Believe it or not, in the sport's early days, there actually was a well obeyed code of conduct that dictated that the climbing cyclist had the right of way, and that the downhill rider should pull off and he or she pass. The logic was that it took a lot more effort to maintain pace and traction while climbing, and it was a nod to the fact that restarting, especially on a steep, technical climb, is art and an effort unto itself. The gravity powered descender, on the other hand, was not going to lose anything but flow.
Presently, however, that courtesy seems to have been reversed, and most descending riders behave in a manner that suggests, sometimes demands, that climbing riders defer as quickly as possible - presumably, because the attributes of flow and momentum are deemed to take precedence over the common labors of climbing. The practice also seems to have been extended to non-cycling trail users as well, because most hikers respond quickly (as if they have been well trained) to jump off the trail with a smile and accept a quick "thank you" and "three more behind me" as their rewards from the descending mountain bikers who approach and pass them.
Granted, there are many zones where mountain bike use is widely accepted as the primary form of recreation and some trails in those areas are clearly designated (or at least widely understood) to be downhill-only or climbing-only trails, we are not discussing those here. In this Pinkbike poll, we assume that you are either climbing or descending a two-way trail and each of you are equally enjoying the experience. The trail may be designated for public multi-use, or it may be a cycling-specific trail, either way, the two parties meet - Mister and Misses up and Mister and Misses down - so, who has the right of way?
Who can stop faster? Is much harder for a downhiller to stop or get out of the way than for a climber.
where's the option choice of "the user with their headphones on loud has no rights"
For example, I was once coming down a ten mile lift serviced trail in Sun Valley ID, and I stopped and yielded for the two up hillers ----and the one stops and proceeds to tell me-
"I need to get off the trail completely when people are coming up hill".
- I immediately told him to F*ck off and that he was lucky I stopped at all. That guy took one look at me and knew he was f*cking with the wrong guy and said nothing else and rode on.
Common sense is the only trail rule where I come from
When descending if someone steps off the trail or gives me some sort of acknowledgement I will continue and thank them as I go by and let them aware of any riders behind me.
If they don't acknowledge me and make a effort to step off the trail or they have a dog / kids or are elderly I always slow down to make a safe pass, whatever it takes.
Most people are pretty chill and enjoy seeing someone fly down something steep and rugged, they like the show. A much smaller amount are angered by it (at least in my area). I avoid being rude whenever possible and things seem to work out well.
If your pushing or by some means going up a DH trail (which should only be a directional trail anyways) you need to keep your head up and get out of the way for downhill traffic.
My perspective is that if it's a two way trail, the downhill rider has the obligation to stay in control, and should be able to stop if need be. Many people that I run into on the trail seem like they are trying to get a PR on starva or something, and can't be bothered to slow down. Seriously, f*ck those guys. They are the ones that cause us to get banned from riding certain trails and make hikers and equestrians pissed off. I voted that the climbing rider has the right to keep riding for that reason.
That being said, if it's a one way down trail. F*cking shred like there is no tomorrow! There are so many trails like that being build. And, I have worked on them and installed "do not enter / one way down" signs so that riders and hikers can ride hard and stay safe.
Can't agree more with @scott-townes
For horses, different rules- bike riders should always pull over, and off the trail on the downhill side since the animal is unpredictable. You can control your reaction, the horse rider might not be able to control the reaction of their horse. I don't like to see horses climbing a steep, commonly descending bike trail, and I will sometimes try and politely explain that they should maybe try some different trails instead so they or others don't get hurt.
Never had an issue my whole life following all this. Other users have been very pleasant because I dictated a polite exchange thru my initial actions.
Do you also play in the kiddie pool post-ride? Sip Mike's Hard Lemonade?
Oh, and I started riding with a bear bell on my bike. I find more people get out of my way up AND down, and they are usually happy about it! Rad.
There's a lot of good cases listed here for evaluating it on a case by case basis. And, if you are aware of the other rider first and choose to be polite, more power to you. But, descending needs to be done with a certain amount of safety in mind. Or... you end up like these guys:
comments of the month
I'd comment that if its an established downhill track no one has any business either climbing or pushing up that trail - its simply dangerous, especially to the descending rider
you see this a lot in the UK at places like Swinley Forest where riders often try to push their bikes up or alongside the trails like Babymaker creating a real hazard for riders coming down at speed. These ascenders should use other trails / fireroad to access the top of the downhill trail.
I'm more addressing those few places which are 2 way because there's no other way up....in trail centres (inc Swinley) that problem doesn't really exist to begin with...
As the article suggests, it can be difficult to get going on a climb and people didn't want to be interrupted. Combined with a more pedalling/climbing focus (along with arguably slower bikes and less technical terrain) in the sport during the early days, the rule had more to do about keeping people happy rather than any kind of genuine safety concerns. Unfortunately, this rule has been regurgitated by some over the years without any real thought as to whether it's actually relevant anymore.
On that other hand, who can stop more easily and quickly?
Who can pull off the trail more easily?
Who can listen for and hear approaching riders more easily?
The answer is usually the climbing rider.
So in terms of SAFETY, it can make much more sense to suggest the descending rider has right of way. BUT! This rule should also be accompanied by another rule... you should always be able to control your bike and avoid any obstacles or riders in front of you. As such, generally speaking, if it's a two way trail that's not specifically marked or design as more of a "descending" trail, then it typically makes sense for descending riders to have right of way. Out of interest, this idea is nearly 100% unanimously agreed upon by every instructor and guide we train, whether it's in Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand or anywhere else we run courses.
We also usually end up concluding that as long as people are aware, and can control their bike at all times, then give way regardless of whether you're climbing or descending if it helps the other rider(s) and you can easily do so; especially if your group is bigger than the approaching party.
My opinion is always , who's going to do the most damage in an accident should back off. If you're not riding in a bike park or on a dedicated downhill trail then you have to consider that there could be a moving object around every corner ... you better be able to stop before you hit it !
There are no "Rights" out there on the trail there is only mutual Respect and consideration.
I'm an older, re-immersed, average shape, intermediate-plus (on good days) rider and the number of times I've seen one downhiller nearly obliterate another is startling. Especially in a place like Whistler; it's a great place to be anyway, but also a great place to experience a lot of trail and push your intermediate comfort zone. That means crazy advanced riders need to be aware. As was mentioned, don't be afraid to say hi and advise anyone at the trail head that a group of slower riders dropped into "x" about a minute ago or whatever. Nothing makes a noob or an intermediate hate their own sport more than some douche passing at warp speed without warning.
Of course, all the carnage is exponentially worse when it's climber vs downhiller. When I'm forced to climb, I usually pull over out of 1) self-preservation and 2) I'm usually gassed before the climb even starts so I need the break anyway.
For stats tracking, I voted "figure it out when it happens". @zeptechniques, nicely put. I'm hoping for another weekend or two in Whistler this summer so I think I'll consider a lesson or two.
If someone gallops a horse on a mixed use trail they are out of control and too fast for conditions, they don't have rights, they are endangering other trail users. Ditto for bombing downhill expecting trail to be clear, you are not in control and your victim will not be at fault.
Where I ride there are many steep narrow corners, often loose surface. When climbing I'm hypoxic and often mistake logs for pedestrians, fast descenders appear without warning. I am going up at 3-4mph and can stop very quickly but there is nowhere to pull off. Generally descenders understand there might be a hiker or climber around every corner and keep the speed down. When its my turn to come down I must take it easy on those same blind corners, there is no alternative I can see. Often when I see a climber i'll stop and heckle/encourage them because I know exactly what they are going through.
In an area with good visibility I've no problem encouraging descenders to bomb on by but ultimately we all need to be responsible for riding in control.
On dual track multi-use trail, you should slow down to roughly the sped of the people you are passing in the in the opposite direction. On single track, the rider going downhill should pull off the trail unless the rider going uphill clearly cedes the right of way (which I often do).
You want that KOM so bad, start the segment over. Or ride single direction, bike only trails.
The whole sanctimonious bag of crap called "I have the right of way!" is a dysfunctional formula. It's never worked, it's always someone else's fault, and yet we keep trying to make it work. The onus is on both parties.
If people understood that having the right of way DOESN'T mean they can do whatever they want it would help. Downhill rider having the right-of-way would be fine if it was understood you don't blow past other users of the trail at high speed. But in practice there are a lot of people out there who don't care, who fly down trails at speeds that are unsafe. I've done it myself. Came around a corner I thought I had clear vision of and an uphill rider was in a spot that I couldn't see. Luckily when I hit him, I wasn't going fast enough to cause any damage and he was cool about it, but I felt like an (and was an) utter a-hole. What if it had been a child? He had no chance to get out of the way, so even if he was supposed to cede the right of way, he couldn't. So now I don't go faster than I can see (at least I try not to). It means there are plenty of Strava segments that I am never going to go any faster on because, while I can ride them faster, I can't do so without risking harm to others. I still have a blast. I ride a new line/feature every time I ride and I have gotten to be a much better rider since I stopped focusing on speed all the time. And there are still plenty of segments/trails, even multi-use ones, where it is safe (for everyone else at least) for me to pin it. Having it in the downhill riders mind that they are the ones who have to stop makes it more likely they will ride in such a way that they will be able to stop.
In practice, like I said, if I'm climbing and have the time, I will pull over for the downhill rider. It makes it nicer for both of us. Around here, hiker's and runners cede the right-of-way 99% of the time. I still slow down and prepare to pull over every single time I see one and when they step off the trail for me, I greet them, thank them, comment on the day, and wish them a good walk/run/hike. If I'm going too fast to say all those things, I'm going to fast. Luckily, this isn't the busiest place (New Mexico).
But we can't seem to rely on the reasonableness of people so to keep it simple, since we are the ones carrying the danger, we cede the right of way to every other type of user, and to the person riding uphill.
I vote for any system where both parties have clear responsibility for their own safety. Feeding some sanctimonious jerk the "right" of way is fraught with disaster. It's the backcountry; you have no rights to safety; be smart.
There's not really a written rule on who moves for who. I just move out of the way when I'm descending because I don't want to be known around here as the douche bag that runs people off the trail because he's got to go the fastest down, all the time. No thanks.
The down is my reward for going up, but there is a purpose to my going up. I'm testing and pushing my fitness level that will allow me to take that mountain bike vacation and not be beat after the first day.
Did you have to slow down too much for that drop or jump because I was coming up? So sorry, but turn your bike around and go back up 100 yards and get back at it.
I'd say this should be dealt with internationally at a G8-style summit, you know, the ones which always take place in a beutiful snowy Swiss town. Gee, I would even say the right of way while riding down or uphill is a fundamental right that should be regulated in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for sure.
I clicked the "undecided" option of course.
XC : both are polite and yield
Trail: friendly nod and agree on the fly who yields
Enduro: rider with the least expensive bike yields
Downhill / Gravity: F*** everyone on the mountain, I'm a 2-wheeled God so move over or die.
I like that the most prevalent poll answer is 'decide on the fly'. It seems all the officialish MTB organisations need to pull a pole out...
The descending rider should always have in mind, when ridding (sorry, descending) a public trail, that he / she, has no right to put in danger all the rest, riders, walker, runners, whatever…
So keeping the speed into “controllable” limits is an act of responsibility, unfortunately too rare to be seen here at Greece by the DHrs.
After all, why spoil the fun of the other users of the trail!?
Personally, when i'm on the trail (insert your joke about me riding here), both climber and descender stop, or slow down. Despite which way i'm riding, i always try to smile, nod, say hi, or just express some kind of nice gesture. I appreciate whomever pulls over. A lot of the guys i ride with are dicks when riding, so i typically apologize for them if need be. Its nice to interaction with one another, even for a split second.
it's just so hard to say one party has the right... since it depends on the part of the trail, your speed, how technical, how safe, etc. so if you are able to... pull over. don't let "right of way" cause you to be a dick as well.
I see right of way both as a practical arrangement but also as a way to determine who has the biggest responsibility when it comes to avoiding collisions. From a safety perspective the downhill rider should ALWAYS take care not to crash into uphill riders and to be safe and in control. I forgot it once and it almost lead to an accident and me feeling really stupid!
As far as practical arrangements go I don't know what's better. Personally I always slow down and yield (unless the other rider/ trail user) tells me to go ahead. The main reasons for this are:
- I don't know if the other person knows about right of way and I don't want to cause an accident or confrontation
- I'm not very competitive. If I'm able to get out and ride that day I'm happy so the minor inconvenience of yielding won't hurt me.
In general I believe common sense should be applied. If it's a large group vs a single rider it would be easier for the single rider to yield. Either way it's best to be courteous and don't demand the other person to yield. What everyone should demand is that all riders (especially downhill riders) ride safely.
Btw if you're ever in Greece and trying to nail a KOM you can always shout "referendum" or "IMF" to the rider coming the other way. It usually scares them and makes them bail in the bushes.
In the case of the top picture in the article, the descenders don't appear to carry much speed so I don't see much against making way for a rider climbing this loose gravely climb.
In case of the bottom picture, it seems wide enough for riders to pass though there is a single smooth line. Descending is easier on rough ground than it is to climb so in this case again I'd say the descender maintains velocity and takes the rougher path.
In cases where there is a quick more straight line down and the alternative has more twists impossible to do at speed, I recommend the climber takes that and the descender blasts down the straight bit.
So it depends on the situation but most important is to maintain contact (visual/sound, not physical) and be clear about your intentions.
That said, its Interesting how many people are responding on the basis of what suits them best without regard for the other dude. I don't want to stop and have to start again on a steep climb any more than I do on a cracking descent, but I try not to only think of myself...
Although, I do agree with some of you folks who criticize the dweebs who have ear buds in and are all about there KOM. WTF! Say hello, socialize and do some trail karma
That said, if I'm climbing and I happen to see someone descending, I'll take a break and give a wave. If I'm descending, I'll slow and then stop if the climber doesn't notice, and says thanks if they notice first and give way.
What gets my goat the most is when I'm climbing hard, head down, heart-rate up, and I hear some lunatic yelling for me to get out of their way, as if they've got no brakes and are going to crash. Except they're really just going for a KOM and don't care about anyone else. They expect the climber to pull off even if it's into a pricker bush or hopping over a log to clear the trail.
Only good thing is it usually pisses me off so much I usually smoke the rest of the climb.
One thought is that the opinions are strongly regional.
Or is that the division is age based with those favoring downhill not yet old enough to drive a real car?
A correlation to the size of the hills being ridden. Maybe if a big hill on the ride is 100-300 feet vertical the continuous downhill is more precious than if your climb is a continuous 2-4k feet. A single 60 foot swoop would be much more important than having an uninterrupted 25 minutes of descent.
I'm honestly surprised so many people weight downhilling so high. Where I ride just stopping in some places can mean a 40-50 foot walk before I can resume the climb, where descent I can just track stand while the climber goes by, not such a big deal when descending. To stop while climbing can ruin a workout, drops heartrate, etc. Also descenders usually have much larger choice of line so easier to just go around.
But that's just from my own experience and I'd really like to hear the other side of it.
I'm not exaggerating here. I've literally never come across a descending rider in the last 3 years that has ever yielded. So not sure how accurate (in a real life situation) this poll really is. And pretty sure that old bylaw is now just something people like to believe they WOULD do, and not something they ACTUALLY do.
Personally, I ALWAYS yield to ascending riders when I myself am descending, cause I know how hard that rider is working, an I know how no one has ever stopped for me and what that feels like. I also ALWAYS dismount (whether ascending or descending) when I come across hikers and equestrians. A minor inconvenience but hopefully it's earning a bit of goodwill here and there.
If someone is bombing, and I'll have to step off for 3 seconds for them to pass, vs them getting off for 15 seconds for me to pass, I'll get to the side. We all need to maximize riding time, not sitting time.
This practice moves into real life. Know how if you have 40 items at the store and the dude behind you has 2? Know how you let them go first? Exact same idea. They're out of the way before you would have even started.
Both? (There's always room if you both pull your elbows in or get creative with your line). Or if there's absolutely no optional line, it's the one who looks like he's really 'on it' and going to get the most out if it.
It's only one section of a ride on one day - relax.
if everyone follows the same approach, you won't get those moments when someone is unsure of who's going first and who's not.
Going up or down. If the rider has a technical section i pull over and watch and cheer if he or she cleans the section.
I always stop for people hiking on the trail.
As shown in the pole nobody agrees on the topic which makes for an interesting situation on the trail. There are the very strong believers of CLIMBERS get the right of way because that is what is written in the IMBA code and what is passed down from the old boys club. Justified by its "safer." Most (not all) of these people who believe this and are strong advocates of this are either part of the old boys club or are the slightly lower then average fitness and lower then average bike handlers so for them it is easy to stop on the downhills because they are not pushing it as fast.
There is the Descending is a lot of fun so they should have the right of way. Justified by it's harder for the downhill rider to stop and safely pull over (see a theme here). But in actuality they just want to have fun and shred down the hill. These are typically the people who have higher then average skill and a little less fitness that they like the rest up the hill when a downhill rider passes them the other way. Again not talking in absolutes.
And then there is the well I respect everybody and am out for fun so I will yield to everybody. Which this approach makes complete sense to me. Every rider should have the consideration for other trail users safety and enjoyment. A lot of the time when I meet others on the trail I never have to completely stop and get off the trail I can simply slow down chose a line where we can both pass at a pace slower then we would usually ride that trail and continue on our way with a smile and nod.
There needs to be a paradigm shift starting with IMBA and trail centres to have both parties responsible for safe passing, both same direction and opposing directions.
Oh and for the people on her that think that KOM's are only downhills coming from a guy who has a bunch of KOM climbs in my area ya I push the climbs. But again I am considerate about when I go for KOM's and push myself when I know the trails are less busy.
1) if you are coming downhill you have earned your right to have fun coming downhill at speed.
2) It is easier to stop going uphill
3) I could always use a rest when climbing
5) I like watching people ride dh
Personally, I'd like to see more trails designated as uphill or downhill only. As we have more trail users these conflicts are only going to increase, and head-on crashes in blind corners aren't fun.
Don't be a jerk.
I'm lazzzzzzzzzy! My favorite words are Chair Lift, and Shuttle! Any time I can get off on a ball busting climb, I'm game. Now here's a question...wether you're going up or down, and you come across a group of fine ladies or sexy dudes (whatever your flavor is) do you stop and chat it up?
just finesse the brakes and go into slow mo. find/create a line that poses no danger.
it's just more technique.
on a narrow trail..going up, i will totally claim my line and descenders seem to always
see that. they decide whether to stop or find/create a line around me.
on wide trails in either direction i slow down somewhat to be in total control
Who has their heart and lungs at optimum/maximal, and who would have to drop and pick that stone up again? The uphiller.
Who probably took the ski lift to the top of the mt? The downhiller.
Give way to the uphiller.
Bikes and riders are capable of far greater downhill speeds, trails are designed to be fast and fun on the descents, and riders expect to have fun on the descents, so we're long past the point of branding all fast descenders as hooligans. If I expect the right to descend quickly, though, I also accept the responsibility to be ready to stop on a dime and/or take evasive action; when climbing, I accept the responsibility to stay VERY alert and all but dive out of the way.
I propose a guideline of "all riders have equal rights, so be nice and play safe".
Really, I don't descend trails that I can climb, that's lame. You want to rail some lame down then go ahead, but stay the f@ck out of my way or go f@ck yourself. That's like the F@cking lame ass chumps buzzing and knocking people on green runs on the ski hill. Want a rush? Learn to ride some proper terrain you f@cking doofus. Really, get some f@cking balls, get some f@cking skills, and then you'll look at those sh1theads the same way.
But actually If It's a Hiking Trail Usually let the Hiker Go buy, But when It's a Climber on a bike get out of the way don't stop the flow!! He/She want the same when They are Riding down.
Bud Best Of ALL RIDE ON A ONE-WAY TRACK LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO!!! With out the possibility of Oncoming traffic
O YEAH put a Sign up for Hiker's That They Are not Wanted!! on the Trail and when they do visit "Stay of the Track" Buy all Means don't watch the wild life!!! on a Trail "That's Seriously Dangerous"
Bud Go OUT and Ride People!!
I don't need to find out the maximum co-pay for the doc just because I didn't either break climb or tap the brakes.
You can play chicken 30 times, all it takes is losing once. Anymore coming home safe is enjoyable, esp since local trails see more users every year.
As far as people pushing up DH trails. Maybe every sick ride edit shouldn't start with getting your bike out of the shed/garage/truck followed be footage of people pushing up DH trail. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Physics is king in this matter.
Question: what is easier, takes less energy, and less time to achive?
a) having A rider coming down the hill which on average, weighs over 180 pounds with bike and gear and is riding down at easily over 25km/hr, and with all that kinetic energy, come to a full stop and avoid a person in a matter of 1-4 seconds?
b) having a rider riding up at 3km/hr instantly put a foot down and move to the side to let the downward riding rider pass by?
Granted once the rider going down sees a rider coming up, he is able to slowdown, to increase the time that the climber has to move out of the way, but physics tells you with facts that the right thing to do, the safe thing to do, is for the upward riding rider to use their low rate of motion as an advantage to move out of the way, in the quickest and esiest manner, to avoid a collition. And hence it is ALWAYS the responsibility of the climber to be paying attention and use their sense of hearing to listen for riders coming down ahead, who are loud because of their speed, unlike climbing riders which are basically silent.
In addition, it is imperative for the climber to know and understand that the trail they are riding, could be a two way trail and thus should pay extra care to identify downhill riding riders coming their way.
So yes, no brainer, climber moves, while downward riders slow a bit to avoid collition.
So for the mountain, I think that the one that leaves the mountain(descending) should have priority...
1. Gravity says that the descender will take way more distance to come to a stop, if even possible (in steep loose conditiona, it's not).
2. Usimg the btakes removes control, so whoever is going slowest would be able to come to a stop more quickly and safely.
3. Trails are winding and filled with trees and bushes, ao you many times can't see or hear a climber, but the climbers alnost always hear the descender.
IMBA needs to change their suggested rules. The flow of a climber is irrelevant when compared with the safety of all parties involved.
As has been said many times in this discussion, if someone is climbing a trail then its no great loss for descender to yield as descender is in an easy/boring section.
In my (actual, local) case theres 2k of climbing up and over a ridge, down the other side, repeat back to car. Bikers come from either direction. There are also infrequent hikers, runners 1-4 met in 2.5 hours, and very occasional horses (only ever seen sign). Typically meet 5-25 bikers depending on time of day. Trail is up to 15% grade, single track, rainy and in many places there is nowhere to pull off, trail is 10-18" wide. The steepest areas have linked blind corners (switchbacks through tall bushes). On this trail everywhere you can't see you must assume there is a hiker so speed on descent must be checked. One must always be ready to stop or avoid. Imagine how your climb would go if descender had rights? You would need to conservatively cower around every blind corner? Moving up the trail would be impossible. Like trying to walk up an xc race course.
I think, if there is truly a safety issue and you can't stop or safely avoid (laws of physics) then you're not in control and are endangering others. Can you reasonably expect a hiker to avoid a 40mph bike that blasts down out of nowhere? The climber is less agile than the hiker (but not than kids or dogs on leashes).
It is certainly more enjoyable and convenient to bomb down a hill claiming rights but if safety is your argument you are going too fast to be safe.
Who has the easiest option to avoid this potential accident = Climbing rider due to less speed.
you mean if someone really, really wanted to they could ride UP a trail?
i understand that it can interrupt a climbers momentum and could be awkward to start however the risk to both climbers and descenders is less if the climber allows the descender to pass.
if you take into account potential problems such as brake fade/failure, punctures etc which could potentially happen, when going down its much more severe than if you were climbing. if this was to happen when you meet someone climbing its going to make it much more difficult to stop, regardless if you are riding responsibly.
taking into all the potentially hazards and problems which could occur i still vote than descenders should have the right of way.