Mountain Bike Trail Etiquette

It has been a crazy year but one of the upsides is people are getting outdoors more as indoor events are pretty much cancelled. There are more people than ever on the trails hiking and biking and while this is great for everyone’s health, both mental and physical, it does mean that we need to be more aware of the rules, some written and other assumed. By being a responsible rider while sharing the trails with others it will assist in keeping everyone safe and happy!

vail mountain bike trailWe know that especially to new mountain bikers that there is a lot to learn about riding and keeping it all straight while barreling down a singletrack can be tough (is that the seat post dropper or my gear shift) and we can become so focused on just riding the bike that we forget all the stuff going on around us, like other trail users, and this can create conflict. Keeping these rules in mind will assure everyone has a great day out.


  1. Get off on the right foot by greeting your fellow trail users. Saying Hi, flashing a smile or a wave and a nod do not take much effort and it is just good common courtesy. People like to feel acknowledged, especially by mountain bikers as believe it or not the bike actually intimidates some people. Mountain bikers sometimes have a bad reputation among other trail users so being a outgoing trail user can help dispel this unfairly earned rap.
  2. Follow the signs, seriously, it is imperative even if it is inconvenient. Some mountain bike trails are one way directional and there have been some serious life threatening injuries from bikers going the wrong way. The dreaded “Trail Closed” sign, yes this even means you, even if you drove an hour to get here or just climbed a 1000 feet, it could be a temporary sign for trail maintenance or wildlife migration and ignoring it now jeopardizes the trail for later. If your area is losing trails to private property or other user groups now could be the time to join a trail advocacy organization.
  3. Ride in a way that you can control your bike if someone were to pop out from around a blind corner. We all want to let it rip but we are ultimately responsible for others safety as well as our own. Be kind and slow down before you get to hikers, it may feel to them you are going faster than you are and will appreciate the extra breathing room.
  4. Uphill bikers have the right of way, it’s pretty simple, it is much harder to get going again heading up than it is heading down.
  5. Non-motorized trail users have the right of way unless signed otherwise, and for horses please dismount your bike and step off the trail. A rider on a bike can spook a horse and that can be dangerous for the rider of the horse and you.
  6. Keep it clear, if you stop be sure to get clear of the trail completely, you never know when someone else is going to come along.
  7. Let em pass, if someone catches you they are going faster and rest assured will continue to do so once they pass, communicate with the other rider, find a safe spot and let them go. Similarly, if you gain on someone, communicate with the rider and give them a moment to find a good spot for you to pass, it may take a minute, enjoy the scenery.
  8. Ride don’t slide, it is really important for the health of the trail to not break in a manner that you skid, this does serious damage to the trail, maintain control so you can break without skidding.
  9. Don’t cutoff on corners, there is a reason the trail goes where it does.
  10. Respect the outdoors by leaving no trace, that micro trash from a trailside snack impacts the environment and others experience of the outdoors. Also no amplified music, it impacts others experience who are outdoors to enjoy nature, and if you wear headphones keep them at a volume where you can hear others.
  11. Be prepared and self-sufficient, staying informed about wildlife alerts, weather and trail closures allows you to respect the trail systems. Being prepared with some bike tools insures you can overcome minor setbacks and having a charged cell phone goes a long way if someone gets hurt.

Follow these tips and you will be a great ambassador of the bike, and if you seem someone breaking these rules, feel free to politely educate them so we can all enjoy our natural resources and we can keep bikes access on our favorite rides!