article. Freedom of opinion and speech is a wonderful thing, and thanks to those that leave comments that “respectfully disagree”. I will clarify something that I keep seeing come up: I agree that a small caliber handgun won’t stop a grizzly, unless you hit it in both eyes when it’s already having you for lunch. I may not stop any bear. I also agree that sometimes having one is better than nothing. A firearm is more for smaller predators, and for people threats. I’ve carried pretty much everything in my pack, and the small firearm in the photos is actually about the same weight as my bear spray. It’s also considerably smaller. I rarely bring it–in fact, I rarely bring anything–but when I take something in the backcountry it is usually a firearm and not bear spray. Why? I don’t ride where grizzlies live, and don’t anticipate bears to be much of a threat, and am more concerned about coyotes and cougars. The only thing I take on local rides is pepper spray, in the rare event I encounter an angry dog or someone were to pick a fight. I’ve never needed any of this stuff by the way, but be prepared. To those of you who live outside of the US: America isn’t some bloodthirsty trigger happy land of violent citizens. I consider most places in Europe more dangerous, and with your relative proximity to ISIS and long, long histories of war and conquest, any anti-gun banter is pure hypocrisy, ignorance, or both. Asia minor isn’t any safer, and Australia is home to the most deadly flora and fauna on the planet…not to mention it was colonized by European criminals. 🙂 That’s kind of a joke, but it is also fact. I have friends all over the world, and I have ridden and traveled in many, many places. I’ve come close to death more than once…and I’ve been in danger more times than I can count. Fortunately most of those days are behind me. As I said, your mind is your most powerful defense, but sometimes, having something more is a practical, safe, justifiable, insurance policy. Thanks again guys, be safe, be nice, and when you leave a comment, pretend we are all sitting in a pub, enjoying a pint, merely debating the merits of arming yourself. After all, we are all virtual friends here. Cheers! 🙂

  • FattyHeadshok

    This article makes me so sad. There is something so wrong with the mentality of most of my fellow countrymen. I really wish I had the resources to leave this place go somewhere better and renounce my citizenship. This is such a mean spirited country. I was hoping that this mentality of “protecting yourself, stand your ground, good guy with a gun mentality” wouldn’t find its way into this sport. The absolute absurdity of “protecting yourself” with a gun is stupid. What the hell makes you think that you’ll be quicker on the draw in a gunfight on the trail? I have no desire to go out and buy a gun, go to a range and get “really good at it” throw one on my hip or backpack get out on the trail “be ready” for the bad guys. I’d rather spend my time shredding the trails and getting really good at my bike handling skills. Take all your damn guns and go to hell. And if you want to shoot me then go the hell ahead. I won’t shoot back promise.

    • ACree

      You’ll love Europe. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

    • Brisco

      Luckily we live in a country where you are free to exercise both the opinion you stated and the action you propose. I encourage you to follow your dreams. It is unlikely the democratic process will notice your absence. The good guy with a gun has always been in this sport. Until now, not many have had the courage to come out of the closet on it. I have always carried when I ride and I was riding before it was a sport. I have my own anecdotal evidence on this matter. A gun has saved my life more times than I can count. Out of uniform, there are three times in my 46 years I have been told by men that they intended to end my life and had the means to do so. It is amazing how quickly the script writing changes once they realize the movie they had playing out in their head has a surprise ending. Three times I have drawn my weapon and three times an amicable resolution was found where bloodshed, which had been promised, was entirely avoided because I chose not to be a victim. I just spent the last three days playing in the snow with a daughter I would never have lived to have, or would have been orphaned, and I owe my training and those fine Austrian gentlemen at Glock, my life and my gratitude. Shred on , Dude…I promise you will never even know I am carrying and it will be a guy like me that carries you out of the woods when you wrap your bike around a tree. I am the sheepdog…not the wolf. If you aren’t one of those two, there is really only one other category. Send me a post card from your new socialist home. I hear France is short some people lately. That place is MAD safe with its very strict gun control. No need to say Baaaaa on your way out. By the way, there is one comment you made that would be prosecutable in France…are you certain you can handle being a full on euro-commie? As far as resources go…start a GoFundMe. You will have that money in minutes.

  • thub

    I live in Anchorage, AK. Everywhere is bear and moose country. Both are regularly seen on trails in town and the back country. I ride with a Bluetooth speaker usually. I can only take so much bell noise. I always pack bear spray in spring, summer and fall. I stay away from trails along creeks / rivers when the fish are in. If I’m solo in the back country I also bring my Ruger 454. I practice with it, it’s a close encounter gun. It’s very easy for a mountain biker to run into a moose or bear. We travel quickly and quietly. Key is to make some noise all the time, especially when sight lines are low. The bears I’ve come across while riding have ran off, thankfully. I’ve had way more troubles with moose. There are more of them and cows with calves are a real danger. I’ve been charged and chased. In general bells / sound system and bear spray keep you light and safe. If I’m on an urban ride I throw in my 38 revolver. We’ve had some bad shit going down on our bike trails.

  • iamgoode

    I have been riding for years, but rarely have had an encounter where a gun would have helped in the woods. Im a large unattractive man so eliminate all sex assult victim risks now… I encountered a moose accompanied by its calf in UT. Waiting it out worked. I encountered dogs continually in TX and NC mostly on the road, pepper spray was the ticket. I have a small bell I use when riding in areas where large wild animals cold be encountered, and to date nothin exciing has jumped out of the bushes to ge me. But it’s a bit unnerving to announce your presence and know you have virtually nothing to defend yourself with if that jingle was not enough. If I was a regular back country cyclist I would carry a 9 mil at least. But would want it on my person. Maybe someone can design a loose fitting cycle jersey with integrated gun holster?

  • schwim

    It seems shortsighted to stop at “mountain biking”. Dangers lie behind every tree, dumpster and isle of ethnic foods at the grocery. I’ve read of people being accosted in public restrooms and while sailing. We should really be carrying at all times and since every life is precious, it stands to reason that everyone, not just us, should be packing heat, chambered, off safety and preferably pointing at something that could theoretically harm us, like a cat or lacking a living entity, a sharp knife or electrical outlet.

    Only then will we be truly safe.

  • Kevin Mills

    Is this really what it’s like in America these days? Everyone running around in the wilderness with knives and guns trying to kill each other? I don’t want to come to America anymore 🙁

    Americans need to grow a brain and start acting like the rest of the world.

    If you guys really need some kind of protection maybe you could use a rape whistle instead and try and keep it civilised.

    • iamgoode

      What good does a rape whistle do in the woods? Bear spray might be civilized…

    • Brisco

      If there is nobody in the woods to hear your rape whistle…is it still an assault? Your response indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of what America is all about. This just won’t die. I have said everything I intend to say on carrying a gun while riding, but I do have a few choice words for people who want to bash America because it is a valid debate here. I will start this off intellectually by stating…Screw you. You are all way more civilized in Europe. The way you guys just line up on queue when it is time to get marched to a concentration camp, or to a Gulag, or the way you just accept your women being raped daily by foreign invaders. It is all very civilized.

      If you are Canadian…I have even less respect for you. You have spent the last 50 years funding a healthcare system that doesn’t work with money you would have been using on a military if you didn’t share a border with the U.S. You sit up there and act like we are barbarians because we believe that health insurance is a consumer product and not a God-given right, but the truth is, if it wasn’t for America, you would be eating borscht twice a day and French would only be taught to the least capable in your spy schools…but you would have an Army. It would not be one you chose, but you would have one.

      The difference between an American and…well…everyone else is that we are not subjects. We are citizens. Citizens understand that they have a responsibility to defend themselves and that when seconds count the police are only minutes away. Of all the high profile European terrorist attacks in recent years, I would like to point out the only one I know of that was thwarted AFTER it had already started was the one that that was thwarted by three unarmed Americans on a train. An gunman got on a train with an AK-47. Think about that…French in a barrel. You are welcome. Nothing new though…young American men spilling blood to protect Europeans that would prefer to leave that duty to others is sort of the accepted protocol nowadays. What is fairly new, except in the case of the French, is the unashamed manner in which the Europeans look down upon us while we provide them that security. The French began a healthy regimen of ingratitude within days after WW2 and ordered that all American soldiers be removed from French soil within two weeks. The response that was issued by the U.S, Secretary of State was “Does that include the 40,000 men that are buried in Normandy?”

      Americans grow weary of pulling your weight though, wherever you live. The policies you have adopted have turned Paris into a network of No-Go zones, the Scandinavian nations into the rape capitol of the world, and London is not-so-affectionately referred to as Londonistan. In Canada, you can be criminally prosecuted for accurately describing an assailant. Every time I meet a smug European who looks down his nose at the unsophisticated Americans and their gun fetishes…I smile. The recent defunding of the U.N. should be a wake up call. We are no longer interested in supplying our blood and treasure so that you may enter into suicide pacts for the sake of feeling superior to others. Next time…maybe we let you fall flat on your ass. If you feel you are above protecting yourself, why should I protect you?

      Careful world…we are sick of your elitism. Don’t worry. We are not interested in aggression, but we sure are less and less interested in helping you with threatened aggression every time some smarmy, weak lipped, pseudo-intellectual comments on America’s gun culture.

  • FideliS

    “For your own safety.” Is always a valid reason why it’s logical to carry firearms when you’re out alone biking in the wilderness. The question there is, the person carrying it. How can you ensure this person won’t turn his biking session into a hunting session?

  • herberta265

    Carrying a firearm is 100% a personal choice! External threats aside, and the inherent risks associated with mountain biking, how many readers are prepared to spend the night just off the trail? How many are prepared to preform self aid or buddy aid? I think the point of the article was to be prepared…for anything. If you ride alone…you’re on your own…be safe and ride again.

  • kenwrightjr

    Great article Paul. I don’t have any chip on my shoulder which is why I take you article for what it is meant to accomplish – MAKE US ALL THINK. I am a former Marine, grew up hunting in the south, and now a concealed weapons license holder as a law abiding citizen. I tout my “credentials” to say this – Based on the plethora of information above from the real life experiences, thoughts, and trials it seems that NONE of us can ever be really ready to defend ourselves but, having something (pistol, spray, baton, whistle, et al) is better than nothing to give us a remote chance to LIVE. I think we all need to really stop and assess where is it we ride and does it make sense to carry anything to defend ourselves. If you live in or around some trails that are nearby communities (that could be notorious for illegal activities) then what should you carry to be prepared? If you ride in remote, distant forests or regions where it’s just you and nature for miles and known to habitat dangerous animals, what should one carry to defend themselves or make themselves known by hearing, etc? It just comes down to common sense. I happen to ride in areas where practically none of those scenarios really exist and yet I have often thought about carrying. However, I did my due diligence and found that most of the trails I ride are on Corps of Engineer property. And carrying a firearm on Corps property is illegal. So much for that ideal. So if I’m smart (and that is yet to be determined) and riding on Corps property and encounter a drug induced individual or someone one week removed from a psych ward how can I help myself defend myself in an instant? Here I think bear mace or that Kimber pepper blaster just might be the ticket. Most bike shorts and/or shirts and jackets have a small pocket or two so sliding it in there for this ONE trail shouldn’t be so cumbersome should it? I don’t think so IMO.

    If I ever get the chance to go out west and stay on a trail where some bikepacking will be part of my travels, then I assure you I’ll be carrying a firearm for protection. I want a peace of mind at minimum just in case.

    I’m not discounting those who carry a baton so please don’t take this comment as that. But I was just asking myself what or how would I use that if I met someone else with a pistol, or even a large stick? His stick is larger than mine and can only HOPE he swings and misses. Maybe on a wild dog or a wart hog it would work but you better be able to swing the crap outta that thing to stop one.

    On a side and funnier note, we’ve all seen the cartoon – If we’re attacked by a grizzly while in the outdoors with others just be sure you can run faster than the other man. Selfish? HECK YES IT IS! LOL

    • schwim

      Fantastically thought out response, Ken. Semper gumby 🙂

  • thub

    I live in Anchorage, AK, bear and moose encounters happen right in town. I always ride with bear spray in the summer. If I head into the backcountry I usually just carry bear spray but I occasionally carry a Ruger 454 Casull if I’m in areas known for high bear activity. It’s heavy and riding with a gun that large sucks. Odds are your lucky if you even get a shot off. Most wildlife attacks happen at a short range. Making noise is your best defense.

  • mccitrus

    I mostly ride alone and when you are 10 miles in on a technical ride, very tired in 85F @ 95% humidity, and come across a black bear as I have had two very scary close encounters I now carry a Model 1895 45-70 Trapper. Yes the extra weight sucks but, more than worth your life for the extra weight.

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