The weather is cold and windy outside, so the time is coming to dust
off our long-neglected mountain bike and become a kid again! Many
folks are just trying this outrageously fun sport for the first time,
others are going to have to re-hone those bike handling skills learned
in the past that kept us from the dreaded endo! Newbie or old seasoned
trail rider alike, trail etiquette is of utmost importance if we
intend to continue to share trails with other users (or have them to
ride at all!) I found this article published on the International
Mountain Bike Association’s web site (www.imba.org) and thought it was
appropriate reading material for those of us who ditch our “roadie”
status for a little while in the off-season!
Share The Trails
Your mountain bike will bring you a great deal of fun and adventure.
Woodlands, meadows, rolling hills, woods roads, single and
double-tracks; some of these experiences are as close as our local
state forests (and) parks. Be aware that not all properties are open
to mountain biking, but in those that are, remember that you’ll be
sharing these lands with hikers, runners, equestrians and nature
It is our responsibility to insure that our use of the trails does not
spoil that of other trail users, or spoil the trails themselves. The
actions of a few individuals often speak for a whole group, and
mountain bikes are no exception. We ALL must engage in a public
relations and education effort to counter and eliminate any negative
image that can cause us to be excluded from using public lands. It is
quite possible to have fun and be responsible at the same time (without
much effort!). Remember that the future of the sport is in YOUR hands.
All Encounters Should Be Positive
Remember we are the new folks in the woods. We must go out of our way
to make a good impression on everyone we meet. Showing off, doing
stunts, or riding fast can tarnish that good impression quickly. Your
finely honed riding skills can look dangerous, crazy and irresponsible
to everyone else.
When Encountering Hikers
Hikers have the right of way, so slow down, stop or pull to the side of
the trail. Remember that they are there for a quiet, peaceful
experience, but say hi, be friendly. When approaching from the rear,
slow to their speed, and let them know you’re there (before you’re right
behind them). You cannot imagine how much of a shock it can be to meet
up with or be passed by a quiet, swift bicycle. Expect that children
or dogs will walk right in front of you as you pass. They are curious.
When Encountering Equestrians (and Their Hooved Friends)
Being surprised by bicycles can be a frightening and unpleasant
experience for some equestrians. Give both the horse and the rider a
chance to get used to meeting bicycles in the woods. A horse’s instinct
is to run when confronted with the unfamiliar. Never assume that an
equestrian is aware of your presence or in control of the horse. If
approaching from the front, ALWAYS stop and let them pass unless the
rider indicates otherwise. If from the rear, slow to their speed, and
from 50 to 100 feet away, ask if it safe to pass slowly or walk your
bike around them. Say hi, be friendly, and admire the horses. The
spoken word is the first indication to the horse that you are a person
and not a threat.
Excessive speed is the single most common complaint that other trail
users have about us. Slow down if you don’t have absolutely unrestricted
vision of the trail ahead. Assume that someone else is just out of sight,
and be prepared to stop (in control) when you turn the corner.
Ride in Small Groups
Whenever possible keep groups smaller than five, for the impression you
make is magnified by the group’s size. As an individual you should go out
of your way to insure that your use of the trails will not spoil the
outdoor experience of others.
The most objectionable sign of our presence is a degraded trail.
Conservationists love to point to bicycle ruts and use them as a reason
or justification for banning use from suitable riding areas, so never
ride when and where you will leave ruts. This means carrying your bike
across soft spots and walking around mud puddles so you don’t widen
them. This means not riding on rainy days. Don’t hesitate to walk or
carry your bike in technical or muddy sections. Learn cyclocross
dismounts, mounts and carrying techniques if you are concerned with
efficiency. Carry your bike through streams. The silt stirred up can
smother water critters and their eggs. The cross-ruts can also divert
the stream to create a puddle. Be careful to not widen trails by riding
over vegetation alongside the trail. Stay in the middle of the trail.
Don’t skid. Don’t brake slide. Locking up the brakes in not only an
inefficient way to ride, but can degrade hills by forming gullies that
water funnels down, can rut sensitive trails, and always indicates a
lack of control to others. Modulating brakes - both front and back -
will prevent skidding and increase control. Slow, even pedal strokes
prevent “spinning-out” up hills (which can cause ruts), as well as
increasing the chance that you’ll make it over the top. Finesse is
often more successful than brute strength. Don’t be embarrassed to
walk or run your bike up or down steep hills. Keep in mind that a lot
of work goes into building and maintaining trails. Go easy on bridges
and stone or wood steps.
Riding Habits for All Times:
- Never take shortcuts or cut corners on tight turns or switch backs.
- Ride only on existing trails, don’t make new ones, including
“turn-outs” around fallen logs.
- Respect private property.
- Never litter. Try to pack out more than you bring in.
- Learn to fix a flat, repair a chain, etc. and carry tools that you
will need to get yourself out of the woods.
- Wear a helmet.
- Get Involved!
Make some new friends - get to know the staff in the public land areas
in which you ride. Help them manage the area by informing them of
fallen trees, large litter sites or illicit behavior. Volunteer for
trail maintenance or clean-up days. A day or two a year is a small
price to pay for the privilege of riding in the woods. Showing land
managers that you are willing to give something back to the land that
you use makes a huge impression. When they know they can count on us
for assistance, policy makers are likely to decide in our favor.
So, happy trails! But remember, the future of mountain biking is in
Taken from an article by NEMBA (www.nemba.org),
edited for brevity.