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Mountain Biking: Trail Etiquette to Follow (Be Responsible!)

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Are you a Mountain biking enthusiast? The sense of freedom, and of course the fun while cycling through the challenging terrains are something we all love, isn’t it? Well, enthusiasm is not all if you don’t even know the trail etiquette. While you are biking on the everchanging terrains, the most important things you should take responsibility for are nature and the fellow trail users. Sporting a new bike and rushing through the trail like a monster without giving a single thought to your attitude and behavior throughout the journey is of no use. If you are enjoying your ride, then it is also mandatory that you make the journey delightful to others too. Being generous to someone doesn't cost much, does it? Mountain biking trail etiquette can make the experience better to everyone you come across in your path.

We all are careless and commit some mistakes unknowingly while cycling, but committing the same mistakes time and again is not acceptable. While you set out with your trail mountain bikes to cover the trail, the first things that you revise in your mind are what does single track mountain biking mean, or how to avoid the spills or waterbars enroute and so on. Little do you care about the trail etiquette. After all, why engaging mind over behaviour while all you need is adrenaline rush?

Why Follow Mountain Biking Trail Etiquette

Karma pays you back. We all are familiar with this popular line. Cycling through a hikers’ trail or equestrian’s path will not only damage the trail but also endangers your safety. A split-second decision of a trail passing etiquette can cost a great deal. You might get injured so badly that you cannot continue mountain cycling for a long time. Spooking a horse or any animal you encounter on a trail can be fatal. Not to mention the grudge of the fellow trail users! You can get attacked by a group, don’t ignore that possibility too!

Rules of the Trail - IMBA

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has offered a few mountain biking rules and regulations to help everyone using the trail having a great experience while building a sense of responsibility. These rules are not hard or complicated and hence, there is no reason why you would not follow them by heart.

Only Open Trails

Do you think it is a matter of pride treading the off-road avoiding the permitted areas? There are a number of open trails provided for you, so there is definitely a reason a road is blocked. It may be a private land or a conservatory area or even dangerous. Trespassing is illegal, keep that in mind. Moreover, riding somewhere your bike is not supposed to be, can damage your beloved trail mountain bikes.

multi use trail etiquette
Use Open Trails for Mountain Biking (Source)

Ask for the clarification or authorization permit to the land manager if you must. The area may seem inviting to you, but the ecosystem might not be suitable to sustain the trampling of a mountain bike. Don’t damage the woods or knock down fences or anything that disturbs the ecology. Don’t try to define trail by yourself.

Leaving Trace is a Strict No-No

You are not in charge of creating new trails. So multi-use trail etiquette is to stay in your existing trail; don’t convert the singletrack into a doubletrack that eventually gets converted to a road. Mountain biking trail etiquette is all about following the trails, totally different from cycling on a wide road. Cutting switchbacks or riding around mud or standing water can be your tendency, stop yourself from breaking the rules of the trail. Muddy roads are soft and prone to get damaged, so check the other options or wait for the dirt to dry out.

Clean up your own mess, don’t litter along the trail. None is in charge of picking up the plastic wrappers, tin foil, bottles, damaged bike accessories and so on. Being eco-friendly is relative to biking in virgin areas.

Control Yourself and your Bike

Obeying trail etiquette signs, not your forte? Speeding without the hint of alertness about the other bikers ahead can injure both you and the fellow bikers; not to mention the mangled condition of your bike! Know your bike as you know your bestie and keep all its equipment in good working condition.

mountain biking rules and regulations
Be cautious on Bumpy Trails. (Source)

Shifters and gears are more important than saddles when you are on a hill. In bumpy trail, lower your seat. In downhill descend, keep your weight back and in case of uphill climb, keep your weight forward.

Yield, Yield More and Yield Properly

Yield to make the trails safe for riding. Let the other bikers or hikers or equestrians know your approach by chiming your bell or simply by calling out. Reduce your speed while taking a blind turn is the best way to be on safe side. Enlighten them and define trail courteously if the trail is a bike-only trail or one-way trail.

Get off your bike if you see traffic ahead of you, especially the equestrians as the horses are easily spooked by the bikes. Mountain bike trail etiquette right of way is to make enough room for the other people to pass by getting off your bike and a greeting is always better!

mountain biking rules and regulations
Mountain Biking Yield Sign (Source)

Bikers moving downhill should have their speed controlled so that if another biker is seen moving uphill, you can easily stop by the trail to give him access to go up. Thanks to gravity, starting your bike in downward direction is easy but going uphill is not. So be considerate.

Don’t be a Monster and Scare the Animals

As discussed above, don’t scare the horses as they can be really violent. Don’t want to get in risk, do you? You can encounter animals such as squirrels, monkeys, foxes, Prairie dogs, birds and cattle. Mountain biking trail etiquette is to let them cross the road peacefully without hurting them and give them enough space to get adjusted to your presence. They are the natives of the trail; it’s you who are treading on their habitat.

Plan and be Prepared

Mountain bike trail rules include packing your belongings according to the weather conditions and the trail you are going to cover. Wear a helmet and proper biking clothes (light t-shirt, jackets, gloves, knee pads etc). Carry spare clothing. Spare bike instruments such as tyre levers, inner tubes, pump, Allen key are also necessary to carry. First aid kit, sufficient water, energy bars are also important. Changes in weather, malfunctioning of bike are some common phenomena you can experience.

Don’t stop in Middle, Start or End of a Trail

Don't block the entrance or the exit way of the rail no matter how deep in thought you are. Shift to the side and stay safe from the wrath of other bikers! If you are taking a break or repairing your bike, do you need to do it right in the middle of the track?

Please, make way for others. Abrupt brakes can also make other bikers behind you stumble onto you and you both get injured as well as get covered in dirt. Also if you see someone who has just crashed or having a trouble fixing up their bike, mountain biking trail etiquette is to stop by to check onto them and lend a hand stopping by the road.

You are a Stravasshole if you Cut Corners

As mentioned earlier, cutting your own course is not your job. You might encounter the bikers who are slower than you and you might feel an urge to overtake them by cutting corners. But it will damage the trail making it wider. In order to shave some seconds off your Strava can ruin your biking experience altogether.

Consider the fact that you too were a beginner someday. So underestimating a fellow biker who is just new in this and taking it slow, is never a good way to behave. Imagine how you would feel when you are lagging and someone is going to overtake you in full speed by taunting you? Not delightful right?

Show respect to fellow bikers. Don’t make them losing balance by getting too close. Call out politely, ask them to give passage and also be patient while they corner their bike. The mountain biking trail etiquette is to never forget to convey thanks. Showing gratitude to the person you are not in race with does not cost you anything, rather makes the journey sweeter.

Let Faster People Pass

The vice versa point we were discussing above! No matter whether the fast biker does not ask you politely to give them space, it is for your own sake of safety, you will let them pass. People can be jerk sometimes! Does not mean that you too act like one! Wait until you find a wider spot to roll over on the side and pull over at the corner to let them pass.

trail etiquette passing
Greet the Passerby(s) (Source)

Finally, all these guidelines might not always fit into the situation you will face. That’s where your common sense is most important. Greeting the passerby(s) with a cordial “hello” or “thank you” is much better than getting into a brawl. If you are cycling with a group, it is mandatory to look out for each other. It should be your inner compulsion to behave as a “good guy” and be a good guy too.

Summing up

Have a thorough research about the trail you are going to take, respect the local people and the ecology. Show respect to the fellow trail users and greet them cordially. Making the trail better than it was before –this should be your concern. Some simple etiquettes can make the whole experience of mountain biking much enjoyable than before. Be a good human being so that people do not hold any negative vibe towards the bikers. Have a safe and sweet biking experience!

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