The other night at a concert I came to a quick realization of how deeply mountain biking has pervaded my brain.
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My girlfriend and I just refilled our beers and were walking back up the stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The temperature was plummeting and moisture glittered the air. Earlier that day the temperature was in the 70s and overnight it would drop into the 20s for the season’s first snow.
My fresh and icy IPA leveled out at less than a millimeter under the rim of the cup and washed side to side as I walked up the slick steps. Sure, I could have taken a chug or two, but like I said, it was damn cold and the risk of a brain freeze could severely alter my gait walking upwards.
Just a few rows up though, a younger guy bolted down the steps. He probably needed a new beer also, but a rush of panic filled my brain for a second and was quickly relieved.
“Oh yeah, I have the right of way,” I thought. “Wait! No I don’t, dammit.” I’d have to keep my focus locked on the stairs above and my hand steady.
We made it safely back to our seats without much spillage, and although this may be a sign that mountain biking takes up far too much of my brain’s hippocampus and frontal lobe, I don’t think it would be all that bad if a few pieces of etiquette bled over from the trails to the real world.
In most places, trail networks are filled with happy people who are happy being around other people and are enjoying their time responsibly. Here are a few more examples of how trail etiquette would probably be A-OK if we all practiced the same rules in society.
Right of way in stairwells
Although this might seem unnecessary, hear me out. You have an over-filled beer and are walking up a tight stair way…I know, this sounds familiar. Fine, let’s try something else.
I’m honestly not too sure why everyone greets each other out in the woods as opposed to anywhere else in society, but I kind of like it. Maybe it’s a sign of respect, or maybe it’s a sign that us humans need each other after all, when the walls of civilization are absent.
Next time you’re in a crowded elevator, or shuffling through a campus hallway, see how many people you can greet before you reach your destination. I can’t say this won’t result in being greeted with a “Get to the point, what are you selling?” after you ping-pong around the room. If it does, just reply with “kindness.”
Mountain bikers are outgoing to the point that it almost gets annoying when they see someone with a bike flipped upside down on the side of the trail. “Yes. I have everything. Thanks for asking.”
The last time I got back from a trip out of town I parked my car in long-term parking at DIA. When I found my car, and threw my bags in the backseat, a stranger parked one aisle down from me came over and asked if I had a set of jumper cables.
“Sorry, I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to do after getting back home.”
“It’s no big deal,” I said. When his car cranked over, he thanked me again and asked if he could give me anything. I told him again it wasn’t a big deal and thought that it was just something any decent human would do.
This is an easy one to practice. The next time you see someone parked on the shoulder of the freeway with their hood up, get over to the right lane as fast as possible and screech to a crawl. “Hey there! Got everything ya need?”
There’s a chance they’ll look at you wildly and others behind you may get frustrated, but as you know, it’s the right thing to do.
End of work shift trunk beers
I give a solid five points of respect for anyone who packs a chilled cooler with a few beers and snacks in it for the post-ride après at the trailhead, especially if the ride is over 15-miles long. A beer shared with others after a sweaty adventure reinforces camaraderie and great relationships.
Next time you head to work, do the same thing and pack a variety of your choice craft beers from local establishments. When 5PM rolls around and the office crew heads to the parking lot to drive home, invite them to the trunk of your car instead. Sure, they have to go pick up the kids from daycare, but it’s guaranteed to take the work day’s edge off before they sit in traffic.
If you’ve been riding long enough, chances are you’ve encountered someone ahead of you that is not matching your speed. There is a wrong way and a right way to go about passing them. You can either, A), be a total jerk and pass off trail and roost dirt in their face, or B), say, “Hey, can I pass when you have a chance to pull over?”
This is also totally suitable in traffic and the etiquette works similarly, although it may require a megaphone. Fortunately, Amazon sells this model for twelve dollars. The next time you come up behind a driver slower than you, pull out your new megaphone and lean your upper body out of the driver’s side window. Remember, keep your eyes on the road and one hand on the steering wheel. Although they may move to the side because the driver thinks you’re a police officer, it should still make for a better chance to pass. Be sure to say thanks as you drive by.