Yellowstone NP, WY, USA - Photo by Mary Hammel via Unsplash

Anticipating Animal Antics: 5 Things Riders Need to Know

5 Minute Read

The key to anticipating animal antics and avoiding those potentially painful up-close-and-personal encounters, is to learn as much as we can about the different environments we ride in, and the different animals who live there. With this information in our knowledge toolbox, we will already have a good idea what to expect and how to react, when – not if – the situation arises.

Learning how to anticipate animal antics is not an easy task. It is, however, something motorcycle riders must learn if they expect to successfully navigate all the beautiful locations where the wild-ones wonder. Without this knowledge, that one misunderstanding, that one mistake, could end up costing you a lot!

Here are 5 things riders need to know:

1 – There are no riding courses that teach the art of anticipating animal antics

Despite challenges of anticipating animal antics, there are no range or track courses that teach these very important skills. Sure, there are courses that teach how to brake, corner, or drag your knee, but there are no courses that teach the intricacies required to dodge a deer, or out-smart a lumbering bear.

(I certainly wouldn’t want to be the trainer who gets the honor of jumping out of the bushes in front of unsuspecting students as they kick it around the track at 40 mph, just so they can learn how to dodge something in the middle of a blind decreasing-radius curve! Would you?)

The skills range courses do teach are extremely important to the execution of any maneuver, including those needed to dodge animals. In fact, I highly recommend every rider take as many courses as they can throughout their riding career. Just remember, there are a lot of additional skills and knowledge riders need to learn in order to develop successful defense strategies, than just knowing how to ride.

Years ago, I did create a classroom course called, Anticipating Animal Antics, specifically to help riders learn to develop defense strategies. That material will be used for future blog articles, and will also be included in my upcoming books. This topic was a favorite among my students, which is why I chose it as my first blog article. It was a lot of fun to teach and I look forward to sharing additional information on this with you.

But, as far as range and track courses go, they typically cover only the bear basics about animals, if at all. (Pun intended!) Unfortunately, you must take the initiative on this one to seek out the information you need to keep yourself safe. 

2 – Learn from the mistakes of experienced riders – knowledge is key!

In reality, most riders do learn how to anticipate animal antics while riding their own motorcycle. After all, until you experience something for yourself, you do not truly know exactly how you will handle it. But, how do you learn to successfully anticipate animal antics without crashing? On-the-ride learning is certainly not without its risks.

This is where books, articles and videos come in handy. Smart riders know that taking advantage of other riders’ experiences – and, mistakes! – can save a lot of time, money and pain. It is simply impossible for one rider to experience every type of situation – at least not until they have several hundred thousand miles under their wheels. Learning from others’ mistakes can do a lot to bolster the learning curve.

There are quite a number of highly experienced riders willing to share their adventures. Many of those adventures include near-misses, or even full-blown crashes, with all sorts of animals. Take advantage of that experience. Learn from the mistakes and insights that experienced riders and trainers, including myself, are willing to share.

If someone is sharing a story about an animal encounter, chances are there is at least one nugget in there that may help you with your own encounter on a future ride. Knowledge is key!

3 – Friends’ experiences may be more entertaining, than useful

Oh, feel free to ask your friends for advice. But, I guarantee that if you ask five riding buddies about the best way to out-wit a wondering wild-one, you’ll get more than five different responses – try it and see for yourself!

The challenge with advice from friends is that the information is usually passed around in a manner meant more for entertainment, than education. While the gist of the story is probably maintained, important details—such as roadway and environmental conditions, visibility issues, rider skills and actions, vehicle speed and condition, and any actual useful defense strategies—are often forgotten or changed in order to impress or humor the listeners; not always, but often.

And, let’s not forget about rider ego—who wants to admit to being taken down by two-foot Baby Bambi? Being taken down by Baby Bambi’s seven-foot Uncle Buck makes a much better story, especially when survival was due more to luck than skill.

Go ahead and consult with your friends. But, do yourself a favor and compare their stories with those published by experienced riders and trainers, and then use that information to develop your own defense strategies.  

4 – Your animal encounters will be unique to you

If you have been riding for a while, chances are that you have already had at least one up-close-and-personal near-disaster with some four-legged creature who violated your right-of-way without warning. Many experienced riders can easily rattle off numerous tales about creatures, large and small, that unwittingly chose to fly, buzz, jump, run, waltz, or slither across their path. Fortunately, most of these tales do not end with a tally of expensive medical or repair bills – sometimes they do.

Listen to what other riders say, but know that your animal encounters will be unique to you. On every ride you take, you need to consider the type of environment you will be riding through, which animals you might encounter, the current weather and road conditions, and many other things. Animal behavior can also change drastically depending on the time of the day, the season of the year, and whether they are protecting their young, among other things.

Just remember, no two animal encounters are ever the same. 

5 – You are a home invader, be responsible, be respectful

Like most motorcycle riders, I love riding through the mountains, the coasts, the deserts, and all the other beautiful out-of-the-way habitats these innocent creatures call home. In fact, it is a personal goal of mine to ride through all of our country’s national parks—home to many already-endangered creatures.

As a rider, however, I know it is my responsibility to remember that I am the one invading their territory – their home – not the other way around. The onus is on me to respect the homes of these beautiful free creatures and help keep me, and them, safe!

Please feel free to comment below and share your own animal antics story. And, definitely let me know what additional animal information you might want to see in future articles. The more we learn and the more we experience, the more prepared we will be when – not if – animal antics happen.

Above all, remember…Conquer the risk, mastering the machine, and have more fun motorcycling!

Ride to Ride Again,
Joy Medved, Founder
Joy of Motorcycling®

8 Comments on “Anticipating Animal Antics: 5 Things Riders Need to Know

  1. Great article! Some small animals have “hollow” bones. Can you imagine running one over,thump, thump. Then having a slow leak, perhaps a sudden deflating tire I’m the middle of the road? What will be your options?

  2. What’s scary are when the buffalo are going back and forth in Custer State Park. Those herds will wipe you out.

  3. I like the theory of not swerving but instead aiming for/hitting the animal straight on going as fast as you can. You’ve got a 50% chance of splitting it in half and ending up right-side up on the other side. Plus, if you aim right at the animal there’s a chance it might dart out of the way.
    If you try to swerve/brake to avoid the animal chances are you could land off to the side of the road in a ditch with a curious animal sniffing you. Just MHO.

  4. Not all animal encounters happen while riding. Back in the 70s my Kawasaki Z1 was mauled by a bear in the middle of the night in Sequoia National Park. Long story short; Don’t leave a banana or toothpaste in your saddlebags!!!

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