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HomeMTB: Rules & Trail Etiquette

Mountain Biking:   Rules & Trail Etiquette

by George Pastorino | Last edited:  3/10/2023

MTB Rules

The way we ride today shapes mountain bike trail access tomorrow. Do your part to preserve and enhance our sport's access and image by observing the following rules of the trail, formulated by IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association. These rules are recognized around the world as the standard code of conduct for mountain bikers. IMBA's mission is to promote mountain bicycling that is environmentally sound and socially responsible.

1. Ride On Open Trails Only.

Respect trail and road closures (ask if uncertain); avoid trespassing on private land; obtain permits or other authorization as may be required. Federal and state Wilderness areas are closed to cycling. The way you ride will influence trail management decisions and policies.

2. Leave No Trace.

Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Recognize different types of soils and trail construction; practice low-impact cycling. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage. When the trailbed is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.

3. Control Your Bicycle!

Inattention for even a second can cause problems. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations.

4. Always Yield Trail.

Let your fellow trail users know you're coming. A friendly greeting or bell is considerate and works well; don't startle others. Show your respect when passing by slowing to a walking pace or even stopping.
Anticipate other trail users around corners or in blind spots. Yielding means slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop if necessary and pass safely.

5. Never Scare Animals.

All animals are startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. This can be dangerous for you, others, and the animals. Give animals extra room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife is a serious offense. Leave gates as you found them, or as marked.

6. Plan Ahead.

Know your equipment, your ability, and the area in which you are riding -- and prepare accordingly. Be self-sufficient at all times, keep your equipment in good repair, and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. A well-executed trip is a satisfaction to you and not a burden to others.
Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.

Keep trails open by setting a good example of environmentally sound and socially responsible off-road cycling.

Trail Etiquette

Please, let's all keep in mind our trail systems are not MTB-only trail systems. They are multi-use trail systems. This means there are hikers, equestrians and runners just to name a few, sharing the same trails.
Fast moving users can startle others, especially when approaching from behind. Always ride under control, anticipate users around blind corners, and be exceedingly friendly and communicative.

What is your responsibility?

Mountain bikers yield to hikers, horses and uphill traffic.

Passing Hikers

  1. Greet hikers early.
  2. Slow down to about the same speed as the hiker.
  3. Pass slowly and be prepared to stop if necessary.
  4. Expect the unexpected. Humans and animals can be unpredictable or easily spooked by cyclists.

Passing Cyclists

  1. Announce your intention to pass with a friendly “Let me know when it’s safe to pass.”
  2. Use the single-track yield on narrow trail – stop to the side, put one foot down, and lean away from the trail.

Passing Horses

  1. Stop at least 30 feet from the horse.
  2. Greet the equestrian and the horse to demonstrate that you are a human, and not a predator.
  3. Ask for instruction on how to pass safely. Offer to get off your bike.
  4. Pass slowly and steadily, but only after the equestrian gives you the go-ahead. Sudden movements can spook a horse.

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