Being the newest kids on the block, mountain bikers have been wise to self-police themselves and try to get along with others. Such actions, along with the significant contributions they have made to the maintenance of trails, have gone a long way in legitimizing the sport and helping mountain bikers be welcomed into the trail community.
Things can change quickly however. New technologies are being developed continually, which have an influence on how people ride their bikes, and how others perceive that riding. Strava is a case in point. It’s a website and mobile phone application used to track athletic activity via GPS. It allows people to compare their performance to that of others. Some Strava aficionados get too wrapped up in bettering their time for a particular stretch of trail, and when they do, they sometimes put trail etiquette on the back burner.
Additionally, bikes have gotten better – a lot better. Gnarly descents that used to require a slow approach and a lot of finesse can now be approached more aggressively, and with a different set of skills. Our bikes are better, and more forgiving, and we can go faster as a result.
While we can’t go back to a simpler time when bikes were less sophisticated (and who wants to anyway?), we can step back to take a fresh, more responsible approach to how we use and share trails.
I understand the benefits that an app like Strava can bring to an athlete. I can see how such a technology can help motivate people to get more exercise too, but time and place seem to be very important aspects of how using Strava responsibly should happen.
Do you use Strava with a, “full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes”, approach on front-country trails? If so, please consider finding a more appropriate place for your training rides, because such routes are too popular for that type of use. Besides, no one really gives a flying pie how fast you are on the Fox Creek Loop, or how you faired in this year’s Griffin Butte Grande Fondo. Back off on our trade routes and front-country trails. They’re too busy for your time trials.
I don’t want to sound unreasonable. I can imagine scenarios where a rider could responsibly use Strava for training on busier trails. It would just take a very mindful person dedicated to making sure that the experience and use of the trail by others was tantamount to his or her own trail use for training. A responsible Strava user on a busier trail would need to be extra cautious and mindful of other trail users. A Stravahead would need to maintain a very high level of situational awareness; making sure to slow themselves down, and yield the trail, when it was appropriate to do so. At the same time, a rider training with Strava would need to maintain a demeanor that suggests that they are ambassadors for the sport.
Whether you’re a trail ambassador or not, here are a few mountain biking trail etiquette tips that I was planning on discussing before I got off on my Strava rant:
- Expect The Unexpected
Approach blind corners with care. Enter them at a speed that will allow you to stop without skidding or freaking anyone out. Consider that someone may be approaching from the other direction. What if that someone was your Mom, or your Grandmother for that matter, and what if she was riding a skittish horse? When you come around the bend, will a rodeo ensue? Slow down!
- Do The Sun Valley Lean
When yielding the trail, stop to the side, put your outside foot down, and lean away from the trail. (Or stop, dismount, and step to the side if it’s more comfortable, or safe, to do so.) Don’t ride off trail in an attempt to facilitate a passing. Help keep our singletrack single.
- Yield To The Climber
Descending cyclists should yield to bikers who are climbing.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and to consider how we can help keep the good times rolling out on the trails. Slow down, smell the flowers, and have great rides ya’ll.