Trail Etiquette is About Respect

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By Erica Tingey — One side effect of a global pandemic is that trails everywhere have attracted record numbers of mountain enthusiasts during the past several months. The surge in trail users – including many novices – has led to increased injuries, collisions, and environmental damage. Because of this, now is a suitable time for a refresher on trail etiquette. Keep in mind that mountain bike access to trail systems is largely contingent on safe and respectful behavior, as well as cooperative relationships with other dirt surfers.

Erica Tingey cornering. Photo by Alex Knight

Respect the yield triangle

Mountain bikers often share trails with hikers, joggers, and animals on multi-use trails. Riders must yield to pedestrians and horses, and downhill riders should yield to uphill riders. Follow local rules where available, and always adhere to instructions for directional trail segments. Ride only trails that are open and legal.

Respect other trail users

If you want to pass somebody, communicate politely and well in advance. Call out “Rider up” or “on your left,” and wait until it is safe to pass – don’t be so focused on your Strava stats that you endanger others. Using a bell can also come in handy, as sometimes it can be hard to hear a bike approaching. When crossing paths, let others know how many are in your group. Move completely off the trail if somebody faster than you wants to pass, even if it stings a little that they are faster than you! 

Respect the landscape

Ride only trails that are dry, as riding in mud can cause extensive trail damage. If mud is sticking to your tires, turn around and try to find another trail. Ride or walk through the center of puddles to avoid widening single-track trails and follow Leave No Trace principles – pack it in; pack it out.

Respect your limits

We all have an inner Danny Macaskill, but it’s important to develop awesome bike techniques the old-fashioned way instead of sending it off five-foot drops the week after you start mountain biking. Always ride in control, and never take a corner blindly. Riding too fast or tackling features far above your skill level not only puts you at risk, but also other trail users and potentially Search and Rescue workers. A fantastic way to build your skill repertoire quickly is to take a class from a certified mountain biking coach! Always carry a first-aid kit and basic bike tools and know how to fix a flat.

Respect the weather

Be a self-sufficient mountain biker and come to the trail prepared. If you’re not familiar with the route, research the trail beforehand and carry a map (or download an app like Trailforks, Alltrails, or MTB Project). Check the weather in advance and avoid riding in dangerous conditions. Bring enough food and water for the journey, as well as proper layers for the weather. Showing up unprepared puts yourself and others at risk. 

Respect the trails

Since it is spring in Utah, the trails may LOOK like they are rideable, but you may actually ruin them by riding them. Be sure you check out your local trail associations that have up to date conditions for each area. In Park City, you can check with Mountain Trails Foundation and Basin Recreation. In Kamas, check with the South Summit Foundation. In Heber, check with the Wasatch Trails Foundation, and in Draper, the Corner Canyon Trails Foundation. On Facebook there is a page dedicated to trail conditions around Utah, it is called “Utah Mt. Bike Trail Condition Network”.

Have fun and be an ambassador for mountain biking. Simple principles of courtesy and respect go a long way toward building a harmonious, healthy, and happy mountain community!

Stay safe out there and see you on the trail!

Erica Tingey is the head coach of Women in the Mountains, a mountain bike skills coaching company for adult women. She and her coaches hold clinics in Park City and St. George, Utah. For more riding tips and clinic information, follow @womeninthemountains on Instagram and check out our website, womeninthemountains.com.

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