10 basics to inspire the best behavior in all of us who like to spin a dirt trail

By Adventure Pro Staff

The outdoors is a second home to those of us who enjoy the outdoors and its endless miles of trails. So it makes sense to show respect to our tribe, the people who share this second home and all the same trails.

A mountain bike is the fastest thing going on these trails, shared with equestrians, hikers, runners and, of course, other riders. Our choice of combining speed with metal puts us at a mechanical advantage, and with that advantage comes a heightened responsibility to other trail-users.

With a focus on getting along with each other and to set a good example for others, here are 10 basics to take to the trail on a mountain bike:

• Stay on the trail

Never leave an open trail to cut a switchback or to cowboy a line down a ridge or through a meadow. Follow Leave No Trace guidelines to avoid causing erosion and trail damage, which includes looking for other riding options when the trail conditions are wet and muddy.

• Yield

Equestrians, pedestrians and climbing bike riders have the right-of-way, a guideline to consider even when the trail is signed as bike-only, one-way or downhill-only. Think safety, and keep in mind you’re setting the example! Be courteous as you pull over and let them pass.

• Move over when stopped

When letting others pass, pull over far enough to provide adequate room. It can get tricky with horses. An early call-out to the horseback rider and direct communication between riders is the best way to an action that puts both of you safely on the way. If you stop for lunch, to repair your bike or take a breather, avoid clogging the trail by getting off it.  

• Ride where legal

Trails and roads get closed for a reason; abide all closures. Never trespass — access private land only when you have permission. If you don’t know whether a trail is open, find out! Stay out of state and federal Wilderness areas, which do not allow mechanical modes of travel.

• Wear a helmet

It’s simply the safest way to ride and also the right thing to do to mentor in the outdoors.

• Provide information

Inform any trail user you encounter of the number of riders that are unseen behind you, whether you’re riding alone or in a group, e.g. “Just me!” — “Two more!” The rider or hiker will appreciate the notice and be prepared, not startled, at the upcoming encounter. Also, a subtle ring of a bell or a hello will let riders ahead of you know you’re behind, looking for an opportunity to pass.

• Be prepared

Prepare for your ride with the right equipment and the ability to use it, the skills to ride the trail, and knowledge of the trail and area you’re riding. Rely on yourself, not others.

• Watch those corners

As you approach a switchback and prepare for the turn, especially a blind turn, watch your speed and be aware of other trail users that might be approaching from the opposite direction.

Good example - mountain biker
It’s fun to have control of a mountain bike on an open trail. And when everyone respects the trails they’re more enjoyable for everyone.Terrance Siemon

• Be peaceful around wildlife

You’re riding in the neighborhood of wildlife. Give all wildlife you see a wide berth without startling it with loud noises or sudden movements.

• Smile!

Say hello, be kind and courteous to all members of our tribe that you may encounter on the trail.

For more information:

International Mountain Bicycling Association

Center for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics