If you’re an avid hiker or mountain biker, you have likely heard of the drama between these two groups of outdoor hobbyists. While they have similar interests when it comes to trail preservation and exploration, both hikers and mountain bikers have been at each other's throats for many years. But why do hikers hate mountain bikers so much?
Hikers hate mountain bikers for several reasons, but it all stems from one place. Hikers and mountain bikers need to share the same trail, and it can be pretty intimidating to hear or see a mountain bike speeding through the trail. In addition, most trails are very narrow and offer little wiggle room to get out of the way when a mountain biker is coming toward you.
Many hikers believe that mountain bikers are increasing trail erosion by a significant amount and hate seeing tire tracks on their favorite trails. Furthermore, we’ve seen far too many hikers complaining on online forums about the rudeness they experience from mountain bikers. Finally, hikers feel like they need to be on edge while on a hike due to the speed at which some mountain bikers ride through trails. We have seen far too many accidents on trails caused by mountain bikers going too fast around corners, downhill, or even on straights.
As you continue to read this article, we’ll dive into the many reasons why hikers hate mountain bikers. Afterward, we’ll provide a list of solutions that may help mountain bikers get along with hikers.
Hikers Hate Mountain Bikers for the Damage They Cause to the Trail
One of the key reasons why hikers hate mountain bikers is because they believe mountain bikers cause a ton of unnecessary damage to the trail. Mountain bikes often have thin tires, which aren't the best at supporting the weight of the rider. Because of these thin tires, mountain bikers will often leave a shallow dip in the trail as they ride through. While this might not seem like a big deal, the issue gets much worse when there are more mountain bikes on the trail.
Tires are essentially round objects and, as such, will try to find the path of least resistance when moving forward. Unfortunately, this causes mountain bikers to follow the same path as the one before, leading to an even deeper dip in the trail. If left unchecked, these shallow dips in the ground caused by mountain bikes can make the ground uneven, which makes hiking these trails uncomfortable, unfun, and more dangerous.
Mountain bikers are also far more likely to hit the trails after it rains, which leads to even more trail erosion. As it rains, the ground gets softer and more malleable, and depending on the type of dirt that makes up the trail, you can come across some gnarly patches of mud. If and when a mountain bike rides through the mud or across the freshly wet trail, the "shallow dip" becomes much deeper, more noticeable, and lasts much longer.
Thankfully, many parks and trails have started to take notice of the damage mountain bikers cause. They’ve started imposing speed limitations to increase the safety of their hikers. Some even started banning mountain bikes from their trails to prevent erosion.
Hikers Hate How Mountain Bikers Make Their Trails More Dangerous
While mountain bikes are the leading cause of trail erosion, they also make the trails unsafe for hikers. Mountain bikers like trails because it allows them to get a thrill from the speeds they can reach and the jump. However, most hiking trails are very narrow and only have enough room for a single hiker to travel safely. This poses quite the issue when a mountain bike is speeding towards you on the trail. It’s even more dangerous if they’re hiking with kids or when a mountain biker is speeding towards a turn in the trail.
We’ve come across far too many accidents while hiking on our favorite trails where negligent mountain bikers were traveling too fast down the trail and crashed into a hiker. No matter the excuse, the mountain biker was nearly always at fault because they were either going too fast or did not follow proper trail etiquette.
Hikers Hate Mountain Bikers Because Most of Them are Rude
One of the more prominent reasons hikers hate mountain bikers is because they think they’re rude. Due to the high speeds mountain bikers can reach on a trail, most mountain bikers expect hikers to get out of the way when they see a mountain bike blazing toward them. However, this isn’t the safest way to yield and is just plain wrong. Proper trial etiquette states that all mountain bikers should yield to hikers and horses, while all hikers should yield to horses. This system allows for the safest yields when on a trail.
In our experience, most mountain bikers will yield to us when we’re hiking by pulling to the side of the trail and waiting or hopping off their bike and walking past us. However, this isn’t always the case, and we’ve had plenty of encounters with mountain bikers that have little respect for our safety as hikers. The rudeness of some mountain bikers and their disregard for safety has led to accidents, leaving both bikers and hikers injured.
Another reason hikers think mountain bikers are rude is they are inconsiderate of the damage they do to the trail. Many mountain bikers claim they do the same amount of damage to a trail as a hiker or that they do less because hiking on a trail is more common than mountain biking. While this statement can be true for some trails, it’s the complete opposite for others, and as we mentioned previously, mountain bikers are far more likely to hit the trail after a rainstorm, which in turn leads to more trail erosion. One mountain biker is not the end of the world for a trail, but the more bikers that are on the same trail, the worse the erosion is. Finally, not all trails can be repaired, so riding your mountain bikes down these trails will eventually make them untraversable for hikers.
Is it Possible for Hikers and Mountain Bikers to Get Along?
Most hikers have a negative view of mountain bikers on their trail, which is understandable but unfortunate. In our opinion, everyone should be able to explore and trail with their favorite method of travel. However, to mutually exist on the trails, mountain bikers will need to make some changes to their behavior and follow some rules of conduct. If mountain bikers could learn to coexist on the trails with hikers while making them feel safe, it would end this discussion.
With that said, we have come up with a list of possible solutions or rule suggestions for mountain bikers. These suggestions should allow you to hit your favorite trails while keeping everyone safe and your trail erosion to a minimum.
Yielding Etiquette on Trails
Remember the yielding etiquette if you’re riding your mountain bike on a hiking trail. All mountain bikers should yield to hikers; doing so allows the slower hikers to pass by as safely as possible. Yielding to hikers on a trail will help combat the negativity that hikers have for mountain bikers.
The speed that mountain bikers can reach on trails is a major concern for hikers. High-speed mountain bikes make hiking unsafe and are the leading cause of accidents on the trails. Traveling at high speeds on narrow trails makes it very difficult to stop in time to yield to hikers that are ahead of you. To combat this, all you need to do as a mountain biker is slow down. We’re not asking you to come to a crawl, or ride your bike as fast as we walk, but you never know what’s around the next bend on the trail.
Avoid the Trails for a Few Days After it Has Rained
Riding your mountain bike through a wet trail will leave behind deep ruts that will take months before they fill up. We understand that getting dirty and splashing through the mud can be fun for some people, but the damage it causes to the trail is absurd. However, mountain bikers are not the only ones to blame for increased trail erosion after it has rained. While it’s more common for mountain bikers to hit the trail after it has rained, there are still plenty of hikers that don't mind getting their boots dirty. Walking or running through a mud puddle can do just as much damage to the trail as a bicycle tire.
As a rule of thumb, everyone should avoid using the trails for a few days after it has rained. We understand that this is a lot to ask for. After all, hiking or biking through your favorite trail for a few days can be arduous. But the more hikers and mountain bikers that we can convince to avoid the trails after it has rained, the longer those trails will be in peak condition.
Ride Your Bike During the Quiet Hours
Like we’ve said before, mountain bikers like trails because they get to go fast and feel the thrill from hitting jumps. But the best time for a mountain biker to get the experience they want, there need to be no hikers on the trail. With that said, the best time to ride your mountain bike on the trails is during the off-peak hiking hours, which are usually at sunrise and sunset. However, it’s not guaranteed that you won’t encounter a hiker during these times, so make sure you still keep an eye out for hikers if you decide to bike during the quiet hours.
Stick to Riding Bike-Only Trails
Finally, the safest thing you can do as a mountain biker is to only ride your bike on bike-only trails. This will ensure that you will never run into a hiker, so you can go as fast as you want. Some parks and trails have started alternating between bike-only and hiker-only. So, if you don't like the bike-only trails in your area, try finding a good hiking trail that has alternating days.
Hikers have been raging about mountain bikers on their trails for many years. Many of the issues that cause a hiker's hatred for mountain bikes stem from them having to share the same trails. While the hatred for mountain bikers is somewhat justified, it’s unwarranted and a useless endeavor. Everyone should experience trails, and a few bad apples should not spoil the bunch. Unfortunately, rude mountain bikers that make the trail unsafe for hikers are more memorable due to the negative experience, and with social media readily available, we don't see this hatred dying down anytime soon. However, if we as hikers could convince those bad apples to be more respectful of the trail and its travelers, maybe we could start making a dent in this debate.