Nothing tests the brakes on your mountain bike quite like a bear on the trail …

While hurtling down a stretch of single track in Alaska’s Kincaid Park recently, cyclist James Chavez rounded a bend and was met with a rather unsettling sight: a black bear sitting square in the middle of the trail. Chavez slammed on brakes and nosedived into some nearby leafage before springing up again and briskly making tracks in the opposite direction.

Footage of the encounter captured on Chavez’s body cam was shared on Reddit, where it quickly sparked some lively discussion (and several jokes about skid marks).

“When I saw it, I initially thought, man, that's a fat dog, good thing it's out here getting some cardio in,” Chavez joked when asked if his mind or body reacted first. “Then something clicked when I was in the shrubs.”

The portly path-blocker was a black bear – the smallest and most widely distributed of North America’s bear species. Summertime encounters with these wide-ranging omnivores are relatively common, as millions of hikers, bikers, campers and outdoorsy folk head into the wilds of Canada and the United States for some recreational fun.

In most instances, black bears have no interest in engaging with humans, and run-ins usually happen by accident, much like the cyclist-bear meeting above. There are encounters on record, however, that have ended in tragedy, so it's important to be prepped for the worst-case scenario. Park officials recommend carrying bear spray and paying close attention to any signs of bear activity around you.

If you do come across a bear, give it space and try to read its behaviour. Most would rather flee than fight, so if the bear has spotted you, speak out in a normal voice (the topic of conversation is up to you, but try to keep it civil), and stand your ground, or back away slowly while still facing the animal.

Additional footage shows that Chavez did the right thing by not approaching the bear and moving off (relatively) calmly. The bear, meanwhile, responded in typical bruin fashion by ignoring the bumbling biker. “It couldn't have cared less about me. I've never felt so insignificant and been glad about it,” Chavez wrote on Reddit.

Here is what happened after the initial encounter. Warning: incoming f-bomb ...

For a full guide on how to deal with black-bear encounters, we've got you covered:



Top header image: Neal Herbert, Flickr