Opinion: Paying it Forward

Oct 4, 2015
by Richard Cunningham  

just sayin RC header pic


I spent a half day swinging a Pulaski and stacking rocks, making a step-down at a popular riding zone. I rarely do any trail work these days, but I did my time. I put eight years behind the shovel working with volunteer groups at a California State park, where one of the tasks I did was organize crews to keep the trails in shape and, occasionally, build new ones. Some of those routes are now off limits to mountain bikes, but that’s OK with me.

Our sport was founded on borrowed trails. Our pioneers rode singletracks and abandoned mining routes built and maintained by other people – some paid crews, but mostly volunteers – and I’m sure that none of those men and women had any idea that their efforts would help launch a new mechanized sport called mountain biking. They were building for future generations of hikers and horseback riders, not bicycles. Few of them (at least the ones I met) liked the idea of bicycles plying their handiwork, but they managed to find a way to make room for us. It was the birth of the multi-use trail.

I first learned to wield the Pulaski and McLeod under the watchful eye of a veteran forest ranger who was one of those guys. I clearly remember his wry smile as he watched me struggle to pry up a small root, then told me that his ten-man crew could clear and cut a mile of trail per day.

Later, I would become the one who staked the route, lectured about safety, and who walked the line, guiding new volunteers as they learned to swing those same tools. I can tell with one look if a trail is going to drain well. I can tell by sound if a tool is being used correctly – and I can also tell you that we never managed to cut 660 feet of trail per hour for an eight-hour work day. His crew must have been ass-kickers.
Geoff Gulevich filming for Builder.

Digging at the state park, we dreamed about building features, often pausing at an ideal spot to trace with our arms, how we would shape an imaginary double, or how we would sculpt a berm around this or that corner, but that’s as far as we dared to take it. We were building the infrastructure that all park visitors would be sharing, not a playground for bikes.

As mountain bikers, our work there was a peace offering to reach out to established hiking and equestrian groups in an effort to gain access to the park. In the end, we were successful. The meandering trail network we helped to construct is far from challenging, but it offers people from all walks of life the chance to escape the crush of the city. Mountain bikes are welcome, although, if you want to ride flat-out, foot out, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

bigquotesAt some point, trails ceased being a means to a destination - for mountain bike riders, they became the destination.

“Elsewhere” used to mean, “less-traveled multi-use trails where the potential to scare non-cyclists was slim,” but now when riders have an urge to shred, most of us have the option to express it on mountain-bike-specific trails - much like the one I was working on today. Legal or otherwise, mountain bikers have been building them for two decades and they have taken a lot of pressure off of traditional trail systems. I never dreamed that I’d see the day when I’d find official, “Bikes Only” signs posted at a trail heads. They seem like a rite of passage.

The trails here were built by and are almost exclusively used by cyclists, and that got me thinking on the walk back to my car about how far the sport has progressed, and how profoundly different the average mountain biker’s perception and use of trails has become.

Originally, the purpose of trails was to connected users to destinations like prominent peaks, secret swimming holes, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, or to reach out to other systems. At some point, trails ceased being a means to a destination – for mountain bike riders, they became the destination. That is a fundamental shift in consciousness which is echoed in the way we describe our cycling experiences and how we rate the places where we ride. We most often speak about features, flow and fun factor. We describe trail conditions in great detail. We talk Strava times. The surrounding landscape, however, rarely gets a mention.

Commonality of purpose, is the key ingredient for successfully blending diverse groups into a shared environment. At one time, it could be argued that mountain bikers, trail runners, backpackers, dog-walkers, day-hikers and horseback riders were all on the same page, once they left the parking lot and set out into the wild. But, that is no longer the case. A perfect day for most mountain bikers could be described as a physically demanding roller coaster ride, beautifully crafted through natural terrain. That’s not a sentence I’d expect to hear from anyone walking through the woods.

bigquotesMountain bikers have built hundreds of miles of new trails, but for the most part, you need wheels to enjoy them.

Looking back, the west faces of the hills were brilliantly lit by the afternoon sun and I could just make out the boulder where I had been working. Two riders were perched on the lip, scoping out the drop. At the trailhead, people were pulling bikes out of vehicles and padding up for a quick lap before nightfall. A middle-aged couple entered the park walking three German Shepherds. They seemed out of context, and I wondered if our sport had reached a tipping point.

Mountain bikers have built hundreds of miles of new trails, but for the most part, you need wheels to enjoy them. Two and four-legged creatures have no need for berms, drops or doubles, which puts us in an awkward situation: for thirty years, we have been asking (sometimes demanding) people to share their trails with us, yet now that our sport has grown up, we have no useful currency with which to return that favor. That said, there are other, perhaps more effective ways we can express our gratitude. We can start by turning down our shred-o-meters to match the vibes of non-cyclists while we are sharing multi-use trail systems. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to consider returning a trail to milder folk in places where mountain bikers never did find a way to play well with others.




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99 Comments

  • + 76
 Just went on a long ride with a buddy this morning. The trail was loose and crappy and primitive but the views were amazing. I realized I've been riding too many mtb trails and not enough backcountry. We rode slow and pushed and stopped and laughed a lot. There wasn't much flow to be found and it sure as shit didn't matter.
  • + 22
 My kind of ride bro Smile
  • + 4
 Sometimes, those rides make for best memories Smile
  • - 2
 It used to be mountain bikes were designed to be capable at riding hiking terrain. Steep head angles, short top tubes made for maneuverable geometry that could get you up and down shoulder width switchbacks intended for hikers. Narrow bars allowed you to pass between trees shoulder width apart as natural deer trails sometimes are. Now that all "bike" trails are basically 4 feet wide and corners all bermed for speed, bikes no longer have to be versatile. Big wheels and long frames that are unridable on narrow hiking trails, are great for wide and fast descents. And that's basically what the whole sport's become. Wide descents. Just like the video "I only ride park"
  • + 6
 @fatenduro mate you need to get out more. I never ride fast wide descents and my bike is all of the above.
  • + 7
 ^What he said... if anything modern bike geo has allowed me to ride sections of steep sketchy tight multiuse trails that I used to have to walk on my bikes from 5 to 10 years ago. There are still plenty of places where land managers would laugh in your face for suggesting a trail specific for any one use.
  • + 2
 @fatenduro, you are generalizing too much... 3 feet wide trails will always exist. If you really want to ride those type of trails you would find them
  • + 1
 Many new bikes (designed for flow trails) have bottom brackets that are way too low for the type of rocky trails that I like to ride. I bought a brand new bike this summer, but was having so many pedal strikes, I sold it. I replaced it with a 27.5 remedy, and pedal strikes are gone with the mino-links set up in the higher bb position. That said, I think we will see more bikes with on-the fly adjustable geometry (like the canyon strive) in the future.
  • + 1
 @RichardCunningham what do you suggest in places where you aren't allowed to move rocks? In Pisgah, we can't move rocks. Funny thing is, the trails that were built by the CCC a hundred years ago are the only ones that are still there. The ones built with machines are the ones falling apart.

Rock work might be the solution wherever you live, but here, the guys putting on the XC races in the rain are the ones destroying the trails. And sometimes they're ones placing bids to fix them.

What's your solution? Where do you meet in the middle on this one?
  • + 1
 @crag222. If you've never ridden fast or deer trail narrow, then it's easy to say you've never ridden wide fast descents.
  • + 22
 "We can start by turning down our shred-o-meters to match the vibes of non-cyclists while we are sharing multi-use trail systems."

^^^ This, more than anything else I can think of would do the most benefit. If every anti-MTB hiker/equestrian had say, a couple of dozen pleasant and low-stress interactions with mountain bikers in a row I think it would pretty much spell the end of trail conflicts. The thing is in order to do this it typically means slowing down and being far more cautious and respectful than we *know* we need to be (because to most hikers a perfectly in control MTB on a descent looks terrifying). It would require so many of us to just suck it up and accept that some percentage of your fun is going to be sacrificed for the greater good. I just dunno if we're gonna do that, because to so many people it feels like "backing down" from the argument.
  • + 7
 Most of the foot trafffic is close to the trailheads almost everywhere I go. I tone it down in those heavily used areas. You can tell when your beyond that city-folk walking area when you stop seeing litter everywhere.
  • + 3
 I've always had really good interactions with equestrians and hikers on multi-use trails. Almost all of my negative interactions have been with hikers/dog walkers on MTB specific trails. I've always tried to fully respect trail access marking and stay on what I'm suppose to. Hikers, not so much.
2 of my favor short local rides are 3-5 mile loops (normally do 3-4 loops) that are MTB only in parks where the other 8-10 are 'no mtb allowed' and there are a couple overlaps that are multi-use for a short distance (100ft). I don't know how many times I've come around a corner in a fast flow section to have some jogger with headphones in or a dog not on a leash that's running all over. The one is a one-way only, mtb only trail with a bridge a couple feet off the ground that is quite long (~1/4 mile) over a swamp section and came up on a lady walking her dog, not on a leash, with headphones, coming towards me on this bridge while I'm trying to get her attention and she doesn't notice until I'm less than 10 feet away. then we had to awkwardly try and pass each other once I'm off my bike while shes telling me how I startled her because she had to walk her dog the wrong way on the one trail of the 40+ miles at the park that she isn't suppose to be on.
  • + 2
 Had a walking group stay in my way even though I had slowed to a barely rolling track stand at 20 metres from about 60km/h flying down a wide double track. They got out of my way at about 2 feet and then said an indignant "Your welcome" for moving what so ever after clearly ruining all my fun. I yelled a too late thank you in my cheeriest voice and rode on. I love bush walking and Horse riding and somehow I can empathise with all trail users with out some strict rules telling me to do so.
  • + 17
 Great stuff. We should not view it as different groups (hiker, biker, horseback) but all people who like to get outside. I do some hiking too, especially with friends that dont have bikes. I do think that some trails should be off limits though for safety reasons, IE no hikers on a flow trail where an accident could be pretty serious.
  • + 66
 "Horse people" generally obnoxious and definitely do not carry poo bags to clean up after their animals. Ever landed in a pile?
  • + 98
 They are called centaurs.
  • - 41
flag BrownestBiker (Oct 4, 2015 at 14:09) (Below Threshold)
 a horse poop is like what, 10lbs? yea it sucks landing in a pile of horse doo doo but it probably sucks more carrying that much poop for the rest of your horse ride. 10 lbs of warm, soft, aromatic, yea...
  • + 36
 They could just move it off the trail. They don't need to haul it back home
  • + 7
 Well they could just scrape the poo off the trails.
  • + 62
 Horse people are very good at using other peoples trails (e.g. MTB trails ) - but how many do you see out building their own...zero.
  • + 2
 true they could scrape it off
  • + 49
 Horses are heavy animals that cause damage to trails and I see no need to have them on our trails. They spook easily and can cause real major injuries when the owned loses control of the animal. Horses do NOT belong with cyclists runners hikers.
  • + 13
 Lots of my local trails are for shared use. I volunteer with the local National Trust guys on trail maintenance days and we often get a few horse riders helping out too, so there are at least a few who do their part. To be honest, I've seen more horse riders volunteering than hikers even though hikers make up the vast majority of users.
  • + 7
 @AlexRob i agree. all the trails near my house are more maintained by the horse people than the bikers. they are the ones who keep the brush clipped back and fallen trees off the trails.
  • + 14
 honestly, horses and their riders, they are leaches. No work, all harassment, only ruining trails and being a burden. plus they can ruin a 3 hour ride in a matter of seconds. they almost always blame you for their incompetence, and then they also have an air of pompousness that cannot be matched.
  • + 1
 Don't spook the horses and bring on the free runners. I'd like to see if I could out ride one on some sections. Not everyone wants a leisurely stroll or horse ride. Who ever is faster has the right of way.
  • + 13
 Just rode an A-Line style trail at a system with separate, well marked horse trails. The trail is bookended by narrow ranch gates with overhead signs right in a rider's line of sight. The intersection with the horse trail is a 90 degree turn. Literally impossible to accidentally end up there. I rode thru a massive pile of horse crap on the face of a big table and there are horseshoe imprints on the side of berms. I'm a level headed dude, but it's HARD to respect another user group when some are so brazenly unwilling to respect the boundaries set by the land manager(DNR) that hosts the trails they're riding.

Both of my locals are small systems with small ridership numbers, but pretty good hiker/runner/dog walker traffic. If the biker maintenance wanes for a spell, deadfall and overgrowth renders the trails nearly unusable. We get the trails cleaned up and all is well again, but the absolute lack of ownership and investment by other user groups is pretty frustrating and disheartening.
  • + 0
 fucking pricks. simple and easy. horse riders are pricks, douches, and purposefully just malicious. little bastards just hate us having fun.
  • + 2
 also, i live in the county with the most amount of horses in the entire united states. so, i come across them all the time
  • + 7
 @AllMountin same thing occurs near us at Rotorua. There are clearly marked horse trails, but still they have to ride on the bike trails! Mostly I think it is arrogance on the horse riders part to think they should be able to go wherever they like, no matter the consequences for other users.
  • + 7
 "Horse-people" is not a good term. People who enjoy the outdoors on horseback have just as much right to be out in most parts of the woods as we do. And as annoying as some of my experiences have been with some equestrians we need to keep their perspective in mind as well. For every dirty look or pile of horseshit youve landed in I'm sure there's a mountain biker that's skidded by them in the name of our Father Lord Strava. Instead of complaining on the Internet I'd suggest volunteering with your local non mountain bike specific trail volunteers and voice your opinion with a level head or go to a city council meeting
  • + 8
 been to a city council meeting. it sounds like millionaires with a lot of pull and financial backing laughing at you for suggesting their human and you're the same species as them. I mean i've tried being nice, and when their on the main veins or on giant fire roads i get off my bike and let them pass, but the f*ck you doing a my dirt jumps?
  • + 4
 If I'm on designated mountain bike trails and encounter another user I slow down, say "Hello...bike coming through, excuse me...thanks...how ya doing? have a nice hike!" and roll on by. If I'm on a multi-use trail I get off my bike and step into the trail-side brush, smile and say "hello" as they pass. Simple as that. Fortunately our trails are very low use.
  • + 3
 horses make great glue
  • + 2
 The trails where i usually ride were made by equestrians and goat herderds (pardon the grammar), i honestly cannot tell them anything. If it wasnt for the i wouldnt be riding MTBs.
  • + 1
 As we let some horse riders by last weekend my friend made a comment saying, "I have to pick up my dog's shit on this trail, but those horses just shit where they want and no one cleans it up."

That's pretty screwed up.
  • + 1
 I for one often ride on multi use trail systems. I've not once had any issues with any equestrian besides the occasional pile of pooh. Maybe there are less friendly and more polarized places than Washington State?
  • + 2
 Here in Flagstaff we've got more moto guys showing up to help build trail consistently than the equestrian folks. Never thought I'd see the day. Typically it was the motorized guys who were lazy, but I think they appreciate the same type of trail as we do. Tight and twisty with obstacles. The equestrian folks generally don't like MTB trails or anything like it, so they don't show up, and they get pissed when we don't allow them on our trails.
  • + 0
 Maybe if horses squatted to shit like dogs they would know that they are taking a dump.
  • + 13
 In Canada there are very few trails on private land so most trails are multi-use. Usually it's not much of a problem, my biggest beef is that even though the majority of trails are open to all users, it is almost always riders that build & upkeep trails. Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I was removing a tree that had fallen across a trail. Two separate groups of riders stopped to ask if I needed a hand, nice gesture. The one runner not only did not even slow down to ask if everything was ok, but to add insult he hopped on & off the section I was cutting when he easily could have jumped over.
  • + 4
 Most of what I build gets used by every type of non-motorized trail user, including bears, moose, deer, etc. I expect it, and try to anticipate how the trail will be used by each group. I find that trail runners LOVE mountain bike trails - they use the berms exactly like we do, and it's cool to see. I find hikers are more interested in bagging peaks and getting from A to B - as long as it isn't too steep, they don't really care about the trail that much. Equestrians only seem to use local MTB trails when they're lost, or it's spring and they can post-hole their way down the trail...
  • + 0
 Hikers seem to particularly love the new breed of climbing trail. Nice traverses and good walking grades.
  • + 9
 Emmmm... nature is a common. Trail is there to move through it for God only knows what reasons, 90% of the users have no clue what they are doing there anyways, brainlessly staring at a landscape as if it was edible or trying to improve their Strava time as if it was any meaningful. They are there because someone told them it is good to be there, because of some mix of spiritual and health related bullcrap, maniacally repeated everywhere. I am quite sick of MTBers apologizing and pretending for being thankful to whatever authority there is for being allowed to put their tires on some trail or some tool into the ground. I am sick of MTB being seen as an extreme sport and authorities treating themselves as wardens of nature. It's a fight between conservative legal system and private interests, the only reason MTBers are seen as daredevils is because processes are delayed by some pricks in power not liking bikers. Once there is a dude in some municipality that likes bikes, things go smooth and fast. If you want something then try to claim it, being mindful of other interests, for your own sake, but for the love of God do not lick anyones balls because he officially allowed you to build or maintain a trail, because the land is not his. And hikers are people too, just because they have political agenda on their side does not guarantee them any respect. Biker may slide and destroy trail surface, just like authority will hurt nature as soon as it becomes a commercial interest aaand hiker will crap on the stone and leave the the jobby for others to watch. We are all just people, a developed life form and there are all just mountains who do not give a tiniest damn if you live or die from heart attack. Nature doesn't care, that sunset will be there, looking the same, whether you are on a bike, with a dog, cat, on a horse or in agony, it will actually be grateful if you die. It is what it is, no need for transcendental gratitude.
  • + 5
 In short words: do your thing with tiny dosage of salt that is basic consequence analysis -. whatever you do, there WILL be a conflict of interests and you will have to solve it.
  • + 2
 Agreed WAKI. I'm actually not sure what Richards point is unless it's that we should be agreeable when they come to lock up all 5 he mountain bikers in flow ghettos. More and more I feel like the end of the line, preferring backcountry tech. "Cleared" more than "built". Rural America style on private timberland. Bother no one. See no one. The biggest problem is riding something for the first time in six months and knowing I was the last one there.
  • + 1
 Yeah RC is as old as me. At the beginning mountain bikers "borrowed" trails to get into the forest. But every bikers reason for doing this is unique.
Where I live trails began to emerge quite early into the sport. All DH. New neighborhoods would spring up near these trails and hikers began borrowing the bike trails and claiming ownership. I just smile and ignore the BS.
We now have signs explaining that bikes are to be expected to be coming down these trails. That's all you can do.
This battle will always go on.
If we did not build the trail then no one would see that part of the forest.
I am amazed at the level of participation of bikers to enhance the sport with new trails as well as repairing trails.
There are hiking groups that work on trails but its a far cry from how much passion riders put back into the sport.
Every person that does any trail work: YOUR AWESOME! Keep up the good work!
  • + 1
 just like a comment on PB
  • + 7
 In Duluth MN we are building a trail that connects all the Bike hubs together. The Duluth Traverse is a multi use trail with lots of scenic over looks of the largest lake in the world and the largest freshwater estuary. I guess we're doing it right?
  • + 0
 cool story bro but Lake Superior, huh?
  • + 1
 Yeah, but how does it ride? I'd rather ride a sick trail in a dump(and sometimes do) than boring trail with a view. The latter is a nice change of pace sometimes, though.
  • + 2
 @AllMountin -- you might be surprised. The DT itself is meant to be more of an epic XC-type connecting trail, but there's loads of variety offered up at the connected trail networks, 100 miles total is the goal. But hey, I can't tell you what's fun.
  • + 6
 In North Van we've built flow trails with berms, speed and features fun for biking. Hikers and runners and people going uphill use them. This will be a controversial view but, as someone, involved with building and maitaining such trails (Adonis and Scrotum) I don't have a problem with multi use.

IMO its selfish to try to exclude others from trails. Even if I/we built them its not our land and, once found, it's everyone's to use. I don't like the trend in North Van where; just because mtbers built many of the trails and did the majority of the trailwork; that we now think we have some sort of god given right to exclude others.
  • + 2
 No public land is open to all uses. The argument is not whether to exclude, but simply where the line of exclusion should be drawn. With respect, your argument seems illogical.
  • + 2
 All valid points, from what I've seen though is that the average MTBer uses a hell of a lot more trail for a given amount of time than any other trail user, so maybe its fair that we put more effort into maintaining trails?
  • + 1
 My reflection was typed too fast. The trails were permitted for use by non motorized travel ie bikes, hike, runners. But not horses moto or ATV. Some bikers want to restrict.hikers. I disagree with that stancr
  • + 2
 Banning hikers from a trail just doesn't make sense to me. Hasn't every rider here scoped out sections of trail before hitting it? How about walked your bike back up the hill for another go after a crash? Now you're a hiker.

What changes is who should yield. Bike specific flow trail? Hikers should yield, horses don't belong. On a multi use trail, hikers and horses get the right of way, hop off your bike and say hi. It's not so hard.
  • + 1
 So captain, you're saying it should be no problem when you're railing a blind corner on a DH specific trail and almost run over grandma's and kids mindlessly wondering up the trail? When you're pushing back up, you know what to look for, where to stand what to listen for. Hikers should NOT be on a bike specific DH trail!
  • + 1
 I'm saying that it would be their fault if a collison occured, because the onus is on the hiker to avoid bicycle traffic. Its like jaywalking - I don't think it should be illegal to cross roads at unmarked crossings, but I also recognize that if I'm crossing a highway on foot I need to pay attention for cars, wait until there's an opening, and hustle out of the way if there's one coming.
  • + 2
 I just want to point out that Dale's Trail & Adonis are awesome.
  • + 3
 If the trail is built by bikers for biking, what's wrong with designating it as such to mitigate user conflict? Not sure what Canada has going on, but here the 'hiking only' trails far outnumber trails where bikes are even allowed. To me it makes perfect sense from an equality and safety standpoint to have at least some designated trails. However, when a hiker or runner disobeys the regulation, it's not a big deal to anyone, but ride a bike on a hiking trail and you could get fined (if they catch you).

On the other hand, designated bike trails only help to keep us off hiking trails. This is bad from a legality and access standpoint. However, the majority of people (hikers, centaurs, bikers) are not willing to put in the effort to reach the backcountry anyways, so designating bike trails reduces bike traffic for the ones of us who do. If you want privacy on a trail, go hike or bike or build trail somewhere that is really hard to get to. Otherwise, accept the fact that we must share.
  • + 1
 There's some movement @bradwalton to have trails designated biking primary. That means the usual onus of bikers giving way to hikers is reversed. I think that's a useful way to approach the issue of potential user conflict. But that should just be a small number of trails and I'm still not comfortable with banning hikers completely from even purpose built bike trails. However giving them a headsup that bikes are coming down the trail fast - well that's just common sense.
  • + 2
 That definitely seems like the best answer. Everyone wins. Hopefully that mentality will open some hiking trails to bikes, but unlikely. Hikers want a 'natural experience.' If that truly is the case they shouldn't be following a trail at all!
  • + 5
 Good read. This will certainly resonate with folk in Wellington, and probably a lot of other regions in NZ too. Some trails we have are dual use, but built by mountain bikers, with mountain bikers in mind. We get annoyed when we're riding and we see walkers on these tracks, but the reality is, the land owner (Wellington City Council) have said that if trails are to be built in this area, they are to be for walkers and bikers alike.

Their land, their rules. Fair enough...
  • + 5
 I ride in an area where lots of cows graze. Cows don't care for berms or jumps, they just walk over it, crap on it, and often bed down in the berms at night cause it's a cool spot. Have you ever ridden through fresh cow crap?? Not only is it slippery as hell but it sticks to every little part of you including your face and goggles cause that stupid little $20 mudflap does nothing for cow crap. It even seems to stain things! But that's just part if riding and we all have a good laugh at it. I guess I don't really have a point to this except everyone seems to share the same trails, 4 legged or two wheeled.
  • + 4
 This summer I hit a blind pump bend at speed on a dedicated bike red route at a trail centre and there was a woman walking it with a pram. This caused me to hit the bush and her and the pram to go the other way. I was a bit pissy about it manking at her and the ranger station. As I drove home I pondered the blame and decided that actually, I shouldered a fair amount. Clearly I assumed the the fact it was signed bike only, purpose built graded and designed ment it was MY trail. That stupid woman is no different than a dear or worse, one of our own who is either slower or on the deck. That often blind flat out focus has to always come with an air of caution or consideration where ever we ride
  • + 3
 RC, really good article. My experience of the growth and change in the trail network is very similar. In the 1980's we rode (as you say "borrowed) fire roads or walking tracks. Around here, the MTB trails proper did not start to get built until around 15-20 years ago, and are still almost all shared trails. The tracks we have now are a dream compared to back in the day.

I really like your point to lower the shred o metre . If you want to ride at warp speed, when you have no room for error or misjudgment, then go somewhere that you will be certain not to run over someone.

Our behavior as riders matters above all else. Building tracks, taking time to talk to other users. If, as a sport, we act like dickheads then we will get treated accordingly, by both other users and by land managers. If however, we act like people who love getting out in the bush, and respect others who are of the same fundamental mindset, we will get treated well.

Behaving well can earn us the chance to grow, by making the pie bigger (ie a better and more extensive trail network) rather than fighting for a piece of the same pie.

Again, good article.
  • + 3
 In my go to spot, there are easy trails that mountain bikers ride up alongside hikers and equestrians and harrowing descents neither of those could or would want to travel. Perfect balance. We only ever are on the same trail while traveling at the same speed.
  • + 3
 In Central Washington we get a lot of horse action on trails. Most trails are mutli-use. The backcountry horse association goes where no one else would dare. They keep the trails open for everyone. Its pretty amazing. The moto folks do the most damage. The best riding in these areas are before June 15th, moto day. They turn wonderful single track into loose rutted nasty trails. Sharing is caring! I'll take poop over dirt bikes any day.
  • + 1
 That is my experience as well. However, some of the moto groups are also responsible for not only the creation of some of the trails we all enjoy, but also the maintenance as well.
  • + 2
 I'm pretty sure the moto guys cut in all these trails. It was a blanket statement really. There are plenty of moto riders who don't destroy trail. One or two inexperienced or jerk riders can do so much damage really quick. There are new areas being developed and they want to exclude them. I get the sentiment I really do, I think if the group would self police and keep each other accountable for no destroying things it would be best to include them. But orv's can go f!#@ them selves. Those jokers only destroy.
  • + 3
 I took over as trail director in our Freeride area two years ago, right about the time the city made us remove all wood senders/drops. Everyone who rode out there was so bummed. Seems the features were built without approval or knowledge by land manager's insurance and risk management. We nearly lost the only legit Freeride trails in the state. They could have daily bulldozed everything and put in an aquatic center.

It's taken two years and lots of (political) work to stop the rogue building and regain our level of trust back. While we have to follow processes (pre-approval, plan submissions, etc), we've still been able to build and regrow the local rider community (and my focus kids). Every dollar for equipment and every hour of work is 100% paid by volunteers, but I'm really proud to say we saved something that could have so easily been lost.
  • + 2
 For ages now, I'm always stoked to read an R.C. article. As for our personal shred-o-meters, it's always smart to be courteous and ride under control at a reasonably chill speed in high-traffic trail sections and beyond. Want to shred ass? Send it to your nuts' delight in a bike park. But most importantly, let's all do our part to fight the power and keep E-Mopeds off mult-use trails. Forever.
  • + 2
 Or we could advocate for trails that allow motorized use. ORV access is really poor in a lot of places - much of my local trail system was built by moto/atv riders, now in a county that's 70% public land there isn't a single trail that allows motorized use.
  • + 2
 Maybe I'm just not a flow rider at heart. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy a nicely bermed smooth trail with the occasional feature thrown in but it's not what gets me out riding every day. My local trail system is primarily biker maintained but we ride techy XC trails which are very user friendly for multiple users. I usually encounter as many hikers as I do bikers. It's just a matter of respect for each other when we meet up along the trail. I also encounter the occasional equestrian with no issues, again it's just a matter of respecting one another, slow down while you pass and say hello. Really horse shit is nothing but digested grass and oats there is probably more bacteria in the mud puddles and streams we occasionally pass through it's hardly the grossest thing we encounter. I'm not a trail builder but if I see something I fix it if I can. If there is a low wet spot with rocks around I build a crossing. If there's a tree down I pull out my folding saw and spend the five or ten minutes it usually takes to clear the path. If it's too big to clear I rough out a go around that causes minimal alteration and won't create more issues. It's not that hard to be civil with each other on the trail systems we should all be sharing. A little courtesy goes a long way.
  • + 3
 If you dont build you have no say at our local spots. Are trails are all volunteers that put tones of hours in to give others nice safe as possible trails to enjoy for all.
  • + 1
 I'm guessing this must be an east/west difference thing. I've been building trails for better than 20 years. In that time I've seen a total of 1 equestrian, zero hikers and one county parks employee (who I believe was on the clock) at public build or maintenance events (I've been to 8-10/year for as long as I can remember; 10-15 mountain bikers and no one else is a typical turnout).
When I started riding there was maybe 20-25 miles of trail total in my area, which is the same total there was in 1940. Today we're north of 200 miles of trail. Not a single inch of the new inventory was build by equestrians, hikers or the forest service or any park, all was built by mountain bikers and 99% of it is multi-use. We're also the only ones that do any maintenance, which is why the dedicated horse trails are basically impassible, 3 foot deep pits of mud and horse shit now.

In short, it's time for them to start paying us back, not the other way around. I'm also officially done caring one iota about equestrian or hikers needs on new trails. If they ever show up to build or maintain anything at all, then they can have input. I'm not holding my breath.
  • + 1
 Curious, what part of the country do you live in?
  • + 3
 Mid Atlantic, Baltimore/DC.

I typed out a huge rant, but it serves no purpose. The people that built the trails I started riding on in the 80s are long since dead. The trails everyone at least on the east coast is riding or hiking on today were built by mountain bikers. The notion that we don't do enough is f*cking absurd.
  • + 1
 Thanks for doing what you've been doing! Keep on building!
  • + 1
 builders usually turn out to be the the riders with the most style on a bike
  • + 1
 I like riding in multipurpose trails and having hikers look at me like I'm insane lol. Most of the trails nesr I live are usually hiking trails and abandoned logging roads. It's always nice to share them with other people or even wildlife. Makes the woods a little less lonely
  • + 1
 way back in the 90's in NZ we where riding hiking(tramping) trails and most other trail users where either mad as hell to see us or just gobsmaked and encouraging. And the tracks were real,you had to be constantly asking yourself things about sections-is this ridable? is it ridable by me? should I ride it given the risk and where I am?
now that there are made for mtb tracks everywhere its just not the same.
I currently ride in Taiwan and surrounding countries and have to say that it feels like stepping back in time in these regards-and I like it,so I just can't support the idea of accepting making tracks not made for mtb off limits. there is always some that need to be left alone,most trails with should be able to be used with respect to other users. letting walkers etc on most made for mtb tracks is the swing side of this-they just also have to respect the primary users. Wellington NZ shows this can work well.
  • + 2
 Argh submitted too quick. To RCs point I don't think we as builders need to make trails hiking friendly per se. But we do need to recognize that all permitted user groups can use them
  • + 3
 People will be tolerating each other as well as being a-holes to each other, making claims and introducing new rules - no legislation can change that. Someone walking on a trail built for biking, for a few minutes will realize that he is on a MTB trail, and more features the better, as he will get more hints that if he is on the path in a wrong time he may get hurt badly. What he does with that realization is another story. As long as regular trails are concerned (not a bike park), bikers must realize that there can be hikers on their sick track, if they go on the edge they have to be prepared for taking consequences.
  • + 2
 So do all the work, build our own trails since no one wants us on other trails, spend our time, and give up everything to other users? Interesting take.
  • + 0
 too much accidents because of kids hiding on jump landigs etc ... enduro kind track, ok for hikers. Otherway ---> get the f*ck out of OUR trails, built with OUR hands. go build your own path
  • + 10
 Either you missed the main point of this argument where mountain biking began on trails built by other user groups or disagree with it. If the first, please reread the article. If the second. I respect your opinion.
  • + 1
 Thanks Richard, I agree with your point of view in theory and practice. Which leads us to the STC...and Pinkbikes take on it.
  • + 2
 No. Its about not being a douche. Slow down when you are around people.
  • + 1
 Hey RC. Where is this trail with the drop you were building? Thousand Oaks/ Simi Valley area?
  • + 2
 Excellent article.
  • + 1
 So we need to build rollerblade compatible trails now?
  • + 1
 Deer even!
  • + 1
 Great article.
  • - 1
 To all fellow Germans: this article is irrelevant for you.
thats all
  • + 1
 Sad but true. In Germany trail building is striktly verboten on public domain.
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