Practicing proper mountain-biking etiquette.
Fine manners need the support of fine manners in others. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
More people means more tension, plain and simple. And with Bozeman's burgeoning population, disagreements are becoming more common—on the road, in our neighborhoods, at the ballot box. Even the trails, where we go to escape the stressors of daily life, are seeing increased conflict between users. But despite this enormous influx and consequent growing pains, we're still a fundamentally congenial lot, and all we have to do to keep things civil is mind our manners.
As mountain bikers, there's a specific set of guidelines to follow, to ensure we don't inconvenience or offend other trail-users—or worse, jeopardize their safety. The Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) has outlined these rules with its Ride Kind campaign—part of the larger, interdisciplinary Outside Kind campaign, which encapsulates the most important considerations for biking, hiking, skiing, fishing, and more. Here are some additional "dos and don'ts" to keep in mind when biking Bozeman-area trails.
DO consider the trail conditions and the impact your bike is having on the quality of the trail.
DON'T ride muddy trails. After a rain, wait a day or head to drier climes.
DO your part to maintain the trails. Divert puddles, kick big rocks off the trail, and fill in holes.
DON'T abdicate responsibility. Every trail user has a duty to chip in.
DO be friendly and nice. Wave at others. If you can't take a hand off the bars, give a nod and grin.
DON'T ride angry or aggressive. Put on your best face, lest you ruin someone else's day, too.
DO pay attention to the world around you. Keep your eyes and ears open.
DON'T blast music in both earbuds, oblivious to nature and other people. If you simply must be alone with your Cardi B, drop the bike and head off-trail.
DO slow down when approaching bends and corners, looking for other people, dogs, or wildlife.
DON'T careen wildly, endangering or scaring others. Ride the trail like you walk the sidewalk: with respect for everyone else's space.
DO bring bear spray in appropriate areas, and carry it on your chest or handlebars.
DON'T expect that you're making enough noise to scare bears away. You're moving fast and could easily surprise a griz, triggering a defensive attack.
DO yield to uphill traffic. Especially other bikers—you know how hard it can be to stop and start again up a steep section.
DON'T blindly follow the trail-use triangle (bikers yield to hikers, both yield to horses). A hiker or runner may let you go first, and an uphill biker might want a rest. Communicate and use discretion—though you should always yield to horses.
DO keep an eye on your dog if you insist on bringing it along—and make sure to pick up after it.
DON'T let your dog run amok while you're too busy worrying about your PR.
DO be courteous and thoughtful when passing other bikers.
DON'T just yell "passing" and expect them to instantly get out of your way.
DO consider which group is larger when passing. If you and your partner are coming head-on with a group of five, it's probably easier for you to move out of the way.
DON'T ride in massive groups, which are much more impactful on other users. Seriously, is it even possible to interact with 12 different people while on the trail? Keep it to five or fewer, ideally. Split into subgroups if need be.
DO respect trail-use restrictions. Most trails are open to bikes, but some aren't, including those in Wilderness Areas and many in Yellowstone Park. Also make note of timeshare schedules, such as in Hyalite, where bikes are not allowed on certain days.
DON'T be offended by motorized users on your favorite trails. They put in a lot of work to keep the trails maintained.
DO pick up trash if you find any on the trail, or near the trailhead. Leave it better than you find it.
DON'T leave dog excrement in plastic bags on the side of the trail. You're going to pick it up later? The trails tell a different story! Pack it out, or if you forgot a bag, grab a stick and fling it well off the trail.
DO take respectful opportunities to educate others on trail etiquette. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don't be afraid to lend some advice.
DON'T be a sanctimonious prick. Good etiquette comes from experience, and offenders are more likely oblivious than malicious.
With some basic knowledge of trail-sharing practices, you'll be able to enjoy the trails to your heart's content, without hampering anyone else's experience. Follow the golden rule—treat others how you'd want to be treated. Yes, our trails are getting busier every year, but that doesn't mean they're any less fun to ride. If you want to go above and beyond, check out SWMMBA's Trailwork Evenings to get directly involved in maintaining our trails.