For many of us, mountain biking is about freedom. The freedom to explore, the freedom from our daily grind, and the freedom to let go of the civilized world and disappear into the woods. The reality is that freedom is a often a privilege we all share responsibility to help preserve.
Many of the MTB trails we enjoy every day are possible because of private landowners sharing their spaces. They are possible because of great efforts on behalf of mountain biking associations, town & city officials, trail workers, nature conservators, and local bike shops. It takes a lot of people, money, and work to authorize, build, maintain, and sustain our trails.
Common sense and a few simple guidelines can ensure we all continue to enjoy the trails!
1. Be Nice
Can it get any easier? Showing some common courtesy on the trails goes a long way. Most of the trails we use are multi-use, and we need to share with walkers, hikers, pets, skiers, and others.
Slow down, say hello, and make some space for others. There’s plenty of room for all of us, and a few minutes here and there should never ruin your ride. You might be surprised who you meet and how friendly other trail users can be if you take the first step – we’re all out here to enjoy nature together.
Many riders have a bell, or politely call out “On your left” when they are overtaking a walker or another rider. It’s one simple practice that goes a long way!
2. Respect the Trails
Be aware of, and respect, the guidelines and policies at the trails you ride. If you aren’t certain about local guidelines, play it safe. Singletrack can take years to build up and tend to, and be easily destroyed in weeks during heavy rain, mud season, or soft slushy days.
A few good rules of thumb:
- Stay off the trails during mud season
- Allow 24 hours after heavy rain before riding
- If you’re leaving ruts more than about 1″ deep, the ground is too soft.
- When riding through puddles or mud patches, go straight through them
- Stay on the trail – don’t go off the trail to avoid puddles or mud patches
You can usually get info on trail conditions from 207MTB on Facebook – if somebody else hasn’t already shared, make a new post and ask.
If you’re one of those riders that loves the rain, mud, and inclement weather – look in your area for power line trails, ATV trails, or snowmobile trails that are okay to ride. Reach out to the groups who maintain these trails to make sure they’re okay for riding.
Finally, it should go without saying, but nevah, EVAH leave your trash on the trails! Carry out your litter every time.
3. Respect the Signs
Look out for, and heed, posted signs. If a trail is closed, don’t ignore the signs. If a private landowner posts a No Trespassing sign, don’t ignore it. This is a surefire way to get trails closed on us.
Is that it?
There’s a lot more that could be discussed, and a lot more you can do as a rider! Join your local club, support NEMBA and IMBA, and volunteer on your local trails.
Trail etiquette and weather is a source of endless discussion and debate for MTBers. It’s true – freedom and the battle with nature has deep roots in mountain biking. Not every trail system is as susceptible to damage and erosion as others. Some trails dry out quickly – some take ages. When in doubt, play it safe – and use common sense. Above all, listen to the folks who run and work on the trails.
Being nice is less debatable. There’s really no excuse for being a jerk on the trails!
Be Nice. Respect the Trails. Respect the Signs.
If we all follow these three simple guidelines, mountain biking in Maine has a bright future!