Mountain bikers hate people on horses, hikers hate mountain bikers, and people on horseback aren’t prejudiced; they hate everyone. The debate that gets me every time is between horse riders and mountain bikers — who erodes the trail more? You both do!
Did you ever have an altercation out on the trail? Those micro-aggressions that happen daily aren’t just limited to town. They often spread like psoriasis into the sacred wilderness, the very place we go to get away from all of that nonsense. Getting into it with someone in the woods is like getting sprayed by a skunk, and it’s almost as hard to wash off the stench. Let’s take this opportunity to examine two common areas for misunderstandings out on the trail.
Passing. Have you ever been minding your own business, going at a leisurely pace when someone comes up behind you and screams, “On your left!” then blows by you like a NASCAR? This irksome, passive aggressive command of superiority isn’t just limited to Kleenex Corner on Ajax. If you’re passing someone so closely that you feel it’s necessary to let them know, you may want to re-evaluate your passing technique and what you’re really accomplishing. Try kindly saying “Hello!” from a distance. Just as an experiment.
Are you late for work, got a hot date, or is there a fire only you know about? Some people aren’t hip to what “on your left” means and they’ll go immediately to the left. If you run into them, that makes you the asshole. It’s best to let people know your presence well in advance so they can make way, or not. If you’re irritated by having to slow down on the trail because you’re training for a race, consider it a training opportunity to slow down and come back up to speed. “Intervals” I think they call it.
Oh yeah, and remember you’re not a pro athlete. You have a day job.
Right of way. Who has it? Every single time the person going uphill has it. It’s counter intuitive for some people to grasp this concept. Their rationale is; I’m having more fun going downhill at a high rate of speed so I should have the right of way. Not the case. The person going uphill is doing hard work and therefore is rewarded by having priority. It comes from the CDOT driver’s manual – the car going uphill on jeep roads has the right of way. Conceptually, it’s safer for a jeep to back-up going uphill than it is to put it in reverse going downhill.
The new right of way mentality is that all trails are one way, my way, whatever way that trail user happens to be going. About half of all mountain bikers now wear headphones, and ride full suspension bikes at high rates of speed around blind corners. Natural selection, it’s good to see, is alive and well! That being said, someone is going to get killed on the largely deaf, dumb and blind Airline Trail.
Have you ever seen those triangular signs that show which trail users have the right of way? Horses are at the top of the right of way pyramid. As they should be because horses were invented before mountain bikes. I learned this the hard way in Arizona when I rode my mountain bike straight at a horse being ridden by my aunt Suzie.
The darn thing reared-up like Silver in the Lone Ranger and pawed the air violently with its front legs. She then opened up a can of whoop-ass on me and unleashed a verbal tirade that brought me nearly to tears. Needless to say, now whenever I encounter a horse out on the trail, I get off my bike and get off the trail until the rider tells me when it’s safe, much to their delight. You would not believe how grateful they are.
Something that’s been bothering me out on our trails lately is the phenomena of people tying hideous day-glow plastic tape to trees and bushes along the trails as markers everywhere. It’s littering. My only thought is that if you’re out on a trail and you need markers to guide you along, you should probably get an indoor gym membership. Your workout would better be served on a stationary bike where you can’t get lost. There should be a new rule – if you tie up that tape and leave it, you have to eat it.
Another thing I’ve yet to grasp is why people pick up their dog’s doo then leave the bag on the trail? Can someone who practices this please step forward and let us know the thought process leading up to that?
Trail etiquette all boils down to being polite and considerate. Often times you’ll witness people out on the trail schooling others on what they’re doing wrong. That’s like the grammar police, only out on the trail. No one likes that guy.