The Culture of Mountain Biking Has Gone Astray

Ignorance is ruining the trails—and by standing idly by and letting it happen we’re all to blame.


Earlier this week, at the end of a particularly exhausting workday, I wheeled my bike out the back door of the shop, turned out the lights, closed the door, and pedaled in the general direction of dirt. I didn’t have a set target in mind, just knew that I needed some downtime to decompress, sort out the chaos in my head, incinerate a few endorphins, hopefully even take a break at a silent overlook. All in the name of recharging the spirit within.

The closest trailhead is less than a mile away and my most frequent objective: Getting onto dirt ASAP tops all else, usually. But as I approached Highway 340 I could see a line of cars stretching all the way back to Riverside Parkway, all lined up to turn left, all heading more or less for that same trailhead. I aborted that plan and stuck to the bike path awhile longer, thinking I could head up Miramonte—a less used entrance only a little further away—but heavy traffic deflected me away from there, too. So as the bike path ran out I found myself merging onto Little Park Road.

LPR is fairly steep as roads go in these parts. I’ve climbed it literally hundreds of times in the 20 years I’ve lived nearby. It used to be my preferred training ground, then when racing ended it became the quickest way of getting to some of the lesser used trails. That would be it’s purpose yesterday. As I labored up the grade, breath ragged and sweat stinging my eyes, I was passed by a virtually endless stream of diesel dualies, #vanlifers, and mini motorhomes, seemingly all with a pile of bikes hanging off their back ends. Shards of music pierced the air as each motored past, puffs of cigarette and dope smoke escaped the windows, there was even a (potentially unrelated?) stereotypical Red Bull can in the gutter adjacent to the steepest bit.  

Given that it was 5 p.m. on a weekday I had no good reason to expect any of this to be different. People—you, me, us —have been blowing off steam after work since forever.

But something about this day really made it obvious that the demographic that is “mountain bike users” has changed, shifted. My hope is that there still exist people who use bicycles to get out, get away, to find silence and solace in the mountains and the woods. I know that they must exist, I just don’t ever seem to cross paths with them no matter how far out I go. Thus their existence remains hypothetical and seems less likely by the day, as each successive ride shows more evidence of shredding endurbros skidding into corners and cheater-line creating (and maintaining) dolts veering off the trail and through sensitive soils — all in the name of shaving a few seconds so that their name climbs higher on an online list populated by similar miscreants.

When did we become this crowd? How are these actions in any way morally defensible? Has our demographic gone completely batshit in the past few years, selling our soul in exchange for a map that no longer shows us the way?

These were the questions swimming through my head as I did, eventually, find a sliver of silence and solace on last night’s ride. I can’t say that I discovered any answers—I don’t even think I’m yet asking the right questions—but I did, in that one silent moment spent catching my breath while overlooking the Gunnison River, draw one solid conclusion: 


We are failing.

Failing to educate new riders on etiquette.

Failing to criticize the actions of fellow riders.

Failing to listen when they criticize us.


Our trails are being systematically shredded—yes, by skidding endurbros, straightlining shuttle monkeys, and shortsighted stravassholes. And by an industry that “sells” the sport largely by glorifying the above abusers. But also by you, and by me, by remaining complicit in the shadows and not saying “enough.”

Please note that in every way here I have said “we” and “our” and “us,” because while it’s easy to point a finger and place blame on others, doing so solves nothing. The problem is us as a user group. Ignorance is ruining the trails: Whether we’re actively doing the damage or standing idly by and letting it happen, we’re all to blame.

Riding bikes is something I’ve done my whole life. In ways big and small, intentional and not, bikes have defined the trajectory of my time on earth. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Not to say that I don’t have regrets—I do. I regret that our sport hit the mainstream doing 100 mph and totally unprepared for the havoc that was about to be wrought. That our trails are being flooded by people who don’t understand what it took to get said trails, nor what it takes to keep them, nor do they seem to care. Mostly I regret that we don’t have the infrastructure to educate these people—not that many of them would listen.

What I would do, given a time machine and the ability to change the conversation in some meaningful way, is to slip back in time and plant some sort of a seed of understanding — some way of grasping what was coming—in the mind of someone influential in the sport 20 years ago. A John Tomac or Juli Furtado or Don Cuerdon or even—gasp_Zapata Espinoza. Maybe they could have done, or said, or pushed for something that would change the reality of where we are right now.

I don’t know exactly what I would say to them then. Nor does it matter now. Our sport has fundamentally changed, leaped the tracks you might even say, and nothing short of a wholesale reckoning is going to change that. Whatever words I might have conjured then would and do ring utterly hollow today, as we veer recklessly toward an unsustainable future.

I think most of us have been in denial about this wave of change even as it steamrolls our beloved local trails. It’s time to move on to acceptance—recognizing that the problem is real and not going away—so that we might begin to think about and craft a long-term plan. The biggest focus of such a plan would be on education, and specifically on recognizing that just getting people outdoors is no longer enough—you have to prepare them to behave appropriately and respectfully, toward both the land and each other, once out there.

I know better than to think that this little essay is going to be widely read. Nor do I believe that it will open the eyes of many who read it. But if it only reaches a few, and if a handful of those point the finger at themselves in recognization of the fact that we’re all to blame for our current state, then maybe we can begin to gain momentum toward a more sustainable future.

 

Mike Curiak is an endurance cyclist and wheelbuilder based in western Colorado. Read more from him at Lace Mine 29.
Showing 111 comments
  • Chris
    Reply

    i’m not a biker, but i feel your pain. snowboarding went through the same thing 15-20 years ago. but fortunately the growth doesn’t last forever and most of these people will move onto the next fad outdoor activity (rock climbing?), ruin that culture, then move on

    • Christopher
      Reply

      This is an excellent, thought provoking essay, and hit close to home for me. I am a Southern California cyclist but my son attended Colorado Mesa University, so I have spent my vacations over the last few years riding both my road and mountain bikes through this area and I can say that it is an incredible place to ride. I hope Chris’ reply above comes true because I think the only real solution is for the overall numbers to decrease and leave the people that are more passionate about, and dedicated to, the sport.

    • central
      Reply

      I hear ya. While I don’t ride much anymore, the same can be said about hikers/hiking. I think in general people are doing more outdoors stuff for a variety of reasons, some good, probably mostly bad (I’m thinking about social media idiocy here). These new people don’t understand etiquette AT ALL, or like you wrote about what it takes to get trails/access/parks and the maintenance that goes into them. Their ignorance disgusts me. There are days I don’t go out to the closest places because I just can’t deal with these assholes.

  • Bill
    Reply

    Thank You.

    • Jonathan
      Reply

      Alright, here is the deal. Like you said Mike, Mountain biking HAS changed, HAS evolved. However, the so call “etiquette” and trail “rules”, really HAVE NOT evolved. Example, back when the whole climbing up rider has preference over a downhill riding rider etiquette was created, bikes couldn’t do what what bikes can do today. It is 1000 times easier today for an average rider to ride 10 times faster down a trail because of what bikes have evolved to today. It is much easier to point down and let the bike do its “job”. Because of this change which that old etiquette never took into account, it is not possible nor sustainable to continue and expect the enforcement of such etiquette. The circumstances have changed, and thus rules and etiquette much also change and evolve. Because of what a modern long travel dual suspension bike can do today, the etiquette must be modified to take this into consideration. Because of the fact that when you are riding down a slope you will ride as fast as you possibly can, btw this point is NOT debatable, you can’t put “speed limits” or stupid stuff like that on the trails. Just like no roadie biker will be stopped by the cops because he is riding his bicycle 30mph on a 15mph. You can’t regulate a MTB biker to a certain speed in any trails, that is just a stupid idea.
      And so, taking this into consideration, the etiquette must be updated and take into account the PHYSICS of riding. Just like when a Car must yield to a Freight train, because of simple physics which state that a train cannot stop as quickly as a car can. A rider blasting down a trail on a modern bike, will not be able to stop nor move as easily as a rider climbing up. All a climbing rider has to do is put one foot down and lean towards the side. This take less than 0.5 seconds. The down riding rider should reduce speed, to safely pass but cannot be forced to stop. If you force to stop a down riding biker than you too are eroding and creating excessive ware and tare on the trails by most likely having the high speed average rider skid over the trails to try and come to a full stop. You can’t make this work anymore, that etiquette is obsolete and you can’t even physically enforce it because of how bikes have evolved and the speeds that now the average rider can ride at. It is UNSAFE to even think that you are forcing a down riding biker to come to a full stop the second they see a rider coming up the trail. Again, the down riding biker will instinctively slow down, so make a safe pass, if you get kissed because they didn’t stop, then you are stupid and you should stop riding if you can’t adapt to the evolution of the sport. Today, physics is what guides etiquette. Not just an opinion of who should do what. The rider who exerts the least amount of energy to move out of the way, is the one who MUST yield. Because it is SAFER. It is just like math, it’s very clear and transparent. It is not being an asshole, it is following what physics dictates as SAFER, whether you like it or not. Climbing riders shall yield to down riding bikers, and down riding biker shall slow down to safely pass a climbing rider. You don’t like this? Then go back on your time machine and ride back then. Today, this is the rule. Thanks.

      • Mike C
        Reply

        Jonathan-

        If you’re trolling, you’re doing an excellent job.

        If you’re serious, I think you’re drawing some flawed conclusions. And your conclusions are certainly not the rule, nor even in consideration.

        Because the bikes are more capable does not change the rules. If anything, because bikes are capable of such great speeds and control it is even more incumbent upon the rider to be aware of and able to stop on a dime — you never know who, or what, is just over that rise or around that blind corner.

        Also, because of the increased control afforded by suspension and tires, it is easier than ever for riders to stop when descending. And there’s no reason for them to do otherwise.

        • Blake
          Reply

          Mike, you had me until you replied to Jonathon and said that there’s no reason descending riders shouldn’t stop for ascenders. Maybe you don’t enjoy going fast, or maybe you’re hidebound by the old rules, but safety should prevail. And not just safety, respect. The reason that almost all of us ride is to achieve a sense of flow in the outdoors, and descending is single most important aspect of that – to ask that a fellow biker interrupt that so that I can continue my climb unabated is ridiculous. I would never ask someone to interrupt their descent because ‘it’s the old etiquette’ – it is simply too disrespectful. I know why they are there, and I respect that. To do otherwise just makes you a complete asshole.

          And just to be clear, I don’t have a Strava account.

          • Mike C

            I *often* yield to descending riders — especially when I’m solo and they are a bigger group. This minimizes erosion (one foot down instead of many) and — as you’ve pointed out — it keeps them flowing down the hill.

            That said, this is a courtesy that I (and others) extend situationally. It’s not a mandate, *it’s our prerogative*, and if I’m on a steep and/or techy bit where stopping my progress means I’m going to have to walk, or go back down to try again, then I reserve the right to carry on. Which means the time-tested rules of downhill traffic yielding apply.

            If someone comes charging down at me and makes no effort to stop, at the barest minimum they’re getting an earful as they pass. The Rules of the Trail have not been rescinded because of your entitlement delusions.

        • Racerhead
          Reply

          Doesn’t this discussion beg for directional trails?

          • Mike C

            To me, no — because I don’t think you can legislate common sense nor respect.

          • Mike E

            It’s interesting in the Essay that a discussion point is brought up about failing to listen to criticism and yet the standard stalwart “these were our rules and they’ll stay the rules” is brought up. I’ve been on steep bi-directional descents on extemely loose rock and realized “I’m in it, because there’s no way I can stop”. All I could do is slow down marginally without crashing, and the upward bound riders knew this and yielded. And, they were walking. It was really steep. Oddly, the trail was for bicycles only, but there were people on horses coming up the trail too…and they weren’t happy about us but there’s no way they could see our perspective.

            I have to share my local trails with equestrian, hunters, hikers, runners, dog walkers, hand cyclists, kids doing stunts, families going for their first real off road ride and more. It is an amazing way to use the public state park where I am and I love it. Everyone has to share and be aware of everyone else.

            I come up on people all the time that don’t know what they are doing. It is easy, way too easy to forget what it is like to experience that first moment of excitement and exhilaration you get when you first start riding. How easy it can be to tackle something that is way beyond your skill level because YOU JUST DON’T KNOW, and get seriously hurt.

            I never see any skills clinics or lessons being offered by the skilled long time riders. When people get up the courage to ask for help, people do respond, but a sentence or two that often doesn’t make sense to someone that doesn’t yet UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE. I’ve never seen any veteran of the sport in this area offer to do free skills clinics on a regular basis. The standard response is “just get with a group” which comes off as “go away I want to ride” to someone who is new to it all.

            There is ninjaskills or something that comes through on occasion. But isn’t that the antithesis of zen you are looking for? They’re building up people to tame the features, beat the Personal Records, get some sick footage for youtube, etc. But not about understanding the balance of the forest and the trail, not about the balance of wildlife and our place in it, not about the balance of a good workout versus the the mental challenge of the technical features versus just a relaxing ride where you breathe in the air and you really notice how it is different in every area of the forest, or how the light and vegetation changes as you ride?

            Anwar Sadat said ​”He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to
            change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress”.

            I do penetration testing for a living and have the same problem with people trying to do testing and security in general. I see tons of “experts” sitting around talking about how stupid these other people are. But the truly great ones are out there putting out advice and knowledge for free…because it is ridiculously hard to get started, veterans forget and romanticize their own beginnings, and classes are often total shit. I started and run a meetup group that I pay for myself specifically targeted at beginners where once a month or so we get together and just do hands on keyboard challenges. No class, no lecture, but I will talk about the theory, approach and tools, but the main focus is on them actually working through it themselves. everyone helps everyone else out. It isn’t great, but several have gained enough knowledge from there to really get started and get jobs in the field. its fun, non-judgmental, and a great way for people trying it to learn new skills, learn it isn’t flash and magic, and starts to build new talent in the field.

            With mountain biking, i’m learning. Have TONS to learn. I don’t know enough to ask the right questions or even understand the answers. a friend of mine was talking about drive-trains this weekend and I had to spend an hour or two looking up the differences in the terms for the chain rings, cassettes, teeth, etc. Mechanically I always saw it as a diameter/torque problem but bikers put it in terms of number of teeth. I had to figure out how to translate that. it wasn’t really easy. I’m watching youtubers like Seth, Alex, Brian, Phil and others to figure out how to do the basics and learn how to get through more advanced features safely. There are trail days here I go out for to do maintenance. Its fun to talk and put something back into the trails I get so much out of. You learn a little as you go too.

            But I’m now working on building some skills props to do somethings that are either just too big in the park or that I really need to work on repetitively.

            Its also been a very expensive and painful process to learn how to evaluate myself as being ready for a particular type of ride, and how to evaluate the trail conditions as well. Maybe sounds pretty stupid, but I always want to push myself physically, and knowing when I’m either too tired or not mentally ready, and when the trails are too slick or dusty for certain things has been pretty important. Things you take for granted many people new to the sport just don’t know.

            If you want change, reach out and do something, make it easy and approachable. You might be genuinely surprised at how many of those people you are frustrated with share your same ideals, they just lack guidance, direction, perspective, and someone experienced to talk to.

        • Jonathan
          Reply

          Hi Mike,

          Well if you think that challenging your upholding of outdated etiquette is trolling, then that’s fine by me and by all the rest of my fellow riders.

          The fact, even pointed out in your own post, is that mountain biking HAS changed. But you continue to try and uphold etiquette created decades ago, before there was even a single dual suspension bike.

          This is no different than trying to enforce 1930’s work laws in today’s work force, or 1930’s tax law in today’s tax law.

          Laws/regulations/guidelines must change and evolve together with the industry/market/customer.

          Mountain bike is no different.

          You say I have arrived at flawed conclusions, PROVE it Mike. In my post I explained and gave you concrete verifiable examples of why I am saying what I am saying. And it is independent of whether I exist or not. I am pointing out a universal truth, not just voicing an opinion.

          And I will repeat it in case u haven’t understood it completely.

          It is physically easier and safer for a climbing rider to step off the trail, than it is for a rider blasting down the trail to come to a complete stop.

          You can’t control how big the brakes, how new the tires, how big of a suspension, every rider has, and this is why you cannot assume that every rider can stop as quickly and efficiently as you point out.

          Even if you have the best bike with best components in the world, a rider riding up the hill will always be able to INSTANTLY put down a foot and lean to the side of the trail. And the downhill riding biker will always need a long distance to come to a complete stop.

          It is these facts that make it evident and true that the person on who the BIGGEST responsibility lies to give right of way, is that one which exerts the least amount of effort to avoid a collision. This is the climbing rider.

          Also take into consideration that a climbing rider has additional advantages. A climbing rider can hear a downhill riding rider coming down the trail. A downhill rider cannot physically hear anything riding up because of wind noise.

          A climbing rider should be responsible for being aware of the surroundings at all times because they are going slow and have the ability to instantly stop, they can hear much more far ahead. But it requires you paying attention.

          On the downhill riding biker, the responsibility is to know that there is a possibility that rindiera are coming up the hill. So they need to be ready to slow down to safely pass a climbing rider.
          But NEVER to be forced and actually come to a complete stop.

          It really is common sense, but since you don’t really seem to care about that, and all you do is show nostalgia for 30 year old etiquette. I can see you are very capricious at wanted to evolve, adapt and change your old ways.

          Cheers

          • Syd

            You yield to uphill riders because it’s way harder to start again on a techy uphill than it is on techy descent. This is not a terribly difficult concept to grasp. I race enduro for a living and I’ve figured it out… Obviously if the trail allows everyone to keep moving that is preferable. And if I’m on a non-technical climb and won’t have trouble re-starting I will happily yield for descending riders. But the rule exists for a reason and it’s not out-dated. This comment section has me banging my head on a wall.

        • Doug
          Reply

          So by extension all trail users must yield to downhill mtb?

      • Don
        Reply

        Jonathan—this. So much this.THANK YOU for saying this. Downhill riders yielding is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

        We need to update our thought process and “etiquette.” And instead of complaining about “endurbros” just because their type of two-wheel fun is different than yours, maybe we need to unite as mountain bikers instead of quibbling amongst ourselves and fight to have as many bike-only trails as there are hiker-only.

        And make them directional, so you don’t have yield conflicts, and it’s safer and more fun for everyone.

        I’m trying to appreciate the author’s position, but really just sounds like someone voting against their own interests/sport.

        • Don
          Reply

          p.s. I respect that you want to enjoy a mountain bike ride the way you do, but my point is that you shouldn’t force your idea of a fun ride on others, and criticize them for seeking adrenaline rather than solace. We should all be free to enjoy it the way we want, and if we have better trail access and a variety of trails built for bikes—from XC to downhill—we’ll all have more room and access to enjoy our style of riding. Let’s push for that instead of criticizing those members of our own sport who just enjoy it for different reasons. Not right or wrong, just different. We’re already a marginalized second-class user group in most places behind horses and hikers, let’s not make it worse by going after our own kind.

          • Mike C

            You make a great point Don — but I think you might be misconstruing my intentions.

            For you to take away that I’m criticizing people for seeking adrenaline rather than solace is to only have grasped the intro to what I wrote. Don’t confuse the examples I gave — which are merely what got me thinking about this — for scapegoating.

            If people can chase adrenaline while still adhering to the rules of the trail and not infringing on someone else’s right to enjoy the same trail at the same time, super — I’m all for it.

      • Andrew
        Reply

        This is a pretty silly argument. If you are going downhill and you truck someone and put them in the hospital, you are absolutely going to get cited and lose any potential case and pay their hospital bill. Please tell me you understand that. Your ending line of “Today, this is the rule..” is just nonsense because it is not the rule and no authority is going to recognize that.. I’m just glad that as a trail runner you always have to yield to me in any scenario, since, you know, you aren’t a horse. And I tip my hat to all of the very respectful riders I see when I’m out running. 9 out of 10 times you guys are great and we all get along and share a collective smile. And for the record, if I’m struggling running up something steep and a downhill rider comes down, most of the time I move out of the way for them. That being said, I am willing to bet that if I was flying up that hill you wouldn’t even notice, you would just fly by me and push me off and then we’d have to have words.

    • Alvaro Gutierrez
      Reply

      Chris, you are completely right! Mountain Biking is just a trend! Only the soul riders will stay! But also the sport has changed, technology, bikes, disciplines, and trails!

  • Ryan
    Reply

    If you are ever in Calgary, Alberta, Canada you will find that which you seek! Day trips to Kananaskis, Canmore, Fernie, Golden and beyond might have you packing up your belongings and calling our home your home. Our cycling groups even add the enjoyment of friendship and the odd beer to the adventure. Happy riding!!

    • Jean
      Reply

      Wait till the hoard of E-moped riders assault our trails here in Alberta…

    • Brian
      Reply

      But you Calgarians are who us Goldenites are trying to stay away from. Shoo!

    • Lonesome
      Reply

      Even though you make some valid points your response feels douchey.

      Enjoy the ride.

      Peace

  • L. Conley
    Reply

    It’s disheartening to realize that encouraging the unwashed masses to participate in our sport and to invade the places we love will be the death of both. It’s what humans do.

  • Chris
    Reply

    Mike, we agree 100%. We’ve lost count on how many times d-bags haven’t yielded to us while on a brutal climb (or any climb). No matter how many “this is who yields signs” there is it doesn’t matter. The attitude of “I’m having more fun and it’s SO EPIC so screw everyone” needs to go.
    I’m an Edurodude that loves making the climb for the rewarding bombing of the downhill. I learned trial etiquette early from my older brother who learner from his LBS group rides. Maybe we should reach out the the LBS and the manufacturers on the problems we are facing. The problem is… the manufacturer’s are encouraging this this with their advertising…..
    I’ll step down from the soapbox. Thanks for the great article.

  • Ben
    Reply

    Too many users, build and it and they will come, but all we ask is for more and better, it’s our problem because we are the problem, so we move to the smaller places, learn to appreciate the natural surfaces, avoid the common path … but they will always follow, it’s human nature.

  • @midnightgrizzly
    Reply

    spot on and exactly what I see throughout CO. thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    kindness = badass, if you ask me.

  • Mark
    Reply

    Sad but true. It’s similar to backcountry skiing these days. Just got go deeper back there – most bros like the trailheads more than the trails.

  • Kevin
    Reply

    Great article Mike. I mountain bike a lot less than I used to. The culture, crowds, and bikes that cost as much as a year of college have me trail running and hiking more than riding these days.

  • Hannah
    Reply

    I’ve just started mountain biking and absolutely love it. I typically use the outdoors as an escape from the masses but have also been finding it difficult to get away from the “endurbro” types who make learning the new sport pretty intimidating. I’d love suggestions on websites/blogs/places to go to learn mountain biking etiquette as it’s totally new to me. Any suggestions?

  • Steve Threndyle
    Reply

    Back in my college days, I recall an evening where I arrived late to the pub to join the boys, who of course were half in the bag. As I sat down and waited for my first beer, I sorta stood back from the scene and thought, “whoa, these guys are acting like assholes! I hope I’m not like that!” Well, of course, two hours later I totally WAS that guy, yelling and laughing and taking up too much space. And a lot of times, regardless of whether we’re riding mountain bikes, drinking beer, or involved in whatever group activity we might be passionate about, is that group behavior takes over. And a lot of times, that’s really a lot of fun. But when you’re doing stuff solo, you’re in a more observant mode. You are speaking the truth as you see it at a particularly unique time in your existence and your mind spools/extrapolates in a kind of confirmation bias. But, what I’ve noticed from time to time is that my own observations and emotions are just that – temporary. You can spool out all sorts of scenarios about people you are sharing the trail with, and see demons behind every tree and under every rock. But they’re just out there, living out loud. Yeah, they’ve likely seen too many YouTube videos and beer commercials, but haven’t we all? I don’t know that the golden era you mention actually ever existed, but certainly over-use can cramp a guy’s enjoyment. Hope you find more solitude in the days ahead. Good post.

    • Ben
      Reply

      There is nothing wrong with “living out loud”. That’s not the point. The real point as I see it is that we as a culture breed the individualistic “me first” attitude that lays waste to everything in the name of fulfillment. A society where “I matter more than you” is destined for a lot of pain. This is what you are seeing on the trails, but it is everywhere. It’s on highways, parking lots, politics. You had a moment of clarity in your self reflection at the pub. That’s a good place to start.

      • Davo
        Reply

        Hits nail on head!

  • Kevin
    Reply

    I hear similar commentary about back country skiing, my sport of choice, but in practice, see very little bad behavior except at roadside spots, even in the very busy Front Range zones I frequent. And in almost every instance, a one mile hike or skin brings almost complete solitude. Only caveat is that I don’t ski on weekends 🙂

  • Dave
    Reply

    The first time reading this article I couldn’t make it more than a quarter of the way through. Mountain biking is about fun/solace/escape/effort, and on and on. It isn’t up to one person to say what it should or shouldn’t be and this article screams to me of a person who wants it there way and isn’t happy because everyone isn’t listening to them. And the amount of judgement coming through the lines of your article illustrate how you have pigeonholed those people you haven’t interacted with and haven’t taken the time to understand. Mountain biking is a growing sport and should be open to all who choose to participate, without the qualifying endorsement of others. I agree that we should all be more aware and intentional with how we treat our trails but this article isn’t going to help that discussion. Tone back the judgement, remove the self.

    • Ben
      Reply

      I couldn’t disagree with you more.

      • Jeffs
        Reply

        Thanks Dave. You just spared me the energy.

    • Tim
      Reply

      Much agree myself. The tone is a bit selfish sounding, that the hordes have invaded the trails. It’s the same around the UK. It’s just mountain biking has become massively popular. There are issues in some places with respecting the trails / land and other users, but in the main it’s very satisfying to see so many people enjoying the outdoors, of all ages and gender, and also helping out people new to the area, showing them the trails. It’s become a very social activity. Though I love the solitude of a solo ride and can find places and times to do that, it’s not my right to have it all to myself.

      • Rob
        Reply

        A person who seems to want everyone to treat others and the environment with respect is now “selfish”?!

        smh

        • Dave
          Reply

          Labeling someone as an ‘Endur-bro’ doesn’t seem very respectful to me. I think the discussion is a good one to have, and I think the people that are expressing their thoughts here are helping with that. But there are constructive ways to discuss and disagree and there are deconstructive ways and me personally, I find that starting a discussion by throwing out labels and lamenting the way ‘things used to be’ (which comes at the expense of those of us new to the sport) is not constructive.

          • Rob

            I don’t think intentionally misinterpreting this essay is constructive either.

            “Please note that in every way here I have said “we” and “our” and “us,” because while it’s easy to point a finger and place blame on others, doing so solves nothing. The problem is us as a user group.”

            “which comes at the expense of those of us new to the sport” ?? He’s saying EVERYONE is responsible.

            Whining about silly “labels” and intentional misinterpretations are not very constructive either imho

  • James Allen
    Reply

    Spot on man… and you ARE being heard. I shared this with my group of old-school riders as we were having a similar discussion thread earlier about this very topic.

    I certainly don’t know the answer either, as it’s not an easy one. It requires a paradigm shift at the foundation of how we (as humans) wish to engage with others. It’s convincing complete strangers to show and act with empathy toward everyone else… and THAT seems to be where the foundation of our society-at-large is crumbling most.

  • Gary
    Reply

    I live in a smaller place – and love it.

  • Sprinterfalia
    Reply

    I have been mountain biking since the mid eighties. Here in North Van in the late eighties early nineties if you ran into someone on the trails you’d stop and chat because you were such a minority. Now people hardly nod or say hello and mountain biking has fractured into user groups. What ever happened to ride, don’t slide. I see the same on the local mountains outside the ski hill boundaries where we used to tour. Now over run by snowshoers walking all over the place and destroying the skin track. No one is taught any Ettiquette. A mentoring suggestion is now seen as an attack on ones freedom to do whatever they Fing please.

    • Ben
      Reply

      ” A mentoring suggestion is now seen as an attack on ones freedom to do whatever they Fing please.” Exactly. We live in a culture of entitlement,”

  • Sam
    Reply

    Maybe this is true in your part of the country, but not in New England. The new interest in the sport has spawned a huge wave of new trail systems, and added thousands of miles to existing old school trail systems. I’ve been riding in New England and Eastern Canada for the past 30 years, and it’s absolutely never been better than it is right now. Sure, there are plenty of young aggressive riders, as there are old aggressive riders and sometimes they are annoying, but on the whole it’s been a huge boon to riding in this region, and I’ve seen that across the country in places like Bentonville, and Sedona, and other hot spots I’ve visited over the past decades. Education of the newcomers to the sport would be great, and is needed, but my suggestion would be to get used to this new dynamic in the sport and to embrace the newcomers, because they are the future.

    • Doug
      Reply

      I agree with Sam. I’ve been riding since the early 90s when I cut my teeth on old-school single track in the mountains surrounding Penn State. I live in Northeast Ohio now and new trails are being built, including the first machine cut trail system in a national park (East Rim/Cuyahoga Valley). I have never seen as much optimism and opportunities for mountain bikers as there is today, and generally find most riders to be polite and respectful. However, in my 25 years of riding, I’ve learned to pick out the righteous types who seem to have a problem with everyone and think that they own the trails. Like those who’ve moved into pristine areas and want to slam the door behind them so no one else can come in.

  • Thomas
    Reply

    I don’t mountain bike any more because I live in a big, flat city without trails, but I think the problem is with cycling in general. I see two main groups of people who are bad for cycling: jocks/jockettes, because to them it’s all about how bad they are; and gearheads, because to them it’s all about the fashion. So I mostly ride my cheap mountain bike shaped object on my own and when I see jock/jockette and gearhead tendencies in those I do ride with, I try to ignore them. Maybe over time, they will leave the sport or cause others to and it will be better.

  • Soul Rider
    Reply

    Great write up… I agree.

    Also – 85% of recreational mountain bikers are over-equipped. They have way more bike than they really need. Yes it’s human nature and true in many parts of our lives… but it always fascinates me when i’m out riding some local rather timid single track on my cyclocross bike and pass by guys with huge suspension, full faced helmets, etc. You used to have to pick lines and navigate, now not so much – just point and hold on.

    There may be hope in the emergence of the gravel riding and bike-packing scenes. While it’s more about getting predominantly road riders out into the dirt — there’s a spirt and soulfulness about it that resembles those early days of mountain biking. It too has it’s cliches and ‘bro’-ness about it — but since it requires a ton of hard pedaling it immediately eliminates a large portion of the gravity-centrics.

    I’ve also heard that a lot of the big bike companies are recommitting to XC low suspensions bikes in the coming year — likely to capture some of that gravel/packing trendiness — but good for image resetting possibly.

    btw – follow Salsa bikes lead and the whole scene up there in the upper midwest — it’s packed full of the soulness and adventure you speak of. there are glimmers and pockets around.

  • Steve
    Reply

    This article starts with a false premise. Buying a bike does not make you a biker. Having said that, how do you share the joys of biking without attracting others to the sport. It is easy to claim that others don’t deserve the same gratification that we get from a long uphill grind followed by a nice, flowing descent, and maybe they don’t, but who are we to say that we are the only ones that are worthy? If you want solitude, go somewhere that you have to work to get to. Trust me, you’ll find the solace you seek.

    • Rob
      Reply

      perhaps, until the bros with electric mtbikes show up 😉 and you know they will

  • Jim
    Reply

    The “endurbro” shred fest is unappealing to me, but the 15 year old equivalent (Shaun Palmer maybe?) was 100% appealing to me as a late-teenager starting out in the sport. The bikes weren’t nearly as good, but the perceived lifestyle and intent was the same. It got me into the sport, racing DH in particular, and through that participation, I grew up. Now, after lusting after the latest Yeti DH bike for numerous years, I ride a fully rigid XC, and my main goal is long days in the saddle, exploring, and zenning out in the woods, probably more in line with how the author wishes to participate in the sport. The spectrum of participation has always been broad, and the culture always evolving. Your way isn’t right, and their way isn’t wrong. This article smacks of “back-in-my-day”. I agree with Dave’s comment above. Quit judging and influence through inclusiveness. At least the endurbros are out in the woods, enjoying nature in their own way. As a result, their participation, and mountain biking culture, will only evolve further.

    • Rita
      Reply

      This. 100% this!! There are as many types of riders as there are bikes to ride. Being respectful to others and the trails we ride on is what matters most. Each person gets something different out of mtn biking. For some, it’s long days in the saddle on an xc rig pedalling until their legs give out. For others, it’s hitting a gnarly drop or hauling *ss down to the bottom. To each his own, I say. I don’t agree with making Strava lines or not yielding to others – that is disrespectful. I also think it’s disrespectful to climb a trail who’s preferred direction is DH on a given day. (You know who you are.) Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Get out there, have fun, and let others have fun too!

  • Jason
    Reply

    A simple sign adorns all the trails in my area: Don’t ride when wet.
    Doesn’t seem to dissuade the new crowd. Then they complain that the trails are a mess all summer and why doesn’t anyone maintain them?…..grrrrrr…….

    This article is so true, but I suspect a little bit of preaching to the choir is going on as the typical MTB rider doesn’t read AJ.

    I’m guilty of bringing literally HUNDREDS of people into the sport. Been riding for 30 years, told all my friends through the years about how amazing it is, most are still riding.
    Trails certainly are better than they were back in the day!

  • John
    Reply

    One of the big problems that is not mentioned is that a contingent of the bike community and bike industry have been behind the lobby to open designated Wilderness to bicycles. I’ve been cycling my whole life, have a stable of bikes, but I adamantly believe that bicycles do not belong in Wilderness. Anyone reading this article can attest to trail damage and the unthinking riders that hew new routes and ride in the mud and wreck the natural growth. I’m not saying horses and people cause damage as well. But what I am saying is the The Wilderness Act specifically calls for traditional uses of non-motorized recreation (walking and horses). I am not interested in seeing bikers in Wilderness at all. I am not interested in watering down The Wilderness Act just so bikers can ride across pristine alpine terrain. Get off your damn bike and walk, take a look around at the subtle life around you, rather than flying down mountains, just for the sake of it. http://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/363779-americas-wilderness-is-no-place-for-motorized-mountain-bikes
    https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/do-bikes-belong-wilderness-areas

    • John Fisch
      Reply

      First, the proportion of bad cyclists is greatly exaggerated here. Second, the bad cyclists are not the ones who are willing to expend their sweat equity to access truly remote and rugged places under their own power. And that’s the key here— human powered. As for trail damage, multiple independent studies confirm cycling impact to be similar to hiking and far less than equestrian use. Nothing destroys muddy trail like a 1200lb horse. Destroying new growth? Both hikers and equestrians are far more likely to go off trail than hikers.

      Your whole post reeks of “my way is the only true way” elitism. I’ve been hiking two decades longer than I’ve been biking, and yet I’ve seen everything from the seat of my bike that I have from the soles of my boots. For you to claim that one is incapable of properly enjoying the Wilderness on a bike is false and prejudicial.

      Even Edward Abbey said “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists will in a hundred miles.”

      • Rob
        Reply

        effectively shouts down person with no hint of irony

    • Tammi
      Reply

      Amen. Keep bikes out of designated wilderness areas. Thank you

  • Tristan
    Reply

    Great article, hits home here in Western North Carolina

    • Lance
      Reply

      if what the article describes is the actual state of mountain biking I would agree with you. I left Colorado a decade ago to move to rural Montana. So far this year I have yet to cross paths with another person on the trail (whether on foot, horseback or wheels) so far this spring, so my mountain bike experience is the total opposite of what is described here. I don’t think we can generalize the Gunnison/Crested Butte/Jackson/ Sun Valley/insert popular mountain town here and say that is representative of mountain biking everywhere to argue against bikes in Wilderness. Now there are plenty of wilderness areas close to urban area that are already over stressed and adding bikes would be a really bad idea. I also know of trails that see less than 100 visits a year and those are mostly by outfitters during hunting season. Before it became a wilderness areas the White Clouds had a 20 year history fo mountain bike use and the trails and the experiences there were not degraded by bikes. (As a aside, I have been told by people who have been there since it has been closed to bikes to don’t bother hiking there. That the area is now dominated by outfitters and horse crap, and that to enjoy the area now you need to pay for the privilege. I will say that is one anecdote, so take it for what it is)

      Plus if the management of wilderness was restricted to designated wilderness the restrictions might make sense, but now Wilderness Study Areas and recommended wilderness is now being closed to bikes, and some more zealous wilderness groups also want Inventoried Roadless Areas closed to bikes as well. The areas are home to trails where bikes are traditional uses. When the FS closed 180 miles of trail to bikes surrounding my home, one of the groups advocating for these closures argued that the fact they couldn’t find any impact from bikes meant that we weren’t using the trails enough to warrant our continued use. As far as the “bike industry” pushing for bikes in wilderness, that is laughable. Those of us who advocate for access to “wilderness” trails where we are an established use have seen zero support from the industry. There simply isn’t much money or bikes to be sold to the small contingent of mountain bikers who want to ride primitive trails in remote hard to access locations.

      • Joel
        Reply

        The boulder white clouds still have extensive network of trails open to mountain bikes. What the sun valley crowd complained about was the castle divide section closure and ants basin. Contrary to the comment about outfitters and horse crap is not factual. I ride and hike there extensively every summer and it is fairly underused except for the lake basins on weekends

  • Tall old guy
    Reply

    Very timely, i thought I was just becoming any angry old white man as climbed up what used to be a tight tricky uphill in the Santa Cruz Mountains yesterday and noted that in the first 4 months of the year, the downhill lines had become blown out and numerous, with multiple choices ripped into new soil that won’t hold during rainy season and will eventually if not sooner cause the trail to be impassable up or close. I don’t begrudge the traffic and increased interest in the sport, but the complete disrespect for the trails, the builders, and at its core others, is something that threatens to push me out to BLM roads on my cross bike. The reality of increased pressure on near urban trails is just math unfortunately. What can we do? Individually, role model and as you help novice riders get started, teach. As a group, advocacy groups may want to take on trail etiquette campaigns with education on the simple “rules of the trail” Naive as it sounds , a little bit of education with convert a few on the margin. We’ll never fix complete Dbags, but Karma takes care of them eventually.

  • robert
    Reply

    I think patience will win out in the end. people in the their 20s get a career type job, get fired up and buy a bunch of gear and become weekend warriors in one activity or another. in 10 years they will have kids, a gut and spend more time on the couch watching tv. the following generations usually avoid what the previous one is “into”

    in the 80s you couldn’t stroll along the paved walkways in central park without some rollerblader zipping past you…:-)

  • Scott Triplett
    Reply

    This is becoming a common occurance in all our outdoor sports. From Mountain Biking, Backpacking, Climbing, Fishing, and Bowhunting. In your essay you could have changed Mountain Biking to anyother outdoor pursuit and it would read in the same way. It troubles me so.

  • Kyle
    Reply

    Thanks, old white guy for internet scolding a bunch of people. Mountain biking is not yours to tell others what to do with.

    Also, wasn’t it pretty much invented by a bunch of weed heads in California trying to (and still doing it) ride bootleg trails where they weren’t allowed? You do not speak for me. Go have fun in the woods, however you do that.

  • Maureen
    Reply

    What has happened to ‘pack it in, pack it out ‘? To: Do no harm? Several years back some pro mountain biker decided the trails in the cities Garden if the Gods wasn’t ‘good enough’, so he and his crew team reeked havoc making their own trails. Luckily, there were enough voices and photos to capture his A** and he paid heavily for the destruction he created.
    Enjoy, don’t destroy….

    • John Fisch
      Reply

      Not sure what you’re talking about here. When the knuckleheads were discovered, within 48 hours an army of mountain bikers mobilized, obliterated the bandit trails, and restored the affected land.

      Meanwhile in Colorado Springs, hikers are going off trail daily, creating bandit trails, cutting switchbacks, throwing butts/roaches into dry vegetation, etc. and you don’t see any such response from the hiking community.

  • Uber Mario
    Reply

    Me me me. That’s what this is all about. A culture of entitlement and instant gratification. Selfies, YouTube, gopros, weed, don’t say it’s my problem it’s you who has the problem, online mentality of say anything do anything. Nobody earns things these days, they demand it.

    We cut the trails we fought for advocacy, we pioneered the sport, watched it explode and then watched it crumble. The purists stayed, the Shawn Palmer extreme Dew types faded. Now we have a new generation, fat bikes, 29ers, more wheel sizes of the month, and amazing tech all being picked up by the hybrid car generation.

    Took forever to get my son to want to ride a bike, now he has his first Haro and I see that twinkle in his eye as he is finding dirt. Face it it’s hard to get a kid excited about this mechanical thing that can cause pain versus the fantasy of doing fantastical things on a video game. We didnt have that. This generation is programmed by extreme video games and Red bull canyon jumping YouTube vids… Our extremes are their norms.

    This group will fade, trails will close, trails will reopen and such continues the cycle of life. Unfortunately, myself, the author and others are now what we used to call Sunday driver’s. We are the old farts going 25 in a 55.

    Those darn punky kids!!

  • NRHS Dan
    Reply

    I guess the poor author has not realized that todays 30 and under crowd have been told “it’s all about me” so much that they just do not care about others opinions.

    • John Fisch
      Reply

      It’s always very telling when hikers who want trails all to themselves accuse the other of being all about “me me me.”

      • Rob
        Reply

        It’s even more telling when someone has to build a straw man to knock down in order to counter things he disagrees with.

        Who said, “hikers who want trails all to themselves”? Oh right, you did

  • Jim Klaas
    Reply

    Turn the phone off and go get lost while you still can. We are in the Golden Age Of Trail Building. I ride solo… the views, the sounds, the hidden streams and ponds…. if I could change one thing… it would be to encourage people to turn off their phones. If I bump into somebody along the trail about to drop into the next section, I always say hello, wow what a great day huh! Or did you see those elk back there on the ridge…. etc….. sadly, most of the time they can’t hear me because they are plugged in. I guess it comes with numbers…. I just adjust when and where I ride. 183 beats per minute will definitely get you up the hill faster but you just missed a little bobcat back a switchback or two….. that’s it for me, now it is time to ride and take my lab Merlin for a ride that always ends with a swim in Wizards Pond. We live in an incredibly beautiful world.

  • Steve
    Reply

    I have a lot of respect for Mike Curiak but he has embarrassed himself here a little. One of the painful parts of life is observing change in the things you love… remembering how it was, lamenting the kids these days that ‘just dont get it’. You can choose to find the good, or become the grumpy old man. Regardless of your choice, time marches on and few things stay the same. As others have mentioned, some of MTB’s earliest pioneers were dope smokers skidding around corners while doing timed descents. Based on the tone of this (and some other) posts by Mike, I’m sure he’d take one look at me and immediately lump me in with the Enduro bro’s. Well, turns out some of us like to shred some days and go deep in the backcountry on other days, sitting silently and absorbing (and respecting) the natural landscape. Yeah, and we volunteer to build / maintain trails, too. Perhaps Mike should be grateful that the masses DON’T understand how good the backcountry is… because if they did then even the remote trails would be -gasp- too crowded!

    • Mike C
      Reply

      I stand behind what I’ve written here, Steve. For you to take away that I’m a grumpy old man unwilling to accept change is to only have grasped the intro to what I wrote. Don’t confuse the examples I gave — which are merely what got me thinking about this — for scapegoating. I said it clearly — we’re all to blame. Whether we can effect positive change from this point going forward is the question. It’s up to us.

      • JayC
        Reply

        I appreciate your eloquent voice, Mike. I have seen undesirable changes to our trails/users in the short 5 years I’ve lived here. Something has to give.

  • Ty Miller
    Reply

    Well Some seems entitled.

  • Dennis
    Reply

    You realize there is a huge mountain bike event going on at the time you wrote this, right? While I agree that the trails are suffering from d-bags, Strava is a tool of the devil himself (can I get some kudos for that?), and that there needs to be a lot more education in sustainability – especially in the more fragile areas like the desert; I would like to offer a counter-point if I may.

    The mainstream popularity of mountain biking has led to incredible technology and more money going into trails than ever before. Grand Junction and Fruita were discovered and abused a long time ago, not to mention Moab. But now that the economic impact of the mountain bike tourism is being realized, the amount of maintenance going into the trails has increased significantly in just the last 5 years. If people weren’t flooding in every weekend from the big population centers spending money on food and hotel rooms, do you really think there would be funded trail crews out there keeping things in shape? If anything some of the better trails have been over-maintained and sanitized badly.

    Plus it takes almost no effort to avoid crowds in GJ. Just go more than 3 miles from the parking lot, and you’ll be alone for hours.

  • Eric
    Reply

    Working on trail is by far one of the most rewarding things that I do and when I first started riding it really opened my eyes to the effort it takes, understanding of nature, and the fact that my ability to ride only exists because of other’s hard work before me. I am thankful and show this by making sure I build and contribute where I can.

  • Robert
    Reply

    Well said.Im not a downhiller or enduro guy, I just love being out on the trail. I’m an old man riding for over 40 years and there never was a time that there wasnt the one rude,obnoxious guy seeming to be out to ruin your ride.
    But that’s everywhere in life. If you are riding to the trails from your house then it seems logical others are going to do the same This kinda of reminds me of the hiker backpacking up Barr trail to do an overnight half way up Pikes Peak. He was complaining about others not knowing trail etiquette and giving way to him. Honestly if you are on one of the most popular trails in town ( country for that matter) and complain about your “wilderness adventure” being ruined, maybe you’re in the wrong place.

  • S. Lengyel
    Reply

    This just isn’t about bikes.

    It’s about all outdoor users and the explosion of interest in the outdoors. Bad behavior and poor ethics are rampant in a new generation of outdoor users. The new generation of hikers is just as bad. It’s such a complex issue- part technology, part social media FOMO, part instagram driven narcissism, partly that there are no secrets in an internet connected world, partly a lack of mentorship, partly a generation seeking instant gratification.

    On hiking trails where I never used to see anyone, I now see graffiti, trash, used toilet paper. Popular trailheads are now packed with Instagram selfie stick hikers. Backcountry ski trailheads are a zoo. When SUPs became popular, my local surf break started to see people who had no idea how a surf lineup worked. This was an issue with prone surfers too, dropping in without looking, showing up at advanced breaks with WaveStorms.

    I was just out on the bike today to find that motos were out roosting all the bike trails and tearing up meadows. And in the winter the snowmobiles tear up the XC ski trails and spin endless circles in the meadows.

    I feel like there’s been an explosion of interest in outdoor recreation. There is a whole new crop of outdoor users who haven’t had to pay their dues, who have no mentorship on backcountry ethics.

    So yeah, it isn’t just bikes. It’s across the outdoor spectrum…

    P.S. Don’t be surprised to find the anti-bike zealots copy/pasting your words to make the argument for banning bikes.

    • Mike O'
      Reply

      E bikes are gonna give people who don’t like bikes on the trails many victories. The industry is in on it and going to bring us all down chasing short term profit.

    • Dave
      Reply

      Regrettably, of all the responses, this one nailed it best. You dropped the Mic. When a Strava time is deemed more important than the hiker, horse, dog, child or rider coming up the trail the result will eventually lead to an accident and loss of trail access. A $7k bike and a Strava account doesn’ exempt one from courtesy and consideration or the Eurobros will destroy so much of the multi use access previous groups have worked so hard to obtain.

  • Pat
    Reply

    I took up mountain biking when I saw a guy ride his rock hopper up the Alpspitz in Garmish in 87. No susupension sorta big tires and crappy gearing. After a dozen or so MTBs with suspension, I am back to no suspension and sorta big tires on my gravel Niner RLT (way better gearing though)
    I think that we all would like to be able to do the things we want in the MTB arena, however we need to be very aware that when we disrespect the others using the trails whether it is hikers horses or bikers we all lose. I used to ride Buffalo Creek Rec area outside of Denver. It was a great XC area that had a little tech area. Now it has more tech and the guys/gals will not pull off coming downhill and will take a “b” route around you causing damage to the surrounding area.
    We can lose our privileges if we piss off the wrong people and no amount of crying will get it back.
    Kinda miss the old days of riding, camping, and fun we had in the 80-90s.

  • Colin
    Reply

    Thank you I could not have said it better myself, I’m 15 so obviously relatively new to mountain biking. However I completely agree this is blatant butchery of the sport we use to decompress and process and turning it into the very things we process and decompress about. People are completely disrespecting nature and the people that do shouldn’t have the power to. There isn’t much we can do but tell others and repeats nature and the port ourselves. Thank you bill.

  • Gabe
    Reply

    If you outside having fun, then whatever, thats all thats important. As long as people are smiling at each other, watching out for each others safety, and lending a helping hand when needed…then its all good. I ride a couple days a week, and mostly see good vibes on the trail regardless of riding styles or rig. The climbing world…not so much!

  • Mike
    Reply

    Eric’s reply is spot on. Here in the UK we have huge numbers of foot and bridle paths, carefully maintained by the local residents. Cutting back hedges, filling deep holes. Sadly, the motorised brigades instantly say to themselves ‘ hey, a new place to go!’ So arrive lines of guys on x country motor bikes, clubs and individuals in modified hill climb vehicles, all roaring and skidding and sliding along the little tracks. The wetter and more difficult the better. Having done the max damage for the day, they clear off to the next track on their list.
    They owe no responsibility to local communities and are happy to freeload.
    Universal problem. Universal mobility. In the end, the facilities are destroyed for everybody. Sad.

  • Aaron Mattix
    Reply

    I don’t think it is that our demographic has gone batshit, so much as it has become broader, thereby encompassing more of what I call the “Asshole Quotient.” Assholes are only attracted to things that are popular, whether it be religion, recreation, or politics. Scenes that are relatively small, and underdeveloped, as a general rule, do not attract many assholes by virtue of the effort required to become a part of the scene. The effort of seeking out the uncommon tends to inculcate one with the code of conduct that governs the niche in question. As the niche moves closer to the mainstream, less effort is required to seek it out, and fewer of the unspoken, but understood rules are transferred to newcomers.

    The recent ruckus over Bears Ear’s is a parallel example. Whether it becomes a National Monument, or a giant drilling lease, the process of thrusting it into the national spotlight has pretty much guaranteed that whatever was special about that place will be crushed by the common hordes seeking it out.

  • Ryan
    Reply

    pretty tough to read. got to be more careful so legitimate concerns do not come across as “people mountain biking now are not as awesome, pure and hardcore as me”

  • Jay
    Reply

    Paul Petzoldt – founder of NOLS and present when the Wilderness act of 1964 was signed – knew that Just designating an area a Wilderness would not save it or the experience. This was a big reason for his founding the National Outdoor Leadership school – to teach proper techniques (some of which he learned/developed in the early years of the school and it led to LNT) and the ethics, which would help save the land and leave it in the same state for the next people there.
    Still, the increasing population of the World, the outdoor industry and such – shows that even If everyone practiced LNT, wilderness ethics and so forth – eventually the Numbers overwhelm the lands capacity to provide what people are looking for. Then it becomes a competition/war to Get What “I” Want and FU…

  • Joe P
    Reply

    They’ll be no turning back the clock.
    They’ll be no righteous education or self-policing.
    MTB’ers meet the requirements to be classified as invasive species.

  • Marcin
    Reply

    To writer – Can I have Your permission to translate it to Polish ?
    Best Regards from Poland !

    • mike c
      Reply

      Yes, please do.

  • Goat
    Reply

    We can try to educate those already riding. The endurobros, shuttlers, etc. But something we can all do right now is recruit and educate new riders. I am getting IMBA BICP L1 certified in 2 weeks. Teaching my first official Beginner’s Intro to Mountain Biking class a week after that. I will teach/preach things like Etiquette, Advocacy, Volunteerism along with basic skills. I’m 52. I’ve been riding for 20+ years and I’ve seen the “erosion” (pun intended) of just ridiculously basic tenants of mountain biking and I intend to do something about it. I’m also on the board of the local IMBA chapter. I also regularly promote and recruit for tail maintenance days. Nothing says “This trail is ours and demands respect.” like actually investing your own valuable time and effort shoveling dirt.

  • Nancy
    Reply

    I was a mt biker for years until I was able to get a horse. 95% of the bikers I come across are just awesome, friendly and happy to share the trails. Unfortunately, that 5% could hurt me or my horse or themselves. And they just do not care. And also unfortunately, this behavior is not limited to mt biking – it is an epidemic in the US today. I beg each and every one of us to parent strongly, stand up for what is right and always be kind.

  • doug moore
    Reply

    Don’t bomb down too fast.
    Don’t clip other hikers and bikers
    Up-hillers of all kinds – have the right of way
    Mini cow bell helps on crowded trails when descending
    Don’t skid your tires unless you have to
    Pick up your trash, don’t litter
    Don’t get to wasted, be in control.
    Don’t jack up the trail with jumps and ramps unless you have permission
    Be nice.

    It matters not how modern your bike is, etiquette will never really change.

  • James
    Reply

    Mike – Thank you for a great article and 100% agree that : “We are failing / Failing to educate new riders on etiquette / Failing to criticize the actions of fellow riders / Failing to listen when they criticize us”. Living just up the hill from Denver, more and more of these behaviors are experienced and that needs to change. One of the other issues cropping up is the backlash one receives when trying to educate or criticize – some pretty in your face.
    We need to be relentless and overcome as there will be more of us going forward. Hope to run into you in CO sometime.

  • Saleeda
    Reply

    It’s an immutable law of nature that there are a-holes in every crowd. Let’s say I see someone that looks like they are struggling to make their way downhill. I’m not going to get upset if they don’t get out of my uphill way. It’s also discouraging when you are on a basically contour line trail with ever so subtle of a rise and get the stink eye and snarky comments from on oncoming rider who deems themselves to have downhill right of way. Trail etiquette should be infused with a heavy dose of common sense and simple decency. And I agree with those who say this crisis in etiquette crosses sports boundaries. Anyone been to a climbing crag these days? Especially sport? Yikes! At the end of the day though, I am guessing many of the commenters on this article have some well-earned scars from access battles “back in the day.” For all of you and the newer or younger writers in this thread who may have not yet engaged to protect, maintain or open trails (excluding Wilderness), I implore all of you to keep paying attention to what’s going on in your neck of the woods and keep advocating to keep the public in public lands as passionately as you have opined here.

  • Andy
    Reply

    Mike, I finally took the time to read and then re-read this essay. Well said and thank you for not pointing fingers, this is all of us in some way.

    As a user of all things outdoors and part public safety I have been finding it difficult to decide how best to educate the public. This is something I find increasingly necessary in the world at large and something that just becomes apparent in the aforementioned aspects of my life all-to-often. I would love to hear more on your perspective of how to educate the public and not just by talking at people. If you ever want to start a dialogue please let me know.

    Also hell of a weekend in GJ to escape the crowds, also damn fine new trails you guys got over there this year, got to sample a good portion in the race.

  • Buzz Morasca
    Reply

    I first read this on the Big Wheel building blog and there is a comment there by Matthew about the irony of this post, which Mike asks how or why it exists. I have followed more digital trail crumbs left by Big Wheel Building than you will ever know, Utah, Colorado and recently Nevada. I have adopted 29″ wheels and now + size tires for info I have found on BWB. Honestly, the only reason I come to BWB any more is for the chance of info that might help me stay ahead of the hordes or for a picture of sweet Jeny smiling like a cheshire cat as she tears up some crazy ass terrain! Really. On May 7th Mike posted a photo essay on BWB about a wonderful day at a place that he says,”I’ve been singing the praises of this ride for 15+ years.”, and , “From that I can only conclude that “mountain bikers” aren’t into this sort of thing. Which is just boggling to me.” Although he was careful not to actually divulge the actual location I’m pretty much sure I know what it was having followed some BWB digital crumbs to it myself a few years ago. A double black diamond ride if there ever was. Talk about never crying wolf.

    In 1991 the population of Grand Junction was 31,004, in 2000 when I first went there following trail crumbs from the Space Cowgirl and her pals it was 45,652 and in 2016 it was 61,881. How can you not see this as a factor in the overcrowding of any popular outdoor activity, especially by those who were essentially *front runners* of those pursuits and now calling for “education” of the masses and returning to the “good old days”? I can only laugh.

    So because I ride a bike I am like ‘you’? And because I ride a bike ‘we’ must do something?

    How about this: leave your phone or camera at home or in your pocket and when you find your bliss or solace turn quietly and leave it where you found it.

    • Mike C
      Reply

      I think you’ve made a good point or two here, Buzz, but I’m not sure what exactly they are. Either you’re being too subtle or I’m just too dense. Paint a clearer picture for me?

  • LesH
    Reply

    I’m not a mountain biker. I ride one and love trail riding but it’s number three or four on the things I do. Same with hiking. Great idea on weekdays in obscure places when nobody’s around. Point being that when you are using trails you are committed to a 2 ft wide zone that guarantees interaction if there’s anyone else out there. My salvation has been kayaking; sea or river or lake. Even on weekends and/or urban environment with motor traffic around you can retain separation. Also the etiquette(rules in this case) are defined and enforceable. If the being “out there” is more important than the Strava time, think ice fishing, scuba diving, hang gliding or kayaking.

  • JFR
    Reply

    every day population grows, just accept that,40 years ago, all of you in your 20’s were the first mountain bikers, campers, rock climbers, snow boarders, overlanders, hikers, etc etc, and the trails were empty just for you we get that, guess what, 40 years later you keep going to the trails and now you take your children and they take their children, stop talking about the golden years when everybody was a gentleman, we are still gentlemans but in huge quantities, and everything turns into a small chaos, get over it, stop making babys if you want the trails to be alone, that what I will do

  • Andy C.
    Reply

    You can evaluate the etiquette and evolution of the sport forever, but the simple reality is that there are just too many people. The taboo topic so often absent from the discussion of our social and economic issues is overpopulation. It is unsustainable.

  • Eric
    Reply

    JFR and Andy C. finally pointed out the core problem. Overpopulation. Any species of animal that overpopulates its habitat will destroy said habitat and become sick, resulting in a large die-off, eventually restoring balance. The problem with humans is that there is no die-off. The population just keeps growing and spreading and destroying the habitat. If overpopulation is not addressed, pretty soon all of the trails we love will become pavement, or part of a subdivision, making this whole topic pointless.

  • Old luddite
    Reply

    Jonathan and his ilk are the essence of the problem, fueled by the prevalent me-first attitude too many bike shops foster by not communicating basic trail etiquette rule to newbies and renters. I blame it all on Lance, actually, and not entirely sardonically. Most trails that are not segregated already into one way, or different user groups on designated dates or days, all have variations on the UNIVERSAL three-lobed symbol that designates right-of-way to 1) horseback riders; 2) hikers; 3) bicycles riding uphill. I do not care about your Strava time or gonzo antics because it is not a race. Unfortunately, the high-profile Leadville 100 reset the priority years ago, for two practical reasons. First, a mass start on an out-and-back course put the fastest riders returning on the Powerline descent, as the majority were tediously ascending, most pushing. Giving the fast racers the clear path, and admitting most could not “clean” the uphill anyway, was reasonable. What was not, obviously, was seeding the notion for not just all races, but every recreational trail thereafter, that the gonzos deserved free reign at all times. Old geeks strangely, actually can sometimes ride uphill better than you, on your 30-lb long travel beast, and cleaning technical trails is as legitimate a pursuit as going fast down. Being on the edge of falling, in the red zone, it really pisses me off that you disrespect my sport and me when you can slow down and re-start at practically any point while I, once stopped, likely cannot re-mount for many yards.
    Innately self-centered, arrogant riders are bullies who make any trail less friendly, and courtesy should not be confused with some perverse weakness. Related to this, it used to be common road etiquette to announce when you were overtaking a slower rider, or pedestrian, with an “on your left,” or at least a bell ding. On two hour rides outside Boulder, I’m lucky if one in twenty take this basic gesture to heart, and what they fail to consider is, because I have the right of way being ahead of them, should I swerve around a hole or road hazard, if I am not aware of their presence, you may take both of us down because I cannot know what is behind me.
    Before riding exploded after the Lance effect, most new riders started out riding with experienced ones who either had raced or toured long but not necessarily fast rides. Poor bike handling and dangerous maneuvers were quickly pointed out, along with other courtesies evolved from a century of tradition. Now, it’s all aggressive ignorance of why and how the trail rules came about. I’ve had it with the All About Me All the Time people who rationalize every selfish behavior while giving zero respect for the rights or safety of others. If one of you takes me down, I don’t think you’re going to enjoy wearing your Go Pro after I “reposition” it for you.

    • Eric
      Reply

      Very well said.

  • Dennis
    Reply

    This debate seems to come up every so often and really isn’t a new problem. I started mountain biking in college in 1986. So in mountain bike years I guess I’m just an old useless geezer. I still love my mountain bikes as much as the first time I rode Schultz creek in Flagstaff on my fully rigid Trek 830 with my very fancy Hite-rite seat post dropper device. I’m enjoying my Ibis Mojo 3 just as much and love the way the new bikes perform. I’ve loved the evolution of riding and am actually glad more people are enjoying riding in its many forms. I really appreciate the essay and I think the point is have some common sense and treat everyone with respect. A simple “hi” goes a long way with all users. I guess I’m lucky because where I live now the trails aren’t too crowded or it’s still easy to avoid the crowds by staying away from the “popular” trails. There have always been self centered “entitiled” douchebags and there always will be. Having this kind of attitude is detrimental to all of us. It really gives justification to those that don’t want us on the trails in the first place. I agree that clearing an uphill can be as fun and challenging as flowing downhill. I mean, come on you don’t have to entirely slow down to be courteous to someone riding uphill and it’s not that big of a deal to stop for a second even though it might ruin your precious “flow”. We all love the downhill but some common sense helps and if you really don’t like it maybe try and discover some other trails that might not be so crowded. I’m sure there are some you can find with a little effort. That’s the beauty of mountain biking and still gets me excited. There is no therapy like mountain bike therapy! Carpe Diem!!

  • A
    Reply

    I read this article shortly after it was published and was brought back to it from another article and finally took the time to re-read and read the comments which I typically avoid.
    Many of us are stuck in a world that revolves around computers and phones attached to a desk for 40+ hrs a week and NEED to get out and decompress after. Sometimes that means going for a rip of a ride and others stopping to enjoy the views. I live in an area that has a local trail system but more extensive trails an hour and half away which means weekend rides are the norm.
    My worst rides of last season were during high school mountain bike practice which unfortunately fall on early weekend morning. Hoards of kids who should be taught the rules and understand their practice time also means, sharing trails showed WAY more disrespect for other riders than the park rats on opening day at the MTB park, and as a female rider it was even more obvious. They clogged the entrance to the qualifier for multiple riders while drooling over each others new bikes. They didn’t clear the trail as they saw me approaching a technical root filled section, instead I snaked my way through them and the roots as they gawked at the fact that I could get through the section with the awesome comment after I cleared it “see Carter I told you she would make it”. Instead of letting me pass as I came up behind with a respectful warning they speed up (female voice) which forced me to eventually stop give them space. The worst insult was that in each of these encounters there was a coach near that should have taken the opportunity to teach trail etiquette. The focus was on racing and speed which is OBV the reason for practice but does not negate bad trail etiquette or lack of teaching on the coaches part. Unfortunately, this massive group of young riders were being taught by lack of education that Your Ride is > Anyone Else and in one word Entitlement.

  • Ellie
    Reply

    Mike,
    You state, “We are failing.”

    Failing to educate new riders on etiquette.

    Failing to criticize the actions of fellow riders.

    Failing to listen when they criticize us.

    So many thoughts here:
    1. How are you reaching out to new riders?
    2. You have provided much criticism in this opinion piece. Do you see any positive changes as a result of your sharing these opinions?
    3. Failing to listen when they criticize us. Who is “us” and who is “them”?
    Cheers!

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