Rules of the Trail: Dos and Don’ts of Mountain Bike Trail Riding

For most veteran mountain bikers, maneuvering a couple of knobby tires over gnarly terrain is just a piece of cake. You may be a demon on the trails, but you need to keep in mind that being a good mountain biker involves more than just knowing how to ride. It’s important for you to understand proper trail etiquette before hitting the trails. You’ll want to understand the basics of mountain bike trail riding and apply these rules to your future rides.

Whether you’re an experienced or an amateur rider,  you need to strive to be environmentally aware and socially responsible while you’re out on the trails. Here are the do’s and don’ts of mountain bike trail riding. Take note of these guidelines to make sure that your day out on the trails is as safe and fun as possible.


Plan Ahead

Prepare for mountain bike trail riding

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There are lots of mountain bike destinations out there. Now that you already have a bike, you’re probably eager to go on a mountain bike adventure with your friends. Not so fast. A little preparation and careful planning are required to ensure a successful journey.

Start by researching your desired destination. There is a wide range of routes and trails to choose from. As a beginner rider, you need to take into consideration your fitness level, skill level, as well as your experience as an off-road cyclist. Also, make sure that you prepare for this ride physically and mentally. Train two to three times a week before the trip. Prepare for the area where you’re riding. You need to prepare for this trip even if you’re just doing it for leisure.

Thoroughly research the trails and region you’re considering. This is especially important if you’re planning to visit an unfamiliar area. Use technology to your advantage. The last thing you want is to head into it blind.

Yield Appropriately

Yield appropriately when mountain bike trail riding

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Mountain bikers, equestrians, and hikers are supposed to share multi-use trails. Unless the trail is marked as “for bike only” trail, it is proper etiquette to pull over to the side and let horseback riders and runners pass. Horses startle easily. The last thing you want is to come face to face with a startled horse.

Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. It is also best to give your fellow trail users a warning or signal that you’re coming. A bell ring or a friendly greeting is a good way to give people a head’s up.

If the trail is marked as downhill only or one-way and you come across a rider who is headed uphill, let the person know about it. Also, enlighten other non-bike trail users if it is intended for bike-only travel, but do so in a nice and polite manner. Make every pass a safe and courteous one. You want every encounter to be a happy one.

Know Basic Bike Maintenance

Know basic bike maintenance

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Broken bike chains and flat tires are the most common issues a rider has on their bike. These issues are pretty much inevitable, especially if you’re doing mountain bike trail riding. Knowing basic bike maintenance is a must to ensure that you’re prepared to rise to the occasion and save your ride.

One minute, you’re pedaling hard towards that big climb. The next thing you know, the chain has snapped. A broken bike chain can be a real bummer, but it’s not really that difficult. Learning how to fix a broken bike chain can help save your ride.

Properly inflated tires will ensure a smooth, comfortable, and enjoyable ride. Unfortunately, most riders experience a flat tire at some point, so you need to be prepared for it. Surprisingly, a huge percentage of cyclists don’t know how to fix a flat tire. What are you supposed to do when you get a flat tire on the trail? Learn how to fix a flat. It might just save you from walking home.

Limit Your Ride to Open Trails Only

Limit your ride to open trails only

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Respect the trails and road closures. Closed trails are off-limits. In most cases, these trails are closed for rider’s safety or to protect the environment. They may be protected as state or federal wilderness. No matter what the reason is, you should never ride on closed trails. Be sure not to break this law. Not only is it illegal, riding it can also endanger yourself and the others. Plus, this bad habit may also be reflected in the mountain biking community.

There are so many trails available that there is no need to find a new one. If you are uncertain about the status of a trail, do not hesitate to ask the local club or trail custodian for clarification.


Don’t Scare Animals

Don't scare the animals when mountain bike trail riding

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Mountain bike trail riding almost guarantees some interaction with wildlife. Oftentimes, these encounters include deer walking quietly, squirrels scurrying, and birds chirping. These animals are easily startled by loud noises, sudden movements, and unannounced approach. Never disturb wildlife and other animals. Remember, a frightened animal is both vulnerable and dangerous.

Never feed the animals, no matter how much the chipmunks, deer or squirrel wants to try your energy bar.

Don’t Litter

Don't leave any trace

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You can fully enjoy the sport while still being a mature and responsible individual. Respect the environment, the trail, and the wildlife. Don’t carve your names on the trees. Keep the trail clean. Don’t leave any garbage on the trail. No one likes a litterbug.

Take only photographs and leave only tire marks. Check your area after stopping for a break and make sure that you don’t leave any litter on the trail. If you see some litter, take it with you. By following this rule, not only are you doing your part in taking care of the environment, you’re also doing other riders a favor. Keeping the trails clean can help make everyone’s mountain bike trail riding experience more fun and enjoyable. It also helps reduce the chances of accidents.

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