Risk of bear attack while cycling in the mountains

Nov 16, 2009
35
3
18
Vancouver, Canada
#1
I came across an interesting article entitled "A Bear Is Ripping Off My Nipple" from the Outdoor Japan website when I was researching the risk of bear attacks during my October cycling tour in Japan. It recounts a harrowing experience of a trail runner when he was attacked by a bear while running through the mountains.

http://www.outdoorjapan.com/magazine/story_details/232

As my wife is already worried that I will be on a solo tour far away from home (Vancouver BC) during the time of year that bears are on a quest to fatten up before hibernation, the risk of a bear attack, however remote, is not exactly reassuring to her. Nonetheless, I read that there are several deaths in Japan each year from bear attacks. My question, then is, has anyone come across any bears during their rides in the mountains? Are certain areas known to have more bears than others?

Also, further to my earlier post about recommended mountain rides, it would be great if anyone could suggest one area or place that could be used as a base for a few days of scenic riding within, say, a 250 km radius from Tokyo.

Thanks,

Jim
 

jdd

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Jul 26, 2008
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#2
Yes, once, about five years ago. I was on a climb, happened to look up, and a bear was ambling across the road maybe 80-100m up. Black with a white spot (tsukiwa-kuma), like a big lab but with a fuller rounder body. White claws...

I stopped, wondering whether to go on or turn back. After maybe five minutes a van came by, I flagged them to stop, explained, and they drove on slow with me at their side for a few hundred meters.

Saw nothing, but did hear a coarse coughing-like sound. Needless to say, for the the rest of that loop if a bird made a rustling sound in the brush I was pretty jumpy.

So that was on a climb, and if it had seen me the obvious choice would've been to turn and bolt downhill. But on a descent what would you do? Skid to a stop, calling lots of attn to yourself, and then try to sprint back uphill? Go all in and try to whiz by?

A couple times I've seen arai-guma close to the road. Smaller, but I still wouldn't want one pissed at me and aggressive.

~~~
Bears very occasionally come into town here, and the paper sometimes has stories of bears just outside of town, on the mountain-ward fringe. Even not that far out, school kids in that direction do carry bear bells. Up one river I've seen electric fences along the base of the hills, but I think that's to keep pigs out of the crops, not bears.
 

zenbiker

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Mar 4, 2008
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#3
I wouldn't worry too much about bears, snakes or monkeys.
The most dangerous creature in Japan for cyclists is the "Kei truck Oyaji"! Their habitat ranges from suburban roads to the countryside. Approach with care especially if wearing a baseball cap and the truck is white. They are often fueled with "one cup"....
 

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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#4
Bears as a rule only eat people who are fossicking for wild edible plants, hello, competition. Cyclists are fine as they (a) ride on roads that have little nutritional value, (b) they are noisy, unless riding stealth single speed or fixed. same as Zenbiker, there are much bigger threats in any country than the wildlife.
 
May 22, 2007
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#5
The last thing a wild bear wants is to encounter a human. If you sneak up on them (as you are likely to do on a bicycle) they may attack through fear. Not hunger.

Some riders (and most hikers) who are nervous about bears strap a little bell to their handlebars or their luggage. It tinkles as you grind along, and alerts the bears to your presence so that they have time to move away.

The other thing to add: If you find yourself riding in a group, please remove and/or muffle your bell. The incessant tinkling drives me CRAZY. GGGGGAAARRR...

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Likes: TOM

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#9
Statistically, your chance of being killed by a vehicle on the road is almost 4 orders of magnitudes higher than being killed by a bear in Japan. If you don't give up cycling for the former, you shouldn't worry too much about the latter!

I often see signs warning of bears when hiking in the mountains and I think one is more likely to encounter one as a hiker or trail runner than as a cyclist. Most hiker here wear bear bells, trying to scare bears away. I also heard bears are more dangerous in the spring, when they are very protective of their cubs, which are born in the winter. Also, there are a lot of hikers about in the spring, so maybe there are more chances for encounters. Food is relatively plentiful for bears in October, but hunger is not primarily why they would attack humans anyway.

Found this is my search:
Kohira visits local schools to teach children what to do in the unlikely event they stumble across a bear. It’s good advice for adult residents and visitors too. “Don’t try and attract the bear’s attention,” he says. Also, “Don’t run away, they will instinctively follow you.”

“If the bear approaches within a few meters,” Kohira advises, “lie down on your stomach and cover your head and the back of your neck with your hands.” If you have a back-pack, keep it on to protect your spine. “In most cases the bear will just sniff you and go away,” adds Kohira reassuringly.”

("How to survive a bear attack in Japan")
 
Aug 27, 2012
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London, UK
www.macrophotofly.com
#11
Perfect, I know how to speed Mike up on the HF rides now....
....just sit 10 yards behind him with my Bear bell attached:p

On the animal note, I was out running on the coastal cliffs in the south of France a couple of years ago and a wild Boar (tusks and all) bolted out the trees into my path some 20 yeards ahead. I was all for heading over the cliff before it clocked me and shot back into forest. Mine wasn't quite as large as this -
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I haven't run into any bears in Japan yet (too much time spent in Tokyo) but off Fly Fishing for a week in North Hokkaido in June so I'll be doing the same as when I went fishing in Yellowstone - Bell on me and a guide with pepper spray (that spray might also work on the "Kei truck Oyaji" ?)
 
May 22, 2007
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#12

Doug3

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#13
I ran into a bear last July riding solo up the back side of O-toge. I scared the bear poop out of him, and I nearly dropped a load in my shorts. I was very surprised how close I got to him before we realized each other were there. It was only about 3m. Luckily he was on the other side of the guardrail which was protecting a very steep drop off. When he startled, I am not sure if he rolled or actually had a controlled descent. It must have been living in the general area as I could smell decaying flesh. Did not snoop around for bells, and continued climbing, looking over my shoulder for a kilometer or so.

https://connect.garmin.com/activity/205038337
 

Sikochi

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#14
The difference between a runner and a cyclist is that the cyclist has a bike they can use as a shield/weapon. Though obviously, if you have a carbon bike you have a greater risk of not being able to make a quick escape or even get home after the encounter!!!
 
Nov 16, 2009
35
3
18
Vancouver, Canada
#15
Thank you for all your comments. I guess I should practice my karaoke singing so that I can at least make myself heard while I'm cycling alone up some mountain pass.

I'm amazed by Google Street View now and their coverage of some of the more isolated routes in the mountains. It's possible to check out some great riding in areas that seem rather remote. Can anyone comment on someplace like Uenohara or Yamanashi as a base for 2 to 3 days of cycling up into the mountains?
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#16
Uenohara has some great riding nearby. You can head north on 521, 522 and 33 through the tunnel, then up the valley past Tomin to Mori and back to Uenohara via 139 / 18.

To the east are Wada toge (Mt Jinba) and Takao (Route 20).

On the south / west you can connect to R35 to Tsuru or 413 (Doshi michi) to Doshi and Yamanakako. For example, head out via 413 and return via Fujiyoshida / R139 to Tsuru and R35 through the mountains.

Another popular one south is Yabitsu toge near Mt Oyama.
 
Nov 16, 2009
35
3
18
Vancouver, Canada
#17
Uenohara has some great riding nearby. You can head north on 521, 522 and 33 through the tunnel, then up the valley past Tomin to Mori and back to Uenohara via 139 / 18.

To the east are Wada toge (Mt Jinba) and Takao (Route 20).

On the south / west you can connect to R35 to Tsuru or 413 (Doshi michi) to Doshi and Yamanakako. For example, head out via 413 and return via Fujiyoshida / R139 to Tsuru and R35 through the mountains.

Another popular one south is Yabitsu toge near Mt Oyama.
How bad is the tunnel on route 33? Also, I can't find 521 and 522 on Google Maps. Do you mean route 206, the Hinohara Highway?
 

joewein

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#18
R522 is a small back road running near the golf courses to the south east of the tunnel. If you can't see the number, you're not zoomed in far enough.

Route 206 (Hinohara Highway) is what you would follow after you descend from the tunnel on R33. From there you'd climb past Tomin no Mori and descend to Okutama ko.

Not much traffic through the R33 tunnel, as I recall. I only went through there once. It was a quiet mountain road, even on a Sunday.
 

AlanW

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Jan 30, 2007
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Tokyo
#20
I've never seen a bear while riding in Japan (lucky I guess), but Naomi-san had a close shave with a wild boar that came barrelling out of the forest in Chichibu right in front of her on a 45 km/h descent.
Yamanashi is also a great place to be based. You've got the Fuji "5th Station" roads (Subaru Line, Azami Line, Skyline), the classic loop around Mt. Fuji, some lovely passes around Kawaguchi-ko, easy access to the coast if you run down through Gotemba to Hakone. It''s brilliant.