Mountain Biking Etiquette

Photo of Tara on her bike

Novato bike department staffer, Tara (the badass in the picture above), is teaching us some of the basics of MTB etiquette when it comes to riding on the mountain: 

The adrenaline rush, the technical descents, and even the occasional snot rocket (not right now of course, that's not super corona-friendly), all those vibes while you're biking out on the trail makes for a boosted mood on any given occasion. Whether you are a KOM hunter, a loam fiend or a novice to the sport, your actions impact not only other trail users, but the landscape, the animals, and the trail itself. Staying safe, and keeping other trail users happy by keeping a few golden rules in mind on the mountain is not complicated, so there is no reason not to follow them.


COVID-19 Rules

  • Do your best to stay local, and maintain a 6- foot distance between yourself and anybody else on the trail. 
  • Don’t try anything too crazy -which means basically anything that could land you in the ER. Hospitals are overrun with patients suffering from the pandemic and so we need to slow down and leave the beds for people in need.

The Rule of Yielding

  • Mountain bikers yield to horses and foot traffic, and descending riders yield to climbing riders. This yield triangle is a significant reason why we have the access we do, so know the code where you ride. Be nice. Say hi!

Stop in a Safe Place

  • Do NOT stop around blind corners, near a jump, or at the end of a trail. We all get it, your chain slipped, you got a flat, or just needed a snack. Just make sure to move to the side! You don't want a tire to the face. Trust me...

Passing Manners

  • Call out that you're passing, and if it's possible, pass on the left. Announce loud and clear that you're intending to pass another trail user. Being passed on the trail can be stressful, especially for novice riders, older hikers, or people out with dogs. 
  • And vice-versa: let other people pass you! Although it can damage one's pride a bit, if you're struggling up that steep long incline and someone with the muscles of Nino Schurter comes in hot behind you, move over and let them pass! (This also applies to descents.)

Don't Litter

  • Just don't be that person. Nobody likes that person. You carried that GU energy gel out that whole way, you can carry the now empty wrapper back. 'Nuff said.

Don't Color Outside the Lines

  • Stay on the trails! When you ride around a wet. spot or skirt the edge of the trail, your wheels expand the width of that trail, which erodes the soil and makes the earth sad. Ride through that wet spot. Get dirty. It's part of the fun!
  • That said, it's considered pretty bad form to hit the trails right after a rainstorm - riding through all that mud can rip up trails and not only make them unusable but also hurts the local vegetation and adds to erosion as well.

Riding Closed Trails

  • Don't. If someone has closed the trail, it's not because they wanted to ruin your riding plans for the day. They're usually shut because they're dangerous, in need of maintenance, or they've made a new one that needs time to bed in.

Encountering Horses

  • If you encounter horses, you should be extra considerate so as not to spook them and cause them to bolt. Slow down, call out to alert the rider to your approach, roll past leaving as much distance as possible between you and the horse, and don't start speeding up until you are a good distance ahead.

Kindness on the Trail

  • A little courtesy goes a long way here. Slow down ahead of time, control your speed, call out ahead to say hello and alert them to your presence. Basically be nice. Don’t be the rider who flies past down the trail scattering hikers and giving the sport a bad name.





  • Charlie says...

    I think you forgot that everyone should be wearing a mask.

    On July 17, 2020
  • Richard Cuthrell says...

    Thank you.

    This ought to be reposted far and wide.

    On July 17, 2020
  • Alice Philipson says...

    I ride a bike and a horse. The horse is the more risky of the two. Horses think everything behind them is a predator. And everything in front is a threat. . If the bike turns the front wheel towards the horse, they are threatened. They have one response to everything: get away. And they have no “kill switch” so we can’t always stop, even when we fall off. They are stupid. But kinda sweet. Bikes are fun, but not sweet.

    On July 17, 2020
  • Shanna says...

    nicely said!
    do you need a different etiquette for ebikes? I think it’s well said here for all speeds: share the road, don’t rip up trails, be nice…
    Thanks Tara!

    On July 16, 2020
  • Petra says...

    Thank you so much for directing attention to horses on the trail! It’s a matter of life and possible bad injuries and even death for their riders! The horses are very easily spooked. And as herd animals, if one spooks several may follow. Their brains are very small and it is difficult to train them out of being spooked by bikes..

    On July 16, 2020

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