Research & Education

Mountain Bike Skills

Susy Alkaitis - March 1, 2019

Athens, GA: Love mountain biking? We sure do, and we’re glad to have so many great trails open to us all over the country. That’s why, whenever we hit the trails, we’re careful to follow these Leave No Trace tips.

1. Know before you go. Are bikes allowed on the trails you’re visiting? Some trail systems are open seasonally or on alternating days. Many apps, like MTB Project and Trailforks, offer up-to-date information on trail conditions and other vital information. Make sure to pack a helmet, spare tube, pump, multi-tool, water, food, and the ten outdoor essentials.

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2. Keep singletrack single. Respect trail builders’ hard work, and avoid riding wet or muddy trails. It typically only takes a few days for trails to dry out, but it can take much longer to repair trail damage from riders who insist on tearing up muddy trails. Ride or walk over obstacles and through the occasional mud puddle, not around them, to avoid widening the trail. Ride within your ability to avoid skidding, which quickly degrades the trail surface.

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3. Pack out your trash. Designate a jersey or hydration pack pocket for your food wrappers and other trash, so you won’t leave them behind or drop them when you go to grab something else. Consider repackaging food to reduce waste or use a reusable gel flask.

4. “Go” before you go. When nature calls, move well away from trails, water and campsites. On long rides, be prepared to bury poop in a 6-8” deep cathole at least 200’ from water and trail, or bring a portable personal toilet to avoid contaminating water or having your feces come into contact with other humans, insects or animals.

5. Leave nature as you find it. Help preserve the riding experience and character of the trail for riders who come after you. Modifying the trail or building features, unless part of an authorized trail crew, is never in style. Cleaning mud and vegetation off your bike and tires not only helps protect your bike, but it also prevents the spread of invasive species.

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6. Protect and keep wildlife wild. Don’t feed animals, even unintentionally. Your fruit peels and nut shells should be packed out. Observe animals at a safe distance. You should be able to visually cover them with your thumb, held at arm’s length.

7. Share the trail. Mountain bikers always yield to hikers and horses. It’s common courtesy for downhill riders to yield to those riding uphill, since it’s much harder for them to get started again from a stop. Yielding might mean stopping and letting others pass, but it can also mean slowing down and clearly communicating with all other users. Making verbal and visual contact with horse riders helps relax their horse.  

Love music? Consider using earbuds rather than a portable speaker. Many people enjoy listening to the sounds of nature on their rides. Good tunes make for a good ride but make sure you can still hear others or wildlife on the trail.

Finally, the more stewards we have, the better, so share your trail ethic with friends and social media followers.

Enjoy your world and leave no trace.

Jessie and Matt 

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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