Trail Riding Primer

Trail Riding Primer

When riding any mountain bike trails, following these guidelines will make you a better rider and help keep our trails in great shape. Be sure to also read our New Rider Checklist which is also useful for veteran riders.

Shift into an easier gear and stay seated while climbing. Your bike uses energy much more efficiently when you stay seated and pedal steadily.

Do not skid. All trails are sensitive, and if you lock up your brakes and slide, you’re displacing dirt off the trail and aiding erosion. Instead, learn to use your front brake more aggressively to slow yourself when necessary.

If you encounter a muddy patch, ride through it, or walk around it, but do not ride around the side of it. This widens the trail unnecessarily and could encroach on plant and animal habitats near the trail. Do not place logs or rocks in muddy patches, this is an unstable situation and could result in someone being injured. It also hold the moisture in, slowing the drying process.

Do not ride around trail obstacles unless there is a designated ride-around. Trail braids (rogue cheater lines) are unsightly, unacceptable and contribute to erosion. This is the number one way to upset land managers - the people who allow us to ride our bikes on their lands (parks, public lands, or otherwise.) Instead, get off your bike and walk or climb over it. Don't "manicure" the trail to suit your abilities - it's the most selfish thing you can do to a trail. Please notify trail stewards if a tree is down over the trail.

Do not build extra trails without the clear and express approval from the proper authorities. This includes building trails to access technical features, drops or jumps. Do not alter or modify the trails in any way.

Always wear eye protection. Sunglasses will keep dust, mud and sticks out of your eyes. A branch in your eye is never a good thing. If you dislike tinting your view buy eye wear that allows you to use clear lenses.

Always wear a helmet. This is common sense. You will crash at some point and you will be glad you had a helmet on. Ask anyone who has crashed - and that is everyone. You don't need to lay out a ton of cash, either, as all helmets sold in bike shops meet the minimum impact safety requirements. The more expensive ones are simply lighter and keep your head cooler.

Keep your eyes focused 20-30 feet ahead of you on the trail - look at what’s coming, not what’s under your wheel. You’ll ride straighter and smoother that way. Don't look where you don't want to go. Sounds crazy, but it's true.

Riders descending yield to riders climbing in the opposite direction. It’s much easier to continue riding downhill, while it’s much more difficult to start climbing again once your rhythm is broken. Be friendly and say hi to your fellow trail users, a little communication goes a long way. If the trail is wide enough that no one must yield, a common situation, staying to your right is the default rule. Staying right allows encounters where everyone keeps moving.  So, remember:

  1. Stay right when you encounter a rider coming toward you.
  2. If the trail is not wide enough for two riders to pass, the down hill rider yields to the up hill rider.
  3. Always acknowledge other users.  "Hi" will do it.

Stop riding when approaching an equestrian. When approaching an equestrian (horse rider), dismount within about 50 feet of a horse, between your bike and the horse, downhill from the horse. Talk to the rider, and talk to the horse. Most horse people will thank you for dismounting, and they all will appreciate it. Some will tell you that you can come on. But some are riding new horses, or are new riders themselves. Always pass slowly, and speak to the rider.

Do not ride wet or muddy trails. A quick look at our message board will show that many of the most common questions concern trail conditions. Is Trail X rideable? We’ve often said that GORC is not the trail police. We aren’t going to tell you when you can or can’t ride your bike, but, by the same token, many members have invested a lot of time and effort into building and maintaining trails, and don’t want to see them ruined by people who have no regard for other users. We can only provide you with information about weather conditions, soil conditions, and a general history of how each trail holds up. The rest is up to your judgment. With that in mind, here are a few things that may help you to make a decision about whether to hit the trail:

  1. Check the forum for the trail. Most of the forums have links to weather stations that are fairly close, and can give you an idea about local rainfall. Usually, people who ride a trail often, or live close by will post up information.
  2. Some mtb clubs post rules about how long after a rain you should wait before riding. Unfortunately, in our area, those sort of rules just don’t apply. We have a diversity of soil types that all respond differently to rainfall and temperature. Also, conditions vary from season to season, so an inch of rain that falls in the summer on dry, hard packed trail might have less of an impact than an eighth of an inch that falls on soil undergoing a freeze/thaw cycle. If you're not sure about conditions, then it would probably be best to wait until you have more information. If you do go out and you're leaving ruts you shouldn't be on the trail.

Finally, it is best to ride with other people. If you do ride alone, make sure someone knows where you are and when you should be back. 

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