Don’t Be A Tool At The Trailhead: Avoid These 5 Bad Behaviors [Opinion]

It’s okay to spread out your gear when the trailhead is empty, but you need to be mindful of your conduct when it’s teeming with riders.

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Author’s note: all the photos for this article were taken either at the author’s home or while the author was engaged in responsible outdoor recreation permitted by the Governor of Florida’s Executive Order No. 20-91. The author encourages everyone to abide by the current restrictions put in place by their respective governments in order to stay safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The mountain biking community does a great job educating riders on proper trail etiquette. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) even developed a set of rules for responsible riding. However, no one appears to have addressed the proper etiquette riders should display before and after a ride while they are at the trailhead. I’ve witnessed annoying behaviors by otherwise courteous riders while gearing up for a ride on several occasions. So if you don’t want to tick off your fellow riders at the trailhead then you should avoid these five bad behaviors.

Sharing your music with other riders whether they like it or not

It’s not cool to have your doors open and your stereo blaring when there are other riders nearby.

Mountain biking is an escape from the realities of life. When I’m at the trailhead preparing for my ride, I am trying to let go of my worries and get relaxed. The last thing I want is to hear someone else’s death metal or rap music pounding out of their car stereo and into my head. It aggravates me and I get tensed up, which is no way to start a ride. If that is part of your warm-up routine, please keep it to yourself. Use earbuds so that you are the only one who can hear it (but take them off when you ride if there are a lot of people using the trail).

Taking up too much space

It’s a good idea to fold up your bike rack after you have unloaded your bike so it is out of the way.

Not all trailheads are created equal. Some have ample space for people to spread out their bikes and gear, while others consist of small parking spaces and narrow roadways for vehicles to enter and exit. You should be mindful of how much space you use at a trailhead. Don’t leave your vehicle’s doors open if they block someone from pulling into a space next to you. Fold up your bike rack if it is protruding into the roadway. Don’t sit around on your bike chatting with other riders if you are blocking other vehicles from getting by. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize on the trail.

Inviting thieves to plunder your vehicle while you are out on the trail

Always keep your valuables out of sight so that there is nothing to entice thieves.

Even if you have complete trust in all the riders parked around you, you need to secure your vehicle and keep your valuables out of sight. The sight of several vehicles parked in one area looks very inviting to thieves. Don’t leave electronic devices like GPS units or smartphones in plain sight. Always lock your vehicle before you start your ride. Avoid having a spare key hidden on your vehicle (wallet-size spares are a great alternative for those with manual locks) because if you can find it then a thief can find it. These simple steps will help prevent a great ride being ruined by a break-in.

Being overly sociable toward other riders

If you’re unfamiliar with a trail, read the sign at the trailhead before you ask other riders questions about it.

Riders are generally a friendly bunch. It’s not uncommon for another rider to come up to me and make small talk before or after a ride. But there is a fine line between friendly conversation and annoying chatter.

If you’re riding a trail for the first time, read the sign at the trailhead before you ask other riders questions about it. The signs will give you necessary information about what direction to ride the trail in, the level of difficulty of the trail, and the length of the trail. It’s better to ask riders questions like “what are the typical trail conditions this time of year?” and “what air pressure do you normally run in your tires here?” That information won’t be on the sign, and other riders are more apt to share it, especially if they know you are new to the area.

If you want to engage in friendly conversation with other riders at a trailhead, try to do it at the end of their ride, not the beginning. I’m more inclined to chat when I’m done riding (and have quit gasping for air) than when I’m about to start and have my attention focused on the trail.

Always bumming tools or parts from other riders

Having a kit like this one will keep you from having to bum things off other riders.

If you need to borrow a tool, it’s okay to ask another rider for one, but be respectful. Borrow tools for minor repairs and adjustments, not major surgery on your bike, and treat the tools with respect and care. If someone gives you a tube or air cartridge, offer them money for it (though they might not accept it), and pay it forward when you get the chance. Ideally, you should carry your own kit, consisting of tire patches or plugs, pump or air cartridges, a spare tube, a multi-tool, and zip ties.

Riders need to have good behaviors before, during, and after their rides

It goes without saying that riders should always have good trail etiquette when riding. But riders should also be mindful of their conduct before and after a ride. Don’t let your bad behavior ruin another rider’s experience before it even begins.

Do you have a trailhead etiquette tip? Please feel free to share it in the comments section below.

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