The Great Trail Etiquette Debate | Who should give way?

by 30

This debate on trail etiquette popped up in a forum thread last week and it got us all debating it in the office.

right of way climber or descender trail climbing etiquette
Who gets right of way? Climbers?

Trail etiquette | Who gets out of the the way?

Let’s imagine you are climbing up a narrow, technical and steep trail. You are in your groove and riding well. It’s a struggle you are going for a clean run up with no dabs. But up ahead you hear the rattle of a fellow rider on his run down.

He’s in the zone too. He’s here for this really great techy descent and is similarly looking to make it down with no dabs.

But the trail is too narrow for both of you to pass. One of you will need to give way to the other.

The question is, who gives way? The climber or the descender?

motion e18 riding trail etiquette
Or the descender?

Is it possible to have a general rule for this? What side of the debate do you fall on?

We’ve decided to settle this democratically with a site poll. The outcome of which will become the law. Maybe.

So, you have the floor. Comment below and vote. Let’s settle this.

To vote in the poll you must be a logged in member. Membership is free so why not join us today?

[poll id=”799″]

Thanks for popping by - why not stay a while?IT'S FREE

Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums, do quizzes and more.

Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.

Comments (30)

    option “c” … it depends on lots of things not mentioned

    Cop out.. Pick one Kelvin. PICK ONE!
    And once you’ve voted you CAN’T change your mind or suggest it’s more nuanced than a simple binary choice. It will be decided forever!

    The MTB groups I rode with back in the mid 80’s ruled that the downhill bike gave way. Our groups were sometimes 30 strong so we needed some rules.

    Should be the same as on a road when driving up hill traffic gets right of way.

    Far easier for someone going downhill to start off again than it is for someone going uphill. As peajay says make it the same as on the road.

    As Welshjen says, no problem to start riding again if you’re pointing downhill.
    Thats the way I’ve always approached it anyway, if I see someone climbing towards me I’ll stop & get out of his or her way…probably with a bit of encouragement as they go by too.

    If you’re descending with someone/thing ahead on the trail, you’re slowing up anyway aren’t you?

    what if the climber / descender is on a ebike ?

    Walk left stand right.

    E-Bikes give way in both directions and have to give tows on the uphills to naturally aspirated bikes.
    But otherwise downhill gives way unless its a downhill trail at a centre.

    Two things-
    1) There can’t be that many descents that are a challenge to clean without dabs that anyone apart from a trials god would be climbing. So the trail in question should be much easier for the descender to restart than the climber.
    2) When I am climbing up a testing trail my focus is normally on the 10 feet or so in front of me ( I find looking ahead to see how much more suffering is to come can cause me to give up). If a descender chargers towards me shouting “rider!” or some-such, I would probably fall over in surprise causing a trail blockage/crash.
    Therefore descender stops should be the rule.

    I used to live on a hill and would always give way to traffic coming up the hill. It is easier for someone to start off again going downhill than it is trying to start off again on your way up hill.

    uphill give way, downhill is precious and should not be interrupted.

    It’s much easier for the uphill rider to stop but much easier for the downhill rider to get started. I’d tend to say both need to be ready to stop and not expect the other to get out of their way (rather selfish, “entitled” behaviour?!), and that ideally the downhill rider should give way, but in practice the uphill rider is likely to come to a stop first if both slow down, so they may end up giving way.

    How about we just try to give way to other people unless it’s very clear they’re already stopping for us?

    Generally it makes sense for the downhill to give way on trails that are equivocal in purpose.

    But when there’s adjacent fire roads to the top and yet people cycle up trail sections that are widely known and accepted as descents, it is pretty infuriating to have a full gas drop in ruined.

    Then there are the dog walkers coming up the descents…

    I would always give way to a rider coming downhill. Not fair to spoil someone’s fun regardless of whether it’s easier to get going again or not!

    I always give way to the downhill rider, gives me a good excuse to catch my breath

    You’re all wrong. Both riders should stop and say hello and have a wee chat.

    Best answer yet!

    Sometimes I just stop and step aside because it’s a good excuse for a breather but in principle – downhill gives way. Be nice say Hi and encourage the climber, we all know how much effort is involved in getting up a hill.

    d for descender to stop, but as always the old rule of “don’t be a dick” applies…

    I agree with Davee128 – “both need to be ready to stop and not expect the other to get out of their way”.

    Climbers need to look ahead and be aware of what is around them (lol @ Tonto’s comment).
    Descenders also need to do the same. Instead of a climber coming towards you, it could be a walker, random animal, fellow descender crashed in a heap etc.

    “Then there are the dog walkers coming up the descents…”

    Yeah… That’s because they’re NOT “descents”, they’re public rights of way that dog-emptiers and cyclists riding up them have EVERY BIT as much of a right to be on as you.

    The people who bang on about the downhill rider getting right of way because they are having more fun sound like the the people who justify riding down the volunteer built trails before they are ready despite all the signs etc asking them not to

    So dependant on a number of things but if it’s a DH track then at least for me, the up rider give way. If it’s an XC track then the downhiller gives way.

    I agree with an earlier comment, stopping and then starting again is much easier going downhill than uphill. Plus even the biggest strava jockeys aren’t flying past other MTBers on a single track descent without so much as a hello are they? Seems pretty clear cut to me.

    I voted for Uphill gives way. If I was riding up a hill and someone was clattering down it, I would gladly step aside and shout gooooo ooooonnnn as they flew past with a gormless grin on their faces. I now have to confess that:-
    a) DH gives way is more a sensible and gracious option.
    b) As has previously been said, even if I was the DH rider I would probably stop for a chat.

    Interesting I agree downhillers should give way, and offer (the excuse) to stop to engage in discussion if the uphiller looks like they need a breather..unless
    1) its a dowhill run at a trail centre..
    2 it’s Peaty, then the uphill rider stops and watches as Peaty hucks over them, and the three riders also toiling up the hill…
    Another similar issue is what if the guy behind you, going either up…or down is clearly a better rider than you?
    Being a fat old git I’ve had blokes who’ve sworn at me to “get out of the way”…but I’ve also been caught by riders of both sexes who’ve encouraged and coached me, and a couple of riders who really gave me great words of wisdom which really moved my abilities on…and of course mates who offered to lend me ‘the wife’s electric bike’…

    I think it very much depends on the trail – if your imaginary trail is as you put it “Let’s imagine you are climbing up a narrow, technical and steep trail.” then you may well both have to stop – other than that in reality I would say it really depends on who is most easily able to stop

    A few points:
    1) The rule should be the same no matter where you ride. I.e. total confusion and angry people if this is not the case.
    2) If riders riding up the hill were forced by convention/rules to yield to riders descending, descending riders would with a little time begin to assume riders below them will yield. Human nature being what it is, riders descending will not want to give up more speed than they have to … or THINK/JUDGE they need to. So what happens when someone who hasn’t learned this convention doesn’t move out of the way of a descending rider? Or someone riding uphill doesn’t yield quickly enough? Lots of opportunity for injuries and other unpleasantness.
    3) MUCH better/safer for descending riders to yield to climbing riders.

Leave Reply