A bicyclist's definition of the dog days of August: long stretches of energy-sapping heat and humidity, enlivened only by panic-inducing puffs of dog breath on the ankles.
Pedaling past the domain of certain canines, cyclists inevitably spark barking, and often a chase.
George Morin of Barre sacrificed some skin to a howling hound last month while biking through Hubbardston on his way home from work. The dog went straight for his right calf, surprising him more than hurting him.
"I guess I could have done something (to avoid the dog)," Morin said, "but I didn't really think he was going to bite me. You know how a lot of dogs just go after the wheels. ... Usually I just yell at them, and it slows them down enough so you can keep going."
For cyclists, the danger is not only that a dog might bite, but worse, might cause a crash. And when a group of riders meets a mutt, the chances increase that someone's sudden maneuver will pitch a person to the pavement.
"With a lot of dogs, it's all bark and no bite," said dog trainer Pat Perry, owner of the Hedgerow Kennel in Royalston. "It's natural behavior for a dog to protect its territory."
But when a dog chases passers-by, "it's lack of training, lack of responsibility on the owner's part," Perry said. "Here, we won't tolerate something like that. Even out in the country, a lot of these towns have leash laws for a reason."
What should you do when Rover bares his teeth and goes for your gams?
Squirt your water bottle at the dog's face. I've seen this stop raging beasts in their tracks many times. Most recently, it worked on a furball named Cleo on Boston Road in Sutton, thanks to straight shooting by Dave Baumgartner of Douglas, who works at Trek Stop in Grafton.
Baumgartner, who used to be a dog groomer in an animal hospital, said the trick is to assess whether a dog is just playing or is out for blood. He usually tries friendliness first, talking to the dog in a normal tone of voice. Shouting is just inviting the dog to join a game of tag, he said.
The trouble is, there's no time for trial and error when
it's four legs vs. two wheels. Keep that water bottle handy.
Judging from the sample in the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts newsletter, Andy Rubel of Cambridge has done an excellent job of mapping bike routes on the North Shore and Cape Cod. Most road maps don't convey enough informatin to be truly useful to touring cyclists, and some that purport to be bike maps don't do much better.
Rubel's cartography, accomplished on a computer using USGS maps and digital data form the Census Bureau, displays not only recommended routes, but also side streets and topographical features that can help cyclists figure out where they are. Among other things, the map shows full-service bike shops, bed-and-breakfasts, campgrounds, mountain bike trail areas, and swimming areas.
The map is "on its way to the printer," Rubel said last week, and should be available in September. to order a copy, send $4.50 (the price includes tax and shipping) to BikeMaps Massachusetts, P.O. Box 1035, Cambridge, Mass. 02140.
Also, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has
updated its bike map, which has the added feature of turn-by-turn cues for four
scenic loops, about 40 miles each. The map is available free from Conn. DOT,
P.O. Box 317546, Newington, Conn. 06131-7546.
Cycling lost an advocate and an inspiration when John Torosian of Atkinson, N.H., died June 30, just after cycling across America with Pedal for Power, a fund-raising program he created for the League of American Wheelmen. Torosian, 61, was a few days away from the end of his term as League president.
Torosian taught philosophy at Worcester State College in the early 1960s and founded an education consulting service in Shrewsbury. He biked from Portland, Maine, to Orlando, Fla., seven times, raced Paris-Brest-Paris three times, and led cycling delegations in China and Russia.
I'll remember him on the 1990 Pedal for Power trip to Florida, expertly pulling a tired paceline into a relentless Georgia headwind and combining sound advice and fatherly encouragement in daily "route raps" for our rolling party.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Bicyclists Education and Legal Foundation, League of American Wheelmen, 190 West Ostend Road, Baltimore, Md. 21230.
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