Mountain Bike Courtesy
Let Uphillers Ride! Because it's harder to restart when riding uphill, bikers have agreed that the uphiller has the right-of-way. Downhillers should pull to the side and let the uphiller ride past. (On the other hand, the purpose of riding is to have fun. Don't be a jerk about right-of-way. A lot of us -- including the UMB riders -- routinely pull off for downhillers when we're riding uphill, because (1) it's easier for us to stop, (2) we see the downhiller before he sees us, (3) we need the rest, and (4) we want the downhiller to have a good time.) If the trail is very wide, the downhiller can pass without stopping, by pulling far right and slowing to a crawl. The uphill rider may "signal" that he plans for you to do this by pulling onto the trail shoulder himself. If two bikers approach each other on the flat, the rider with the most expensive bike has the right-of-way. (Just kidding.) Keep right and slow down. Both bikers should look for a convenient turnout to get off the trail.
Fair Warning. When overtaking a biker from behind, always call out a warning. Chances are, he can't hear you over his own tire noise. If you're in a wide area where it's possible to pass, call your lane. Shout "Hi! To your left!" Never pass without warning -- the rider in front may make a sudden move that puts him into your path.
Get Out of My Way! If you hear or see another biker coming up behind you, pull to the side and let them past. This also applies to you hikers and horse-riders: even though you, as a foot soldier or cavalry rider, have the right of way, you're only doing 3 mph. When a 15 mph biker falls in behind you, he has to get past you somehow. Think he's going to "steeple chase," carrying his bike through the pine trees until he gets past? Just step your horse a few feet into the trees.
Don't Hurt the Dirt! Keep the trail in good condition for other riders. Don't skid: Skidding your tires, whether at a switchback or just stopping, stirs up loose stuff that makes riding harder (and more treacherous) for others. Don't dig: If the trail is so soft that you're leaving trenches like a backhoe, find a firmer trail to ride. If it's a localized bog, avoid making it worse: riding through makes a bog softer and deeper; riding around makes it bigger. Tiptoe around it. Or, if it's a frequent bog, lay some flat rocks or dead branches (2 to 3 inchers, about 3 feet long, placed like railroad ties across the trail and pushed into the mud) across it to create a path for future bikers. Don't litter: If you knock a big rock or tree branch into the trail, stop and move it off.
Don't Block the Trail. When making an emergency stop, lunch break, or a pause for trail-guide reference, get your bike, Camelbak, helmet, and butt off the trail. (Everybody forgets this one now and then, so forgive a trail-blocking biker freely.)
Always ask if you can help, even if you don't really mean it. Having read our bike repair pages, you're in a position to help other riders who are broken down. Share your knowledge, and your patches, generously.
Preventing Pissed-off Pedestrians. To keep trails open to mountain bikes, avoid making roadkill of hikers. Although, technically, the pedestrian has the right-of-way, he will usually be jumping off the trail in terror the second you spot him. Slow down immediately when you spot a foot soldier. Signal your intention: "Hi! Going right!" Go past more slowly, and with more clearance space, than you need to. If the hiker moved for you, say thanks. (And if he hasn't jumped off the trail, go to the side and stop so he can walk by, like you're supposed to. And say it's a great day for a hike.) When approaching hikers from behind, call out and let them (slowly, it will seem) move off the trail. Don't try to whoop-de-do the trail sidewalls around a bunch of hikers.
Don't be a Horses Patoot! Horses are skittish critters. And they have the right-of-way over bikers. When approaching a rider, slow down and reduce tire noise (don't skid your tires) while still a fair distance away. If you're approaching from the back, stay at least 30 feet behind. Call out and ask when it would be a good time to get by. When the horses are standing by the side of the trail, get off your bike and walk it past them. (If the horses are well off the trail -- 20 feet or so -- and stopped where they can see you, you could glide slowly by. But watch for any sign of nervousness from the horses. When in doubt, walk.) When approaching riders head-on, slow as soon as you spot them. Signal your intention: "Hi! Come on by!" Then stop at least 30 feet before the horses. Step your bike several feet off the trail, and stand until the horses have walked past. Smile and tell the cavalry to have a nice day.
Don't be a Sphincter-boy! Mountain biking is about having a good time. We all "bend" the rules of trail courtesy now and then, because it's the most practical thing under the circumstances. Give other bikers the "assumption of good intentions." Downhiller runs you into the bushes while you're grinding uphill? His brakes are faulty and he just couldn't stop. Knobby tires excavated a few pounds of dirt skidding around that switchback? He's a newbie, and it's the best he can do. You don't have to ruin somebody else's day by being the "Trail Policeman." Just keep your mouth shut, smile, have fun, and let others enjoy this glorious sport.
Copyright 2001 Mad Scientist Software Inc