|Your mountain bike will bring you a great deal of fun and adventure. Woodlands,
meadows, rolling hills, woods roads, single and double-tracks; some of these experiences
are as close as our local state forests, parks and reservations. Be aware that not all
properties are open to mountain biking, but in those that are, remember that you'll be
sharing these lands with hikers, runners, equestrians and nature lovers.
It is our
responsibility to insure that our use of the trails does not spoil that of other trail
users, or spoil the trails themselves. The actions of a few individuals often speak for a
whole group, and mountain bikes are no exception. We ALL must engage in a public relations
and education effort to counter and eliminate any negative image which can cause us to be
excluded from using public lands. It is quite possible to have fun and be responsible at
the same time (without much effort!). Remember that the future of the sport is in YOUR
All Encounters Should be Positive
Remember we are the new folks in the woods. We must go out of our way to make a good
impression on everyone we meet. Showing off, doing stunts, or riding fast can tarnish that
good impression quickly. Your finely-honed riding skills can look dangerous, crazy and
irresponsible to everyone else.
When Encountering Hikers
Hikers have the right of way, so slow down, stop or pull to the side of the trail.
Remember that they are there for a quiet, peaceful experience, but say hi, be friendly.
When approaching from the rear, slow to their speed, and let them know you're there
(before you're right behind them). You cannot imagine how much of a shock it can be to
meet up with or be passed by a quiet, swift bicycle. Expect that children or dogs will
walk right in front of you as you pass. They are curious.
When Encountering Equestrians (and their Hoofed Friends)
Being surprised by bicycles can be a frightening and unpleasant experience for some
equestrians. Give both the horse and the rider a chance to get used to meeting bicycles in
the woods. A horse's instinct is to run when confronted with the unfamiliar. Never assume
that an equestrian is aware of your presence or in control of the horse. If approaching
from the front, ALWAYS stop and let them pass unless the rider indicates otherwise. If
from the rear, slow to their speed, and from 50 to 100 feet away, ask if it safe to pass
slowly or walk your bike around them. Say hi, be friendly, admire the horses. The spoken
word is the first indication to the horse that you are a person and not a threat.
Excessive speed is the single most common complaint that other trail users have about
us. Slow down if you don't have absolutely unrestricted vision of the trail ahead. Assume
that someone else is just out of sight, and be prepared to stop (in control) when you turn
the corner. The most important and most difficult thing to remember when riding with your
buddies is to save racing for organized races when you know that you'll be the only one
involved in a crash. Speed training can be done on the road.
Ride in Small Groups
Whenever possible keep groups smaller than five, for the impression you make is
magnified by the group's size. As an individual you should go out of your way to insure
that your use of the trails will not spoil the outdoor experience of others. Make sure
that everyone in your group feels that way and is willing to comport themselves in a
civilized manner. Be sure that socializing while riding doesn't detract attention from the
trail ahead. Trade off being "point person", riding ahead of the group to scout
out who and what is around the corner.
The most objectionable sign of our presence is a degraded trail. Conservationists love
to point to bicycle ruts and use them as a reason or justification for banning use from
suitable riding areas, so never ride when and where you will leave ruts. This means
carrying your bike across soft spots and walking around mud puddles so you don't widen
them. This means not riding on rainy days, especially during the spring mud season. It is
temping to get out on that first beautiful spring day, but this is a time in New England
when the trails are fragile. Some trails are especially soft and wet when thawing. Damage
can be done this time of year, and can take a lot of time to repair.
Don't hesitate to walk or carry your bike in technical or muddy sections. Learn
cyclocross dismounts, mounts and carrying techniques if you are concerned with efficiency.
Carry your bike through streams. The silt stirred up can smother water critters and their
eggs. The cross-ruts can also divert the stream to create a puddle.
Be careful to not widen trails by riding over vegetation alongside the trail. Stay in
the middle of the trail, and don't be too concerned about avoiding rocks. Your mountain
bike is designed to go over rough terrain, and sometimes the "line" over rocks
is the easier one. Keeping your weight on the saddle or over the rear wheel helps lighten
the front of the bike so it will roll over rocks more easily, and with a strategic pull on
the handlebars, larger rocks won't be an obstacle.
Don't skid. Don't brake slide. Locking up the brakes in not only an inefficient way to
ride, but can degrade hills by forming gullies that water funnels down, can rut sensitive
trails, and always indicates a lack of control to others. Modulating brakes - both front
and back - will prevent skidding and increase control. Slow, even pedal stokes prevent
"spinning-out" up hills (which can cause ruts), as well as increasing the chance
that you'll make it over the top. Finesse is often more successful than brute strength.
Don't be embarrassed to walk or run your bike up or down steep hills.
Keep in mind that a lot of work goes into building and maintaining trails. Go easy on
bridges and stone or wood steps. Respect waterbars, which are logs or piles of dirt or
rocks placed across trails to prevent erosion. Ride them in such a way that you will not
degrade them. This can be done by riding perpendicular to the bar, lifting first the front
wheel, then the read wheel over them. The key to lifting the front wheel is to first push
down, then pull up. Use the pedals to lift the rear wheel.
Riding Habits for All Times
- Never take shortcuts or cut corners on tight turns or switchbacks.
- Ride only on existing trails, don't make new ones, including "turn-outs"
around fallen logs.
- Respect private property.
- Respect nordic ski tracks by staying off of snow-covered cross-county ski trails.
- Never litter. Try to pack out more than you bring in.
- Learn to fix a flat, repair a chain, etc. and carry tools that you will need to get
yourself out of the woods.
- Wear a helmet.
Make some new friends - get to know the staff in the public land areas in which you
ride. Help them manage the area by informing them of fallen trees, large litter sites or
illicit behavior. Volunteer for trail maintenance or clean-up days. A day or two a year is
a small price to pay for the privilege of riding in the woods. Showing land managers that
you are willing to give something back to the land that you use makes a huge impression.
When they know they can count on us for assistance, policy makers are likely to decide in
So, happy trails! but remember, the future of mountain biking is in YOUR hands.
NEMBA is a not-for-profit organization
dedicated to promoting land access for mountain bikes, maintaining trails open to mountain
bicyclists, and educating riders who use those trails to ride sensitively and responsibly.
Our quarterly newsletter includes land access news, riding and maintenance tips,
"More Places to Ride", and an extensive calendar of recreational rides, races
and clean-up/trail maintenance dates. To receive you NEMBA membership kit, including a
membership card (entitling you to discounts at many bike shops), newsletter and cool
sticker, fill out our online membership application.