The bike boom has brought more people than ever outside to take advantage of local trail systems. Most trails are designated multi-use, and, at some point, you’ll end up yielding to others. While some practices may seem like a no-brainer on the trail, we’ve been rather taken aback as we have witnessed some unsafe methods.
In this feature we include the International Mountain Bike Association’s (IMBA) guidelines with some additional tips we’ve gathered. Whether you’re sharing the outdoors with equestrians, fellow bike riders or hikers, this is a perfect courtesy guideline for how to share trail space responsibly.
1. USE OPEN TRAILS
It is imperative to respect trail and road closures. Last year we saw quite a few trail closures that were not taken seriously. If you are unsure about the area you intend to ride, we recommend getting in touch with a land manager for more information.
2. WHO GOES WHERE?
On our mountain bikes, we have the ability to move quicker than hikers or horses. In light of this, bikers are commonly expected to yield to both; however, because we can move faster than hikers, it can be more manageable for bikers to yield the right of way. This is especially the case when we are pedaling up a technical incline; however, hikers may not know or even remember that an individual going uphill ought to have the right of way, so riders should never expect a hiker to yield. As bikers, it’s smart to make a habit of slowing down and calling out as you come down steep slopes or sweep through blind switchbacks. Use a bell and communicate verbally to let people know if it’s just you or if there are other riders following. Awareness bells can be useful, but don’t rely on them to give you the right of way. Communication is the ultimate deciding factor.
Since horses are slower and take up more trail space, both riders and hikers should yield. Make sure to give the horseback rider as wide a path as possible while remaining calm and not making sudden movements that might startle the animal. If you’re looking to pass from behind, it is best to announce your presence with a “hello.” When passing or yielding to others, make sure to always stay on the trail to reduce erosion. We try to pull to the edge of the trail but not completely off the trail. Aim to make each passing opportunity steady and polite.
3. LEAVE NO MARK
If you are leaving tracks in the dirt, it’s not dry enough to go ride. As fun as it is playing in the mud, wet trail conditions are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. Also, don’t forget the “pack it in; pack it out” mantra. That energy bar that was just devoured has a wrapper that needs to be disposed of properly. Set an example by picking up any other trash you might spot while taking a break. Although it may not be yours, the trails are for all.
4. KEEP CONTROL
We all like to get hyped and hit new lines, smash rock gardens, and jump new tabletops. Nevertheless, it’s important to ride within your ability and not lose control. While going off course might get you into some serious trouble, it’s crucial to be mindful that you could also be putting others at risk who are using the trails.
5. HAVE A PLAN
Being prepared, doing research on the area and having a plan is crucial for any adventure. We highly recommend getting to know every bit of your equipment and how it functions. We like to keep tools easily accessible for whatever circumstances we are faced with. While this is a big no-brainer to us, we have to remind our fellow riders to always wear a helmet and suitable protective equipment.
TRICKS AND TIPS
Be nice, say hi: Communicating, “Hey, how are you? Just me coming by,” goes a long way in creating friendlessness towards mountain bikers. Be stoked; keep it fun.
Group shout-outs: If anyone gets out of the way for a pass, make sure to let them know if it’s just you or if more riders are coming.
Not in the middle: When there’s enough room to do so safely, it’s customary for the slower rider to pull aside and let the faster rider pass. It is also customary to avoid blocking the trail when doing repairs or just stopping to enjoy the outdoors. Be mindful that being right in the middle of the trail could be hazardous.
Close call: Riding right up on someone else’s rear tire can cause accidents. Use your voice and communicate kindly that you’d like to pass when possible.
Listen: Our favorite bar attachment is a dedicated mountain bike bell. This is an ideal way for others to hear you and be prepared before they see you.
Slow it down: While skidding might be inevitable with the type of surface you are on, it can rapidly damage trails. As our fellow trail workers like to say, “Ride it; don’t slide it.”
These guidelines and simple tips will not only help you but will keep everyone having a killer day on the trails. We are not asking our fellow riders to memorize all of them. However, if you take away one thing from this article, let it be the goal to treat everyone—and the trail itself—with respect. We are confident that if more riders follow this advice and pass along proper etiquette, our beloved trails will be more welcoming for riders of all experience levels. Let’s work together and keep trails open by being solid examples of environmentally friendly and socially engaged mountain bike riders.