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The New York City Mountain Bikers Meetup Group Message Board › Mountain biking etiquette 101

Mountain biking etiquette 101

Derrick J.
New York, NY
This is the short version.
NY state law Bikers MUST ware helmets in all state parks.

I just want to make sure that everyone on our ride know this so we represent our selves as safe riders...

We love to ride, right? And we hate trail damage. Let's not damage relationships, either!

We are dangerous. We are engaged in a risky sport where we silently hurtling a lethal weapon at speeds often well above a fast run, in places that normally never experience anything faster than a slow walk. We have chosen to engage in this risky behavior. People have a right to fear us, and they do.

So show lots of courtesy and consideration and hopefully we can all just get along. In particular, mountain bikers should try to be respectful of:

Hikers and joggers
Face it. These people were here first and these trails wouldn't exist without their support. Don't pass at excessive speed, and don't surprise them. Be sure to announce your coming with a kind greeting or a bell. I like the old style bells with the American Flag on them. Their ring is a familiar and unmistakable sound, but sometimes I like to use a subtle noise like a gear shift or foot scrape.

When they look up at you, they've seen you. Until they look at you, they haven't seen you. Sooner or later, you're going to have to get their attention before you can pass faster than a walk. Always thank anyone who yields their right-of-way to you, or holds pets or young children as you pass.

Pass with care. Announce yourself. The rider heading uphill, even though they are going slower, always has the right of way (though they often yield it to a fast downhiller.) The group with children has right of way. Next, the larger group has right of way. Last, the group with the most rigid frames has right of way! (You might have to stop and count to achieve this level of etiquette!)
Other Mountain Bikers They Ride With
When you do stop for any reason move off to the side, keep the center lane clear for another rider. Always look behind you before you dismount.

Never, ever tailgate. Don't even think of tailgating. Instead, think of NOT tailgating. Out on the trail, you should stay far enough behind so that if the rider in front crashes --or merely slows down-- for no apparent reason, you don't then crash into them. On technical sections, stay at least one section back from the rider in front of you. It is not a race. Yell "TRACK, PLEASE!" if you want to pass, or something. Tailgating makes the person ahead of you ride faster than they are comfortable with. If you ever run into the person in front of you, not only have you committed a dangerous mistake, but you have instilled in them a fear of you being behind them which will make them try to ride even faster than they should go.

There is great skill in being a good follower. One trick to "make it interesting" is to try and stay exactly the same distance behind the person you are following (3 bike lengths, for instance). On really steep or technical terrain it becomes nearly impossible but the rest of the time you'll see that doing it well is really quite difficult. When following closely, always keep a finger or two on your brake levers.

It is your responsibility, when riding behind someone, to make sure they feel that they will NEVER have to worry that you will run into them if they stop, no matter how suddenly and unexpectedly. Do not pass unexpectedly, and do not pass on the right (on the left in Britian, I presume). If you pull alongside, announce yourself by saying "On your right!" or "On your left!"

Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport. We all know that. But does that mean you shouldn't try to be as safe as you can? Of course not! Safety is cumulative. So if you are doing something inherently dangerous, the least you can do is not add to that danger yourself by acting irresponsibly!

It is your responsibility not to be the cause of an increase in that danger for your fellow riders. Do not go around blind turns with excessive speed. As one person put it, "Imagine a horse person with both guns drawn is around each corner." And don't ever, ever tailgate. Don't even come close. If you can ride faster, then go first if you want, or force yourself to hold back. Anything else is irresponsible.

Have a safe ride everyone
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