This is not a trails bible, this is a fundamental code of conduct on trail etiquette, every aspect of civilisation has them, written or unwritten. Words by Elliot Eveson, photos by Grant Robinson.
Taken from Dirt Issue 63, May 2007
I know it says unwritten, but sometimes things need to be pointed out. The majority of us know all of this already and live by it day to day, and you probably feel a little offended, maybe patronised, and I’m sorry for that, but I genuinely feel that this needs to be said on paper, even if only one person reads it and uses it when he visits trails, it can only be a good thing. This is not a trails bible, this is a fundamental code of conduct, every aspect of civilisation has them, written or unwritten.
For instance, if I were to knock someone’s Stella out of their hand, pub etiquette would direct me towards offering to replace his Stella, it’s only decent. And I think that is all any trail builder wants, some decency, a little bit of respect for what they have achieved, for the visiting riders to show some commonsense and a little moral fibre.
Have you ever been at your trails, sat on your bike, digging, maybe stopped for a drink, and some visitors rock up, walk straight past you with nothing more than a grunt to acknowledge your presence, put their bags down away from where you are sitting and begin to ride. That is the first way to piss people off, I mean, the locals have worked hard to build a set of trails that are worth a visit, don’t you think that you owe them the courtesy of a simple acknowledgement. OK, you might be a shy person, it took years for Div to feel comfortable with talking to us, but in the meantime it didn’t stop us thinking that he’s a bit of a dick, it turns out that he’s not a dick, he’s in fact great to ride with, and I’m glad to know him. Everyone has to overcome their shyness and get on with it, it might be more difficult for some than for others, but it’s better than not being welcome back!
If the jumps don’t flow, at some point it will be the topic of conversation, and you can add your opinion, have you ever heard of constructive criticism? Well give some of it, help them out, tell them what you think in a diplomatic way and maybe give them some advice. If the locals then decide to do something about it, don’t use this as the perfect time to sit on your arse and have some lunch, help them, this could be the breaking point between being welcomed back or not.
I’m not saying dig all day for them, just give them a hand sorting it out, more hands make light work and all of that. Changing the shape of a tranny or adding some height to a landing doesn’t take long, and I would honestly say that riders get to know each other better from digging rather than riding.
That’s the social interaction chapter done, now lets move onto riding. It’s not about how well you ride, my first trip to Wisley I crashed out on the second and broke a rib, awesome! Everyone remembers how shit they were when they started, but there are a few rules about riding trails.
Soil is malleable, it’s pliable, that’s why it suits our needs, so footplanting the lips to turn yourself around isn’t a respectful thing to do! The impact and pressure of yours and anyone else’s foot hitting the damp and pliable soil at the top of the lip will gradually leave an indentation, to some this wont matter, but to the people who put so much time into perfecting the shape of the transitions that they build, it will!
But most importantly, that little indentation at the top of the lip, the last bit of soil your bike has contact with before spending a few seconds gracefully darting through the air, that indentation could take the grace from your acrobatics, instead it could make you fly through the air like a screaming banshee and land like a sack of shit. So in the words of Dave England, ‘Safety first kids’.
I’d say the most common piece if trail etiquette is to fix your cases, there is nothing more you can do to piss of the locals than blow a landing and turn your head to have a look at what you’ve done as you walk back to the top of the trails. Even the few that do this will be sat at home reading this and denying ever doing it themselves. I’ve blown countless landings, that’s generally what happens on sandy trails, it’s almost constant, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you didn’t nail it that time maybe you’ll nail it the next or the time after, or maybe even in two weeks time, what is bad is not fixing it. Pick up your shovel and start undoing what you’ve done, then maybe the locals will respect you.
As quoted on the infamous DNS T–Shirt, ‘No F*cking Skidding’, mainly for the obvious reasons, but also, it’s just not necessary.
There are a few more parts of trail etiquette that although sound insignificant make a big difference:
b) Take your rubbish home. Your bag is big enough to get the wrapping and the food into it, so sure it’s big enough to take just the wrapper? Most trails balance precariously on a knife edge, if the land owner can see that you respect your environment, then maybe they’ll respect you a little. Trails have been shut down for litter alone.
c) Invite the locals back to your trails, Not only is it courteous, but it’s a good craic too, having riders visit is one of the best things about trails, it builds all of our little isolated woodlands into a network of places where we can take road trips and have good times.
Digs’s Top 5 Trail Etiquette Do’s and Don’t’s
- Bitch cranks look bad, don’t do them
- So do tight pants
- Don’t be a twat
- Do eat meat
- Do/Don’t, if conversation runs dry, try commenting on dress sense/hair style