Proper Mountain Biking Trail Etiquette

Use some common sense and be a good sport

Mar 18, 2016
Outside Magazine

The most important word a biker needs to know on the trails: yield.    Photo: Jen Judge

Mountain Biking 101

Read our complete guide on buying your first mountain bike.

You have your new bike and are ready to roll. Before you go blasting off, it’s worth brushing up on some basic points of etiquette. The International Mountain Bike Association has a pretty simple list for good mountain bike decorum. If you like following rules (or just need a good chuckle), Velominati’s 95 dictates are worth a gander.

Mostly, though, this is commonsense stuff, so just a few reminders:

Be Nice

Seriously. We have no inalienable right to ride on trails. Recognize the privilege and work to preserve it. A quick hello and friendly wave goes a long way to disarming those who don’t like cyclists and building relationships that will keep trails open.


Somehow this has been forgotten, but in the pecking order of trail users, bikes are last. That means when you see a hiker, slow down or stop and let them pass. When you see horses, which are easily spooked by bikes, come to a complete stop, get off your bike and off the trail, and communicate with the equestrian about how best to proceed. 

Yield Some More 

Uphill traffic always has right of way. If you’re blazing down at high speed and come upon another rider, it’s your responsibility to slow or stop and make plenty of room for that person to continue on their way. It will be easy for you to restart (thanks to gravity), but if the person climbing has to stop, he or she may be unable to get going again.

Control Yourself 

If you’re going so fast that you can’t stop in time for uphill traffic (see Rule #3), then you’re not in control. Ride at the limit of what’s good for everyone, not just you. 

Don’t Trespass

If a sign says a road or trail is closed, don’t poach it. The fastest way to ruin our access is to not abide by the rules. Oh, and a corollary: if you decide to trespass, which you should not do, please don’t record the trespassing and put it on social media, Strava, Garmin Connect, YouTube, or anywhere else where it can be used as evidence. Trails have been closed retroactively because of such blockheaded ignorance.

Stay on the Trail

The “single” in singletrack means there should be just one path. Inching off the trail or going around something spoils the experience and turns the trail into a doubletrack and, eventually, a road. That also means that if the trail is muddy or filled with puddles, either ride straight down the middle and get wet or stay off the trail entirely. There’s nothing worse than a braided mess of trails because people didn’t let the dirt dry out and then decided to ride around the water.

In short, use some common sense out there. Be a good sport, don’t act like you’re more important than anyone else (you’re not), preserve the land, and have a good attitude. It’s pretty simple.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!