BicycleSource Newsletter

Even though mountain bikes have been shown to have less impact on trails than do horses, they do have some impact, and on trails that are heavily used, this impact has become significant.

I see five main problems:

  1. Allowing ones bike to run off the trail, causing erosion of the trail edge and therefore narrowing the trail. If you find that you are continually running off the trail, perhaps you should practice on wider trails or ride at slower speeds until you have better control over your bike. Everyone runs off the trail every once in a while, but please do not make a habit of it.

  2. Allowing the back tire to lock up when going downhill, causing the tire to dig into the trail. A sliding back tire is fairly useless in slowing you down and causes heavy erosion of the trail. Keep the back wheel turning! I find that it helps to pump the rear brake lightly and quickly and to keeps one's weight far back.

  3. Allowing the bike to slide around corners, causing lateral erosion of the trail. Sliding around corners has become a acquired skill for many riders, but it does cause a great deal of trail erosion. Riding a corner cleanly -- without sliding -- is harder to do, but preserves the trail and demonstrates superior bike handling skills.

  4. Riding through deep mud, causing deep ruts which act as erosion trenches. The wonderful thing about modern mountain bikes is that they are light! That means that they can be picked up and carried through deep mud. (I wish equestrians could do this with their horses!)

  5. Riding around natural barriers and water-bars, which widens the trail and contributes to erosion. Half the fun of riding single-tracks is to succeed technically -- to ride over roots and rocks and water-bars. If you meet up with an obstacle that you cannot ride, please get off your bike and carry it over the obstacle rather than riding around it.

Low-impact riding not only prevents erosion of trails, but also preserves our right to use single-track trails, and might even lead to the opening of more trails for our use!

By Roger McGehee,
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