Mountain biking is great fun and can allow you to experience a greater area of outstanding natural beauty than if you were to explore on foot.
However the inconsiderate use of mountain bikes has often given cyclists a bad reputation especially amongst hikers. It should be remembered that forest and woodland trails are meant to be enjoyed by everybody and that consideration should be shown by all to all, whether you are travelling on foot, on a bike or on a horse.
Good manners, consideration for others and tolerance should be the watchwords and this extends to all trail users, not just those who are mountain bike enthusiasts. A little common courtesy is all that’s required and here are a few tips to help those who enjoy mountain biking to show respect to others, to wildlife and to the environment.
Mountain Like Etiquette
First and foremost, if you are intending to cycle on a particular trail, you should find out if cycling is permitted. If it is, you must follow any rules and guidelines that are stipulated and observe any signs you encounter on route.
Trails that permit mountain bikes are often accessed by equestrians too. Horses can become nervous and unpredictable around bikes so it’s important to treat them and their riders with respect. If they are approaching you from the direction in which you are heading, get off your bike and stop, allowing for plenty of room to let them pass. If you are heading in the same direction as a horse and rider and need to pass them, you should call out to the rider and ask them if it’s OK to pass. If they move off the trail, they’re giving you the go ahead. Once again, allow plenty of room and walk your bike past them.
Many accidents are caused and the reputation of mountain biking gets tarnished by cyclists travelling way too fast. There are many twists and turns on mountain trails and, if you’re travelling at speed, especially around blind corners, you can literally run into a group of hikers before you know it which can cause accidents, so keep your speed down when nearing blind spots and slow down when you can clearly see that you’re going to want to pass people on foot. In fact, you should adopt the practice of getting off your bike and continuing on foot as you pass any hikers. What’s more, you may find yourself engaging in some pleasant conversation with them.
Courtesy costs nothing so a simple ‘Hello’ or ‘It’s a lovely day isn’t it?’ shows good manners and a consideration for others.
As all mountain bikers know only too well, going uphill takes a lot more strenuous effort than coming down so you should always yield to bikers who are coming uphill in order that they can keep their momentum going. And remember that ‘yield’ means stop and dismount not continue slowly.
Children and Other Animals
It’s not only horses that can be unpredictable. You’re likely to also encounter dogs, children and perhaps other wild animals or farm animals. Expect the unexpected is useful advice and give them plenty of warning and room. Remember it is an offence to harass wild animals. Shouting out ‘bike on your left’ or ‘on your right’ can help when travelling around bends and can alert those who might be heading towards you ahead of time. Although, you’re not Dr Dolittle, the presence of your voice can alert animals and they’re likely to instinctively move out of the way before you reach them.
Consideration for the Environment
Have respect for the environment. Erosion is a problem on all heavily populated trails so don’t make matters worse by biking on trails that have become soaked by rainfall as your tyres will cause ruts that accelerate erosion.
Adopt the ‘leave no trace’ approach so you should carry bin bags to put any rubbish in which you may have accrued along the way and take it out with you and dispose of it correctly. If you have time, you might want to take your environmental concerns a step further and perhaps volunteer with a National Park or some other similar scheme to help maintain a trail. After all, you have got a lot of pleasure out of using the trail and it’s good to put something back in so that others after you can enjoy it themselves as you have done.
In essence, simply by showing courtesy, consideration and respect for other people, animals and your surrounding environment, you will not only enjoy the environment and appreciate the mountain biking experience even more, but you’ll also find that you get that consideration reciprocated by others too.