By: Gillian Rossi, Environmental Education Technician, Colorado Springs Parks and Rec
Practicing Recreational Empathy on the Trail
Mountain biking is hot in Colorado Springs. Who can deny it? Head to Red Rock Canyon Open Space any day of the week and you will see people of all ages and skill levels enjoying the trail system on two-wheels. With such a devout following, how do mountain bikers still have such a bad rap with those who prefer hiking boots to clip-ons? The thrill of the sport may overshadow the importance of trail etiquette, especially when sharing the trail with a variety of user groups. Follow these Leave No Trace tips* to become a model mountain biker and inspire others to spread the love.
Tip #1 – Mountain bikers yield to everyone else. You’ve seen it before, the Yield Triangle. You know, the yellow triangle you see on trailhead signage that uses arrows to tell you who yields to who on the trail. In a nutshell, mountain bikers should always yield due to speed and mechanical advantage. Take a moment to pause and move off trail, if necessary, to allow hikers and horses to pass safely. Yes, this may slow down your flow, but controlling your speed prevents collisions with trees, rocks, wildlife and other trail users. Notice how a little consideration can go a long way with your fellow recreators.
Tip #2 – Don’t ride muddy trails. No one enjoys looking forward to riding all week and then realizing your trail has turned into more of a moat. It’s hard to forgo your mountain bike fix, and muck-covered bikes do look hardcore, but the trail damage caused by riding in muddy conditions is never worth it. Ruts, gullies, and widened trails are just a few adverse impacts. Be kind to your favorite trails and trail builders, and only ride when the trails are dry and open.
Tip #3 – Stick to designated trails. Mountain bikers have worked hard to gain access to our beautiful natural areas. When riders choose trails closed to mountain bikers or ride off-trail, it’s detrimental to trail access, plants and animals. The less time trail-builders spend on restoring social or “rogue” trails, the more time they get to spend building sweet sustainable single tracks!
Tip #4 – Plan ahead. Colorado’s weather is infamous for changing in minutes. Check the weather prior to your ride and be prepared in case sunny skies turn dark and start to threaten storms. Bring extra layers and have a backup route in case you need to cut your ride short. Consult multiple map sources before heading out to ride, as trails can be added and closed, and outdated resources might get you lost in the woods.
There you have it! Following these tips will ensure your place as a steward of our public lands and a role model for current and future mountain bikers. Happy trails!
*These tips were tweaked for Colorado by the author and provided by Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider, 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers.