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Trail etiquette - total newbie

Original Post
David Wallace · · Huntington Beach, CA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

Hey all, just started trail riding and I am having a blast.

What is the proper up hill/down hill right of way for a single track trail?

I am guessing that on fire roads and dual track trails you follow the normal driving customs for your country. Here in the US it's stay right if necessary/applicable, pass on the left, give a little warning if possible (ring bell/shout out).

Adam Kagy · · Victor, ID · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 2,942

on doubletrack, yea just stay right, passing is no problem. On singletrack always yield to the uphill rider. Always yield regardless for horses and hikers.

Aaron Caveglia · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 548

What Adam mentioned are the official IMBA standards for trail etiquette. I'll add to that:

Uphill traffic has the right of way for a few good reasons. It's harder to start from a stop going uphill than downhill. Climbers are often looking down, winded, tired, or not paying as much attention as someone descending should. If you're descending, you should be scanning far ahead, and you'll often spot someone long before they spot you. It's your responsibility to control your own speed.

With horses, stop a good distance away and ask the horse's rider how she wants to handle the situation. Sometimes they'll walk past, sometimes an equestrian might ask you to walk your bike past, etc. Be super cool and friendly about it. The key is to stop and let them control the situation. No one wants a startled beast.

Always be prepared to stop and walk past hikers. They have the right of way, period. In many cases, though, hikers will see or hear you coming and step off the trail to let you past. When they do this, always thank them. We're all guests on the trails, so act like it. Say hi, mention how beautiful the day/weather/outdoors is, and wish them a fantastic day. The key is to be super cool and friendly.

Bells are great for a few reasons. They let hikers know you're coming, and they're a lot less obnoxious than yelling. Sometimes an annoyed hiker can have their whole attitude changed - these bikers aren't so mean if they use cute bells! It's also nice courtesy if you ride somewhere with lots of blind corners to use the bell to give some warning. But you must never use a bell in anger - it isn't a car horn! Just stay super cool and friendly.

Sometimes, an uphill rider will choose to yield the right of way to a downhill rider. That's cool too, as long as it's made clear what's going on. Say you're climbing, and you see someone having a blast down a sweet descent. You're tired, could use a little breather, and you don't want to ruin that guy's fun. If you want to, you could move all the way off the trail and wave him through. If you're the downhill rider, thank that awesome dude for letting you continue to rip (he didn't have to do that), and encourage his climb - he's almost to the top, keep going!

If it's flat terrain, and the terrain is wide enough for both to pass each other, scoot as far to the right off the trail as you can and pass each other. Say hello, maybe hi-five, just be super cool and friendly. If it's narrow, just assume the other guy has the right of way and let him past. Sometimes that means you both get off your bikes, but no worries.

If you encounter a large group of riders, it's a smart idea to yield and let them all pass. That way you only get interrupted once instead of having to negotiate with five or twelve different riders. If you're in a group and a cool dude has let you all pass, return the favor by letting him know how many are behind you, as in "two more behind me" when you pass. If you're the last in the group, let him know. And be super cool and friendly.

David Wallace · · Huntington Beach, CA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

Aaron, thanks for the detailed explanation! Most of it is as I though, sort of common sense (that is not too common). We do have horses and hikers on the trails here, so thanks again for those nuggets. I got a real nice bell (single note) and loud, but when the people have their ear buds in they might as well be deaf.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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