I know the local roads well, not just the routes to take but the details along the way. There are the obvious features like climbs, sharp corners and rough sections of roads. But I also I know where almost every dog lives within a 50km radius.
Not only that, I know plenty about these dogs. There’s the one with the neckerchief for a collar, the one with three legs and even the one who winks at me every time I ride past (it’s true!). Not only that, I know which dogs are kept behind fences, those that spend the day on a chain and above all, those that are free to roam.
Why this dog database, this canine connaissance? Well it’s because some can run into the road in front of me and cause an accident. One local dog even bit my ankle a while ago. So it’s useful to know which descents you can fly down and the points where you need to check that a dog isn’t going to bound into the road in front of you.
Now this isn’t something I dread, it’s more that with time I’ve got to know where each dog lives and I found myself thinking of the road ahead in terms of which dog lives where. Besides, when you ride through the countryside, you don’t see many humans and most won’t wave – but a man dog will often bark. Similarly, a pothole is a pothole, it’s not something you need to anticipate that much.
Not that all dogs are dangerous but it’s very common for me to ride past a house in the countryside and for the dog to run the length of his garden fence and bark at the passing ride. I know one dog that will even jump the fence to pursue me, something I discovered on the return leg of a very long ride, my legs were dead but I was forced into a massive uphill sprint to distance the dog, a large German Shepherd. It’s happened a couple of times since.
No doubt some dogs just want to play and run with you, others are on instinctive guard duty. A friend’s dog would chase passing cars, it would even bite the tyres of parked cars but the but the habit proved fatal. But in a collision between cyclist and dog, the risk is that both get injured.