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Editor’s Note: Greg Heil is a lover of solo backcountry rides, and taking unplanned turns on unmarked trails. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, the opinions expressed in this commentary are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

One of the most insidious sociological epidemics sweeping the United States, and really the world, in our day in age is the lack of personal responsibility. These days, whenever something goes wrong, most victims are immediately on the lookout for who to blame. Not only that, but they often look for any angle possible for a lawsuit. Get handicapped in an accident of some sort? Nowadays that’s the ticket to a multi-million dollar settlement and a life of work-free handicapped boredom.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing this same trend creeping into mountain biking as well. Get hurt or get stranded? That can’t be your fault, can it? No, someone else has to be to blame… maybe it’s the trail builder, the forest service for insufficient signing, the map maker, or even the search and rescue team for not getting to you fast enough.

Think I’m making this up? Think again. Here’s a short, not nearly comprehensive list of examples from the news. I don’t give these to  speak ill of the injured or the dead, but as evidence that yes, this is a real trend in mountain biking today:

Accept the Risks

The fact is, mountain biking is a very dangerous sport. Yes, there are even more dangerous sports out there, but there is nothing safe about hurtling down a mountainside on a narrow 12-inch-wide trail at 20-40 miles per hour while blasting through rock gardens, launching off of drops, and flying around corners above hundred-foot-tall cliffs.

Photo: Projekt Roam.

Photo: Projekt Roam.

While it’s difficult to find accurate stats about mountain bike injuries that don’t include road bike injuries and deaths (where injuries and deaths from motor vehicle collisions are rampant), there are about half a dozen mountain bike-related deaths in the US every year… not to mention the many hundreds of injuries, some of which are minor, but quite a few of which are major and life-altering, such as paralysis.

I think the first thing we all need to realize is that these risks are an inherent part of mountain biking. If you can’t accept the fact that, on your next ride, you might get injured and might even die, then I don’t think you should swing your leg over that bike and hit the trail. You can try to deny these risks or play them down, but the truth of the matter is they’re an unavoidable part of this sport that we love so much.

Once you accept the risks, you also need to accept that fact that, if you get injured, there is almost assuredly only one person responsible for that: you. You need to take responsibility for every action and decision that you make on the mountain bike trail.

Be Self Sufficient

This is a direct corollary of accepting personal responsibility for your actions, but I’ll lay it out anyway: when you go out into the mountains and hit the trails on your bike, you should be prepared to be completely and 100% self sufficient. And I think that if you aren’t prepared this way, you, again, shouldn’t be mountain biking.

While I think many riders accept the risks of possible injury and death, they often times place a burden on another party too. Often, this is a race organizer, a search and rescue team, or the other people they’re riding with.

Races

The author racing in South Carolina.

The author racing in South Carolina.

In races, I’ve personally observed many competitors who seem to think that it’s the race organizer’s responsibility to have the course so well marked, and have officials at every possible turn, that it’s physically impossible to get lost. But the reality is, that most courses, especially long endurance courses, are too complex for this to be feasible. There’s always a very real chance that you could get lost.

I think an even worse issue is when racers expect that every technical challenge or obstacle should be flagged and marked (this is most pervasive in XC and endurance races). As I was helping crew a race, I once heard a guy who crashed while pre-riding the course complain to the race organizer that a washed out section of doubletrack was too dangerous, and needed to be repaired and have a warning sign placed before it.

Really!? Forgive me, but I thought we were mountain bikers, not couch-riding pansies who live in a protected, allergen-free bubble. You’re having some difficulty on a washed-out road? Here, let me grab my bubble wrap and pad the rocks for you, just in case you crash.

The Backcountry: Search and Rescue

2013-10-09-11-40-49-1_1024x795-0

When riding in the backcountry, I think too many riders think that if they get in trouble, they can just call search and rescue to get them out of a jam. While maybe sometimes you can, there is no guarantee that search and rescue will be able to locate and save you: the news article above proves that.

Instead, when you go into the backcountry, you need to be ready for anything. You need to be prepared to self-extract from any place and situation you may find yourself in. Yeah, this isn’t really a popular opinion: most people don’t want to carry the weight of emergency supplies on their bike, and like I mentioned above, they don’t want to accept the risks.

The problem is, anytime you travel into the backcountry, your survival is on you. It’s always on you, whether you recognize it or not. I’m not really sure why I’d need to argue to prove this point, as people die in the backcountry all the time. Anytime you travel there, you could become one of them.

Photo: MarcS

Photo: MarcS

What about group rides?

I’ve covered races and search and rescue above, but I think that too often, when some riders show up for group rides, they expect the other riders to pick up the slack for them. They expect to be shown around the route and waited for at every turn, and oh… I don’t need to bring a tool or a spare tube, I can just bum off of someone else.

To be honest, that’s just stupid. Especially if you’re not great friends with the other people on the ride, in my opinion you should be prepared to be self sufficient. While maybe they’re going to show you trails you’re unfamiliar with, you should still pack a map as a backup, in case you get separated from the group. You should also pack all of the repair tools and parts you need. There’s no guarantee that someone is going to have a 26er tube, 9 speed chain link, or the exact tool you need for your bike. So don’t expect them to: be self sufficient.

Photo: MarcS

Photo: MarcS

The only possible exception to this rule is when you’re riding with a close friend, and you’re planning to ride together. Then sure, it’s ok to depend on each other for navigation, and even for spares if you decide to split up the supplies between the two of you. But even then, you can’t always expect to rely on that other person. What happens if they crash and become incapacitated? You need to be ready for that eventuality.

Resources for Mitigating the Risks and Being Self Sufficient

While I think riders must be willing to accept the risks and be self sufficient when riding a mountain bike, the risks and the potential troubles don’t need to be debilitating. The good news is  there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risks. Here on Singletracks, we’ve published numerous resources to help prepare folks for riding in the wilderness:

Also, I think there are a number of random tips that aren’t as much about equipment as they are about attitude, that can help get you out alive. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Start small. If you’re not willing to accept the high level of risks that big mountain rides require, start small by doing short loops close to the vehicle or riding less technical suburban trails, and then work up from there. Don’t jump into something and get in over your head; work up to it.
  • Ride smart. If you’re in the wilderness, 30 miles from the nearest road, it’s not the time to try that 5-foot drop if you’re not already comfortable with that sort of obstacle. It’s so much smarter to check your ego at the door and walk the drop, so you can live to ride another day.
  • Be prepared to spend the night. While I might not pack as much gear as MarcS mentions in his article, when I’m riding in the mountains, I try to pack enough gear that I’ll be able to spend the night in the wilderness. I might be uncomfortable and I might be hungry, but with water purification, a lighter, a rain jacket, a head lamp, and maybe some extra layers, I know I can survive in the wilderness if I get hopelessly lost.
  • Be in good shape. Sometimes when you’re riding in the Rockies, one wrong turn could inadvertently drop you down the wrong side of the mountains into a completely isolated drainage, suddenly tens of miles and thousands of feet of climbing away from where you need to be. If you’re already straining at the ends of your physical fitness when you make that turn, your body just might not be capable of compensating for that error. Similarly, there are plenty of mechanical issues that can cripple your mountain bike that you can’t plan for in advance. If you know that you’re capable of walking 10-20 miles out of the wilderness if and when something goes wrong (because it will eventually), that provides incredible peace of mind.
  • Be willing to change your plans. If darkness falls faster than you expected, if you take a wrong turn, or if a storm moves in on top of you, be willing and prepared to change your plans. Maybe that means you have to bail off of a sweet section of singletrack and take a gravel road down. While it might not be the most fun, again, it’s always better to live to ride another day.

Conclusion

Mountain biking was founded by a group of pioneers who chose to challenge themselves by riding gnarly trails high in the mountains on two-wheeled contraptions ill-fitted for the purpose. This sport is rooted in the principles and ideals of personal responsibility and self sufficiency, and for good reason: if you don’t take these ideals to heart, you could end up seriously injured or dead. If you can’t accept that, you’d better quit mountain biking.

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# Comments

    • Jeff Barber

      Interesting to think of Strava as a “race promoter.” Their user agreement makes it pretty clear they aren’t responsible for the actions users take (or for giving medical advice, something I haven’t heard anyone complain about yet) but then again, agreements like this don’t always stand up in court.

      http://www.strava.com/terms#warranties_disclaimer

    • dgaddis

      What if someone set up a website to do the same thing, but with cars?

      Obviously cars are a lot more dangerous than bicycles, but innocent people have been killed by cyclists.

      It’s an interesting argument.

    • Greg Heil

      Eh the cars argument is a stupid argument… IMO. See below.

    • Jeff Barber

      Yeah, obviously a car racing website wouldn’t fly but like Greg said, most of these KOMs don’t involve (and won’t ever involve) breaking the speed limit.

      And even if this were an issue, I suppose Strava could just put a cap on the KOMs based on speed limit data for the road segments.

      At the end of the day, I really don’t think anyone at Strava wants people to break the law (it’s certainly not the key to their business model). So maybe they should start feeding data on cycling scofflaws to law enforcement? Getting a ticket in the mail from you local PD for speeding on your bike after the fact would certainly put a chill on illegal behavior. 🙂

    • Greg Heil

      Thanks for sharing that additional info, but I’m still firmly of the opinion that the rider is to blame. Some choice quotations from the article:

      “That duty of care, notes the suit, should have included notice that competitors should use “the degree of care that a reasonable person in the same situation would have used to protect their users from danger.””

      This is exactly what I’m arguing about above: whether or not someone tells you that mountain biking is dangerous, the truth is that it is dangerous: you don’t need to be told that by anyone! Just being involved in the sport means that you’re accepting the weight of that risk.

      ““Imagine how people would react if someone were to do that with cars,” she said.”

      Now THIS is just stupid. Generally speaking, it’s impossible to violate the speed limit on a highway on a human-powered bicycle. In a car, all that’s required is pushing the gas pedal a little harder. But do you think a bicycle can do 100mph up a hill?? Honestly!

      The only possible situation where a bike could exceed the speed limit is downhill on a twisty road, as this guy was doing. But since he was breaking the law, I would think that automatically put him at fault… but maybe I’m wrong here.

    • dgaddis

      I break the speed limit every morning I ride my bike to work on one long downhill section. The speed limit is 35 at the top of the hill, and then drops to 30 at the bottom where it goes through downtown North Augusta. I can do 40mph – without even pedalling, coming down the hill. I can keep it at 30mph on the flat through town, and that’s if I don’t catch a draft 😉

      This section is a Strava segment, and passes through 3 red lights (5 if you count the ones that mark the start/finish). I think I have the KOM on this segment actually….I got lucky a few mornings and caught green lights all the way.

      Breaking the speed limit on a downhill on a bike is pretty easy in a lot of places….and Strava knows this, and yet it still allows downhil KOM segments on open roads. It’s not far fetched to argue that as irresponsible.

      Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for personal responsibility and believe the individuals who hurt themselves, or others, were 100% at fault. But I also think it’s irresponsible for someone to encourage illegal dangerous activities.

  • maddslacker

    @Jeff, Actually, trails here in Colorado do have posted speed limits, and park rangers can and do issue tickets for speeding.

    So in fact, almost every KOM here, unless it occurred in a sanctioned race, is breaking the speed limit

    • Greg Heil

      Only certain trails have speed limits… and I’ve heard enough stories of law enforcement asshatery on those trails to make me never want to ride them. (Also, interestingly, the Bay area has many trails with speed limits… some of which are ridiculously slow.)

      But in response to both Corey and Dustin, I don’t think Strava “encourages” breaking the laws in those situations. Rather, it seems to me that they provide the tools, and it’s the users who create and use the segments that are encouraging breaking the law. How can Strava be expected to monitor what the speed limit is on a specific road or trail? Even in Dustin’s example, if that had been a hill on a highway with a 55+ mph speed limit (or even 70mph speed limit… not out of the question for a two-lane highway in the Western US) you wouldn’t have been able to exceed the posted speed limit. Rather, it was just a unique combination of circumstances that allowed you to do so.

      tl;dr version: I still don’t think Strava is liable.

    • dgaddis

      That’s the whole point – they can’t monitor the segments for things like traffic lights and speed limits and whatnot. But they allow racing on them. By keeping a leader board with rankings, that’s racing IMO.

      The easy solution is no KOMs on downhill road segments. That wont stop people from bombing the hills of course, but then they would’t be encouraging it.

    • Greg Heil

      @dgaddis, Fair enough… I’ll still bomb the downhills at top-speed, even if I don’t get a KOM 😉

  • delphinide

    Greg–preach brother!

    Seriously, great article on a topic I feel strongly about too. The only thing I disagree with is your statement:”people die in the backcountry all the time”. Maybe in developing countries, but not in the US.

    I know what you meant, but the truth is, people seldom die in the backcountry anymore. I think if they did, we (corporately), might take wilderness survival as trail-users more seriously. To tackle a ride like the Monarch Crest Trail without the basics: firestarter, knife, compass, water purification–even a firearm–is just unwise. It’s one thing to tackle “epic” backcountry rides and be as light as possible, but it sucks to get stranded somewhere and die from exposure because you are wearing spandex lingerie. We all know “those guys” that show up to a ride unprepared and get what they deserve. I saw a guy on the Gold Dust trail in Como that I (secretly) refused to give my only tube too, after I witnessed him repeatedly riding this obstacle in a very stupid way–until of course he popped his tire. He bummed one off of another guy and popped that one too doing the same thing. Idiot.

    I also encountered a stranger with a flat once who refused to take my spare tube, insisting that he walk the 10 miles out of Otero Canyon because he said it taught him a good lesson and he wanted to ruminate on it. Respect.

    Several people I know occasionally ride alone in the deep woods, but they accept the risks, and typically ride smartly: telling people where they are going, taking emergency supplies, and when to expect them back. They also have the REI backcountry rescue card (great idea!) One of these cyclists, a female, has a concealed carry and usually packs a little heat in her backpack just in case. I find it odd that she told me some other riders have protested bikers, like her, carrying firearms on a ride. Why not? Aside from dangerous and crazy people protecting meth labs in the woods (or rapists), there are hungry, and even rabid, animals that would love to nibble your little Lycra legs if given the chance. Sure, it’s rare, but why be a statistic? Obey local laws, of course 🙂

    Over the years I’ve helped quite a few people with backcountry medical emergencies, and overall, most have been very grateful. I hope I never come across someone who feels entitled to rescue.

    Great article Greg, and a good topic to discuss!

    • dgaddis

      As far as packing heat, while I’m not opposed to it, I don’t understand why you would. Seems like if you needed it, you wouldn’t have time to get to it if it’s down inside a hydration pack somewhere.

      Now, if you’re doing an overnight bikepacking ride, I can see wanting to carry something.

    • Greg Heil

      I think this might depend a bit on where in the country you live. When I lived in grizzly country in Montana, most of my friends wouldn’t go into the woods without a .45 on their hip. I’ve even heard about mountain bikers in Alaska getting their bikes custom-built with gun mounts, but I’m not sure how wide spread that is 🙂

      TBH, the year-and-a-half I lived in Montana I didn’t carry any sort of bear spray or firearm into the woods with me. But as I look back onto it, that just wasn’t wise. I wasn’t prepared for the very real possibility that I could encounter an angry bear 20 miles from the nearest paved road. Thankfully, I lived to ride another day!

    • delphinide

      While taking a Wilderness Medicine class in Albuquerque a few years ago, we were told that no incidences have been reported of a bear attacking 4 or more hikers. I don’t know if that has changed, but if you ride alone or with 1-2 friends in the Colorado backcountry, its not a bad idea to have a firearm. If you are with a big group–probably no worries. But I have startled a few bears before while bombing down a mountainside, and luckily, they ran the other way (and man, they are fast. real fast). A small cub once ran through my campsite at dusk atop Yosimite…and I didn’t sleep at all that night wondering where momma bear was. I think if you are going to carry, carry a .45, and put it where you can get to it. You probably cannot drop a large bear with a .45 unless he’s already on you, but that may be your only chance of survival. More likely, you’d need a pistol to take care of a snake, coyote, or cougar if they were a real threat to you. You probably don’t need a gun unless you are in a really remote area (like, ahem, Montana, Greg). But, I always have a knife and pepper spray, even on local trails close to home, because you never know when you might need them. Knifes are handy for lots of reasons, not just defense.

    • Greg Heil

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, Paul!

      You’re right: “all the time” might be a bit of hyperbole on my part, but even in the US there are dozens of people that die in the backcountry every year, be it from avalanches, rock fall, exposure, lightning strikes, or animal encounters. We’ve already had multiple mountain bike deaths this year alone, and have had numerous ski/snowboard and snowmobile avalanche deaths this winter alone.

      These are just deaths that I’ve heard of: I think there are a lot more wilderness deaths that we DON’T hear about, since every single backcountry death doesn’t warrant a nation-wide news story.

  • mtbikerchick

    So, while I agree with this post in theory, I think there are better ways to remind people to “ride at their own risk.”

    1. As much as we’ve talked about beginning mountain biking, saying things like, “If you can’t accept the fact that, on your next ride, you might get injured and might even die, then I don’t think you should swing your leg over that bike and hit the trail” doesn’t exactly make anyone want to head down the trail. I get your point, people do need to realize that biking is a dangerous sport, but the tone here is doesn’t make any newbies want to try a ledge drop or a pop up anytime soon.

    2. It seems like a lot of this is scare tactics. If your point is to say, “HEY if you’re planning a long backcountry ride, you need to be prepared for anything,” then we could write a post about that. This seems more like a rant. Sometimes rants are good, but they can also turn people off.

    Yes, people do need to take responsibility and be prepared. It drives me crazy when I see people out on the trails, even at Lunch Loop without a map. But instead of just thinking, “Well good luck, idiot” and going on my way I usually reach in my pack and hand them one of the spare maps that I keep in there.

    Sometimes, like the guy Paul mentioned above, you have to learn by walking out with a flat tire, and that’s ok. But I’ve read SO many posts on here where we’re all like, “OH on a ride after work I don’t even take a pack because I’m just going on a short ride…just some tools and my phone…” which means we ALL put ourselves at risk at one time or another. We aren’t ALL always prepared to sleep in the woods on our rides.

    Out on Mary’s Loop there is one section of trail that is very tricky and where several people have fallen about 15 ft to a ledge below. There has always (as long as I’ve been riding) been a caution sign there. People know they can get hurt if they don’t make that section…I mean, you can’t miss the sign telling you so…but they continue to try because isn’t that what we all do? We keep trying to ride more and improve. Finally, in an effort to cut down on accidents, COPMOBA added boulders in front of the exposed portion so people are much less likely to fall off. Now, no one sued COPMOBA or forced them to do this; COPMOBA was just proactive in making sure that this spot wasn’t the site of anyone’s death. Did they see it as their responsibility to make sure the trail was a bit safer? It seems that way to me and I appreciate it.

    Again, I see your point Greg, but if I were a beginning rider this article would NOT appeal to me at all.

    • Spartan

      Nitpick much? Jeeze.

    • Spartan

      The truth is the truth no matter how much sugar you put on it.. You can die mountain biking. The sooner a beginner realizes this fact the better

    • delphinide

      She has a point, though…and I’ll add another. You’re probably more likely to die driving to the trail, than riding on it. Mountain biking is relatively safe, as long as you ride within your limits. Case in point: I broke my finger recently flying down Palisade Rim and flying over the bars. My coworker just broke hers–walking her dog.

    • Greg Heil

      Hey Julie, thanks for taking the time to chime in on the conversation with a thoughtful comment! Based on your comment, I think I achieved exactly the effect I was looking for 😉

      We talk all the time about getting new riders into the sport, which is all well and good… and we will continue to encourage people to try the sport of mountain biking! However, I think we need to talk about the other side of the coin, too, and that is: you could die doing this sport. And people do die mountain biking… see the news articles mentioned specifically above, and the others we’ve talked about on the forums over the years.

      There’s plenty of yin and yang in this sport that we all love so much. The good side is that it keeps us fit, it’s a whole lot of fun, we get to enjoy nature, and so much more. The down side is that pedaling to the top is painful, and riding is downright dangerous and can result in injury or death. So, I think we need to discuss both of these things. And in my opinion, simply encouraging anyone and everyone to take up mountain biking without informing of the risks is a dangerous and misguided approach to mountain bike advocacy.

      So, when someone is thinking picking up mountain biking, I think they need to think about the fun they could have, but they need to be realistic about the dangers. If this article makes someone who is thinking about trying mountain biking take a step back and reevaluate, then that is fantastic! I think we all need to think about the risks involved, and balance them against the rewards.

      Let me include a short anecdote here:

      I was helping lead a group ride on a 90-degree, humid day out at Bull Mountain in Georgia. By Georgia standards, and really most anywhere, Bull Mountain is real mountain biking with real consequences (just ask the guy who broke his hip out there the other year and laid for hours in agony before someone came across him).

      On our ride, we were at the furthest point in our route from the trailhead, about 10 miles out, and it turns out that one of the new guys had only ever ridden a mountain bike a few times before, and this was his first time trying to ride the difficult, challenging trails of Bull Mountain. And, he had only packed one small water bottle, no food, and was out of water and cramping.

      Thankfully, between the group of us we had enough spare water to fill his bottle back up, and someone volunteered to bail out and escort him out of the mountains the quickest way possible. But if he had been riding by himself, he could have been in a life-and-death situation! And even though he was riding with a group, he shouldn’t have expected us to give him water: if one of us who gave him water had run out later, than WE would have been in a bind.

      Finally, in response to “If your point is to say, “HEY if you’re planning a long backcountry ride, you need to be prepared for anything,” then we could write a post about that,” we’ve written posts like that, and I linked to them above. Check ’em out when you have a sec, there’s some good info in there.

      Cheers!

    • mtbikerchick

      So you were helping to lead the group and no one asked at the beginning if everyone had enough water?

    • mtbikerchick

      No seriously, I do get your point. That’s why we write opinion pieces, so we can see what others think. I’ve read our backcountry pieces – I know they’re out there! You’ve definitely started a discussion and given people something to think about 🙂

    • delphinide

      I consider myself an experienced rider and outdoor enthusiast, and the first time I rode the Monarch Crest Trail I took 130oz of water and ran out with 8 miles to go. Suck city. So, it can happen to anyone–I think the point is to be prepared, and take responsibility for it. I remember reading a few years ago about an awesome park in HI that closed because a hiker was hurt or killed, the city was sued, and they just closed it to prevent future problems. To be honest, I rarely ask anyone–even beginners–on group rides if they have enough water unless I am taking a newb to a pretty remote place. Maybe I should. I just assume that’s like asking if your helmet is on tight enough. Good point.

    • Spartan

      Seriously, Just a few simple mistakes in succession can have dire consequences on what should have been a simple out and back ride..
      Jeffs article a while back when he got a bit lost and ran out of water on a hot day..hit home for me.. Talk about an experienced guy out on the trail and… man he dodged a bullet (can someone add the link) its a great article.
      And this guy in socal that Greg linked up above.!! Experience rider out for a simple ride that he’s probably done 50 times… ends up dead..

      Using “in your face”harsh realities, I’d rather scare someone away from biking than not give them the proper education and tools..

  • Spartan

    Nice work Greg. Its a Bible for being an awesome and responsible biker/human…

    • Greg Heil

      Thanks man!

  • gar29

    First off, best comment ever Greg 🙂
    “Really!? Forgive me, but I thought we were mountain bikers, not couch-riding pansies who live in a protected, allergen-free bubble. You’re having some difficulty on a washed-out road? Here, let me grab my bubble wrap and pad the rocks for you, just in case you crash.”

    And I have to agree with you. I’ve seen too many people that are more concerned about weight, and go without anything to fix their bike, or themselves. I’m always willing to help, but I have do have a hard time when someone is broke down or beat up and doesn’t have the resources because they wanted to save a few grams. Walking out once or twice might make them reconsider that strategy…

    One of my pet peeves is people that are riding, especially back country, without a first aid kit. I always carry first aid supplies because our sport, like Greg mentioned, is dangerous!

    Take one trip to I made to Downieville. I wound up patching up 6 different people! 3 from my group and 3 random people I found beat up on the side of the trail. Not a single one of these people had as much as a bandaid on them! The one that really got me was a group of health professionals. The girl who crashed and wound up with a severe concussion was a nurse. Would you believe none of them had any first aid supplies on them!

    • Greg Heil

      Thanks, glad you liked it!

      I personally don’t usually carry any medical supplies besides duct tape and zip ties… maybe I should reconsider.

    • gar29

      Well…. duct tape can heal many wounds! After that fateful ride with all the injuries, I started carrying a couple pair of latex gloves. I really don’t want to be exposed to other people’s problems, and they really take up no room or weight. I also carry a some 2×2 gauze pads and a small roll of gauze. You’d be surprised how many times that has come in handy.

      Check out this recent picture of patching myself up with the gauze roll and tape! http://i1086.photobucket.com/albums/j456/ddecarr/gauzeandducttape.jpg

  • wfool

    I am probably going to be the lone voice of a decenter on this topic, but before I do let me preface my comments by saying that I agree that everyone should take responsibility for their own safety. That each of us should be prepared for emergencies that arise.

    The part that I am disagreeing with is that the introduction of the article exaggerates the problem by implying that this is more prevalent than it is. Four examples are cited, but it is made to sound as if these are representative of all of THOSE lazy mountain bikers out there.

    I see it as representative of a few that create a bad taste in the mouths of others. Maybe I am wrong, but most of my friends and I are all going to do what it takes to get ourselves out of trouble. I know that I personally have done just that, and any help I received from other mountain bikers was greatly appreciated.

    Another area that I disagree with is the notion that there is never any validity to the idea that lawsuits are appropriate. I think that when a manufacturer is negligent it should be punished for that negligent behavior. I work in the safety certification part of our business, again not in the cycling industry. So I know about what companies have to go though to comply with minimum safety requirements.

    I don’t know of any examples in mountain biking right off the bat, but I do know about the Remington 700 case of auto firing when the gun is taken off safety. It was a known problem to Remington for 20 plus years and they denied and stalled. Recently they lost a lawsuit, and the result was a recall to fix the problem. Had they fixed the problem prior to the lawsuit, people would not have been hurt or killed. It was a 20 dollar fix and Remington viewed it to be too expensive. Yes shooting sports can be dangerous, but the manufacturer should have fixed a known problem also, which added to the danger unnecessarily.

    If there is any negligence of this sort within mountain biking, I wouldn’t simply blame the mountain biker, I would hold the company responsible.

    I am not advocating the type of lawsuits that caused lap burns from hot coffee, but real problems that companies won’t resolve for whatever reason.

    • delphinide

      Excellent point, and I was thinking the same thing. I ride pretty hard, and know that if I break certain parts on my bike it is my fault..but if a new $200 handlebar fails that was torqued appropriately, and I lose my teeth, I’m calling an attorney 🙂

    • cthurston

      responsibility is a two way rode, for both us and the manufacture….

  • stumpyfsr

    Spot-on article and I could not agree more. Much better to educate new rider of all risks and ride-in-control rule then call a rescue team later. It’s a harsh truth but it had to be told.
    Even professionals die or injure themselves riding but it’s not a reason to call attorney. I don’t remember Markus Stöckl sued anybody because of fork failure during his speed record attempt.

  • barrygxnz

    Good points well written. However, I don’t think I’m going to forward it on to my significant other! She worries about all the scrapes and aches I end up with; says ‘don’t you think you should take it a bit easier, you’re not as young as you used to be’ yada yada yada ……………
    Being a Kiwi, we’re born with the self sufficiency, no excuses gene, which sadly is in short supply amongst the general population of not only this country but what feels like the world at large.
    Cheers
    Barry

  • shanedon11

    I agree Greg. I recently moved to Lakewood, CO from the low plains of Oklahoma City. I found out real quick that MOUNTAIN biking while actually in the MOUNTAINS is a huge change and requires much more supplies. I got to walk my bike off of Dakota Ridge after I blew out the front tire and had no spare tube. Luckily it was only a 1.5 mile trip back to the Jeep. But the next thing I bought was a bigger saddle bag and a spare tube. I also learned that I will have to work my way up to the more technical trails such as Dakota Ridge and the many others on the front range. I will be sticking to the intermediate trails for now until I can get my lungs and legs in better shape.

  • cthurston

    I am always preaching about personal responsibility to my kids. I think the Strava comment goes to prove that anyone can be sued even if the “accept” box is checked when signing up online for an app.

    I do know that in my area, Capital Forest WA, there are trails on Stravas map that are not tracked and posted dangerous. I saw this after i had ridden it a couple times. the first time it tracked me and kept my stats. the second time when i saved my ride it came up not allowed ” dangerous”.

    its time for some tort refform

  • erikolson

    I know better and I still do stupid stuff sometimes. I lived in Brownsville Texas for a couple years. The Monte Bella trails have nothing deadly as far as terrain and are packed into a small area, so I only carried a 20 oz bottle with more in my car. When I moved to College Station, the first time I rode the lake Bryan trail I brought my 20 oz and a 16 oz back-up. It happened to be 105 degrees that day and I ran out of water in short order. I turned around and headed back to the trail head. I almost passed out several times, and finally had to walk my bike so if I did pass out I would not crash. Moral of the story: even a local trail can be hazardous to your health if you are not prepared.

  • n2storms

    According to the responses the things I need to carry to ride a mountain bike responsibly include: maps, med kit, all the possible parts to fix my broken bike, a gun, a knife, pepper spray, compass, food, enough water for my ride plus extra in case I get lost but of course I can leave my cell phone at home since expecting help from someone else is deemed poor form by the singletrack.com community.
    I agree that everyone should take personal responsibility for their own behavior and most mountain bikers that I encounter feel the same way however if another biker is in distress 99% will stop to help or ask if help is needed. One of the reasons I enjoy mountain biking is other bikers including beginners and while the sport can be dangerous there are also many benefits and I will educate but never discourage a new mountain bikers because he’s not carrying a extra tube.

    • stumpyfsr

      There’re so many trails in so remote places that you won’t meet anybody in a whole day. One mistake in such place could cost you life. Let’s say a biker riding Maah Daah Hey trail or Centennial in Black Hills and being dehydrated got lost, fell off of cliff. Chances for him to be found are very minimal, especially in off-season.
      Of course, you don’t need anything except repair kit when shredding a 10-mile loop in your local park.
      Talking about guns, it’s useless against bear, especially when carried inside your backpack. Way more dangerous to crash and fire a gun accidentally.

  • nineremd9

    It’s a good idea to ride with someone else, if possible. If I’m not going to be more than 5 miles from the start point, I’ll sometimes not carry a tube. But really, it’s a good idea to always carry a tube and air supply. I also carry a cell phone. I’d never do a “backcountry” ride alone…..I just don’t have the survival skills that might be needed in the event of a serious problem.

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