Trail Etiquette 101
As we roll our way into the height of summer, now is a good time to remember our trail manners. It can be frustrating when you expect your ride to be a certain way, and then an interaction with another trail user turns your day sour. Somebody once said, “You are always responsible for how you act, no matter how you feel.” When others lack trail etiquette, use the interaction to respectfully educate them through words or by example.
To refresh you, here are the International Mountain Bike Association’s (IMBA) rules of the trail:
- Ride Open Trails
Respect trail closures due to conditions, wildlife, special events and more. This may require you to use your best judgment. There may not be a “closed” sign immediately after a rainstorm, so if your eyeballs indicate to you that there is mud on the trails, please stay off of them.
- Leave No Trace
Do not cut switchbacks, do not use closed trails, do not ride around standing water on the trail. When yielding, please keep your tire tread on the trail and let the other user pass. When you pull off the trail, you are damaging plants and habitat. Always pick up litter.
- Control Your Bicycle
Ride within your limits. Know the conditions. Saturday afternoon on Emerald might not be the best time to work on a Strava record. Many social conflicts often occur when riders are going too fast. Save the “sending” for directional, bike-specific trails.
- Yield Appropriately
Give people a head’s up–this can be a friendly greeting or a bell. But remember that these notifications are not a hall pass to fly by them. If the person does not hear you, please be courteous. [Quick fact: headphones keep you from hearing other people]. Mountain bikers yield to all other trail users, and downhill riders always yield to uphill users.
- Never Scare Animals
Give horses room and time to see you. It is best to stop and dismount from your bike. Always ask the rider what is best for their horse. If you encounter wildlife, please give them space. It can be a serious offense to disturb wildlife. Please contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife for information on how to co-recreate with elk, bear, mountain lions, moose and Sasquatch.
- Plan Ahead
Have a map, a plan and be a self-sufficient rider. Be prepared for bee stings, going over the bars, snakebites (both real and in regards to your tube), an afternoon downpour, your bonking buddy, losing track of daylight and any other potential ride chaos.
Whether you are a local or a visitor, please do your best to remember that everyone on the trail is trying to have a good time, just like you. If someone is not following these rules, your respect and patience is appreciated far more than an outburst. It can be hard to share, but most of us made it past the age of three, so we can figure it out. Be kind, safe, and most importantly—have fun.
Kelly Northcutt is a Steamboat native, mountain bike guide and Administrator for Routt County Riders