Rules of the Trail

It’s been a while since Meurant Botha discussed the IMBA Rules of the Trail, so he thought he’d give you a brief refresher. 

The IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. They’re the general go-to-guide for all AmaRider affiliated trail networks and serve as a good rule of thumb for any MTB ride.

1. Ride Open Trails:

Respect trail and road closures — ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness.

In the local context if there’s a tariff payable to ride a trail network, please pay it. Honesty boxes are common still, let’s not put an end to that by disrespecting the land owners. And when it comes to riding in Nature Reserves and National Parks, check the relevant park/reserve website first, most will explicitly state whether or not mountain biking is allowed.

2. Leave No Trace:

Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.

Which means, please carry out all wrappers, even in a race, littering on the trails is disgusting!

3. Control Your Bicycle: 

Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.

It’s essential that you know your skills, don’t put yourself or others on the trail at risk because you want to ride something (drop, technical features or gap jumps) that you just aren’t ready for. Be safe, not sorry!

4. Yield Appropriately:

Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.

When you ride a trail network for the first time take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the network’s particular rules for yielding, some places prefer that riders going up must yield, but if it’s not specifically indicated – riders going down should yield to riders going up. And again, be polite!

5. Never Scare Animals:

Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.

6. Plan Ahead:

Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.

Full Sus’s Golden Rule: Spread the stoke!

Help fellow riders if they have a problem, nod or smile hello to riders you pass and try to look like you’re having as good a time as you are. We want you and everyone you encountered on the trails to go home happy after a ride. 

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