Similar to everyday life, etiquette is important when in public or when interacting with other people. You need to keep landowners, animals and farmers happy otherwise they may restrict our access to their land.
We can help out by reporting any issues we find with land, fences, gates or animals to any local farmers. In response, landowners will keep allowing us to use their land for our hobbies.
You should be thoughtful and responsible when choosing which trails to ride. Anything that is clearly very wet and muddy should be avoided until it dries up. You can do a surprising amount of damage by riding waterlogged trails.
You should be considerate when crossing streams. You can do more damage in an ecosystem like this by riding fast and dangerously through a stream. Try to cross in the same place as the riders before you and don't go too fast.
Allowing your rear wheel to lock up and skid when going downhill is sometimes inevitable. When riding trails you should try to keep the skidding to a minimum. It will weaken the rubber on your tire and create ruts in the trail. I don't think you need to be overly worried about ruining the trail with skidding but you should be careful around wet or new trails.
It's important to try and keep to the main part of the trails. It's very common to see people riding around signs, puddles or on other grassy parts of a trail. It might be easier to ride but people will follow your trail and quickly widen the trail.
Anytime you're riding somewhere new, anywhere without a phone signal or anywhere far from civilization you should ride with a friend. It's easy to fall off on an unfamiliar trail and being unable to ride with no way of contacting friends or family can result in a very dangerous and scary situation. It's also recommended to tell someone where you're going and how long you're going to be. They will know when to look for you in case you don't come back. You can do this on Strava if you use the app.
My final point on riding responsibly is to never mix alcohol or drugs with riding. Just like driving, this is illegal and will reduce your reactions significantly.
Respect Other People and Animals
A lot of farmers and landowners are kind enough to allow mountain bikers on their land all year round. You must respect them, animals and other trail users while you're out there.
Some trails have a lot of gates and styles. However, you need to get through them you need to make sure that you leave them as you found them. Leaving gates open can release sheep, cows, chickens and other animals into areas where they could be injured or killed.
If you're in the UK then most mountain biking trails will be well-signposted and mapped out. If you find yourself wanting or needing to cross private property then you should make your best efforts to ask permission before you do so. If this isn't possible and you need to cross the property for your own safety then ride slowly and cautiously to not cause any damage.
Similar to when driving a car, you should give way to other riders when necessary. The person riding uphill will always have the right of way. There normally aren't two sides of the trail like a road so you just need to be cautious when approaching a rider or pedestrian.
Pack animals, such as sheep and cows, can bolt or spook very easily. You need to be especially careful when riding through these fields. There are many reported cases of injuries and even death around cows with young calves.
Horse riders often use the same trails as mountain bikers. Horses can spook easily on a narrow trail with other people around. If you encounter a horse rider then stop and move to the side of the trail. The rider may ask you to move to a different place or do something else if it will help their horse.
Educate Yourself and Prepare Adequately
If you're going on a long riding trip that you haven't done before then it's important to plan appropriately. Look at a map of your route and any Strava posts that have been posted in a similar area.
Some areas may not be open to mountain bikers so make sure you find appropriate bridleways before setting off.
Once you've made a plan you should stick to it. On a multi-day expedition, turning off the planned route can really increase the likelihood of getting lost along your journey. Once you've finished your route plan then you need to tell a family member or friend about your plan. If you don't check in at the planned time then your friends need to know where to send search parties for your rescue.
It goes without saying but check the weather forecast before leaving. Don't be caught in the rain without a coat and make sure you have sun cream if it's going to be a warm day.
You should already be washing your bike after every ride but be aware of any issues or wear that your bike might have. Oiling your chain and other bearings should be a common job when you're riding quite often.
Wearing a helmet is always a must when on a bike. It's also recommended that you wear gloves and eye protection when out on your mountain bike. Other protection is available and you should wear as much as you feel is appropriate. I know a lot of mountain bikers that also wear knee protection when out on the trails.
Contribute and Set a Good Example
If you're having a meal or camping on a trail you should make sure you leave the area better than you found it. Dispose of any rubbish and fire waste appropriately.
You can do this by carrying a trash bag with you and picking up any rubbish you come across whether you left it there or not.
If you can't camp in an established campsite then you should make sure you're 200 feet from streams and existing trails. This will minimize inadvertent damage to these areas whilst you're there.
Unless it's rubbish then you should never take any souvenirs from your travels.
A lot of mountain bikers are a part of local communities and forums. Contributing stories of your experiences with photos and text will help any future riders that want to embark on a similar adventure.
If you want to learn more about how to practice good trail etiquette then take a look at the video below.
10 Ways To Be A More Responsible Mountain Biker
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