Trail etiquette, single track

Hey everyone!

I’ve very recently discovered a fun MTB trail nearby. I’m not fantastic at riding it yet (It’s my first ‘difficult’ MTB track) but I can almost make it all the way round without stopping. However, there are some sections that buck me off, and some that I simply can’t ride and jump off and walk (Though I hope to get back there and get round it all!).

Now, when I went there on Friday (At about 7-8pm!) it was pretty much dead. I didn’t see a single biker on the track with me, though there were a few in the park itself (the park is massive and is sort of a central hub for cycle routes). Now, if I am to go back there, I might not get so lucky. I’ve since watched a few videos of bikers riding the track, and the place has been packed-out! This maybe because the videos are old, and the track is fairly new (So they were all there testing out their new playground).

OK, so my point. How do you guys handle tight, single-track trails when other (far faster, possibly far angrier!) bikers are on it with you? The track I’m concerned about has plenty of downhills followed by ups, and I sometimes don’t make it on the up. Sometimes, the track and it’s surrounding area are too narrow for me to just jump off and jump to the side without ending up at the bottom of a small cliff. Not to mention some of the places that I struggle (read: slow down), are exactly the sort of place where you’re not really in a position to just jump off and move out the way.

I know this is hardly a crazy race situation and so I’m not expecting everyone to charge past me at 20mph regardless of terrain, but I’d like to enjoy the track without getting in other people’s way if I can help it. I’d also like to avoid situations where I’m not going to get crashed into. Going out at night isn’t very sustainable as usually it goes dark far earlier than this (I’m enjoying the summer!) And riding home from there in the dark is pretty dangerous. Spooky forests and wild animals and all that good stuff.

Trail etiquette is a tricky thing. Around here, you’ll see signs that describe how it works: Bikers yield to all, hikers yield to horses.

But, in real life, since I’m weird and riding a unicycle, I tend to yield right-of-way to anyone. However, since I’m weird and riding a unicycle, most people give me the right-of-way. So there’s that awkward moment of everyone standing off the trail trying to figure out what the hell just happened. That’s not a bad thing though, no one can get hurt that way.

In theory, the uphill rider has the right of way since it’s harder to get going again. However, a lot of riders will yield to the downhill rider since they know that’s the fun part and hope the favor is returned some day.

IMO, etiquett is often a judgement call.

If in doubt, yield. You’re never wrong to give someone else the right-of-way in my book.

From my limited experience you can usually hear a mountain bike coming. They are far noisier and make different noises to uni (chain whir, freewheel, hard braking squeal etc.). The faster a bike is coming at you, the noisier it tends to be…

When i can hear a bike coming i move off or to the side of the trail to let them pass. If there is nowhere that i can move to, then the biker is stuck with me until it is safe for me to stop or move over.

Edit: the trails i usually ride are 1 direction only bike trails. For other situations i yield to pretty much everything.

Yes, this one is single direction.

Killian - I should’ve clarified :smiley: My question was less about when to yield and to whom, but more along the lines of HOW to yield when there’s nowhere to yield to :smiley: Especially on downhills. Let’s say I’m going down a muddy hill on a single track - I’m not exactly pushing the sound barrier, as I’m on my direct-drive, non-freewheeling machine. Some guy comes up behind me on a 2-wheeler. He starts going down, sees me there doing 5mph, slams the anchors… Probably gets pissed. Even worse, skids and rides into me.

Other situation. I’ve just gone down this hill, and now there’s a big uphill for me to crank up. Biker is behind me, I’m halfway up my uphill section, he’s screaming the downhill. He’s hoping his momentum will carry him most of the way, and his legs the rest. I have no momentum from the downhill (See previous paragraph - I’m slow at this!) And so am cranking up the whole hill, again going slow. I can’t just get off right in front can I? :smiley:

Is it reasonable to expect the biker to slow down and wait for me in these situations, or would the biker expect me to move the hell out? :smiley:

Am I overthinking this? I’m not really experienced on ‘proper’ mountain bike trails (IE. directional, purpose-built, no-horses-or-hikers-allowed tracks), and that goes for uni’s OR bikes.

Oh, well in that case…

If there’s not enough room for you to let them by, then it sucks to be 'em. I’ve run into that type of situation, and they just have to ride at my pace until I find somewhere to get off.

It’s reasonable to expect them to slow down and not mow you over. It’s their responsility to make sure they are maintaining a reasonable speed so they can ‘slam the anchors’ when they run into a newbie mountain bike rider that’s going even slower than you are (trust me, they’re out there).

If the bikers coming up on you fast, I say try to let them by if possible. If you absolutely can’t, then again, it sucks to be them.

If in doubt, yield (if possible). :smiley:

Kiefer is right on about the “who yields to who” part of the experience - as well as the confusion about where unis fit in. Out riding with my wife, I goofed up and did not yield to uphill traffic - mainly because I was so focused on the rocks that I didn’t see the bikes coming. No one got upset, and in fact joked that “Everyone yields to the unicycle!” with big smiles on their face. That said, none of us want so be a jerk and push that.

In any case, if you are worried about people passing you, the rule of thumb around here is that you yield as soon as it is reasonable and safe to do so. The person behind you has to be riding in control. If they are, then none of these situations is a problem - they can lay back and wait for a good time to pass. They can wait at the top of the downhill if they need momentum for the uphill.

You’re allowed to ride your ride too! Just communicate to them when you intend to move over, and they should be cool about it. If they’re not, it’s their problem, not yours.

The only time I ever got ticked about other folks not allowing me to pass (when on MTB) was when they were oblivious to my presence (earphones or head in the clouds) and did not respond to friendly hails asking to pass.

You may be slow, but they were too when they first hit the trails. Again, if they can’t or don’t remember that, then that’s their issue.

The only time I see the big difference in speed as a problem is on a dedicated down (or one-way) trail where people have an expectation to be able to rip it up. Even still, they should not out-ride their sight lines, as they never know when they’ll wheel around a corner and find a rider down or a pedestrian where they’re not expected.

Lots of good pointers here cheers guys! :slight_smile:

I’ll try to keep that in mind!

I like that advice, definately will be using that one. ‘Hey there, I’ll jump off after this corner before the humps’ :slight_smile:

I never even considered that two wheelers were once as slow as me. Though I do have vague recollections of when I used to slam the brakes on my mountain bike so I wouldn’t go fast down hills for fear of falling :smiley:

here as the roads are driven on the left side, offroad we still apply the keep left rule. Walkers, runners, riders ect all stick to the left when passing (only passing on their right if traveling the same direction)

If people are walking i normally briskly walk past them because they think we ride all over the place, sometimes i agree.

Bikers win. they are bigger heavier and faster than me so i give right of passage to any bike from front or behind. Usually most riders dont want to overtake, they like to tail to watch some good ol Muni action until a spectacular UPD then they cruise past cheering.

I prefer to hang back and have some fun than be rushed down technical tracks. Minimize all potential incidents and so i practically give way to all.

I wouldnt like to hear or see any uniists riding like they own the trails. Im sure even our King respects all track users before putting himself before others.

if all else fails there is no place to pull over, its a narrow track or too steep to stop there is ALWAYS plenty of room to practice your best or favorite UPD :wink:

OK, so I went to the same trail again today, and it was a bit busier than Friday. I ran into… 8? maybe 10 bikers ON the actual track (I went round 3 times) And a few more on the paths around it. I got nothing but respect and cheers, which made me feel like a god :sunglasses: Even got two seperate guys filming me - One was in a group of 3, and they were all stopped at a ‘jump’ section, and he asked me to wait a sec while he whipped the phone out. I don’t mind, I allowed it. Next guy was head-camming, and he passed me at one point, but waited for me round the corner to catch me on his head-cam :smiley:

When I heard a bike whizzing behind me, I would check behind me to see how close/how fast they are, and make decisions based on that. The headcam guy was obviously some sort of Strava speed-freak, so I jumped off as soon as possible. The rest weren’t, so I just carried on riding and jumped off when I found an easy spot to do so. Overall, I think I was a bit scared when I didn’t need to be! :smiley:

Nice! Sounds like you had a good day on the trails. I think your experience mirrors mine pretty well. Most folks just want to see everyone having a good time and will all get along. The ones who don’t? Well, there’s nothing you can do to make their day better anyway.

Glad you had a good ride and were feeling more relaxed. :slight_smile:

Bikes are accustomed to having to deal with hikers, who move even slower and are more likely to be hostile. MUnis and mountain bikes get along fine unless it’s a tight race situation, or one of them’s being an asshole.

There are always some xc racers who practise and big rig downhillers or an occasional hiker who made a bad coffee that morning was late to work and had a difficult customer then go out on the trails to let steam off and at the time they hate the world and everyone in it… Dodge those ones because they’re plenty out there and they see someone doing something different and having more fun and happier than most riders they will look down on a uni rider. As do most people who have seen or heard of uni riders going through malls or dangerously in traffic. They see one bad uni rider we all become bad uni riders in their eyes.

Give way, be curtious respectful and always believe your right is much as theirs and don’t feel you done wrong by anyone for simply doing what we enjoy. It’s been said we impact far less on the trails than bikers. Surely that makes us better than them? Just never let them know. Make them feel as important as we are equal to them using the trails. Respect through curtesy

Last week a runner was calling from behind me as I rode a narrow trail. It’s not single track but still tight, with lots turns and steep on the edge side. My goal is to make it top to bottom. I continued until I found any room for me to move over. He was held up for a spell I’m sure he did not like. Too bad. At first the guy calls out he wants by on my right. That …was not happening. Wouldn’t we all like a vacant trail to run or ride. I have more trouble with poor dog control walkers. Few times I encounter bike riders with dogs without leashes or those 30 foot reels. Drives me crazy. I will full out yell at people who are rude. Don’t get me started when a dog bites at my foot.

I’ve never been on an MTB trail where people are running, only biking :smiley: Obviously there’s a million ‘shared-use’ paths round here as well as all the nature trails by SUSTRANS which are for everyone too though. Never seen one so narrow that the runners are annoying!

The trails around here are almost all multi-use – hikers, bikes, dog walkers, horses, whatever. I usually stop and get off if it looks questionable for pretty much everyone. But lately, after a few “close encounters,” if a bike rider is coming at me on a narrow single track, sometimes I play chicken with him and see what happens. They have a bit of a “everybody out of my way” attitude sometimes, and I know when I’m padded to the hilt I can take a fall way better than him, so I figure he can yield for me just as well as vice versa. Haven’t taken a direct hit so far, we generally both veer off to the right and pass. Just waiting for one of them to plow into me, the aftermath should be interesting. Yeah, that’s the kind of guy I am. :smiley:


Cracking up!!

I nearly took out a mtn biker not long ago. I was huffing and puffing up a hill and somehow didn’t hear this guy coming up behind me. The hill got the best of me and I decided to hoof it. I stepped off the back of the uni and swung it out to my side–the side the biker was passing me on. Clobbered his tire. He was super nice about it though. I can almost always hear bikes coming but this dude was stealthy.

earphones are a nuisance! though I am rather old I use my ears to notice incoming MTB, but some joggers or hikers don’t hear anything because of high volume earphones :angry: how can you enjoy tracks in the woods without noticing the music of the trees ?
I nearly smashed twice into one of these deaf (and dumb) persons :angry:

A general rule of thumb for dealing with oncoming MTBers: Yield to bling. The more expensive and elaborate the MTB setup/clothing/accessories, the more important it is to let that person have the right of way. And when there’s a helmet camera involved, if that means throwing yourself off a cliff to get out of the way, you’ve got to do it. These tricked-out MTBers are outfitted with the best money can buy, and nothing, not even you (sheesh, your entire setup costs less than $1000) has the right to interfere with their downhill record.

I like ElPueblo’s rule. But as Brett Bymaster used to say (back in the early days of MUni), don’t knock the people with expensive rigs and no skill. They work all the time and probably have little time to ride. Plus, by buying top-of-the line stuff they are funding the R&D that goes into making better products. We all do our part!

For sharing of the trail, there are a few rules of who has precedence; bikers bowing to both horsies and hikers. And to whoever’s going uphill. Those are common sense things that aren’t obvious if you haven’t thought about them, so good rules. Beyond that, it’s the stuff you hopefully learned in nursery school; learn to share. If we’re all grown-ups, we’ll be fine.

Of course, not all of us are grown-ups. We can choose whether or not we want to be one at any given moment, but I have very rarely had problems. On a unicycle you get most people deferring to you so rarely a worry. Sometimes there are people on a mission who may be trying to do a personal best or something. You can’t always tell, but I don’t mind letting people go through if they’re looking serious.

One time I was trying to do a no-dismounts round of my favorite local trail, the unicyclist version of the Clementine Loop in Auburn. On a narrow singletrack section (see inside back cover of Kris Holm’s book) a couple of bikes came up behind me. They weren’t trying to pass, and I was looking for a place to let them by without having to stop. This eventually led me to trying to move over and having a UPD because of it. They apologized but it was not their fault. I did eventually get the whole loop with no dismounts (including the 1000’ climb). :slight_smile:

Most of the time, if it’s narrow I stop for everybody else. Some people obviously want to watch me go by, so I try to oblige them. Unless it’s horses. I always dismount and wait to see if the riders have any advice as they pass, otherwise I just wait without a lot of movement. Horses can be skittish.