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My fellow mountain bikers, let’s stop being jerks, ok?

July 27, 2015

Summer has arrived on Colorado’s Front Range which means that, if you want to not roast and enjoy halfway quiet trails, you have to get out before the sun gets too high. With that in mind, I headed out early yesterday morning for a quick lap at Centennial Cone. It was a beautiful day and everyone I came across was in good spirits. The sun was shining, the trail was in great shape, and the wildflowers were off the hook. It was a good morning.

I was probably ten miles into the twelve mile loop when I damn near got ran over.

It was the point in the ride when fatigue was starting to set in and the point in the day when the mercury was starting to rise. I was slogging my way up a hill, thinking about coffee and breakfast, when a guy came barreling down from above. I realized he didn’t see me and moved to the side of the trail, despite having right of way. When he realized what was about to happen, he grabbed a fistful of breaks, and skidded a good twenty feet. There was a look of panic on his face (and presumably on mine as well). With inches to go he recovered, cruised around the 135-pound obstacle in his way, and rode away without a word.

I had a word. It started with an F and rhymed with trucker. And it was stuck in my head for the rest of my ride.

I have been riding mountain bikes for a long time but episodes like this, rare as they may be, still leave me shaken. They still make me resent my fellow mountain bikers. And maybe worst of all, they remind me of where the anti-bike crowd is coming from.

Before I left my “real” job, I worked for an agency that was on the front lines of a lot of the discussions about trail use. And while my own job (unfortunately!) wasn’t related to trail access, a lot of the people around me dealt with these issues every single day. From my cube I could hear their phone calls with concerned members of the public on all sides of access issues.

When people talk about being afraid of bikes on the trail, I tend to shake my head. Sometimes I fear that my eyes may actually get stuck in their sockets from all that rolling. I get that bikes, especially in large numbers, can disrupt your hiking experience, and if that is the reason for not wanting them on the trail, that is a discussion that I am happy to have. But I don’t for a second believe that every single time someone rides at Marshall Mesa or Betasso or Hall Ranch or wherever that they nearly get ran off the trail. And the reason I don’t believe it is because, while I do my share of riding, I also hike and run those same trails. Most mountain bikers are friendly and courteous. Most go out of their way to not scare people. Most are good ambassadors for the sport.

But there are a few assholes in every group. And those assholes give the rest of us a bad name.

Look, I get that it’s fun to ride your bike downhill fast. Believe me, I am right there with you on that. But a crowded, multi-directional trail on a busy summer weekend is not the time or place to do it. When you pack that many people onto a trail, especially when they’re going in different directions, you’re asking for trouble. If you can’t slow down to go around an uphill rider without completely losing control of your bike, you are going too fast. And when you scare hikers or other bikers, you’re undoing all of the work that the bike advocates do.

Cycling in it’s various forms is kind of my thing and I am as pro-bike as they come. And if the way you’re acting on a trail is making me think that something needs to change? You’re probably acting like a jerk. If we want access to these busy trails, we have to be good neighbors. We have to remember that we are not the only ones out there. And, sometimes, we need to slow the hell down. A fast, multidirectional trail on a busy summer weekend is not your personal bike park.

I realize that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, and that the folks that behave in this way will most likely never read this blog. And yes, this rant is probably firmly sealing my place in the damn kids, get off my lawn demographic. And that’s fine. Because, while this type of experience won’t stop me from riding my bike on the trails, it may stop others. And if nothing else, maybe some rattled hiker or mountain biker or equestrian will someday come across this post and realize that we’re not all like that. A lot of us (in fact, I would argue that it’s most of us) want to be good neighbors. And we get just as pissed about this behavior as you do.

All ranting aside, it was still a glorious morning!

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