Are Mountain Bikers Accidental A-Holes?

Words Cam McRae
Date Jan 15, 2020
Reading time

If someone calls you an 'adrenaline junkie,' do you want to give them a high five or a black eye? I'm no fan of the term, but I'd be full of shit if I denied that the hormone is one element that keeps many of us reaching for our mountain bikes. Nobody wants to be called a junkie, but the impact of adrenaline on our bodies and brains is largely positive, even after our ride is done. On top of elation and other sweet sensations, it may boost our immune systems and stave off the physical effects of aging.

On the trail our bodies respond to adrenaline, in both subtle and dramatic ways. It increases our heart rate and blood pressure, boosts energy in our muscles and expands our pupils so we can see more. It even decreases our ability to feel pain, for better or worse. Most importantly, adrenaline makes us focus intently on what's in front of us, pushing the hassles and headaches of real life aside. It feels amazing to zero in and forget anything but the trail, but that focus is one reason mountain bikers can sometimes be accidental assholes.

If you spend much time working on popular trails, when they are open and riders are filing through, you may have noticed that some riders respond differently than others. A few pretend you aren't there at all, some might say hello, and some will thank you, give you a high five, or even offer to lend a hand. Humans are different, that's not a big surprise. The shocker is that this response can change depending on where you are on the trail.

When riders are at the top of the trail, just dropping in, I've found they are much more likely to engage builders and give them some love. Toward the bottom of the trail, after they have been given'er and trying to catch their buddies for several minutes, trail builders seem to disappear. Riders will roar right by you without a word and sometimes run you off the trail. Often you'll get a radically different response from the same riders.

In fact it was so dangerous my first impulse was to chase him down and throw him off his bike.

We may not be junkies, but we do get stoned. The intense focus adrenaline produces is often narrow. This tunnel vision emphasizes the rock that might roll under our front tire, or the consistency of the trail surface, so we can make fine adjustments in milliseconds, but it blinds us to much of the information that isn't deemed mission critical, like trail builders or hikers. We don't mean to, but we can become dickheads in these situations.

If nobody's around this isn't a problem for the most part. When mountain bikers are jerks to other mountain bikers, or even trail builders, it doesn't create enemies outside our ranks. But for other trail users, interactions with fire-breathing epinephrine addicts can be very unpleasant.

The good news is this isn't inevitable. Since this realization I've paid more attention to how I might appear to other people in the heat of battle, and this awareness helps me snap out of it. It may kill the buzz a little, but only temporarily, and anything that improves our relations with other humans on trails, is worth the effort.

Accidents Happen

Perspective is everything, and mine has changed recently. For the past year I have spent about an hour every morning walking our new puppy and giving him the chance to wrestle and chase with his pals. I've met some nice people, enjoyed the forest in our local park and started every day a little calmer and more alert. I enjoy it a little more every time.

I walk with several different people and two of them are women who are older than my 54 years. I haven't asked, but one of them is a slim lady who I'd guess is somewhere in her 70s. Let's call her Alison. She's active and fit but very slight, probably weighing no more than 110 lbs and I've noticed there are times when she seems to feel vulnerable. The forested park we walk in isn't a destination for mountain bikers for the most part, but many riders use it as part of their route to and from the trails. I haven't seen many conflicts but one morning I learned something about the impression mountain bikes can make.

Several of us were in the area where we congregate at a trailhead before we do a loop in the park and we didn't leave much room for anyone to come through. At that moment a rider approached. He was going a reasonable pace but since there was no space he rode off the trail and around the group. Alison had her back to his approach but she heard his tires on the dirt and jumped. She was startled because he was so close and, since it seemed there was nowhere to go, Alison felt like he was going to run into her. Standing there with her it I could instantly understand her reaction, and even I was startled. He didn't do anything wrong per se, but he ended up being an unintentional asshole, inducing the sort of reaction that makes mountain bikers feared and reviled. If he had slowed down slightly, and said, 'excuse me please' everything would have been fine. I don't think he even noticed he had frightened Alison.

Assholes By Choice

Over the holiday I was walking with 7 or 8 family members on another forested trail, this time near the University of British Columbia. My mother-in-law was there as well as several nephews who are as young as 6. The trail we were on is leash-optional this time of year and it's multi-use, which includes bikes and horses. It was Christmas Day and the weather was beautiful so the trails were busy with users of every description. Our group, including my 14lb pup, were walking along a section of trail bordered on one side by a wooden fence.

All of a sudden we were surprised by a jerk on a city bike who came barrelling through our midst at high speed. In fact it was so dangerous that my first impulse was to chase him down and throw him off his bike. Thankfully the relations present pushed through my adrenaline response and instead I just yelled "SLOW DOWN," omitting the well-deserved ASSHOLE at the end. He easily could have killed our 14lb pup or injured one of our group, and my brief glance at the look on his face suggested he didn't care at all. This was no accident and there will always be premeditated assholes.

The story of the closure of a portion of theKingdom Trails in Vermont is an egregious example of a-holes in our midst, and one that suggests mountain bikers may actually be worse than other groups. These trails ran through land owned by 97 different landowners, but three who owned some of the largest properties recently cut off access, because of mountain bikers behaving like jerks. One of the three was on horseback on his own land when a rider yelled at him to, "get off the trails!" And there were many other instances as well. Sadly mountain bikers were the only group banned; "The landowners will continue to allow Nordic skiers, snowshoers, runners, hikers and horseback riders to access their property."

The Way Forward

There's nothing we can do about the intentional assholes in our midst, like Jerk on a City Bike, or the vocal minority in Vermont. At best we can try to limit the damage they cause. And say mean things about them on the internet. The optimist in me thinks have fewer per capita than the general population, but any number is too large considering the access challenges and image problems we have. Since we're stuck with the intentional A-Holes, the rest of us need to try to construct a shield of sweetness.

These days when I'm on trails with other users I try my best to over-compensate. I smile and always say hello. I stop and let them pass, and pet their dogs. I'll offer them the squished sandwich in my fanny pack or a suck on my Camelbak nipple. It's possible I go too far on occasion, but my sucking up is strategic.

As any restauranteur will tell you, people are vastly more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. I've seen that ratio pegged at 10:1 or more. Which means we've got to work ten times as hard at being careful, considerate, and friendly to those we share the trails with. Here's a partial list of strategies for encounters with other trail users that will help polish our turd-like image:

  • Slow down for everyone
  • Say hello
  • Chat briefly with elderly folks or kids
  • Smile
  • Get out of the way when that's appropriate
  • Let them know if you intend to pass
  • Slow down more than you have to (I know you have excellent brakes but the last bike they were on may have been a Schwinn with a coaster brake. )
  • Keep an eye out for animals.
  • Start to notice when you are strung out on adrenaline and snap yourself out of it for encounters with other users.
  • Change without showing the neighbours the back of your ball sack or boobs
  • Don't crank Ozzy Ozbourne in quiet neighbourhoods
  • Pick up litter you see on the trails, particularly when it's clearly MTB-related

You get the idea. Mountain bikers who are aware and informed can't afford to be adequate, or to be unaware when we piss off others on the trail. We need to be more aware and engaged than a Starbucks barista and as friendly as Brett Tippie after his fifth Redbull, because that's what's required to compensate for the A-holes in our midst.

Please feel free to add to the list below.

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+3 Carlos Matutes Beau Miller Merwinn
Tremeer023  - Jan. 15, 2020, 1:54 a.m.

Interesting article, and I have also witnessed this sort of thing over the years.  At the risk of starting some sort of generational war, I find that younger mtb'ers are often the worst offenders (and I include myself from when I was a teenager and in my early 20's).  This could be more of an adolescence thing combined with an adrenaline sport.  I've become much more considerate now in my 40's.  

Another for the list could be, if you ride on the road to your trails, obey the road laws - don't jump red lights or cut cars up etc.  Everyone is watching you.


+5 Cam McRae Mammal Lacy Kemp Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
Bagheera  - Jan. 15, 2020, 3:39 a.m.

I don't think it's a generational thing. I observe teens acting considerate and guys in their 40s acting like a-holes and vice versa. Moreover, I stand my ground more firmly in unpleasant interactions with other trail users (because mtbrs are not the only a-holes out there) nowadays than I would have as a teen. Still trying to stay polite and even pleasant, but not letting anybody give me sh-- anymore. Usually, people are surprised when you stop and start a serious discussion about trails/trail access etc. when they just tried to get in a quick slur...

Also, I have to admit that I almost ran into/over hikers twice last year. Saw them to late, these new enduro bikes are faaaaaast...(one instance was my first ride onmy new bike...) no excuse,though, I have to be more careful. Made me realize how solw you actually have to ride if you want to be able to stop at sight distance, especially in dense woods. One lady was very pleasanly surprised, though, when I saw her again later (climbing back up) and apologized profusely. We had a nice chat after that.


+2 Tremeer023 Timer
Merwinn  - Jan. 16, 2020, 10:33 a.m.

Yep. I keep seeing some older 40-something road-hero commuting from DT, blowing numerous lights on Marine.

Fact: when someone blows red lights, they make us ALL look like assholes. Driver cuts us off, and we make assumption is that drivers are dicks. Over-generalization works both ways.


+1 Timer
Sam James  - Jan. 16, 2020, 3:08 p.m.

That's funny because some of the rudest people I've encountered on the trails were middle-aged. Typically the type of person that has enough money to have all the gear and a nice bike, but doesn't understand trail etiquette because they think they're the centre of the universe, both on and off the trail.

Also an interesting discussion that I was having with my colleagues - where do we stand when we shock someone hiking on a (fast) mtb primary trail? I always slow down for trail builders and anyone I find on the trail, and I'm perfectly happy sharing, even on trails that I know only exist thanks to mountain bikers, but frequently I've scared someone who's been hiking/running on a very fast mtb primary trail and seems to have no idea that it's a bike trail, despite apparently adequate signage. Now that person is probably going to go away with a negative impression of mountain bikers, despite me having done nothing wrong.


+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Deniz Merdano  - Jan. 15, 2020, 3:14 a.m.

I am having fun observing this internationally. 

Here in Spain, the interaction is an essential part of the day to day life. Saying hello to complete strangers all day long does get a little tiring to say the least. It is a robotic, tradition based act.

The genuinity ends right there.

People have no second thoughts about running you over if you dare interrupt their forward momentum. No matter where and what their chosen method of transportation is.

I have been observing and comparing, cyclist-cyclist, cyclist-driver, cyclist-pedestrian interactions very closely. It is a scary dance on the road and the trails. 

It has such a dynamic flow, that you'd  realize we have it pretty easy on the trails and roads in BC and Lower Mainland or entire Canada.

Which sparks up a few questions in my head. Are we breeding a generation of a-holes? 

Is it possible that the culture that is emerging out of the big west coast cities teaching us to be more ego-centric?

Are there more foreigners or out of towners on the trails than we realize?

Are we getting old? Most likely answer...


+7 Karl Fitzpatrick Mammal Pete Roggeman Beau Miller Allen Lloyd Tremeer023 Paul Lindsay
kain0m  - Jan. 15, 2020, 3:59 a.m.

I think it has a lot to do with entitlement, as well as growing population and wealth. There are simply more people around, who have more "investment" in whatever they do. It is easy to get into a "get out of my way" mood; because we rarely take a step back and realize that none of us are more important than the rest of us. And nowadays everybody is special and important, which doesn't help.

I've come to the conclusion that people are not ment to live in huge crowds. Our brains are wired for small, tightly-knight groups. Anything beyond that can only work with a solid "framework" - our social etiquette. But this etiquette does not adapt fast to changing conditions, like new modes of transportation. If there is any etiquette for any mode of transportation beyond walking, it is that the slower has to yield to the faster one. But here's the catch - nobody wants to slow down for somebody else, and there may simply be no room to get out of someones way. Add to that that bumping into somebody while walking is harmless, but ramming someone full steam ahead on a bike is a terryfying prospect.

The solution? No idea. Rules help to some degree; but they also prevent a social etiquette from forming. We do not question the relation of cars and people, because these two must not interact in everyday life - cars belong on roads, people on sidewalks. Whenever they meet, it has to be regulated (traffic lights, crosswalks, etc.).


+6 Sandy James Oates Andrew Major Metacomet Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 15, 2020, 5:29 a.m.

- Slow down for everyone

- Say hello

- Chat briefly with anyone else on the trail

I do this ^^ every ride. Doesn't hurt and I want to leave a good impression with other trail users. Perhaps living on Van Isle and having [largely] under utilized trails] makes this easier as I don't encounter other folks every 5 mins. Perhaps  once or twice a ride at peak times on weekend in good weather.

+1 Beau Miller
Cam McRae  - Jan. 15, 2020, 11:17 a.m.

Perfect Vik!


+3 Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Paul Lindsay
Mammal  - Jan. 15, 2020, 1 p.m.

I'm an Island transplant in North Van, cut my teeth mountain biking around Victoria/Duncan/Sooke. But I've also got roots in rural Alberta, enjoyed summers on a farm with my Grandparents, and then worked in rural Alberta and Saskatchewan in my 20's. This conflict has a whole lot to do in general with the hustle and bustle of large metro centers. 

The more sparse the population in a given space, the more people gravitate toward each other. The fewer people you encounter, the more you see others as an extension of yourself. On the flip side, the more you wade through people/traffic/competition on a daily basis, the more your subconscious is just looking to avoid others. Rural farming communities, you're obligated to make sure your neighbour is doing OK, even if you don't like them much. It's part of life to stop and say Hi, touch base, even if you don't know that person. I think the stereotype of Canadians being really nice, largely comes form the fact that most of us are only 1-3 generations removed from fairly rural living.

Cam's point about adrenaline, and the associated selective focus is a good one, and that plays a big part  with mountain biking specifically. But I think the issue is a lot worse in areas where people are conditioned to exist within their "bubble" to keep from stressing out. I was shocked when I came over to North Van how few mountain bikers acknowledge each other (let alone other types of users), even while climbing up a fire road in parallel. Bigger city mentality. These days I just try to shoot smiles/nods at everyone I pass. On the trails, neighbourhood streets, pretty much everywhere. Try to compensate.

+2 AJ Barlas Timer
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 15, 2020, 1:04 p.m.

I agree - there is not enough 'just say hi' going on on the trails.


+3 Beau Miller Mammal Cam McRae
Trevor Hansen  - Jan. 15, 2020, 6 p.m.

As the friendliest non-sequiterist biker on the shore once wrote:


+3 Beau Miller Mammal person person
Jugger  - Jan. 15, 2020, 3:05 p.m.

I agree with the lack of greetings/acknowledgement by fellow mtb'ers on the shore.  But I wouldn't chalk it up to big city mentality necessarily.  I've been riding the shore since the late 90s, and the vibe between mountain bikers was a lot friendlier back then -- an unspoken camaraderie.  I feel that as the ridership has grown over the years, conversely, that friendly acknowledgment between riders on the trail has disappeared.  It's a shame --- the growing popularity has had a positive impact on our sport in many ways, but not this one.


+2 Timer Mammal
fartymarty  - Jan. 15, 2020, 11:26 p.m.

A smile and saying Hi makes you feel better as well for doing it.


+4 Timer Karl Fitzpatrick Pete Roggeman Beau Miller
OldManBike  - Jan. 15, 2020, 6:08 a.m.

The unintentional a-hole problem is something I think we don't emphasize to each other enough. What feels to us like a moderate-speed pass with plenty of room can be alarming for the hiker. Slowing down in plenty of time can seem like last-second panic-stopping to them. Even riders perceive speed and space differently when we're off the bike. Not saying any of this self-righteously, I'm just as guilty as everyone else. Maybe including hikers-eye-view drills in clinics, etc, would help increase our awareness of it.


+2 Cam McRae Timer
fartymarty  - Jan. 15, 2020, 8:46 a.m.

It is definitely a case of sharing trails in the UK.  We ride a lot of bridal ways and shared paths.

I walk (both dog walking and hiking) as well as ride.  When walking I try to be aware of others around me but there are lots of times when you ride up nice and slowly behind a walker and they have no idea you are there until you say hi or excuse me.  Maybe I need to put a bell on my bike again...

We all need to be aware and considerate of each other if we use shared trails.  This is one benefit of night riding, less people on the trails.

+2 OldManBike Beau Miller
Cam McRae  - Jan. 15, 2020, 10:06 a.m.

Well said OMB. And if I didn't make it clear enough in the article, I have been guilty as well, which is one way I came to understand this problem.

+4 OldManBike Mammal Todd Hellinga Beau Miller
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 15, 2020, 1:03 p.m.

I've had quite a few experiences where I realized I was still making a hiker nervous even though I had already slowed down to a point that felt comical. Best analogy I can use would be the way it feels when you've been driving at 120 kph and then abruptly enter a city street where the speed limit is 50. You may still be going 80 and think you're crawling, but that's not how others perceive you.

And non-riders really don't know how quickly we can slow down, but they also usually don't have time to perceive whether we see them and are adjusting to be able to get around them or not.

So, when approaching hikers now, I slow down. And then often slow down again.


+1 person person
Timer  - Jan. 16, 2020, 12:34 a.m.

Funnily enough, people have none of those problems around cars. We regularly stand only centimeters from 2 tons of metal going past at 50km/h without flinching or even acknowledging their existence. But that 80kg human on his 15kg pushbike at one third the speed is perceived as threatening.

Shows how constant exposure to stuff can warp our perception of risk. Maybe in a few decades, if bikes of all kinds continue to rise in popularity and numbers, we will be just as indifferent to bikers riding next to us as we are to cars.


0 Cam McRae Beau Miller
John Keiffer  - Jan. 15, 2020, 8:44 a.m.

I agree with everything except the boobs. Ain't nothing wrong with that. ;-)


+5 Cam McRae Mammal Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Carlos Matutes
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 15, 2020, 8:53 a.m.

Partly a symptom of overpopulation of an area. When it gets crowded the “rules” are much more important. I run a Timber bell that I can switch on and off which I use on trails I know are well used. It goes a long way. Also on those trails because they are busy no one is getting any KOM without creating conflict issues. I see those trails as access trails that are good for warm ups. Mutual respect folks. Mutual respect. We all have a right to be there and enjoy the woods in our own ways. Leave and make as little impact of your presence as possible.


+3 Andy Eunson Carlos Matutes Timer
[user profile deleted]  - Jan. 15, 2020, 12:35 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

+4 Pete Roggeman IslandLife Todd Hellinga AJ Barlas
OwenFoster  - Jan. 15, 2020, 10:25 a.m.

My impression of what drives the real a-holes is not adrenaline or to 'zero in and forget anything but the trail' at all.  It's not even a part of it I'd assert.  

Closer to the genuine motivations AND internal monologue before-during-after the effort or these types are;

'I'll get the KOM' 

'The post I'll make today about how rad I am will get so many likes' 

'My Insta story should have the floating SAVAGE logo on it with a selfie of how sweaty I am at the top of the climb, yeah that's perfect'

'I'll show everyone who follows my Strava that I just did a causal 50kms form my house, no big.  I'm a goddamn champion!'

+1 Todd Hellinga
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 15, 2020, 1:07 p.m.

Upvote for 'floating SAVAGE logo'

+2 Mammal Timer
Cam McRae  - Jan. 16, 2020, 8:19 a.m.

For sure Owen. I wasn't talking about that necessarily fuelling those who don't give a shit - hence unintentional assholes. But it can't help. 

The insta effect is showing up everywhere and it's almost never positive. Locally it's as though nobody downtown noticed there were mountains above our city until they saw them on their phones. They go for the likes rather than the experience.


[user profile deleted]  - Jan. 16, 2020, 11:31 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

+4 Andy Eunson Mammal Timer Cam McRae
Karl Fitzpatrick  - Jan. 15, 2020, 10:49 a.m.

Keeping up relations isn't something that's easily taught as it comes down largely to someone's personality.

Here in Wellington NZ we're very lucky to be surrounded by a ring of hills that has all manner of different riding terrain and access (thanks to a very dedicated and vocal few)that would have a visitor weak at the knees.

As OldManBike said, this has bred a growing number of cyclists (mainly) developing a creeping sense of entitlement and self importance when it comes to their priority on the likes of a lot of trails.

It's not usually my on track interactions that tend go in depth but running into (not literally) a walker, rider or other user at the trail head often turns into a good old chat about anything and everything and I often end up riding away having spent most of my limited ride time feeling just as good about knowing I'm an ambassador for the mtb community as i would having just shred a sick manual to wall ride hip jump....


+2 AndrewR Cam McRae
Velocipedestrian  - Jan. 16, 2020, 2:20 p.m.

My Wellington impression of arseholes is more about time as a rider than age - folks of any age who are recent to the mountain bicycle are more likely to be arseholes.

The middle aged man crew who have recently swapped golf for bikes are probably the worst, they've got the money, the gear, and the entitlement.


+5 Andrew Major Todd Hellinga Andy Eunson AJ Barlas AndrewR
Jerry Willows  - Jan. 15, 2020, 12:21 p.m.

Lots of bad hikers and dog walkers as well.  Hiking/walking groups that leave no room on the trail for other users.  Dog walkers that can't control their dog off leash or even on leash. 

As far as bikers, don't climb up Corkscrew on a busy Sunday with a group of 12.  Don't ride loamy trails in the pouring rain or in the slush.  Pick up a shovel instead.  And turn off f*cking Strava.


+2 Timer Velocipedestrian
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 15, 2020, 4:34 p.m.

This is true. I think it’s not so much that other users have a sense of entitlement but more that they are oblivious to others. A group of riders drop their bikes on a trail for mechanical or feed session and look at you as you approach oblivious to the fact that they have blocked the trail. I’m skiing cross country a few years ago at Whistler Olympic park coming down a fast descent and in XC the downhill skier has the right of way due to a lack of control. Even when in control. And around a corner is dad, three kids and mom pack down feeding said kids distributed across a very wide two way trail. I find yelling like Homer Simpson clears trail well. Alpine skiing I come across skiers and snowboarders resting not at the edge of a run or sitting below a blind roll. Or they are standing at the edge but start to go without looking up to see if I am coming down at a high rate of speed.  I don’t think it’s an entitled position but they just don’t think.


+1 Carlos Matutes
Timer  - Jan. 16, 2020, 12:47 a.m.

Good point on avoiding popular spots at peak hours. Especially as a group. As bikers we can cover ground much faster than hikers or dog walkers. We can use this ability to get away from the most congested trails close to towns/trailheads.


+2 Mammal Timer
[user profile deleted]  - Jan. 15, 2020, 12:39 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

+6 Mammal AJ Barlas Timer Cam McRae Andy Eunson Andrew Major
Todd Hellinga  - Jan. 15, 2020, 3:07 p.m.

'growing the sport' hasn't really been great for the sport in a lot of respects...I'm with you on the overboard with kindness and consideration these days! Thanks for writing this Cam, it's very important with so many new people in the sport who don't understand the long and hard fought battles for access and how tenuous many of those relationships with other user groups really still are.


+1 Cam McRae
colemaneddie  - Jan. 15, 2020, 4:36 p.m.

I agree with the sentiments on bells. I've found hikers and other trail users will gladly move out of the way and will even smile when they hear a nice clean bell sound coming their way! 

I think continually advocating for single user type trails is important as well. If we're building new trails, we should set ourselves up for success by avoiding the problems in the first place. Here in Utah, people are finally starting to understand that, and more single-user type, directional trails are going in, which I think will make all trail users happier. The North Shore seems to have figured that out a long time ago.

Great article, Cam!

Cam McRae  - Jan. 16, 2020, 8:21 a.m.

Thanks Coleman!


+2 Mammal Cam McRae
Cr4w  - Jan. 15, 2020, 4:48 p.m.

Remember that time when riders encountered Dan Swanstrom riding on Danimal and they gave him the gears about being there on his trials moto. Dan as is Danimal who cut most of the foundational trails in the Whistler valley that effectively established mountain biking in the area back in the day. Dan who had a fistfight with a black bear. Yeah that Dan. 

In fact it’s worth remembering that riders co-opted many of the trails up and down the S2S  which were originally trials moto climbs.

It’s worth knowing when to give thanks and when to keep quiet. Either way be courteous and know your local history FFS.


+2 Carlos Matutes Mammal
jgb1  - Jan. 15, 2020, 7:31 p.m.

SO many good points...hard to add anything that hasn't already been said.  I think if you've spent anytime in the woods as a trail user - in ANY capacity you've had both good and bad encounters with other users.  Some of them being Mountain bikers. Clearly the people posting here have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, excellent trail etiquette.

my two cents....If we continue as a group to create checks and balances within our riding groups, if we continue to advocate for our sport ( and for what its worth - nobody is paying us to do that) and be good ambassadors, if we continue with those difficult conversations regarding trail access, e-bikes, shuttling, green initiatives, and all things carbon, then we invite others to share in our experience and educate.  Every opportunity to speak to a trail user, whether a mountain biker or hiker or?? is an opportunity to have a positive interaction and to leave the other user feeling as though we as cyclists aren't a bunch of self serving, narcissistic d-bags with baggy shorts and matching gloves??

I'm not sure how to accessorize.  However, I sure as hell know how to say hello to every person I encounter and check in with others to ensure that everyone - myself included, benefits from that brief moment of communication. Perhaps in my frail mind, I see trail access being a precarious luxury that we still enjoy.  I for one don't want that removed for both me - and for my sons.

So I implore others to wave hello, take the time to know their history as Cr4w stated,  and get involved with a trail association.

My apologies for my verbal diarrhea.  I'll show myself out.....


+4 Timer Mammal Todd Hellinga Cam McRae
Carlos Matutes  - Jan. 15, 2020, 8:30 p.m.

Great piece, Cam. I work for a mountain bike advocacy group down in the States, and negative user interactions are one of the things I dread.

Intentional or not, these conflicts generally end bad for only one user group- us.

I strongly recommend that every mountain biker takes a day off of riding and goes out on a fairly popular trail on foot. Having the perspective of those poor unfortunates that don't ride will really change how you behave towards them!

On the advocacy side of things, it makes it so much easier when riders treat other trail users like humans. We all want to be able to enjoy being out on trails.

So join your local advocacy group (If you happen to be in the Boise, Idaho area it's SWIMBA...) and spring for the Timber Bell.


robbmatox  - Jan. 16, 2020, 5:35 a.m.

I used my mountain bike only for a city rides, and I feel bad about this(

Cam McRae  - Jan. 22, 2020, 10:33 p.m.

There's time Robb!

Cam McRae  - Jan. 22, 2020, 10:33 p.m.

There's time Robb!


+2 Todd Hellinga Velocipedestrian
olaa  - Jan. 17, 2020, 5 a.m.

Tons of good comments above!

Over here in northern Europe mountainbiking (or enduroing...) has become the cool thing to do and that attracts a different category of people. Back in the day mountainbiking was very much a fringe sport where the riders were not in it because it was cool. Now every entiteled former golfer seems to be wanting to go mountainbiking, and that has changed the atmosphere in the community massively. It used to be laidback fun to go on larger group rides or mtb-events, now they are much more of a show of how incredibly cool the participants are and what cool gear they have. And then a fair bit of complaining that the trails are awkward and that other riders are in the way....

Sure, there were assholes before as well but they were more contained in our small weird community.

So yeah, i guess i am a bit of an old grumpy man :) But i do take responsibility and have started a small event for other old and grumpy riders, where we will ride stupid steep trails that are pretty darn inaccessible. And then we will drink beer and complain about all the newcomers!

(Please note a fair bit of sarcasm in the above text!)


Timer  - Jan. 20, 2020, 5:23 a.m.

Interesting observation. Where i ride (central and southern Europe), i don't notice the influx of middle aged "former golfers" as much. Those seem to be usually found riding expensive E-motos on gravel paths.

What i notice however is a pervasive atmosphere of competition. And not in a good way. "Progressing as a rider" has become a mantra. "Slaying the trail" has become what mountainbiking is about. And for almost everyone this means going ever faster down the same old trails. Average speeds have roughly doubled in my edge of the woods over the last decade (partly due to the gear but also due to riders measuring their self-worth in downhill speed).


0 Cam McRae Timer
yahs  - Jan. 17, 2020, 8:32 a.m.

Nice written piece.

I ride a lot on the Shore trails and don't see any issues, everyone gets along great. Where I have to keep eyes in the back of my head is the seawall shared bike paths. The commuter crowd are brutal, couple years back was out on the cruiser bike on the spirit trail near Pemberton St. with a friend.  Riding two abreast, having a chat, oh the horror. Ebike commuter, pannier douche yells at us as he goes around us about some single file thing, threw assholes in there.... There is no one around for miles. He sure saw his trashy life flash before his eyes when I caught up to him at the next light and I said I was going to beat the fuck out of him. He didn't realize that I could easily chase him down on a 1992 converted MTB. The look on his face was priceless when I caught him.


+3 Timer Paul Lindsay Cam McRae
Greg Bly  - Jan. 17, 2020, 12:12 p.m.

Courtesy is an action based on empathy. It's a gift that one has when they genuinely care about other people. I commute full time by bike. I see pedestrian s being assholes as well as bike commuters. People in cars same. It's to a certain degree to be expected. So I am grateful when courtesy is executed. 

Mountain bikers are by far have the most courtesy out of any  group of people.  I talk in a pleasant loud voice when approaching dog walkers or hikers from behind and ask if it is Ok to pass them . I will stop if they look nervous.  I always give hikers and dog walkers the right of way if I'm traveling towards them . As in I stop and ask them to proceed past me.  I enjoy the many interactions I have with all user groups. OK I'm not super happy with commercial dog walkers. Why do you own a dog? It's good that the dog is getting attention and stimulation but isn't that the whole reason of owning a pet? Sharing that stimulation with your pet?  Still I am curteous to everyone. 

Have I freaked out hikers going up Expresso? Yes I have.  People engrossed in a smart phone viewing or conversation. ? Yes they are startled when I say hi.  I apologise and smile.  

We are the fringe group that hikers can point a finger at. We need to use courtesy at all times. We are human and some of us are ass holes. I think the rest of us have to work extra to balance out the negative connotations that we sometimes portray. 

As a whole I find mountain bikers to be friendly and courteous. I'm glad to be a part of such a friendly group of people.


+1 Cam McRae
Will Lintilhac  - Jan. 18, 2020, 7:22 a.m.

Thank you so much for this call for courtesy. This is such a vital key. I think we are all a bit guilty of being part of a culture that has historically not held courtesy in high regard. The more we promote this culture, and practice what we preach, the better outcomes we will see for all user groups out on the trails, and that really is the goal. Mountain bikers are not better or more important than other users, and I think we really have let that kind of thinking become pervasive. 

Cam, I am going to respecfully dissagree and check you on a few small points. "vocal minority in Vermont," is a phrase I struggle with. I understand you are refering to a specific example you cited, but this does potentially come off as a beef with my home state, so my hackles went up. That vocal minority is everywhere, and I think you aptly labelled that group in a non-geographic way, as "assholes," which I'm totally on board with. I mention this because I want people to feel welcome in Vermont, I want people to get behind KTA in a tough time and support them. I think generally, most people do feel very welcome in Vermont, and we value that as Vermonters, and in our strange pseudo-canadian world. We also don't actually know the exact nature of these alleged incounters. Perhaps you have access to official information no one else does, and I'm not saying you're wrong, but at this point we are all operating on rumors, and speculation. Honestly, I've been hearing similar, but slighly different things around Vermont. The fact is, the KTA and the landowners have not actually given us a first hand account, or a copy of the letters submitted Dec 14th to the KTA.

Cam McRae  - Jan. 22, 2020, 10:38 p.m.

No offense meant Will. I was simply referring to those responsible for the closure of mountain biking on those three properties. They may not have been from Vermont. I only know that they spoiled it for the majority and this occurred in Vermont. I should have been more clear. 

Thanks for your comments!


Roxy Bombardier  - Feb. 28, 2020, 8:12 a.m.

In my state, Vermont, bicycles are considered to be a vehicle by law, not a motor vehicle, but a vehicle. I think that this is important for the rider to remember and keep to the front of their mind. You yield to those on foot, and you watch out for them as a vulnerable user, you're adding a great deal of speed to your mass. You might only weigh 150 pounds but add 20mph and a metal/cf frame to this mass and suddenly you become a more serious threat to the pedestrian. You might be used to other cyclists zipping close by you but most people are not. Bicycles are a political target and have been since they were invented, see your bicycle history. We have to strive to be police and work harder at it than most users, like it or not. These are classic in-group/out-group psychology issues. Being extra polite to trail users on foot pays dividends even if you don't make the PR/KOM/QOM or whatever. If you are hunting Strava accomplishments save it for closed courses and bike parks. Trails are closed to bike all too easily.


blackhat  - May 19, 2021, 6:59 a.m.

The gaggle blocking the trail is a really frustrating one for me.  The moment I see them I know they’re in their own world doing their own thing else they wouldn’t be spread across the trail.  And honestly, I have no desire to break them out of that world if I can get around.  So I slow down and pick an alternate line to not disturb them.  Half the time they pick me up at the last second and either get startled like your friend, or scatter all directions like some multi-user frogger game.  The alternative of stopping and patiently waiting for them to clear the trail can easily come off equally badly - like an entitled asshole waiting for the children to get their shit together.  Even just slowly rolling up behind an oblivious hiker can result in a terrified panic when they finally notice you.  You’re already at their speed with 15 feet of space and they’re suddenly clawing up an embankment like a bear is chasing them.  

I’m sure most of these interactions go in the ledger against mountain biking for the users on the other end.  But I don’t know how to fix it.  At some point if you’re standing in a trail chatting with your back to traffic you’re going to have a bad experience.  It’s hard for me to feel like an asshole - international or otherwise - for being the trail user that triggered it.  While I can control my actions, other people’s emotions and anxiety are their own and I can’t take responsibility for all of it.

Sorry if this comes off as dismissive.  I’m not trying to be.  It’s just a difficult situation with how different mountain bikers and hikers use the same trails, and a bit frustrating that mountain bikers are expected to do 90% of f the work in bridging the gap - even on trails mountain bikers built.


blackhat  - May 19, 2021, 6:59 a.m.

The gaggle blocking the trail is a really frustrating one for me.  The moment I see them I know they’re in their own world doing their own thing else they wouldn’t be spread across the trail.  And honestly, I have no desire to break them out of that world if I can get around.  So I slow down and pick an alternate line to not disturb them.  Half the time they pick me up at the last second and either get startled like your friend, or scatter all directions like some multi-user frogger game.  The alternative of stopping and patiently waiting for them to clear the trail can easily come off equally badly - like an entitled asshole waiting for the children to get their shit together.  Even just slowly rolling up behind an oblivious hiker can result in a terrified panic when they finally notice you.  You’re already at their speed with 15 feet of space and they’re suddenly clawing up an embankment like a bear is chasing them.  

I’m sure most of these interactions go in the ledger against mountain biking for the users on the other end.  But I don’t know how to fix it.  At some point if you’re standing in a trail chatting with your back to traffic you’re going to have a bad experience.  It’s hard for me to feel like an asshole - international or otherwise - for being the trail user that triggered it.  While I can control my actions, other people’s emotions and anxiety are their own and I can’t take responsibility for all of it.

Sorry if this comes off as dismissive.  I’m not trying to be.  It’s just a difficult situation with how different mountain bikers and hikers use the same trails, and a bit frustrating that mountain bikers are expected to do 90% of f the work in bridging the gap - even on trails mountain bikers built.


fartymarty  - May 19, 2021, 7:11 a.m.

I get this all the time with oblivious walkers / dog walkers.  I've just bought two of these for my bikes so I can give them plenty of notice.

The worst for me a people wearing headphones and not being aware of what is around them.


Roxy Bombardier  - May 19, 2021, 8:07 a.m.

This is also a great reminder that a-holes are everywhere, and they make good people like us, wring our hands and confer with one another, and they don't f-ing care. I guess we have to figure out ways to make them care...oh yea laws and trail closures and some sort of a policing entity, which sucks to say. I am reminded of how I was road cycling a couple of years back. Came to the stop sign at a busy 4 way stop. I stopped for my turn, suddenly I'm nearly knocked off my bike and I feel a body brushing against mine. A fellow cyclist has chosen to squeeze between me and the car to my left blows the stop sign, turning left into the intersection all the sounds of honking cars and yelling motorists. This is the closest I've ever come to chasing down a fellow cyclist for the purpose of abusing them. My better nature prevailed (for all I knew he was also violent in addition to being an a-hole) but basically, this guy was a fellow cyclist, a dangerous ass-hat, and the drivers did not care who was who we all look alike on bikes with helmets and goggles. The pedestrians feel the same way about us.


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