Mountain Bike Trail Etiquette for Newbies & Seasoned Pros Alike
There’s no feeling quite like the freedom of flowing down a trail on your bike. With your hands gripping the handlebars and feet on the pedals, you’re taken back to being a little kid again. We want to share this feeling with others and preserve it for generations to come - but we need to take care of our trails in order to do so.
Proper etiquette isn’t always known by those who head out on the trail and they can accidentally ruin the experience for others. Brush up on these (sometimes unwritten) rules and encourage your riding partners to do the same so we have happy trails and happy riders alike.
Don’t Widen The Trail
This is a mistake new riders often make. When you ride around puddles, obstacles, downed trees, or difficult sections, you’re actually widening the trail unintentionally. This crushes vegetation and causes drainage issues that are hard to repair. Always ride through a puddle instead of going around it (avoid riding when conditions are too wet) and walk your bike down any sections you’re unsure about. This helps keep the trails as narrow as they were intended to be and the surrounding area undisturbed!
Do Step Off The Trail
While you don’t want to ride off-trail, you should definitely step aside if you’re stopped. When taking a water break, high-fiving, or snapping Instagram pics, make sure you and your bike are out of the way if other riders come along behind you. Safety is key and stopping in the middle of a trail can result in a dangerous collision.
Yield, Yield, Yield
We’re almost always sharing the trail with others. Uphill riders always have the right-away, and you should yield for all non-bikers (runners, horseback riders, cars when crossing a road). Keep your speed under control and remember there could always be someone around the next corner - and watch out for faster riders and let them pass you by if you’re going slowly. When in doubt, pull to the side… it’s a good excuse for a break anyway.
Follow The Rules
There are trails where uphill/downhill traffic isn’t allowed, and there are trails where bikes aren’t allowed. Make sure you check the rules before you go to avoid crashes or sanctions. If a trail is closed, respect it and head somewhere else until it reopens - it’s likely closed for repairs or animal sightings. Bikers breaking the rules can end up losing riding privileges for everyone, so it’s best to stay updated and follow closures and restrictions.
If you’re heading out on the trail, you should have what you need to get back out. Take a bike maintenance course so you can fix common issues on the trail. Pack extra tubes, a pump, water, emergency snacks, and a first aid kit. Become familiar with the trail map or download a map from an app like TrailForks to avoid getting lost. Staying safe is number one every time you head out on a ride!
Take Care Of Your Trails
Trails take work to maintain, why not pitch in! Check out your local mountain bike club or trail organization and hop on a trail maintenance day. Not only are these dig days a good workout (and a good way to give back to the trail community), but they can help you learn more about trails and meet other riders. Next time you ride that section, you can take pride in knowing you kept it rideable.
With these helpful tips in mind, you can enjoy the ride and make sure others enjoy it too. Happy trails!