Inspired by a recent encounter with a dog whilst riding in Italy, Chloe Hosking shares her best advice on how to handle the dicey situation of being chased by a dog while on the bike.
A few days ago I was riding my bike around the beautiful Lago Maggiore in Italy. I decided to venture off the flat lake side road onto one of the many gradual climbs the shoot off up into the mountains.
As I climbed and enjoyed the view I put my headphones in and started jamming to the latest hip hop hits. Imagining that I was a video vixen in Drake’s newest video clip I naturally had a little more bounce to my pedal stroke. I was rudely shocked back to reality when through the rap verse that I was attempting to lip sync, I could hear deep and repeated barking. Like the drone of an ambulance as it rockets towards you, the barking just kept getting louder.
That’s when I saw the dog pelting towards me like Seabiscuit.
Having a dog chase you while riding has to be one of my biggest fears. It’s right up there with being swooped by magpies.
When you know the roads you’re riding on you generally know which roads come with vicious dog or magpie warnings. When I was 15, I was riding along a road in Canberra that links the two suburbs of Narrabundah and Hume. A dog chased me that day, and I only ventured back on to that road this past summer – nine years later. I figured that’s the average life span of a medium- to large-sized dog. If I had to make the decision between riding a 10 kilometre mountain or riding along a road where you are guaranteed to be chased by a dog, I would chose the mountain every time.
The real issue when it comes to being chased by dogs, arises when you’re riding in new places, and you’re caught off guard. It’s somewhat similar to those family gatherings when your Grandma comes out with a horrendously inappropriate comment, and you’re stuck there looking stunned and wondering how to get yourself out of this awkward situation.
The most logical suggestion would be to sprint as fast as you can. But what happens when you’re riding uphill as I was? Those who know me know I have one speed uphill. I’s the same in training as it is in racing, and it’s not fast. Definitely not fast enough to out-sprint a dog looking for dinner. If you’re in a group however, you just need to make sure you’re not the slowest.
On a recent family getaway to Fiji, I was forced to employ the ‘max sprint’ tactic for dog avoidance. Staying at the Denaru Island resort there was only one road in and out of our accommodation. Unfortunately for me there was a dog who’s daily exercise seemed to become chasing me.
As I approached the property the dog appeared to belong to, I would move my gears down the cassette. Trying to channel my inner Mark Cavendish, I would tuck myself into my aero sprint position. By the time I reached the property I would be going about 45km/hr, and for the next 300 metres, I would put my head down, grip my drops and sprint like it was for the finish line of La Course by Le Tour. It was a great way to start and finish my ride everyday; there’s nothing like doing a max sprint effort when you’ve only ridden three kilometres or when you’re 4-hours and 57-minutes into your five-hour ride.
I’m not great in crisis situations. but when it comes to being chased by dogs while riding I’ve had a bit of experience. Obviously. So other than the ‘avoid that road’ and ‘max sprint’ tactic I wanted to share with you my top three tips for what to do if you’re being chased by a dog:
1. The low growl. Remember when you were younger and you would mimic everything your sibling would say until they eventually would go away. This tactic is similar to that. Find your inner Arnold Schwarzenegger circa Terminator and growl back at the dog.
2. The water bottle. If you’ve ever had water thrown in your face you’ll know how disarming it can be when you’re not expecting it. It’s the same for dogs. So aim and fire.
3. The pump. When all else fails your pump may be your lightsaber.
(No dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog.)
Chloe Hosking is a professional cyclist riding for Wiggle Honda. The Australian found cycling as a pre-teen and spent her early years on the bike riding around Canberra with her dad. Chloe took an untraditional path to Europe, self-funding trips to ride with composite teams and club teams at international races. Results on these self-funded trips were enough to land Chloe contracts on the biggest teams in the world.
She represented Australia at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games. Chloe hopes that her success inspires other Australian women to recognise the multiple pathways to European racing.