Mountain Bike Search and Rescue
By Sue Ralston
Trail RidersMay 2016
Story by Sue Ralston
Photos by Jeannine Hendrickson
Shasta County is renowned for its abundant year-round outdoor recreation opportunities: beautiful lakes, hiking trails, single-track mountain biking trails. But what happens when someone gets lost or injured while off the beaten path?
That’s where the Shasta County Search and Rescue Bicycle Team comes in. Formed about a year ago under the umbrella of the sheriff’s office, the bicycle team is made up of a small number of highly skilled and trained bicyclists willing to get on their mountain bikes on short notice to help locate a lost or endangered person.
When Albert Sanchez of Redding heard about the team about a year ago, he knew he would volunteer to be a part of it. An avid mountain bicyclist and a member of the Redding Mountain Biking Club, he says, “I just thought it was a good way to give back to the community.”
The Shasta County Sheriff’s office is in charge of several search and rescue teams, including a ground team, a tracking team, a canine team and a horse team, according to Rob Sandbloom, the office’s search and rescue coordinator. And with more than 225 miles of bicycling, hiking and equestrian trails in the county, the bicycle team fills a unique niche in locating and helping those who may find themselves in trouble while out on the trails.
Bicyclists can cover more ground than a rescuer on foot. They can hear cries for help where an ATV or motorcycle rescuer may not. A ground team might traverse brush and off-the-trail areas, working in conjunction with a cyclist riding the trails. In the event of a serious injury such as a broken leg, the rescue team might carry out an injured person on a “litter” or get the person to a clearing where an air ambulance can get them out.
Prospective bicycle team members must be skilled mountain bicyclists and provide their own uniform and bicycle. Training is provided at monthly meetings in first aid, assessment skills, navigation and reading topographic maps. First-responder CPR certification and a background check are also required.
The sheriff’s office manages each search or critical incident and sends out the volunteers, staying in touch by radio from a base. “Our bicycle team volunteers are told to provide basic first aid and call back to base to request services,” Sandbloom says.
Jim Lindquist, a retired California Highway Patrolman and avid cyclist, proposed the idea of a bicycle search and rescue team to the county after one search a few years ago for a missing child. The search and rescue team used bicycles to search along the Sacramento River banks near Cypress Avenue, where no vehicles could go. “It’s also a better and faster method of searching through parks and greenbelt areas than the ground team on foot,” he says. “Motorcycles or quads make too much noise.”
While the bicycle team has yet to be deployed on a wilderness mission, it’s constantly training and also help out with community events. For last spring’s Shasta Mud Run, a fundraiser for the Youth Violence Prevention Council, the team acted as course marshals, riding around the 10K course with all of its obstacles and mud pits to make sure runners weren’t in any trouble. In May, they’ll help again with the Mud Run, stationing bicycle team members at evenly spaced points on the course, providing any help runners may need.
The bicycle team has five members and is open to more. Before applying, those interested must attend two of the monthly meetings. On the third meeting, they’ll be able to apply for membership. “This really demonstrates their interest and commitment,” says Lindquist.
Bicycle Search and Rescue Team
Meetings: Third Tuesday of the month, 7 pm
Call (530) 356-0504 for location
More information: [email protected]