It is important for all mountain bikers to understand and follow mountain biking etiquette so all trail users to have a fun and safe experience.
I know, mountain biking etiquette – really?
Yes! There are two overriding reasons why mountain biking etiquette is important:
1. We are not riding alone on the trails and we will encounter other mountain bikers. One of the things that makes mountain biking cool is the comradery of the community. We all share the trails and an interest in mountain biking. This breeds a natural comradery and tends to make mountain bikers play nicely with other bikers on the trail. This is a big positive for the sport, so keep a mind to furthering the spirit of the community by paying attention to etiquette.
2. We also share the trails with hikers and equestrians. Cutting to the chase, mountain bikers are the new kids on the block and over time there has been a lot of friction between hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. This has greatly slowed the growth of mountain biking trail systems. Mountain biking groups, however, have made much progress in recent years, due in large part to public relations efforts and mountain bikers respecting other trail users. It is in our own best interest to put our best foot forward and the most tangible way to do that is to respect trail etiquette when mountain biking.
Be Mindful of Hikers and Horses
The rule is that mountain bikers yield for hikers and all trail users should yield for horses. Horses can be skittish, especially around moving mountain bikes, so help equestrians by moving aside and yielding the trail. When encountering hikers, you must also yield. As a practical matter, however, hikers will generally step aside for bikers, but don’t count on it. Slow your speed and let the hikers know you are there, then ask to pass. Make sure to thank them for yielding the trail.
Uphill Bikers Have Right of Way
Downhill mountain bikers should always yield to uphill riders. There is a good reason for this – unlike downhill riders, it takes a good deal of effort for an uphill biker, particularly in steep terrain, to get moving again and regain their cadence. So, if you are going downhill and encounter uphill bikers, be polite, yield the trail (unless there is room for both riders), smile, and say ‘hi’. You will enjoy the same courtesy when you are going uphill.
Slower Riders Yield to Faster Riders
Slower riders should yield to faster riders. This does not mean, however, that a faster rider can just blow past someone moving slower. If they are not yielding, ask politely if you can go around them. We are all sharing the trails and a little courtesy from all goes a long way to furthering the sport.
Groups Should Ride Single File When Encountering Other Mountain Bikers
There is perhaps nothing quite as annoying as riding a trail and looking up to see a crowd of riders in a pack filling the trail. Unfortunately, when in groups people sometimes forget that they do not own the trail. If you are in a group, respect the other riders and ride single file.
Stay on the Trail
Trails are sensitive and often so, too, is the terrain the trail crosses. Keep singletrack single by staying on the trail and off the sides. This will preserve the quality of the trail and greatly reduce erosion.
Step Aside to Take Breaks
When taking a break, step to the side of the trail. Remember, the trails are shared and other mountain bikers should not have to step around those taking a break in the middle of the trail. This is a particular problem with groups, again underscoring the responsibility of group leaders to control their groups.
If you encounter riders who appear lost or who may have an issue, ask if they need help. Remember, we are a community and you may be the one who needs help next time.
Carry Out Your Garbage
Respect the trails – nuf said.
Know the Rules and Guidelines of the Particular Trails You Ride and Follow Them
Different trail systems may have different rules for right of way, so don’t think that right of way rules are always uniform. For example, in Bend there is a system called Phil’s where outgoing riders are to yield to incoming riders (those moving from the trailhead to the farther reaches of the system) regardless of general climbing vs. descending etiquette rules. Additionally, some systems, such as Blanket’s Creek in Georgia, vary trail riding directions based on the day of the week. System rules are usually posted at the main trailhead, so do everyone a favor and make sure to determine if the system you will be riding has specific rules.
So, these are the rules of mountain biking etiquette, pretty simple and common sense – right?
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