There’s no feeling like ripping down a trail on a mountain bike. It’s a truly special sensation, one that can almost make you feel as if you’ve mastered the elements in some small way. Mountain biking truly thrives on the relationship between man (or woman) and nature. At our best, we don’t fight mother nature, but instead, we glide cooly over the obstacles she presents. That’s mountain biking.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that there’s been an increased focus on the environmental impact of our beloved sport. In an aggressive, high-speed activity like mountain biking, it’s possible for the environment to be an unwitting victim. So, it’s important that mountain bikers remain educated and vigilant about our impact on the world around us. With just a few adjustments to your ride, you can minimize your footprint and keep the trails around for future generations.
Keep on Trail
This one is fairly obvious. The trail down a mountain was made for a reason. When you go off-trail, you begin an unnatural process fo erosion and ecological damage to the area’s vegetation. While going off-book can definitely be fun, it can be extremely detrimental to the environment. Also, try to avoid widening the trail. If there’s an obstacle that you can’t ride over, don’t go around it. This is going to artificially widen the existing trail, causing slow (but significant) long-term damage. Instead, dismount and make your way over or through the obstacle. Not quite as fun, we know, but Mother Nature will thank you.
Think of the Animals
Mountain biking is an inherently frightening thing for many small forest creatures. The action and speed of our bikes can stress, frighten, and disrupt the lives of wildlife. While there’s not really much we can do to make the animals feel any different about it, we can certainly prepare for these wildlife encounters. For instance, try to make some kind of noise when going around blind corners. Alternatively, try affixing a bell to your bike. This type of noise is going to harmlessly startle animals, thus keeping them far away from the potentially-stressful trail.
Obviously, you can’t not use your brakes. When you’re riding aggressively downhill, your braking system can be your absolute saving grace. Indeed, your braking system can be other riders’ saving grace as well. But, skidding and spraying dirt excessively can be very harmful and abrasive to the ecosystem. It can damage plant life and ruin the homes of smaller creatures. Try to manage your speed and anticipate the turns so as to avoid over-braking. Not only will it save the environment, but being less reliant on sudden stopping can absolutely improve your trail time.
Easy on the Dirt
Mountain biking is an infamously dirty sport. At the end of an especially aggressive ride, you and your bike often end up caked in dirt from head to toe. What you may not realize is that if you’re an often-traveling sort of rider, seeds can latch on to your clothes and bike. These seeds can travel through sensitive ecosystems and wind up in places they really shouldn’t be. This process can create the opportunity for invasive, unnatural vegetation to grow in new areas. To solve this problem, make sure to thoroughly clean your bike after every ride. Keep this in mind especially if you’re planning on traveling internationally or across the country, where ecosystems can be wildly different.
Alright...in a perfect world, littering just wouldn’t happen. Regardless, it somehow finds a way to keep being a problem. Next time you see bottles, trash, or food wrappers on the trail...just pick them up. Sure, it’s not your trash, but a little goes a long way. If you ride a trail, you’re responsible for maintaining it. As well, we talked earlier about obstacles impeding the path. Consider moving those, so other riders don’t feel inclined to veer off-trail. Lastly, look into trail maintenance days. Many mountain biking clubs organize these days, and taking part is a great way to give back to Mother Nature.
Think About the Future
That’s really the crux of this whole thing, whether we’re talking mountain biking or day-to-day life. Any small change or adjustment you can make is going to help preserve your trail for years and years to come. In many cases, these changes can also help improve your own performance on the trail, creating nothing short of a win-win.