At any given time during a mountain bike ride, disaster can strike. It’s probably this unpredictability that makes riding our bikes deep into the wildness so exhilarating. Typically, a rider can make a quick repair or dust himself off and be on his way, but sometimes not. It’s at these times that a rider will start adding up his “trail karma points,” hoping he has done enough good deeds to receive a stroke of luck. So, how can a rider accumulate more trail karma points? Well, it’s easy. Simply follow our list of good deeds and you’ll quickly find out that what comes around goes around.
1: STOP AND HELP A RIDER IN NEED
During your next trail ride, try to be more aware of other riders on the trail. It’s common for riders to stop and take a break, but sometimes a rider stopped on the side of the trail may need assistance. If you see a rider fumbling through his hydration pack or working on his bike, simply ask if he has everything he needs. Most riders are self-sufficient and will tell you they’re fine, but sometimes a rider may need to borrow a tool, a pump or even a tube.
Crashes happen: Riders who stop to help a rider who has crashed will quickly gain trail karma points, but riders who bunnyhop over that crashed rider in hopes of earning a KOM will likely be struck with bad trail karma later during their ride.
2: HELP A RIDER WHO HAS CRASHED
Mountain bikes are awesome, but, unfortunately, part of the sport is the occasional crash. Just ask any mountain biker and he or she will be happy to share a crash story with you and may even show you a scar to back it up. If you are riding a trail and spot a rider who has crashed, get off your bike and make sure he is okay. If necessary, call 911 or ride to the nearest ranger station if you don’t have cell service. If a group of riders rolls up on a crash, at least one person should stay with the injured rider while the others hike up the trail to warn oncoming traffic.
3: CLEAR TRAIL OBSTACLES
Stormy weather can wreak havoc on local trails. It’s not uncommon for singletrack to become blocked by tree branches, rocks or other objects. If your local trails have a potential hazard such as these, you have two options: bring in tools to remove the hazard. We know some riders who carry small collapsible handsaws so they can clear fallen tree branches after a storm. A rider willing to put in a little work instead of just climbing over the obstacle should receive double-good trail karma points.
Always be prepared: Good trail karma points can be earned by offering a tube or multi-tool to a rider in need or offering to pay a rider who has helped you in your time of need.
4: RIDE WITH SOME CASH
It’s a good idea to carry some cash in case you wind up being the rider who needs help. If a rider lends you a CO2 cartridge, a tube or even just lets you borrow his multi-tool so you can make a quick adjustment, offer to pay him a few bucks. Most riders will probably turn you down, but offering to pay a rider for his assistance shows you appreciate his effort.
Keep a watchful eye: Rattlesnakes enjoy soaking up the sun on the trails and generally don’t like sharing their favorite sunbathing spot with mountain bikers. If you hear or see a rattlesnake, it’s best to keep your distance.
5: WARN TRAIL USERS ABOUT WILDLIFE
Depending on where you ride, there are many different types of creatures and animals you may find on the trail. We’ve seen rattlesnakes, grizzly bears and many other living things you wouldn’t want to stumble upon alone. If you see wildlife, it’s best to keep your distance, since you’re walking into their territory and not the other way around. Also, be sure to warn other trail users, such as hikers, riders and equestrians, that a potentially dangerous creature or animal has been spotted on the trails.
6: CREATE A COMMUNITY TOOLBOX
We’ve had the pleasure of riding some really cool trails that have a community toolbox at various locations. A rider looking to gain some serious trail karma points should look into creating a community toolbox. The boxes we have seen are filled with tools attached to cables so they don’t walk away. Generous riders looking to add to their points total can leave tubes, CO2 cartridges and other trail essentials in the box for riders in need.
Steer clear: Poison oak is a nasty plant with shiny, oily leaves that, when contacted, can irritate your skin for weeks. It’s best to steer clear of it and warn others to do the same.
7: HAND SIGNALS
In off-road motorsports, it’s common courtesy to tell opposing traffic how many people are in your group through hand signals. On mountain bikes, we don’t have loud motors, so it may be easier to just shout out how many people are behind you, but hand signals can still be useful. Simply hold up a finger for each rider behind you using just one hand. If there are more than five riders behind you, then it may be better to just yell it out. Making other trail riders aware of your group’s size can make the trails safer for everyone.
8: SMILE AND SAY HELLO TO ALL TRAIL USERS
This one is so simple, we’re shocked we even feel the need to say it. Most of the time mountain bikers are very friendly to one another and even to other trail users; however, we sometimes run into that Strava guy or wanna-be downhill pro who feels the need to ride past us at full speed without even acknowledging our presence. We hope these riders in a hurry take the time to read this tip and rack up some good trail karma points by slowing down a bit to say hello.
Trail day: It’s a very rewarding feeling riding a trail you helped build or maintain. Next time you get the opportunity, we highly recommend volunteering to help your local trail crew. Check out mwba.org
9: TRAIL WORK
Volunteering for a trail work day is an excellent way to gain trail karma points. Not only will you be giving back to the trails you ride all the time, but you will also find the trails much more enjoyable knowing you helped build that berm you just blasted through or that jump you just rocketed off.
10: DESCEND WITH CAUTION
There is a time to go fast and a time to be cautious. A day on the trails, especially a weekend, is a time to descend with caution. Be courteous to other trail users and slow down for blind corners or narrow sections of trail. If you have a serious need for speed, sign up for a race or take it to a local bike park.
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