Ask Uncle Dave Chainsaw Guy

Dear Uncle Dave: What happened to "ride don't slide"?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Feb 27, 2019

I grew up riding in a time when magazines bombarded you with a healthy dose of "ride, don't slide". Each and every issue, every month, always had at least a page or two talking about the rules of the trail. I would imagine some of this was to pad out the page count, but even so, it did shape the way you thought about a trail and how you rode it.

Even with crappy brakes, steep headtubes, narrow bars and a seatpost at full extension, the guilt was so ingrained that you felt a bit terrible if you even momentarily locked up your brakes on the steepest of your local hills. Back then, it was more about noobs locking up their rear wheel at the slightest hint of danger, and not about throwing a two-wheeled drift through a corner. Indeed, it was developed at a time when we couldn't imagine the speeds we would hit or the control we would one day achieve. But of course, like any good catch phrase, it was about more than just its literal meaning. In a few words, it told you all that you needed to know about respecting the trail, and maintaining our tenuous right to be there.

Part of it might have been that every trail was indeed a precious thing. We didn't have vast networks of purpose built trails, carved out by giant machines or armies of volunteers (more likely, just a lone, rogue weirdo). There was definitely no Trailforks, and there probably wasn't even a guidebook that covered your local trail network. Every trail discovered was a prize, and treated as such. An atmosphere of respect was natural. And because the bikes sucked and nobody else was out there riding them, what drove us out there in the first place was almost entirely different. You were more likely to start riding a bike to experience the trees and to get away from the people, which then lead you to discover how fun these things were. There were no readily available videos to tell you that you were riding slow and kind of sucked. It was a different perspective.

Maybe this is what it means to get old? You stop giving a shit about what is new and you start wondering why nobody cares about the disappearance of what is old. I can see both sides of this. If you look at what exists now, and how prevalent bikes are, it's hard to imagine a world where that wasn't always the case, and difficult to listen to some asshole talking about it. I know that I take it for granted that I can now drive in any direction and find a well-established, bicycle primary set of trails.

This is unquestionably great, but at the same time, I think we may have lost something. As our sport has grown and our influence has gained, our attitude has changed. Somewhere along the line we've moved from a place of privilege to a place of entitlement. With some, it seems like there is a general sense that we can do whatever we want out there, with no regard to consequence, and no thought to others.

Part of it might have been that every trail was indeed a precious thing. We didn't have vast networks of purpose built trails, carved out by giant machines or armies of volunteers (more likely, just a lone, rogue weirdo). There was definitely no Trailforks, and there probably wasn't even a guidebook that covered your local trail network. Every trail discovered was a prize, and treated as such. An atmosphere of respect was natural.

I'm struggling to figure out how that happened. When did our attitudes shift? When did it become less about respecting the trail and more about slaying the trail? Maybe in our shift from print to web, we lost that monthly reminder that we needed to not be assholes out on the trail? Maybe our need for likes outweighs our duty to, first and foremost, preserve the very thing that allows us to be out there in the first place? Or it could be that our caffeine saturated bodies no longer have the fine motor control necessary to feather a rear brake without locking it up? Whatever it is, many no longer seem to give much of a shit.

Part of me wants to put some of the blame on bike parks. Anybody who has ridden a decent bike park can probably remember their very first day at one. That feeling that you were getting away with something. That it didn't really seem right that you could hammer out so many downhill miles without having to climb an inch, and then realizing that it was possible to exhaust your body in a completely different manner. We were like high school kids, experiencing our first taste of freedom, without the hangover or the puke stained clothes. It changed the way we thought and the way we rode.

Maybe though, it was just "freeride" in general. All of a sudden, it wasn't enough to keep our fun down to a dull roar. We had to crank it to 11 and if something didn't create at least a small possibility that it might kill you or an innocent passerby, it probably wasn't worth riding. Everybody was a trailbuilder and it took a government agency equipped with a bunch of chainsaws to put our wheels back down on the ground.

More likely though, it's just the action sports industrial complex in general. We've long grown tired of watching videos of people riding the trails that we ourselves ride. We've moved to a point where our entertainment requires nothing less than a pristine, snowboard sized kicker, massive berms and gallons of roost.

When placed within this context, it all starts to make sense. The bikes are faster. The trails are better and exist in greater number. The skill of the riders is evolving at a breathtaking pace. We can film it with cinematographic clarity with our phones, upload it to the Internet, and then watch it on a different phone, all from the comfort of our toilet (parts B and C, anyhow). It shouldn't be a surprise that as we've grown and taken on more and more and more, a few things have disappeared along the way.

These are not exactly new thoughts. Every time I watch a video where dirt gets thrown or some grassland gets plowed, I feel a tiny little tinge of lurking sadness. None of this is exactly new, so it feels weird that watching videos of dudes blowing up berms on Instagram hits with such ferocity. Like it's personal, or something.

I know this probably all started out with good intentions. It was most likely some pro, somewhere, railing some berm with noble intentions. And then some other pro built on that and so forth. The inspiration from those videos trickled out and now we have dozens of yahoos that have decided to throw some dirt into a berm, then ham-handedly #schralp through it before skidding to a stop under the weight of their own congratulations. It seems physically detached from actual trail riding, and I can only imagine what inspiration the second-tier yahoos are going to take from this crop of videos. I predict that relatively soon we're just going to be watching some shirtless guy guzzling a beer while throwing dirt from a corner into the forest with a shovel.

I think the most surprising thing, for me, is that this is something that people are bragging about! This feels like when some kid posts a video of himself driving 250 km/hour on a crowded highway. Except instead of showing up to arrest the kid, the cops are in the comments telling the kid how amazing he is and shouting down anybody who asks questions about what is happening.

This feels like one of those times where we need to evaluate how we got to this point. We can debate the need for and merit of throwing a bit of roost, or sliding a bit of tire. But as it crosses a line towards wanton trail destruction just for the sake of it, it feels like we've gone too far. I think. It's possible that I'm just some old nutter confused by things showing up on his computer, rather than some old bastard passing on some hard-earned wisdom. It's hard to tell sometimes.

Regardless, I'm pretty sure that we need to start thinking about our trails a bit more, and we need to start treating them with the respect that they deserve. We can't all just go out there and do whatever we want. We can't decide that skill and awesomeness trumps all. At some point, something greater than a small minority needs to take responsibility for what is happening out there, or we're not going to like the consequences.

Sorry, Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave's Music Club

After wearing out my hard drive listening to Monomania, I found the last Deerhunter album to be a wee bit depressing, due to its lack of awesomeness. The new one, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared isn't quite a return to form. But it doesn't suck! For this week, that will be good enough.

Rather than Ask Uncle Dave, this was a little more like 'gather round, Uncle Dave needs to rant a little' but really, all that was missing was the question that normally gets him fired up. For next time, we want a question from one of you - and we've got a little incentive: SQlab is going to provide one of their new 6OX saddles to one lucky winner. That means that after measuring yourself with one of SQlab's at-home fit kits to figure out your correct saddle width, they'll send your new semi-custom saddle to you, just in time for Spring. With a form fit shape for most sit bones, a raised back for pedaling support, and perineal relief, you'll have a comfortable start to your riding season, even if you've spent all winter watching MTB Roost vids. Send those questions in right away to

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+8 legbacon Pete Roggeman Mammal Sandy James Oates Velocipedestrian Sjwagner75 OldSchooler Tjaard Breeuwer
Jman  - Feb. 26, 2019, 8:58 p.m.

I guess i’m getting old too because I agree 100% with all of this. For those of us fortunate enough to have ridden the actual “Ride don’t Slide” trail back when it was about the width of a moto tire, they may recall a sign on the tree at the top that read “RDS..unhook rear brake here”. Pretty sure no one I knew was riding it without a rear brake but man we loved that line and the forest it ran through..And if you grabbed a fistful of rear brake, you heard about it. Then the park opened..and that was pretty much that!


+5 legbacon Pete Roggeman Sandy James Oates Andrew Major Velocipedestrian
Bagheera  - Feb. 26, 2019, 10:54 p.m.

Videos of berms being roosted in Slo-mo? Yawn. Give me something like the "Risk" thing from Sedona a couple of weeks back.

But on a more serious note: Since around here, legal trails are rare and purpose-built bike.trails even rarer, our attitude might not have changed all that much. Still, even here, some people seem to forget that we are guests in the forest, not lords of the manor, and should behave accordingly.

About an hour's drive away, an organizer got denied permission to hold an Enduro race since they hadn't sufficiently repaired the trails after the last one.


+5 legbacon Cooper Quinn JVP CB-Spoolmak OldSchooler
yahs  - Feb. 27, 2019, 7:37 a.m.

My fave is vids of the so called sponsored guys roosting our fave loamers.

Douche factor to 11.


+1 Absolut-M
Spoogekin  - Feb. 26, 2019, 11:41 p.m.

Not really much opportunity to go all ham on the north shore style trail since it's mainly slow tech. There are a few exceptions, Bobsled, expresso, john deere. Which are all in amazing shape considering the ammount of traffic they get. But I do see a lot of people dropping into sensitive trails during or shortly after a monsoon.


+5 AJ Barlas Todd Hellinga OldSchooler AlanB Spoogekin
Mammal  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:33 a.m.

Lots of NV trails devolve into ultra-sensitive dust bowls in the tail end of the summer and into fall these days. And spot-on about sensitive trails after lots of rain or winter conditions... It pains me when I hear nonchalant attitudes about riding "loamers" when it should be glaringly obvious that those trails are in rehab mode. And for the dust-bowl conditions, riding a bit slower and more carefully through corners is a must to avoid complete disintegration. 

Some trails are definitely designed for the all-weather traffic (including the 3 mentioned above), and things are coming a long way in that respect.  But this serves as a really good reminder that the old RDS mantra may not be embraced like it was, and everyone needs to do their part in order to minimize our impact. At least on our own terms.


+3 Jerry Willows OldSchooler Tjaard Breeuwer
AJ Barlas  - Feb. 27, 2019, 12:06 p.m.

I love it when people ride right after heavy rain. The suns out (for two minutes), the trail will be fine! *sarcasm*


+3 AJ Barlas OldSchooler Spoogekin
Jerry Willows  - Feb. 27, 2019, 8:16 p.m.

just have to look at Instragram for the ding dongs


+3 legbacon Pete Roggeman Mammal
[user profile deleted]  - Feb. 26, 2019, 11:45 p.m.

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+3 legbacon Sandy James Oates CB-Spoolmak
Lynx .  - Feb. 27, 2019, 5:52 a.m.

Happy to know that I'm not alone in my thinking, I could have easily been the author of this piece, word for word. Maybe I'm just old and cranky, but have had enough of the energy swill drinking crowd and all the brap, brap videos of people destroying trails only to "look cool" :-\


+10 legbacon Metacomet Cr4w Mammal AJ Barlas Sandy James Oates Andrew Major Velocipedestrian PeterO OldSchooler
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 27, 2019, 6:17 a.m.

I don't skid around the trails on purpose. I also don't assume stuff I see online or in a video has anything to do with reality. If I see someone gratuitously skid their bike I'll let them know they are being dicks. At least where I ride I don't see a ton of skidding. 

Our biggest problem is people creating Strava cheater lines to save 1 sec on a segment and then the next person takes it further to save another second. It gets super old blocking all these lines and you basically have to pile up so much shit that it's too big a PITA for the Stravahole to undo your work....which unfortunately means it's a ton of work for you.


+4 AJ Barlas legbacon Sandy James Oates OldSchooler
pedalhound  - Feb. 27, 2019, 9:13 a.m.

Yup, the strava lines are seriously shitty. I am glad I am not the only one out there trying to block 'em when I see 'em.


+6 Todd Hellinga legbacon lubes17319 Sjwagner75 ZigaK tashi
Cooper Quinn  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:05 a.m.

I hear this argument a lot, and I'm not sure I buy it. 

Trail braiders, and those who want to ride a trail as fast (or as straight) as possible, have existed for a long time.


+2 AJ Barlas Velocipedestrian
pedalhound  - Feb. 27, 2019, 11:18 a.m.

I definitely notice a big uptick in braiding since the advent of Strava...but your region may differ. We have a bunch of fast folks (Olympians, pro's etc) that live here and the fight for K/QOM is real.


+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
AJ Barlas  - Feb. 27, 2019, 12:12 p.m.

In Squam. we’ve had a developing issue over the last 5–6 years that isn’t because of Strava but nets the same result. Intermediate riders seem to want to ride the hard trails and create easy line braids to make it down the more technical features. Value Added has some fine examples of this; a large tree even fell over the original line after the easy line was bed in enough. I coukd go on but point is, Strava isn’t all to blame.


+4 Brad Sedola Velocipedestrian jaydubmah Tjaard Breeuwer
AJ Barlas  - Feb. 27, 2019, 12:14 p.m.

FWIW. I have no issues with riders pushing themselves and checking out harder terrain. I do, however, wish people would walk down something they can’t ride and add it to the “nemesis list” to check off later, rather than create easy routes around stuff.


+2 Velocipedestrian AJ Barlas
pedalhound  - Feb. 27, 2019, 1:17 p.m.

Agreed, no issues with Strava or trying to be the fastest even....Just ride the trail like it is. If it's too hard, stop and session it...get better, don't dumb down the trail to fit your lack of skills.

+2 legbacon Sandy James Oates
Rob Gretchen  - Feb. 27, 2019, 6:20 a.m.

Yeah.. totally agree with the context of this article... OLD and CRANKY be me....


+1 OldSchooler
upandown  - Feb. 27, 2019, 8:10 a.m.

Is it faster to roost? Or is roost some indicator of speed? I certainly don't see much on the world cup footage.

If not, why is it "cool"? Is it just visually interesting? Is it wrapped up with the language? 

It used to be us getting slayed by the trail. 

I'm also old.


+2 legbacon Tjaard Breeuwer
Brad Sedola  - Feb. 27, 2019, 8:41 a.m.

Where I live, it's not the other mountain bikers, since there are only a handful of us. Any trails we maintain eventually get explored by motos or quads, usually going up vs. the intended direction of travel. You can just imagine the roosts. I especially like the result of any traction we put down on our bridges/logs, ie. chicken wire, roofing, etc. That stuff gets peeled up like it was never there. Absolutely no respect for the trail that's in front of them.


+1 Pete Roggeman
pedalhound  - Feb. 27, 2019, 9:11 a.m.

YES! Dave, you nailed it with this one, I have been riding since the mid '80s and I definitely notice a difference in attitude and entitlement now. It's not just with mountain bikers though...I think it's a societal issue...but that's a topic for a different day.

As for skidding and blowing up berms...I blame Curtis Robinson...haha...he really started the cutties  movement and it's just blown up from there. All the pro's and wannabe pro's making shreddits (that I am guilty of watching and enjoying too!) and getting that much-needed berm shred shot.

+2 Mammal pedalhound
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:10 a.m.

I do know you're being a bit tongue in cheek about Curtis although there is a grain of truth there. He does provide the counterpoint though, which I'm mentioning for the benefit of others that may not be aware: Curtis and Dylan build everything they film, so it is fair to say the rules apply a bit differently to them.


+1 AJ Barlas
Jerry Willows  - Feb. 27, 2019, 8:19 p.m.

No dig no roost!


+8 Pete Roggeman Todd Hellinga Mammal Sandy James Oates Velocipedestrian OldSchooler Andy Eunson Tjaard Breeuwer
JVP  - Feb. 27, 2019, 9:28 a.m.

Complicated thoughts on this one as a long time trail advocate/designer/builder/maintainer. 

1.  Roost pics and vids drive me crazy. They're stupid, staged, and cause damage that someone has to fix. Such a douchey poser move. "Do you even roost, bro?" 

2. The need to hammer folks hard about not grabbing too much rear brake in the 90's was partly a result of crappy trail "design".  The trails weren't really designed, just some old route we found or scratched in. Fast sections into janky turns with a front brake that couldn't stop you. A great trail builder knows that crappy riders still get to ride bikes, and they design trails to hold up to panicked riders ham-fisting their rear brake. Modern trails have a lot less skidding in them due to this, so we don't need to hammer the message so hard. Design your trail wrong, with the number of people riding these days, it will be a trench in the first season. I'm not just talking about flow trails. Even tech lines can (and need to!) be designed to minimize wear from skidding. If you disagree with me, you're not yet a master trail builder.

3. We're losing our hunger and fear about trail access due to our success, which worries me. This is what your rant is really about, right? People not giving a shit. The current generation never had to ride crappy trails, and didn't have to fight for what we've currently got. Remember fighting hard just to keep from being kicked off the crap? To newer riders, good trails have always been here, and there are pro crews maintaining them.

We need to find a way to get the current generation of riders out building and doing maintenance, and then all this will take care of itself. It's about respect for the trails. Don't even get me started about fighting to keep access on wilderness-like trails. That's a battle we're not guaranteed to win - same song, different key.


+3 legbacon pedalhound ZigaK
[user profile deleted]  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:22 a.m.

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Brad Sedola  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:43 a.m.

That's rather interesting. I grew up on the North Shore and rode my YZ125 on many of the trails that eventually became mainstream mtb. We're talking early to mid 80s. I eventually felt out of place riding up the switchbacks to the ski runs on Grouse and in turn any of the trails in between, which is what pushed me into mountain bikes to begin with. Didn't matter how slow or respectful I was to others on the road/trails, I was increasingly getting yelled at and fists shaken at me. I really haven't looked back.


-2 OldSchooler ZigaK
LWK  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:31 a.m.

While I do think respect is a good thing (in all aspects of life), here's maybe a counterpoint.  Its dirt and rocks in the bush.   We're not strip mining or clear cut logging or building and then wrecking 8 lane freeways.  Dont we ride bikes in the bush because its fun?  jumps, drops, steeps, speed, rock gardens, cornering g forces are fun.  Rides without those sort of things are basically road rides (also fun, but not mtn biking IMO).

As for MTB media, who cares and what are you going to do?  They are going to film what they're going to film and for all we as consumers know the crew put more work into the trail before and after filming than the rest of us ever will.  

Land is constantly evolving - slopes slump, big snow years and rain storms create trenches and washouts, etc.  I see this all the time in my riding in AB and BC.  Often the trail itself is so inconsequential in the landscape that its almost funny how seriously we take it.  So I take a bit more of an organic approach to this - land evolves and trails can come, change and maybe need to disappear sometimes.

Not advocating for no rules or no respect.  I just think there is a bit of a sliding scale maybe depending on the terrain and volume of traffic and that maybe some of this is overblown a bit.

+3 LWK Todd Hellinga ZigaK
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 27, 2019, 11:10 a.m.

I think it's good to look at things from ground level, as well as from way up high, as you're advocating.

The thing that doesn't get taken into account with the macro view, however, is the work that goes into building and maintaining a trail, the hours spent on consultation, approvals, etc. I'm not saying you're ignoring those things, of course, but a lot of that work and time isn't understood by most riders.


LWK  - Feb. 27, 2019, 2:58 p.m.

thx Pete, fair reply.  I'm not involved in trail advocacy but for sure acknowledge the huge efforts required.  

I guess I was thinking mainly of areas that I like to ride that are rather remote and so not much in the way of trail building .  And in this context, some braiding or blown out corners seems inevitable and maybe irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.

For areas with more dedicated building for dedicated trail networks I think a couple of things.  First, build robust trails that can withstand a beating, its not unreasonable to have to do a bit of maintenance on occasion and maybe most important dont ride in poor conditions.  I realize you can ride when its raining on the coast but in many areas wet = mud and mud + bikes = a miserable mess for everyone.  but I have no idea how you enforce common sense...

anyway, good article and discussion!


+2 Todd Hellinga Niels
Dave Tolnai  - Feb. 27, 2019, 5:53 p.m.

This is fair.  I mean, look at how much energy people put into the trails on Cypress, just for the whole area to get clear-cut so that some giant homes can get built (minor exaggeration).

There's danger if you pull your view out to far though.  You can get to a point where the worlds troubles are so large and overwhelming, why worry about anything?  We're all just going to die and take the world with us anyhow.

So yes, there are worse things going on for the environment.  But at the same time, if we can't show respect for the very thing that we're going out there to utilize, what's the point?  And if we don't show respect, what's going to happen to it?


Pizza-Diavola  - Feb. 27, 2019, 7:23 p.m.

Ahh, Family Guy, how I miss you. But was it at all possible to "RDS" the steep bit that led into the right hander to bridge over the ravine?


+1 4Runner1
Mjmiller613  - March 1, 2019, 7:27 a.m.

I think if people knew how bureaucratic of a process it is to get trails approved and how opposition cites mountain bikers tearing up the trails, it *may* happen less.


+1 Drinky Crow
4Runner1  - March 1, 2019, 6:54 p.m.

This is a breath of fresh air. Braiding makes me insane. If you have to cut the corner you’re in the wrong sport. Also flicking and skidding is for knobs. Add me to the grumpy old guy club. 😜


+1 4Runner1
mike  - March 2, 2019, 7:39 p.m.

Good read , hits very valid points.

One point not mentioned , E-BIKES!!!! . We bitch about riding in the rain today , wait a few more yrs when they are more and more everyday an up gradable motor wise. I predict groups out blasting the crap out of the ups and blowing up the downs even worse.

I started riding in 1991/92, I have seen a lot and then some LOL. Skidding is one of my rants, same with spin out holes on climbs . As a builder working on a epic if I seen some hero blowing up the berm or skidding the crap out of a section. I would have to hold back on not taking them clean off the bike.


Andy Eunson  - March 3, 2019, 8:39 a.m.

When I see the videos of riders roosting and sliding it looks to me like they are trying to make an easy trail look hard. Or it’s just some style thing. Coming from skiing skidding is what you do to slow down because that is your brake. Bikes have brakes. Riding clean sharp lines is much harder. More impressive to me. Racing is different though as riders are at the limit of control. 

But mountain bike riding has become too much about style. Hence the baggy outfits and visors for downhill for looks. I note that DH outfits are slowly becoming tighter and more aero. 

A lot of this sloppy riding is people emulating riders in videos. Maybe we should just call out the sloppy riders more in videos? And at the same time praise the clean riders that arc a clean fast turn.


Spoogekin  - March 6, 2019, 5:57 p.m.

Could the increased popularity of racing have something to do with it?


tashi  - March 8, 2019, 9:27 a.m.

I get that this article is largely about an attitude shift, one that I personally think is an inevitable consequence of our sport going mainstream and official resources actually coming in line. There’s benefits to these changes, but increased entitlement is inevitable. 

But to get specific: “Ride don’t slide”, back when it was the mantra, never seemed that relevant to the trails I rode at the time.  Descents (and many climbs) were largely fall line as routes were based on deer trail or existing hiking, hunting and skidder lines, not “proper” slopes with grade reversals and other speed control features and trails were ridden in, not “built”. Getting down something without skidding your 1.8” Ground Control was basically impossible.  “Ride don’t slide” then seemed to me to apply to lower angle, smoother trails along the lines of what you’d find in California - which, predictably was starting to have to address trail design and user conflict while we were essentially doing whatever we could get away with and being largely left alone.


Tjaard Breeuwer  - March 21, 2019, 7:24 a.m.

Very good point Dave!

I do fear that the prevalence of videos of riders “roosting” and “shredding”, are not doing our trails and our relationships with hikers on multi use trail, any good. 

(In Duluth, MN, except for a small bikepark, all our trails are multi use, and they are maintained mostly by volunteers)


Fahzure  - Sept. 24, 2019, 3:24 a.m.

Not really. I have organized more than 30 mtb trail work days this year. The overwhelming problem is with older designs that don't properly address drainage. The skidding damage that we see is mostly from newbs, riding on trails above their level, so they skid before features.  Skidding, drifting or slapping through berms is low on the list of stupid things that people do that show a lack of respect.


Fahzure  - Sept. 24, 2019, 3:24 a.m.

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