Critters: they are everywhere. And they are crazy. Critters and motorcycles don’t get along. I tried to think of how many people I know who have hit an animal while on a bike and walked away. I came up with two – me and my friend Rick, who has hit two deer and survived.
I was in Colorado, and I hit a bird at 60 mph. It hit my arm. At first, I wasn’t sure what had happened because it happened so quickly. Then I had a sensation that my arm was missing. I checked and saw it was still with me. Then I saw the feathers. I was lucky it was not a direct hit to the face. Everyone else I’ve ever talked to who hit something wound up on the pavement. It is painful, expensive and sometimes life-threatening.
Critters come in all shapes and sizes. In the past few months, I’ve encountered several animals, including dogs, raccoons, turkeys, possums, cats, a turtle and deer. I’ve also been stung on my face by bees on three different occasions. It stinks (I’m putting that as nicely as I can for a family-friendly newspaper). One got inside of my full-face helmet and went to town on the side of my face. It died a quick and horrible death. When something like that happens, it is good to keep calm. Don’t panic. Slow down and get to the safe part of the road, all along bearing the pain shooting through your face. Once you and your bike are safe, have as much fun as you can getting away from or killing the bee as you wish.
Deer and dogs put me on high alert. When I see either, I go into the defense mode real quick.
Deer are beautiful creatures, but they are crazier than most of the animals we encounter on America’s roads. Deer season is in full swing in most areas of the state. The deer have all received their NC Hunting Regulation Digest and have studied the rules, locations and hunting times just to keep life interesting. They study these things so they will know where and when it is safe to roam and laugh at the humans trying to hunt them. This means that these beautiful animals are hanging out near the roads because they know that hunters can’t shoot them there. These animals see you coming and, for the fun of it, will jump right out in front of you just to watch you freak out. Sometimes, they will stay on the road and play chicken with you. Judging by the dead deer on the side of the road, I suppose some are just suicide deer.
The point of the story is that you should avoid animals at all cost. Even a small animal can ruin your day. Once, I spotted a beautiful deer in the brush ahead of me. I slowed to see what the doe was going to do because animals are slow to respond to lights, horns or motorcycles. I was almost at a complete stop when suddenly the crazy thing jumped up and over my front tire. It was so close I could smell it, and I’m telling you – they look nice, but they stink.
Whether the animal is small or large, if you hit one on a bike, chances are you are going to lose. Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They put signs where they collect numerous carcasses. When you see these signs, be on your guard. As evening approaches, be aware that animals are attracted to paved roadways because they provide warmth – particularly on cool nights.
When you see an animal, it is best to try to move the animal out of your way. Hollering, horns and loud pipes seem to work for most animals – except for the crazy motorcycle-chasing dog. The top speed for the crazed dog is about 30 mph. If you come upon one, just stay focused, roll the throttle up or down and get out of its way. If you get in a tight spot and find yourself side by side, you’d better have your wits about you. If you kick at it, you can easily lose your balance and swerve off your line and wreck. If you screw up and drop your bike, you may be laying there with a bike on you and a dog taking you for a snack. It is tempting to stick your foot out, but I like to keep my leg out of the path of the dog’s teeth. No matter what evasive action you take, remember to stay focused on your driving first and then get out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.
If you encounter an aggressive dog on your regular route, you may want to contact the local authorities. Depending on the owner, law enforcement official or ordinance, this tactic may not work. If it doesn’t, I would suggest stopping and talking to the owner. Be polite and tell him or her that their pet is a hazard. If the owner refuses to do anything about it, you might just ask the owner if you can get the name of their insurance agent and lawyer and let them know that if you wreck because of their dog, you will be forced to take legal action.
We share the road with lots of people, critters and unexpected hazards. So, be careful out there. It’s a jungle.