A tongue-in-cheek guide
Roadies have the velominati bible of pedalling protocol (it’s here if you dare), but how do mountain bikers know how to behave on the trail? Here’s our guide to staying the right side of the law:
1. Faffing is inevitable
Nowhere does time disappear faster than in the trailhead car park. Some faffing is acceptable, nay, unavoidable, but don’t let it stray beyond a strict half an hour. Keep groups to single figures if you don’t want to waste half the day, and if you have a serial faffer in your riding group (every group has one) always arrange to meet half an hour before you actually turn up.
2. Give way to the uphill rider
Here in the UK, most mtb trails are one-way, but on rights of way, it’s polite to slow down and give priority to the uphill rider. Yes, that sucks if you’re enjoying the descent, but when the shoe’s on the other foot, there’s nothing worse than having a group of riders force you into the weeds as they blow by at mach 10.
3. Trail trash
Leave only tracks, take only memories. Notable exceptions to this rule seem to include punctured inner tubes, energy gel sachets, Lucozade Sport bottles and Presta valve caps, as they are obviously all biodegradable.
Most people try to avoid puddles. What they don’t realise is they are making the trail wider, and missing the opportunity to soak their best mate behind.
Unfortunately, the phrase ‘skids are for kids’ doesn’t really work, as mountain bikers are, by their very nature, big kids messing around on bikes. Still, try to avoid locking up the back wheel on sensitive trails, and save them all up for some really, really big skids when you hit a fire road. Extra cool points if you pull an imaginary handbrake while slewing it sideways into the car park at the end of a ride.
6. We’re all among friends
It’s common courtesy to nod at fellow riders you meet on the trail. A cheery ‘morning’ is also acceptable, but smiling or waving will just mark you out as a lunatic. Be sure to precede your gesture with a glance at their bike, as this will tell you all you need to know about their status in the “pecking order”.
7. A friend in need
Being benevolent wins you karma points and is guaranteed to reduce the number of punctures you suffer. Even better if you actually have the knowledge and skills to help the situation, rather than hanging around awkwardly suggesting things like, “try stuffing it with grass”, or “a collarbone only takes six weeks to heal”.
8. Respect the architects
Don’t cut corners, roll over jumps, skid around berms or stand on landings. If you want to become a trail critic, get your hands dirty first.
9. Don’t be a wheel size bore
10. Goggles & open face
Only wear goggles with an open-face helmet if you are a) super-fast and skilful, or b) work for a mountain bike magazine, in which case people will expect you to be a bit of a tool.
So there you have it , our complete guide to mountain bike trail etiquette. Let us know if there’s anything you’d add in the comments below.