Trail Manners

Using good trail manners makes everyone’s experience a more pleasant one. Two Instances:

This past weekend I was riding our Tour d’Wolf MB trail, when I came upon some orange tape across the usual (single track) path. Coming up the hill in front of me were 4 riders drafting. Obviously a MB race. They were seconds away from entering one of my favorite areas on the T d’W.

“You guys racing?” I called ahead.
“Yeah” shouted one guy, in a gruff tone. “There’s a lot of riders behind us too!” he added coarsely.
“OK” says I. “How many laps?” trying to see when I could play.
“Five” he said, cutting his eyes toward me briefly.
“How many have you done?”
“Two” he calls back to me.
“OK” says I.
And though I couldn’t make out their words, I heard them grumbling to each other until they entered the woods.

These 4 turned out to be the leaders, and the rest of the racers were very widely spaced. (I couldn’t even see the next ones yet). So I decided to head against traffic so I could see them coming and get out of their way. This was easy to do because that section was a single track, slightly downhill, cutting through an open field. In 200 yards I’d made it to the gravel road. Plenty wide for everyone. But when riders approached, I still inched off to the shoulder. This section was wide and flat and easy for them to ride and so I got numerous nods, winks, smiles, nice words, and a couple of riders extended their hands for low fours (like a high five but at race speed, just fingertips brushing).

I talked with the photographer a bit. He told me that some riders had recently crashed because of a trailhogging jogger. I determined that, because of the nature of the trails ahead, I’d best turn around and find somewhere else to play. So now, going along with the racers coming up from behind, I got 20 feet off the gravel road and made my way back crosscountry to that 200 yds of (now uphill) single track. This was the most nervous section. Up hill, single track, bikers behind, my head checking rear constantly.

About 3/4 way up, those 4 gruff leaders came into view. I timed it well and pulled off the trail about 10 feet to the right and was idling for 20 seconds before they blasted past me.

“Thanks, [for paying attention]. Now you’re just showing off” grinned the leader.
“Bunny hop, bunny hop” chuckled 4th place.

I did a little hop but they were past me. I couldn’t make out their words, but they talked and chuckled until they entered the woods.

On a side note: earlier one guy was huffing and grinding up that hill in low gear when he saw me standing off to the side, waiting for him to pass. When he did, he said “Oh god, you’re not ahead of me are you?” “Nope, don’t worry” says I. I had to laugh. Poor guy, he wasn’t laughing.

Second Instance:

In addition to the Tour d’Wolf MB path, our 4500 acre Shelby Farms has 10 miles of paved trails for walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading. When I ride my 29er, I will regularly come up behind people. Using the phrase learned from Mountain Biking experience, I call ahead “Coming up on your left!” I notice that many times some of the walkers ahead are startled and jerk. Before seeing me, one old guy (wearing radio headphones) called back “you need to get a bell!” So I said “ding, ding” as I passed. “Oh, well there you go” he said as he saw what I was.

Thing is, unicycles hardly make any noise at all. No clicking gears, no rattling chains. So we startle people when we appear all of the sudden, so close, from behind. I’ve learned to call waaaaaaaaaaay ahead. Or say “ding, ding” because somehow those words make their way through headphones.

You just have to realize that on a mountain bike trail you’re slower and wobblier than the bikes, which makes them nervous. And on the hiker’s paved trails (using a bigger wheel) you’re faster and silent and sudden, which makes them nervous. None of us are out there to become more nervous.

My grandmother, the grand dame of Dyer Tennessee in her day, edited things down to the meat and simply aked us to “be nice”. Still good advice. Makes for a nice day in the park.

“Awww, Dad…”, toe circles in gravel, “… do we HAVE T’A get off?”

(Well spoken, Tom… now I gotta go sneek up on some cyclists… ;))


Re: Trail Manners

Great Words Mud! I always try to assume wherever I ride that it is a priviledge and not a right. If we do our part to respect the trail and others who use it we won’t have to worry about ever seeing signs that say “No Unicycles.” In some parts of this world good trails are hard to come by. I recently became a member of the Minnesota Off Road Cyclists because they are doing a lot of work locally to “gain and maintain” trails. I’m even going to be doing some trail work on a new trail tomorrow.

I would encourage ya’ll to find a local Mt Cyclist organisation and support the cause. This will earn and increase respect of unicyclists as we grow and increase our use of the trails that these groups maintain. You can find your local group through

Re: Re: Trail Manners

That’s right! Those trails don’t make themselves, you know. Though it may be different in other parts of the country, in California our trails require maintenance at least annaually, to repair the effects of erosion, fallen trees, etc. This work is carried out by trailwork volunteers, and is (at least out here) for the most part not paid for by tax dollars.

Be a part of the solution! My local trail organization is called FATRAC (Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition).

Once again, being the minority (for now), if one of us gives unicycling a bad name for being rude on the trails, we are not just damaging our own image, but the image of all unicyclists. It stinks to be given that sort of responsibility, but until people begin to see mountain unicycling as a bona fide established sport, each one of us is an un-bassador to the sport.