--
SHARES
  

Photo: Matt Miller.

I try not to complain about a whole lot when it comes to mountain biking. I realize that in a lot of ways it takes a heap of luck and privilege to get out and ride at all. You have to have some amount of expendable money for a bike. You have to live reasonably close to a trail system if you plan to ride regularly. You need to have extra time, and due to kids or a job or X, Y, and Z a lot of people don’t. You also need to have at least a little bit of mental fortitude because mountain biking is hard (and not everyone does).

And, even though riding bikes is how most of us achieve a sense of freedom, which becomes increasingly important as we grow older and freedom is harder to come by, there are a few rules that I feel are imperative in order to show respect for the trails, the environment, and other mountain bikers.

Living in a city where the population grows approximately four million times as fast as the amount of trails, you can almost watch the singletrack get wider by the year. Who’s to blame? A lot of the riders I see who don’t know how to pass or yield properly are new, and unfamiliar with trail etiquette. After them, all of us are to blame if we don’t model the right type of behavior.

The other week I went out on a ride near home on one of the trail networks that recently dried up. The sun shone, there was a light breeze, birds flew around and chattered loudly. It was a picturesque day and everyone was pretty dang happy to be out. As I crowned the summit of a rolling hill and began to descend I saw another rider making his way uphill. It was my time to shine and let him know that I was an etiquette-abiding mountain biker and would gladly yield, lean to one side of the trail, and let him pass.

“Hey, that’s OK, man, come on by,” he said. His voice held the demeanor of a snake charmer as he re-routed off the trail and continued to pedal uphill.

“Uh, that’s OK. We’re supposed to stay on the trail.” He didn’t say anything and rode on. So did I. Then, it happened again, and again, whether it was the same scenario, or when I was climbing and a rider descended around me, off-trail.

It was hard to be mad at the first guy. He was being nice and respectful toward me, and probably had no idea it was the wrong thing to do.

I won’t debate who should yield to whom, and whether descenders should have the right of way, I just argue that everyone follow the current rules, because trails are only getting wider, land management agencies are out mitigating overuse and damage daily, and this website wouldn’t be as great if it were called doubletracks.com. For your reference, the folks at Doubletracks are a band of four members; three are vocalists, two are guitarists, two are keyboarders, one a harmonicist, one a drummer, and one a bassist, and they will play your wedding, corporate event, or wake.

In any case, it’s not mandatory to join a mountain bike club when you buy a bike, or any sort of educational class, so it seems like a lot of riders just don’t know about proper yielding etiquette. Or, maybe they do and they just don’t care. This is why I’m proposing a public awareness campaign with lots of imagery. Why would this help? Just look what it did for cigarettes, in their growth and overall reduction. Hey, look, the camel in the leather jacket driving a Corvette is smoking. Smoking has to be cool. Eww, now look. That pair of lungs looks like a steak fresh off the BBQ. Smoking is gross. Here are two scenarios which could be used to craft an advertisement to promote how cool yielding actually is.

Scenario one, video advertisement

Matthew McConaughey is pedaling his mountain bike on a flat section of trail that starts to descend about 50 yards ahead of him. His bike is all black: Black frame, black lettering, black components, black spokes, and strangely enough there’s a Lincoln logo on the head tube. His kit too, is all black.

It doesn’t matter that McConaughey isn’t a regular mountain biker, he is fast and smooth and has the style of Brandon Semenuk with the speed of Sam Gaze. Naturally, he catches up with a slower rider and needs to pass on a section of singletrack, but doesn’t want to go off trail.

“Hey, brother, I’m coming up on your right, your right, your right. Can I pass you when you get a chance to pull over?”

The other rider pulls over immediately and leans to the side of the trail. “Whoa, Matthew McConaughey, of course you can pass! Thanks for the heads up!”

“Hey man, communication is key when passing and we have got to keep these trails in pristine condition. I mean, just look at the views, it is — without question — absolutely breathtaking out here,” he says in his long drawl.

McConaughey pedals on ahead of the rider he passed and the screen fades to black with a statement in block white lettering left on the screen: “Communicating to pass: Cool enough for Matthew McConaughey. Cool enough for all of us.”

Scenario two, print advertisement

On one of the first pages of a thick, glossy magazine, between the cover and table of contents is a photo of a narrow, snake-like stream of singletrack that starts in the bottom corner of the page and winds its way through a mountain, matted with green grass, shrubs, and wildflowers. Grey rocky peaks rupture through the vegetation and point upward into a blue sky.

A mountain biker drives her quads and calves into the pedals and fights gravity on the rocky climb. Ahead of her, Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast lean to the side of the trail (and look cool as hell in the process) to let her by. They’re both wearing the same outfits from the ‘Hey Ya’ video. Andre’s perm juts out beneath his helmet. He’s still wearing a button-up shirt and suspenders. Big Boi has on a pair of shiny aviators and is wearing a full suit with an oversized bow tie. Neither of them are sweating.

Hoisted in the sky above the peaks, bold letters spell out ‘What’s cooler than being cool? Yiiieeldiiing!’

--
SHARES
  
# Comments

  • Leah Barber

    Um… I’m definitely siding with my boys from ATL on this one! I will forever imagine Outkast every time I have to yield now. maybe I’ll even sing Heeeyyy-yield instead of Hey ya 😉

    • Matt Miller

      Haha, can’t argue with them!

  • rhut

    As a fellow Front Range inhabitant, I run into this all the time. It’s hard to correct someone who is just trying to be nice. How do you say “Thanks for moving out of the way, but that soil is really fragile, please stay on the trail” and not come off as a complete ass?

    Also, I’d throw a few bucks in to get those commercials rolling!

    • Matt Miller

      It’s pretty hard to think of a tactful way to say it, right? Haha, well let ya know if we get a Go Fund Me going!

  • Brad Beadles

    until tv and magazine producers decide to invest in a trail etiquette ad campaign, all we can do is lead by example! generally, i try to give whoever is coming the opposite direction the right of way, the same way that you would hold the door for someone. it’s just courteous. Be nice! Say hi!

    • Matt Miller

      Agreed! Being a decent and friendly human is the best way to start 🙂

  • Gdb49

    I try to yield no matter the direction and be extra friendly- especially to hikers. I’ve turned it into a game and try to track stand through the entire process- win/win!

  • mongwolf

    I’m like you Gdb. It’s funny, but I actually like stopping for other users, especially hikers. It nice to show a little preference and friendliness towards others and sometimes you can even have some interesting conversation. What I find interesting though is that people rarely say thank you anymore. They are nice enough and often apologetic, but I would much prefer a thankful over an apology when showing others a little courtesy.

    • Jackemeyer

      Passionate about all topics that I provide attention to, and I believe I speak for you, the author, and coot271.

      Mostly I am concerned that coot271 brought up a key question that has been swept under disguised responses, first by the author and second by an editor:
      “no one forced you to read it…” means the article should not be peer reviewed.
      “flagged for very passionate” means the article should not be peer reviewed.
      “100% increase in damage”, which is equivalent to doubling the damage, from 1% (5 miles of 2″ wide trails) to 2% of the 10 acres means that the critique offered by coot271 could be blown away by the largest statistic possible, while ignoring other statistics.

      If we’re both passionate, and we want to provide sound arguments for action, it follows that you and your team members would take a critique to task, thereby not sweeping it away w/ blunders-posed-as-logic; rather, addressing the subject at hand. Are you willing?

      B/c if not, you have leaned upon weak PC “look at me, I yielded too” flakery that no one will take seriously when it comes to ACTION. Trail building, planning, & inviting “passionates” to the discussion need firmly built principles.

    • Jackemeyer

      Sorry @mongwolf, I intended this reply to come below. I must have clicked the wrong Reply. I have not been able to determine how to edit/delete comments.

  • coot271

    That….was idiotic. A complete waste of internet blogging space. Yielding???? Freakin figure it out and dont worry about double tracks. What the hell is wrong with you people?

    • Matt Miller

      coot, no one forced you to read. Thanks for staying on the page even longer to leave a meaningful comment.

    • Jackemeyer

      @coot271 Ok, so you’re not into being nice. No prob, the “idiot” tag can be ignored and your pre-emptive personal attacks simply swept away. I strike it up to adolescent postering. Are you an adolescent?

      Anyways, you have an important point to discuss that is buried w/in the postering: “…don’t worry about double tracks”.
      Elaborate with an example: if there are 10 acres of land and a 5 mile single track winding through it, author @Matt_Miller, please describe why it relevant or impactful to have a double track instead. Does the track per se, single or double, not fulfill the function of keeping people & machines off 99% of the 10 acres?

    • Jeff Barber

      I think most of us associate doubletrack with roads and vehicles. After all, four-wheel vehicles generally create doubletrack, not bikes or even motorcycles for that matter. So for me and probably others, I guess it’s a matter of aesthetics.

      Another way to look at it, though, is that a doubletrack disturbs 100% more of the land than a singletrack trail does, regardless of what’s happening with the rest of the 10 acres in your example.

    • Jackemeyer

      @Jeff_Barber Logically then, the narrower the tire, the more aesthetically pleased you (and those you represent) will be. I challenge you to simply 1/2 the width of your tire and make a blog entry on convincing others to no longer ride fat.
      Your use of “100% growth” in this specific case is a misleading argument, a common trickery used to mask the irrelevance in the claim. I hope you do not try to motivate your children by promising to match their investment in a bank account up to $1 maximum. That 100% growth from max $1 to $2 is irrelevant, and should be ignored because it is misleading. If the 100% increase is merely a dollar, which has little-to-no buying power, then you are still relying on aesthetics (saving for the sake of saving). If this is the case (and it might be, something you should consider deeply), your personal pleasure for increasingly narrow single track might be something you could write a poem about on your own personal website, rather than distracting from a serious concern on a site (SingleTracks.com) that regularly attempts to present arguments aiming to balance damage to ecosystems with recreation.
      I hope my writing is/was taken seriously and not as one participating in a debate to win/lose, nor as any personal attack on your character.

    • Jeff Barber

      Clearly you are very passionate about this topic. 🙂

      I doubt anyone can say they’ve never stepped off trail to yield or veered off line when coming into a corner a little too hot. I don’t think there’s meant to be any judgement here, just a suggestion to avoid it if you can.

    • Jackemeyer

      Woah, I must have clicked the wrong Reply button? It was in the correct position while editing, but now appears as a Reply to mongwolf. If editors/moderators can move it to the correct position, please do. Otherwise, please erase it (I have copied the text).

    • Jackemeyer

      Oh well, will paste here and be redundant.

      Passionate about all topics that I provide attention to, and I believe I speak for you, the author, and coot271.

      Mostly I am concerned that coot271 brought up a key question that has been swept under disguised responses, first by the author and second by an editor:
      “no one forced you to read it…” means the article should not be peer reviewed.
      “flagged for very passionate” means the article should not be peer reviewed.
      “100% increase in damage”, which is equivalent to doubling the damage, from 1% (5 miles of 2? wide trails) to 2% of the 10 acres means that the critique offered by coot271 could be blown away by the largest statistic possible, while ignoring other statistics.

      If we’re both passionate, and we want to provide sound arguments for action, it follows that you and your team members would take a critique to task, thereby not sweeping it away w/ blunders-posed-as-logic; rather, addressing the subject at hand. Are you willing?

      B/c if not, you have leaned upon weak PC “look at me, I yielded too” flakery that no one will take seriously when it comes to ACTION. Trail building, planning, & inviting “passionates” to the discussion need firmly built principles.

  • lstrick

    Recognize the whole activity as a privilege – consider that everyone is out there to have a good time. Most everything else will fall in place some common courtesy

    • Jackemeyer

      Actually *not* precisely, but rather vaguely.

      Might either of you point to the book on “common courtesy” please? Maybe the same author wrote the bedrock “Common Sense” as well? I propose a one-liner that sums up such thinking and would save readers from ever reading such books: “It’s obvious.”

  • charding

    If I see someone coming, my default is to stop and yield to them. It’s just easier in every way and I’m not out there racing anyone.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.