The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
While riders in some parts of the world are currently confined to their homes, other riders, like myself, are able to responsibly enjoy riding their local trails. However, we don’t want to abuse the privilege. For mountain bikers, this can be an opportunity to show other trail users and the community how conscientious we are.
Here are four ways riders can demonstrate responsible riding if they are currently able to enjoy their local trails.
Maintain social distancing when riding
Riders still need to abide by the CDC guidelines for social distancing when riding, as well as any local and state ordinances put into place as a result of the pandemic. Be mindful of how many people are on the trails. If the trailhead looks crowded, don’t ride. There are always other opportunities to do so. Also, take time to thank your state and local officials for keeping the trails open. They are faced with making difficult choices every day, and most of them are unpopular, so they would greatly appreciate positive feedback from their constituents.
Health care professionals have been taxed to their limits by the COVID-19 pandemic. They need to devote their full attention to fighting the virus and caring for those who are affected by it. They do not want to see careless riders in the ER suffering from injuries sustained while trying to be a GoPro hero or chasing a new PR. When this all has passed, you can let ‘er rip. Now is not the time to attempt a new high-risk feature or see how fast you can fly down a trail. Dial it back, and just enjoy the fact you are able to ride at all.
Do your part to help with trail maintenance
Thanks to COVID-19, organized trail group work days are indefinitely suspended. This creates a problem for our local trails since spring is here and the vegetation is growing rapidly. Additionally, we’ve had some big storms come through our area, leaving behind fallen trees and other debris. While we can’t congregate together to work on the trails, we can each do our own part to keep them in rideable condition.
Clear away any debris you can, and report large debris like fallen trees to park officials or post it on social media so other riders are aware of it. Invest in a pair of hand clippers or a folding hand saw so that you can trim away any overgrowth you encounter on your rides, if allowed by your local land manager. These small acts can help keep the trails open and safe to ride until we are able to have organized trail work days again.
Politely educate individuals you see using empty trails for unintended purposes
Currently, there are fewer mountain bikers on our local trails due to the pandemic, and many caretakers have been furloughed. This has resulted in other individuals using the trails for activities that can damage them. Horseback riders have been using newly created trails that our local club and the county paid to build. My riding partner encountered the above-photographed dirt-biker riding another trail that is clearly marked as being off-limits to any motorized vehicles.
It’s easy to eviscerate these individuals on social media, or engage in shouting matches with them on the trail, but that won’t bring the desired solution mountain bikers are seeking. Instead, riders should calmly educate others about trail usage limitations. Engage in calm discussions with such individuals if you encounter them on the trail. If that doesn’t work, talk to your local authorities when you see repeated violations. Riders need to model the behavior they want to see in order to bring about change.
If you can currently ride, use the opportunity to keep mountain biking in a good light
Be grateful if you can currently ride your local trails. It is a privilege that riders should not abuse. If riders don’t act properly on the trails then government officials might decide to close them. We don’t want to suffer the same fate as the skaters in California who watched local officials dumping sand into their skate park because they wouldn’t comply with social distancing guidelines.