IMBA’s Rules of the Trail

These guidelines for trail behavior are recognized around the world. IMBA developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary, depending on traffic conditions and the intended use of the trail.

1. Ride On Open Trails Only
Respect trail and road closures — ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as may be required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness.

2. Leave No Trace
Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.

3. Control Your Bicycle
Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.

4. Yield to Others
Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to all other trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. Strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.

5. Never Scare Animals
Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.

6. Plan Ahead
Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding — and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.

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NYCMTB Ride Primer

Follow these tips on the trails for a safer and more enjoyable ride:

  • Shift into an easier gear and stay seated while climbing. Your bike uses energy much more efficiently when you stay seated and pedal steadily. Lance Armstrong has said that everyone has a limited number of out-of-the-saddle efforts before they run out of gas, so every time you stand up, you’re pushing yourself that much closer to running out of steam.
  • Do not skid. The trails are sensitive, and if you spray dirt around, or lock up your brakes and slide, you’re taking dirt off the trail and aiding erosion. Instead, learn to use your front brake more aggressively to slow yourself when necessary.
  • If you encounter a muddy patch, ride through it, or walk around it, but do not ride around the side of it. This widens the trail unnecessarily and could encroach on plant and animal habitats near the trail.
  • Similarly, if you encounter a trail obstacle that is beyond your ability, do not try to ride around it or create a new route around it. Trail braids are unsightly, unacceptable and contribute to erosion. This is the number one way to upset the trail builders and maintainers. Instead, get off your bike and walk or climb over it.
  • Do not build extra trails without the clear and express approval from the proper authorities. This includes building trails to access technical features, drops or jumps. Do not alter or modify the trails in any way.
  • Always wear eye protection.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Keep your eyes focused 20-30 feet ahead of you on the trail- look at what’s coming, not what’s under your wheel. You’ll ride straighter and smoother that way.
  • Riders descending yield to riders climbing in the opposite direction. It’s much easier to continue riding downhill, while it’s much more difficult to start climbing again once your rhythm is broken.