It's all about focus when you're riding your favorite trail. You focus on what line to take, how to clear the rooted section up ahead, hopping a log feature, attacking a steep uphill—or avoiding a chipmunk. But you also need to focus on a very important aspect of off-road biking: Public Relations.
Our trails are specified as "multiple use" trails, meaning, well, you can pretty much figure it out. Chances are good that you'll encounter other users who are not on bikes: hikers, dog walkers, bird watchers—dog watchers, etc. We all need to become ambassadors of our sport and welcome other users by slowing down, pulling over, saying hello, chatting for a minute or two, and generally just being friendly. In the past, off-road biking has sometimes gotten a bad rap due to "kids almost running people over," etc. We've all heard stories like that. If you walk the trails, you'll find that those stories are no longer true. Most bikers pull over, say hello, and let you pass. Off-road bikers are not disrespectful "kids" hell bent on running down anything in their path, but a responsible and socially-diverse cross section of who we are in Western New York. We just need to change a few perceptions that are stubbornly sticking to us. There's always Whiteface or Killington if you want to bomb down a trail and be in the zone without thinking of anything else. On our local trails though, it's inevitable that we'll encounter others who are moving slower than us, whether it's slower bikers or other users. We still have some ground to cover on the way to proving we care about our local trails more than anyone else.
So, on your next ride, keep in mind that you're also campaigning. You're the instigator for change and an ambassador of good will for all of us. We all represent each other when we're out there. So have good trail manners, pull over for another user, slow down, smile, say hello, shake some hands, pet a dog or two, and let people know we care about preserving trail use for everyone. A positive image in the mind of the non-biking community will help ensure off-road biking will have a place on our trails for years to come.
But of course, don't forget to nail that gnarly, rocky, rooted downhill.
See you out there!
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