Mountain biking is rapidly becoming one of the most popular outdoor activities for people of all ages across the country. The reasons for this are several: mountain biking is relatively cheap to get into as a hobby, is richly rewarding, and allows people to burn fat and get copious amounts of physical exercise while enjoying the benefits of being outdoors among nature. As a result, more beginning mountain bikers than ever before have begun to hit the trails to see all that the sport has to offer. However, beginning mountain bikers may not necessarily know all of the unwritten rules of the trails and single tracks that they set out to use. It is important to remember that access to the trail is important to everyone who might use it. As a mountain biker, you will probably be one of the newer kids on the block, so to speak, and it is good to take care not to offend the users of trails and wilderness areas who were there before you learned to ride.
A little courtesy and consideration can go a long way when it comes to using your mountain bike in areas that may be occupied by other people. After all, on a mountain bike, you are a member of a sport that does have known risks, and you are in charge of a vehicle capable of traveling as fast as a car and much faster than the fastest human being, while not necessarily making more noise than a few people trampling through the underbrush. It is only natural that a number of different people and animals may fear you when you first approach, which is why offering olive branches as a courteous and responsible mountain biker can go a long way toward gaining and maintaining friendships while you are out in the great outdoors. In particular, there are certain groups that you should make every effort to be respectful toward in between hurtling down fast tracks on your mountain bike.
First of all, mountain biking conduct and etiquette should always be practiced around hikers and joggers. While it may not be a popular concession to make, especially around other mountain bikers, the fact is that hikers and joggers were the first people to develop and occupy wilderness trails and many trails would no longer exist if they stopped offering their political and financial support to them. When you pass a hiker or a jogger, try not to do so at a very high speed, and make an effort not to surprise them. You can do so by monitoring your speed as you approach and being sure to let them know you are coming with some kind of bell or warm greeting. The simple chime or telephone style ring of a bell can be enough to let people on foot know that you are passing through, as the ring is unmistakable and familiar. At times, you may also want to use another bike specific noise such as scraping your feet on the trail or shifting your gears.
You should not assume a hiker or a jogger has seen you, however, until he or she shifts position or looks up at you. It is important to get the attention of people on foot whenever you are traveling faster than a walking speed, as you present much more of a danger to them than they will to you. Additionally, whenever someone yields his or her right of way to you, you should thank him or her. You should also do this when someone holds their young children or pets close by when you are passing, as children and pets tend to dart about in unexpected ways at unexpected times, and when they are temporarily restrained so you can pass safely, it is good practice to thank people who do so for you.
Another obvious place to practice mountain biking conduct and etiquette is around the environment itself. Make every effort not to leave anything on the trail, even if you think it is something that will not be noticed or that is small enough to be ignored, such as a candy wrapper. This can get you banned from a trail.