Secret Trails, Math, and Night Riding

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Mar 14, 2016

Dear Uncle Dave,

Why is it some trail systems will not let you ride at night? Some of the funnest riding can happen at night time but some trails will not allow it. Is there a good reason? Is it just a liability issue? Sucks when you pull in to ride and see a no poaching sign!

Night Guy

Dear Nag:

Do you live in the English countryside next to a greedy industrialist with a love of pheasant hunting? If so, you may be able to find success through an ingenious plan involving sleeping pills, raisins and a custom built baby buggy. Don’t forget to soak your raisins for maximum plumpness.

If not, I’d say just keep doing what you’re doing. I can’t think of a good reason to not allow night riding. If somebody starts yelling at you, just turn off your lights and melt into the forest.

Uncle Dave

Hey Uncle Dave,

I got back into the bike scene last summer after taking about 7 years off due to being serving in the military. There have been a lot of changes, advancements and tech that our beloved sport has adopted over the years. I admire all the new cool stuff and have taken up some of it too it since coming back in, one of which is Strava. I discovered this not too long after jumping back on the bike, so far I love it. Strava tells me all the stats on my ride, and allows me to compete with other locals, I’m fairly competitive so it all seems to add to the experience nicely. The other day, I was invited to ride some local DH trails that I haven’t heard of with a local team. I ran Strava along with another guy in the group. At the end of the amazing ride, we all grouped together and my mentor who invited me told me that we like to keep the spot on the “low-down” to try to keep traffic to a minimum. I understood, I’m a surfer too and I know what it’s like when waves get crowded, although I think the MTB community is far more friendly than the local surfers out here where I live on the west coast. When I finished the ride ended it on the app, but then became hesitant to post it as I didn’t want anyone to know exactly where I was. I eventually posted it on Strava and decided not to on Facebook assuming most people don’t use Strava to find new trails…right? I titled the ride creatively something that doesn’t point out location.

What are your thoughts on apps such as Strava? do you think they have a good place in our community to help with competition, statistics and sharing trails or do you believe it’s unnecessary technology that is ruining our sport and giving away all of our favorite spots? I seem to stand on the fence with it like other forms of social media. I’ve been debating about deleting my Facebook account for 2 years now… it probably won’t happen now. I contemplate if I should delete bike apps before I invest too much time and effort into those as well. To me it’s really about riding my bike with friends. I adopt the tech that is necessary, but this is grey area to me.

Also, is bike insurance worth it? we spend quite a bit of pennies on these rigs these days, should we be inclined to protect them as if they were our vehicle?

That guy who posts secret trails to Strava

Dear Trampo:

Think of riding secret or lesser known trails as buying drugs or visiting a brothel. Would you use social media to tell everybody exactly what you were doing, laying your life bare so that you have something to talk about with your mother the next time she calls? No, you’d just hint at it through cryptic messages, inside jokes and emojis.

So, you made a mistake. But don’t worry about it. Even though you screwed up, it’s your friend who was really at fault here. First off, he invited the sort of guy that posts everything to social media on a trail that he wanted to keep somewhat secret. That was pretty dumb. Next, he didn’t make it clear until the end of the ride that things were supposed to be kept on the down low. This was sloppy work and suggests his heart wasn’t really into keeping things secret. Please send this message along to him so that he stops doing these things. Hopefully, he has learned his lesson and will adjust his actions accordingly.

As for bike insurance, at the rate that bicycle are evolving these days, there really is no point. Whatever you happen to own will be next to worthless within a few months’ time, so if it gets stolen you’re better off just buying it back off of Craigslist at a discount than in dealing with an insurance company. Either that or shop around to find a home insurer that will include the full value of your bicycles on your policy without a rider. There’s not many that will, but they are out there.

Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave:

What trails do mountain bikers genuinely like?

NSMB bulletin board threads teach me that I should dislike machine built trails, trails with tight corners, un-maintained trails, maintained trails, trails with wood-work, and trails with climbs.

The only exception seems to be secret trails, that everyone knows about.

Trail Guy

Dear Trag:

It can be proven mathematically that the awesomeness of various things (beer, music, mountain bike trails) is directly proportional to its exclusivity. So you’re exactly right. “Secret Trails” that everybody knows about tend to be the favourites of mountain bikers.

However, if a trail is actually secret, it turns into a bit of a tree-falls-in-the-forest type of thing. There’s just not enough people around to care to make it a good riding experience.

The absolute pinnacle is a secret trail that everybody knows about, but that nobody knows the location of. So, a “secret” trail shown on the Instagram feed of a professional rider or photographer is the absolute pinnacle of mountain biking.

Interestingly, with this formula, it is universally accepted that the “worst” trail is Lower A-Line at 11:30 AM on a sunny Saturday in July.

Uncle Dave


Check 'em out." src="/media/original_images/SEVENTH_R02314B-1024x409.jpgresize10242C409" alt="SEVENTH_R02314B-1024x409" data-recalc-dims="1" />

Congratulations, Trag, you have won a pair of Ryders Seventh antiFOG riding glasses, which feature a hydrophobic treatment on the outer side of the lenses, and an antifog treatment on the inside. Perfect for scoping out secret trails, sorta. Check ’em out.

Got a question for Uncle Dave? But hey, let’s all do our part to keep Uncle Dave from going coastal – enough with the questions about wheel size, proliferating standards, and why his Instagram is so full of dogs and flowers (nature challenge, blah blah). Let’s see what you’ve got, internet.


Trending on NSMB


Nat Brown  - March 16, 2016, 11:33 a.m.

Good job all round on these answers Uncle Dave. Gotta say that Trampo's letter seems like a set up to have you make explicit expectations around Strava use and secret trails.

I'm also happy to see another comment here. I was thinking I might have sterilised the NSMB comments section by turning my 'academic' scrutiny up to 11 last week. And not doing a great job of one comment in particular. Anyway…


tiesta  - March 15, 2016, 8:50 p.m.

There used to be a secret single track with tight switchbacks and dozens of logs you had to hop up and ride over. Then some grannies found the trail and started building berms everywhere, widened it and straightened it all out to go faster. They cut away all the logs, even 2 inch high roots, and made the single track into a very obvious paved jump trail, that is if you could call 2 foot gaps jumps. The city found it, and put fences up everywhere. Now it's gone.


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