Editor’s Note: Michael Paul spends his days mountain biking the increasingly popular (read: crowded) trails of the Colorado Front Range. While Michael is a regular contributor to Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
The mountain biking community, by and large, is a supportive one, filled with encouraging high fives and post-ride beers to celebrate GoPro fails and happy trails. There are those special few, however, that we all know and loathe, and we have many words to describe them. This article is dedicated to them–to poke fun and have a good laugh–because God forbid we offend anyone on the Internet. Pay close attention though: you might come to your own uncomfortable realization in the next few minutes.
1. Bike Bragging
Who doesn’t like to get a new bike and show it off? After all, you may have had to sell a kidney… or your soul… to get that new carbon fiber wunderbike. But no one likes hearing about how much money you have laying around to drop on a new ride. You buy a new $10,000 bike every season for road, mountain, and cyclocross? Good for you, bucko. Why don’t you post a photo of those bikes in your garage on social media and see how long those bikes stay in there. Seriously, though, keep your affluence to yourself and put your money where your saddle is–impress your riding buddies with your skill, not your means. Even better, donate your “old” bikes to those of us who are less fortunate.
2. Riding Muddy Trails
It happens to all of us. We are dying to ride, and we know the ground may be a bit damp, but we go anyway, hoping that the trail is mostly dry… and it is. When we see a few wet spots, we ride through them, but when we see a lot of wet, we turn around and go have a beer instead and wait for better conditions. But there are those people that will ride no matter what the conditions look like, and they destroy the trails for everyone else. They ride around mud holes and widen the trail. They insist on creating ruts through long stretches of deep, sticky mud and mar the surface for seasons. Thanks a lot, dude! If this is you, your personal penance should be spending two days of volunteer trail work for every day that you thrash them.
3. Failure to Yield
We all like to go fast–uninterrupted–every once in a while, and sometimes other people suck the fun out of that because they are enjoying the trail too (and it’s their God-given right to do so). If you find that you are constantly getting into arguments with hikers or other riders, however, or have been known to beat up little old ladies because they won’t move out of your way, you my friend, are a royal trail jerk. Your impatience makes it hard on all of us to get and maintain trail access, and we don’t need your kind. Coming up behind someone and yelling “get out of my effing way” (true story) is the wrong play any day.
4. Trolling Social Media
You don’t have to be physically on the trail to be mountain biking public-enemy-numero- uno. Trolling sites like Facebook or the Singletracks.com forums for the sheer pleasure of criticizing others makes you a stinky sphincter. As a community, mountain bikers need to stick together. It doesn’t mean that we always have to all agree, but it does mean that you should keep your overly-negative and malignant comments to yourself. Putting someone down on the Internet makes you a super-jerk, and a coward. Chances are your expert “armchair engineering” degree only gives you a PhD in stupidity. So be humble, and respect other’s opinions. You might learn something.
5. Being a Strava**hole
Many, if not most of us, use Strava to record rides and to compete against ourselves or others. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Some riders, however, use it to “be the best,” and will do anything and everything to make sure that they get that KOM–even if it means running people off of the trail. Yelling “Strava” does not give you license to supersede the right of way, because no one really cares about your digital accolades but you.
(By the way, a KOM is just a bunch of pixels that are worthless anyway because we all know that Strava times vary based what device is used, so there is zero accuracy to your “award.”)
The all-knowing Internet already has a term for riders like this: “Strava**holes” . Check out the video:
6. Smokers and Tokers
Smoking is bad… you should know that already. I’m not here to lecture you about your health: if you want to be on oxygen when you’re 45 and die of adenocarcinoma, knock yourself out. But, you’re kind of a jerk when you whip our your cancer sticks and light one up in the middle of a group ride. Most of us are trying to suck in as much clean air as we can, and your micro-pollution blows, my friend. Please, keep your stinky smoke away from the Great Outdoors. This goes double for Mary Jane–enjoy responsibly, but realize that your Magic Carpet Ride can be really noxious to others sharing the same breathing space.
7. The Doppler DJ
Ah, music: soup for the soul. It makes you feel good, gets you through those tough climbs, and gives you energy for shredding the downhill like the pro you’re not. Problem is, earbuds can be a bit dangerous because they disconnect you from important sounds on the trail, like bears or people trying to pass you. And as annoying as it may be to scream “on your LEFT!” to no avail to a hiker or rider getting a jam on, what is worse is the person who feels justified in playing their tracks out loud with some bike-mounted beat box.
Nothing ruins the serenity of singletrack like some warbly rendition from Justin Bieber as a rider passes by you, aka the Doppler DJ… then to get stuck listening to the faint hum of what should be a song for the duration of your ride.
Suggestion: wear just one earbud, and crank it up as loud as you want.
8. Amateur Drone Pilot
We all love to watch those incredible flyovers seen in Yeti Videos, beckoning us to ride far away ribbons of dirty goodness. The difference between that footage, and the one shot by your friend with his $850 Phantom he bought on Amazon, is that the Yeti videos are shot by professionals in remote locations, with permits. Having an amateur drone pilot buzzing around overhead when you are trying to ride is just flat out annoying.
Fortunately, many local, county, state, and national parks have banned drones from trails. Unfortunately, there are those who will defy the rules to get the equivalent of a shaky helmet mounted POV camera to complete their dope edit. Please, if you must drone, drone far, far, far away from trafficked trails.
9. The Faux Mechanic
Everybody loves a Good Samaritan, especially if your bike breaks down on the trail. Having others stop to help you is one of the beautiful experiences we share as riders, which can result in new friends, stories, and good times. But just because you watched an 11-minute Youtube video on how to rebuild a Fox 36 fork doesn’t mean you’re a mechanic. Please, by all means, stop and help others. If you really, truly know your way around a bike, great.
But if you have never done something before, or think you can fix something by simply forcing it, stop. Check yo’self. I’ve seen bad mechanicals go downhill fast when someone tries to “help” when they really don’t know what they are doing. Don’t be a Bad Samaritan and make a situation worse by manhandling someone’s bike. Know your limits.
10. The Trail Fixer
Probably nothing grinds my gears more in the mountain biking world than people who mess with trails to suit their inabilities (or alter them to hurt people). This includes pulling up rocks because they are too hard for you, cutting down trees or branches because you are not skilled enough to ride around/under them, going around obstacles and widening the trails, and even building features on a well-used trail when you have no idea what you are doing (a great way to piss off other trail uses and land managers).
Riders improve their skills by trying harder things. Don’t rob others of that progressive experience because of your trepidation. Leave things where they are, and try them yourself. In the end, it’s much more satisfying to clear that manky drop than make three easy lines around it.
Any of these things sound familiar? The good news is that it’s not the end of the world if you’ve committed one of these trail fouls. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Most of us get along simply because we are brethren mountain bikers, and we love ya, even when you screw up. Strive to not be a Trail Jerk by apologizing, being considerate, and listening to criticism.
Happy trails! 🙂