Follow the rules on the unbeaten paths

Last week, I wrote about proper etiquette for navigating our paved trail system and riding on the road. This week we will talk about the rules for using multi-use off-road trails.

We just came off almost a week straight of rain and I was aghast to see mountain bikers heading up to the trails only a day after the rain had stopped.

Rule 1: Don’t ride the trails when they are muddy.
In almost all cases you shouldn’t ride on a trail when it is muddy. When you ride in the mud you are significantly contributing to trail erosion, and you seriously affect the quality of the surface of the trail when it dries out.
Furthermore, trail damage and erosion is one of the major reasons trails are closed. Don’t be surprised to see a trail that has been ridden on while muddy closed the next day.
If you thought the trail had dried up but you encounter a puddle, don’t go around it, go straight through it. If everyone goes around the puddle it damages the sides of the trail and widens it; while going straight through it keeps the trail width intact and minimizes trail damage.

Rule 2: Always yield.
IMBA recommends that “Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming.”
They recommend calling out a friendly greeting or ringing a bell. You should try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other nonmotorized trail users – that means runners, hikers as well as horses. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail clearly is signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one. In Colorado, we share the trails with a lot of horses, so be especially careful to pass them and ask the rider what to do if you don’t know.

Rule 3: Leave no trace.
Seriously folks, please do not litter or alter the trail. There’s no reason to leave gel packs, bar wrappers or any other litter on the trail.
Leaving no trace also means protecting the trail. That means staying on the trail as opposed to walking around obstacles or taking short cuts through switchbacks.

Rule 4: Respect open trails.
Again, we are lucky because some of our trails cut through private property and it is a privilege to be able to use these trails. Please, be respectful of this and don’t do anything that might jeopardize these agreements.

Rule 5: Be prepared.
You know what they say in Colorado. If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. It’s always good to be prepared for storms by packing some warm gear and a rain jacket. You also should consider carrying a first aid kit.
If we obey the rules of the trail and respect each other – walkers, runners, hikers, horseback riders and cyclists can all enjoy these wonderful trails together right here in our backyard.

Be safe and courteous out there and have fun. See you out there.

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