Mountain Biking Etiquette: How To Follow The Rules Of The Trail

Most mountain bike riders will frequently share trails with hikers, runners, horseback riders, orienteers and other outdoor enthusiasts. This diversity of recreation means that there are rules of the trail that everyone is following, but also guidelines specific to each sport. 

Sometimes following these rules means slowing down or even stopping, which can certainly be a bit of a buzzkill. However, embracing mountain biking etiquette helps ensure that your are respecting both nature and your fellow trail users. 

Slow Down When Passing

When you are passing hikers, runners and other cyclists on an open trail, you’ll need to slow down considerably. Let them know you are approaching and which side you are going to pass them on. By making each pass safe and friendly, you are not only protecting the trail, but you are also protecting the reputation of the sport.

Yield to Pedestrians and Equestrians

Giving hikers, runners and riders the right of way is standard mountain biking etiquette. In many cases, hikers and runners will get proactively make space for you; it’s easier for them to maneuver. Be extra cautious when approaching a horse. Your bike could seriously spook the animal. The best thing to do is stop, pull over and ask the ride how they’d like you to proceed.

Yield to Uphill Riders

With the wind in your hair it’s hard to stop in the middle of a downhill you’ve worked hard for to let someone climbing slowly uphill pass— but you still should do it. The climb is hard and the momentum it takes to get to the top can’t easily be picked up when it’s interrupted— but you can easily keep coasting down no matter where you stop. That’s one of the many reasons why downhill cyclists should yield to uphill climbers.

Let Nature Win

Try your best to remember that you are in someone else’s habitat and that sharing this space is essential in balancing a delicate ecosystem. Avoid scaring animals as best you can and try not to alter the trail. Never disturb wildlife, especially if there are mothers with babies. If there is the possibility of a confrontation, just leave the way you came. And try not to make any changes to the trail. You could inadvertently impact erosion, vegetation and wildlife.

Ride On Open Trails

If a trail is closed, it’s nothing personal. There are usually good conversation reasons behind limiting access to a trail and it’s important mountain bikers follow that. Only ride on trails open to you and that welcome mountain bikes. And know the kind of trail you are on— some are one way, others single track; some are flat packed dirt and others are rugged and rooty. Know where you are so you can in flow with the trail and other users.

Above all be polite

Mountain bikers have a bad reputation for being callous thrill seekers when it comes to sharing the trail. While we all have our moments when the adrenaline takes over, you lose nothing by shouting thank you over your shoulder. Appreciating other people on the trail and the accommodations they make for you will go everyone a world of good, especially fellow mountain bikers. For instance, if someone is riding faster than you on a single track trail, be sure to pull over and let them pass with a smile.

Mountain biking is a sport that can become addicting right away. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what can be a very liberating and challenging experience. Just remember that there are others around having similar experiences in their own way. Respect their journey and you’ll enjoy yours more.