10 Basics of Trail Riding Etiquette
One of the best aspects of trail riding, whether on a snowmobile, ATV/UTV or motorcycle, is the endless possibility of places to explore. Whether you’re new to trail riding or an experienced explorer, it’s important to know and respect a few established and unwritten rules before you set out for your next adventure. Here’s a list of basic principles to abide by to ensure you and your group not only have a good time and stay safe, but also have a minimal impact on the area where you’re riding.
1. Know the Area
Know where you’re riding. Check for land-use regulations, trail fees and other local rules around trail etiquette before departing. These can be established by a club, landowner, or state or local agency. If you are riding in an unknown area, consider bringing a GPS and map. It’s also a good idea if you’re riding alone to bring a GPS locator device in case of emergency.
2. Stay on the Dusty Trail
As stewards of our natural resources, riders should try to avoid causing any damage to motorized riding areas. Try to stay on trails and avoid riding on dense vegetation. In some arid areas in North America, spark arrestors for motorcycles are mandatory while trail riding to help prevent wildfires, so make sure you’re outfitted appropriately. A spark arrestor is a mesh device placed inside of the exhaust to inhibit any sparks that may occur while riding.
3. Leave No Trace
Pack it in and pack it out. It’s a privilege to ride on the land in wild places, so take time before you leave to ensure you’ve left the land as you found it. In some areas, you might ride through cattle gates or fields. If you do cross a gate that is closed, close it back up again after crossing.
4. Watch for Others
The great thing about the motorized community is the passion that can be sparked anywhere. That’s why, on the trails, it’s important to ensure all land users feel welcome and safe. If you approach someone hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding, be sure to slow down and be courteous. Around horses, it’s suggested to turn off your engine and perhaps take off your helmet if a horse seems very spooked by your presence. When passing users of any kind, go slow and try not to kick up dirt or dust.
5. Work Together
Something that’s often neglected in group riding is doing spot checks at intersections to ensure you don’t lose your group. This can be hard when you have large groups with varying skill levels, but you should still stop and check for the rider behind you when you approach an intersection. Whether on the trail or on the road, if each rider checks and waits for the person behind them then your group should never be split. This can also help to space out the group, and helps with locating someone if they become lost, hurt or have a breakdown.
6. Stop Smart
When stopping, whether on a solo ride or with a group, pull off in an area with wide visibility. Avoid stopping on blind corners or hills as other riders and users might not see you. Try to make sure you’re keeping yourself and others safe when choosing a stopping area.
7. Count on Communication
When riding on any two-way trails or roads, it’s helpful to communicate with users going in the opposite direction. If you are the first person to pass the oncoming traffic it’s useful to lift your hand and use your fingers to show the number of riders left behind so that an oncoming rider can be prepared to pass more riders. Sometimes this can be hard on things such as a dirt bike, but on a snowmobile or ATV, it’s easy to do. If you are the last rider of the group you should put up your hand in a fist, showing there are no more riders behind you.
8. Give Space
While riding in a group, it’s valuable to space out the riders for a few reasons. The most important reason is your safety. You want to make sure you have enough time to stop safely if the person in front of you was to fall or stop abruptly. Especially in the height of summer, trails and roads can get quite dusty, limiting the visibility for riders behind one another. Keep yourself safe, and keep your space.
9. Know Your Limits
Know how to recognize that you’re losing energy or that the terrain is above your skill level. The ability to focus is the first thing to suffer as fatigue sets in. This can be hard to recognize, and rider safety can become hindered. While riding, make an honest assessment of your energy level, and check in with others. Take lots of breaks, and eat healthy snacks. You owe it to yourself to have a good time and not to get hurt.
10. Be Prepared
Things don’t always happen in your control, so make sure you’re prepared to handle issues that may arise throughout a ride. Carry a first-aid kit, a tool kit and an emergency overnight kit if you’re heading into a remote area. Know the basics of how to use your first-aid kit. Take care of your machine through basic maintenance, such as changing the oil on a proper schedule using premium Quicksilver engine oils, and keeping other parts of your equipment in proper shape with Quicksilver lubricants. This can help ensure you won’t be left out on the trails. Your tool kit should be packed with common tools for your machine, so quickly go over your equipment before starting your ride, double check you have the right tools, and try to identify and be prepared for any potential issues. Emergency kits may differ depending on the season, but generally pack a fire starter, snacks and extra layers of clothes.
With all these things in mind, it’s time to get out there and experience the thrill and joys of off-roading of any kind. In North America, there are vast areas to explore and an incredible diversity of landscapes. The best part is being able to travel through much of it with any sort of off-road vehicle. So, as you head out on your next Quicksilver-powered ride, be sure to know the area, be respectful, and, most importantly, stay safe and have fun.