Trail Etiquette

March 25, 2021

Mountain biking is pure heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping fun. There’s no greater feeling of freedom than when you’re out there ripping it up. It’s just you, your two wheels, and the trail. Well, sort of. Even on solo rides deep in the woods when you don’t see another soul for hours at a time, the reality of mountain biking is that it’s a collective sport. Other people built the trails, other people use the trails, and we all need to do our part to make it as enjoyable as possible for everyone–not just ourselves.

Only Ride Open Trails:

This is a big one! Especially in the spring as snow is melting and rain’s a regular in the forecast, trails in most of North America can be wet more often than not. Wet trails are extremely susceptible to being damaged by impact, which is why trail systems close trails when it’s wet. Trails take months (or years!) to build, but it only takes a matter of minutes for riders who are “poaching” closed trails to do major damage. Talk about spoiling the fun.

Leave No Trace:

The golden rule of the great outdoors. You’ve heard this a million times–because it’s that important! Never leave trash when you’re out riding, and better yet, if you see trash on the trail, pull over when it’s safe and snag it! That good karma will help you shred even harder, trust me.

There’s a Time and a Place:

Check yourself before you wreck yourself (or someone else). Getting rad and going big is mountain biking at its best, but keep in mind you’re not typically the only person riding a trail. There’s a time and a place for everything. If you know there’s a group of kids riding ahead of you, maybe don’t take that blind turn at top speed. We get it, you’re fast. You’ll pass them (politely) soon enough, and then you can go full send without scaring the crap out of less experienced riders or flattening one of them.

Pass Politely:

Conventions for yielding can vary based on where you’re riding, but there are a few main rules that will always hold true:

Yield to other trail users on multi-use trails. Hiker headed your way? Pull over to the side of the trail until they pass.

On two-way trails, yield to riders who are climbing when you’re descending. Again, pull over to the side of the trail and let them pass. Mind you, there’s a difference between the side of the trail and off the trail where you’re trampling vegetation.

When you catch a rider on the trail who’s riding slower than you, call out that you’d like to pass and give them enough space. No one likes tailgaters on the road, and the same is true on the trail. Give riders enough time to find a safe piece of trail to pull over and say thanks when you ride by. If you’re riding in a group, tell them how many more riders are coming. Conversely, when you’ve got a faster rider coming up behind you, find somewhere safe to pull over, and let ’em scoot by.

Respect Wildlife:

One of the coolest parts of mountain biking is the animals you can encounter while riding. Big, small, furry or feathered, you’re riding in their turf. So, show some respect! Keep an eye out and avoid startling any animals that might be near the trail. This is both for their safety and yours. Startling an animal that has a few hundred pounds on you isn’t going to end well for anyone. A little common sense goes a long way. If you’re riding in bear country, bear spray is an added insurance policy that’s always good to have on-hand.

Ride Ready:

Do your best to be a safe and self-sufficient rider. Before you head to the trail, make sure the trails are open and within your ability level. Check to make sure your bike is in good working order and pack everything you’ll need for the ride.

Be Nice!

Seems obvious, but I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how much better off we all are when we’re kind to each other. Mountain biking is meant to be fun. We’re all out riding because we love it. Ride hard, but always pass politely, say hi to other riders, and offer to help out if it looks like someone could use a hand.

Bam, you’ve got it down! You made it through the winter, brushed up on your trail etiquette, and now it’s finally time to tune that bike up, find some open trails and enjoy the spring weather. See you out there!

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