Upside Down Bikes on the Trail, Do You Know What It Means?

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If you’re a skier, chances are you’ve seen crossed skis (or poles) on the piste when someone has gone down or had an accident and is getting assistance. If you’re a rider, and your friend has gone down on the trail in a vulnerable spot, what do you do? Have you ever seen upside down bikes on the trail?

For example, as riders, you may look to the Countryside Code or the IMBA Rules of the Trail for guidance, but how much do we really think about our responsibilities?

Rider Down Upside Down Bikes
If you see this on the trail, be considerate and don’t ride around. Note: The bikes are before the lip of the jump, the injured rider was on the other side. Photo: Al Shaw.

Responsible Trail Use

Obviously, as with everything, there’s always an element of common sense but where do we stand with an overall, widely known set of standards or overall trail safety and etiquette? The Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland’s ‘Do the Ride Thing’ guide to responsible mountain biking in Scotland is a great starting point with a comprehensive breakdown of things to think about.

We’re not saying that there’s a need to be fully up on the latest guidance. After all, when you go out for a ride you want to get away from everything. However, there is definitely a need to open up the narrative to think about our individual and collective responsibility when it comes to each other, our trails, and where mountain biking is going. There are more of us out there than ever before so the chances of coming across a trail incident are increasing week by week..


If you want to do further reading, here are a few other resources on cycle codes and guidance:

Rider Down

So what should we do in this situation? What if it’s not possible to turn around or you’ve come across it on a section of blind trail? Most of us would likely see if there’s anything we could do, but the circumstances will differ depending on where you are, who you’re riding with and the situation itself.

Most of us would likely know what to do, but for new riders or those who haven’t been out in a while, they may not be aware. It’s a good idea for all of us to know what something means if we come across it. The picture above was taken last weekend at Leeds Urban Bike Park. The rider, Darren was on the ground for over an hour before the emergency services arrived. He suffered a broken hip and pelvis in the accident and couldn’t be moved from the trail.

His friends placed their bikes on the lip of the jump to warn other riders. Despite what many of us may think of as an obvious sign of caution or at least that something is amiss, there were riders who simply rode around the single bike that was placed on the trail at first. This lead to the group adding another bike to fully block the trail. One bike, or two – makes no difference. The signal and message is the same. Put the brakes on and prepare to either get out of the way or offer help.

See an upturned bike across the trail? Put the brakes on and be prepared to stop and help if you can.

Crossed skis = Red Triangle = Upturned bike = CAUTION, HAZARD.

Darren crash Leeds Bike Park
Darren laying on Hannah’s leg. Unable to be moved from the trail.

The Great Trail Etiquette Debate | Who should give way?

Opinion: The Illegal Trail Builder

Is What3Words Really That Bad? Or Good? Let’s Ask Mountain Rescue.

Raising Awareness

Darren’s friend (and cycling guidebook writer), Hannah Collingridge is trying to raise awareness of what this upside down bike signal means if you see it out on the trails.

Crashes happen and sometimes the casualty is badly enough hurt that they can’t be moved until the professionals arrive. The last thing you need when you are dealing with one incident is more trouble landing on you, either literally or figuratively. So protect yourselves by setting up a warning further up the trail. The simplest and quickest tool for this is the one you have with you – your bike. Turn your bike upside down and place it across the trail in a place it can be seen by oncoming riders.

Hannah Collingridge

Try to place things in such a way that it will give them adequate time to slow down where possible. Don’t inadvertently create a new hazard.

In future, if you see this on the trails you’ll know what to do. The main thing to take from this is to be aware and if you see this, slow down and go around.

Are there any other unwritten rules or trail etiquette points that you think not many people know? What have you seen out on the trails that people need to be more aware of?

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  • This topic has 106 replies, 54 voices, and was last updated 3 months ago by xora.
Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 107 total)
  • Upside Down Bikes, Know what it means?
  • Premier Icon Lauren Jenkins
    Full Member

    Hey guys,

    Curious to know how many people have seen this and know what it means (common sense I guess, but it’s surprising).

    Premier Icon duncancallum
    Full Member

    Like crossed skis…

    I’m also a big advocate of sending someone up the trail to warn people.

    Premier Icon Steve
    Full Member

    Not something I’ve heard of before, I’ll be honest, and thankfully not come across. Whenever I’ve been involved in a cycling accident it’s been in a big enough group that we’ve put people in the road to divert other riders or traffic

    Premier Icon darthpunk
    Free Member

    puncture repair?

    Premier Icon onehundredthidiot
    Full Member

    I’d be tempted to put them at the crest or upside of that “feature” looks like a nice jumpy bit and landing on bikes indicating an accident would be…..

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Full Member

    interesting people’s interpretation of the photo, never in a 1000 years would I have thought that photo was taken back up the trail. It’s obvs to me direction of travel stopping people before the jump, not on the landing!

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    yeah, I know what it means, had to do it in Morzine a few years back after one of a group had fallen and broken his ankle and we stopped to help. Judging by the amount of folk that either rode around them or stopped to remove them, it’s not well known enough!

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    I have used my bike for this in the past.
    Sadly common sense, let alone knowing a few basics such as this, is missing for many people.

    Premier Icon mrlebowski
    Free Member

    Not seen it before but would slow down regardless.

    We certainly need to raise awareness of how to behave on our trails. Far too many who care far too less about anything other than their own kicks..

    Premier Icon trimix
    Free Member

    Common sense is not actually common.

    Premier Icon dyna-ti
    Free Member

    Free bike, help yourself 😀
    I’ll have the gold one, comes with a pump and a bottle of sprite.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    Never seen it in all my years riding, but I reckon I’d work it out if I saw it. Either that or think a numpty wasn’t bright enough to get out of the way when fixing a puncture. Funnily enough, I have seen that many times.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Full Member

    OK, I’m going to be honest and say that the tone and approach of this article is pretty bad. It flips from a sensible “we should have a discussion about trail rules”, to “this is already the rule and you should already know”. And throws in a patronising “for new riders or those who haven’t been out in a while, they may not be aware”

    There is no “crossed skis” equivalent in mountain biking. It’s not an “unwritten rule”. It has none of the acceptance that’s needed to make that the case, if you want it to be, we’re pretty much starting from scratch.

    Seriously, if you asked 100 people, how many do you think would give this answer? (I don’t mean like I would answer with common sense, “maybe something’s wrong”, I mean “upside down bikes on the trail is the signal for an accident”) Try googling “upside down bike accident” and “crossed skis accident”, bit different. (literally the only hits on my first 2 pages for the bike one are this article. OTOH there’s a hell of a lot saying “never turn your bike upside down”)

    Upside down bikes like in the photo are a good way to block a trail/warn people, yes. And also suggests possible mechanicals- if I see someone with an upside down bike at trailside I’ll ask if they need help. And it’s common sense that if someone’s made an effort to block a trail you should react and think about why… If we’re going to have a rule, it’s a good one.

    If you want to create and popularise a rule or rather set of rules, work to publicise it and get it accepted enough so that it’s actually a useful standard, fill your boots, it’s a good idea. It’d be a useful part of a whole brief guide to “what to do if there’s an accident”.

    You don’t do that by just pretending it’s already the case and that people should already know. Good idea; wrong message, wrong delivery. And that’s a shame.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Free Member

    Either that or think a numpty wasn’t bright enough to get out of the way when fixing a puncture. Funnily enough, I have seen that many times.

    Agree. This is the problem. If I saw an upside down bike, or a person stood in the middle of the trail my initial thought would likely be “what’s this clown up to?”, then probably want to ride round. Hopefully I’d realise pretty quickly, especially if arranged as in the photo. I do tend to stop and offer assistance so wouldn’t go ploughing through but it’s not as simple as sticking a bike upside down on the trail and hoping everyone understands what is going on.

    Premier Icon Martin B
    Full Member

    Been riding since the start of the 90’s and never come across this, however common sense would say there is some kind of problem, i mean who treats their bike like that. I would probably prefer to have someone go back up the track & warn others, if bodies are available. As has been mentioned I have seen people blocking a trail fixing mechanical’s or even having a rest.
    As Mountain Biking is becoming more popular it would probably be a good idea if BC / Cycling UK & any other organisations came together and came up with a consolidated guide to trail etiquette, a standard as how to deal with incidents etc. Take for example who gives way on a climb/descent some believe those going downhill should give way (as you are supposed to when driving) and some believe those climbing should give way, how to overtake slower riders safely and so on.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    Well said Northwind. The writer of the article and the thread OP are the same (fairly newby rider, IIRC) funnily enough. Not dissing their newbiness by any means. But it makes you think eh? 😀

    Premier Icon dyna-ti
    Free Member

    I think it’s catching on.

    Premier Icon pictonroad
    Full Member

    I’d never heard of it until one of our group (very experienced from riding big events around the world) did it immediately at bike park wales after a big off.

    It’s a fantastic idea and saved further injuries.

    Premier Icon Lauren Jenkins
    Full Member

    Well said Northwind. The writer of the article and the thread OP are the same (fairly newby rider, IIRC) funnily enough. Not dissing their newbiness by any means. But it makes you think eh?

    Although I sometimes ride like one, I’ve been riding for the past nine years (well, I did take a year off). I have also been working in the bike industry since 2013. The point of this article (was not to say this is the rule) it was to say I’ve never seen it, even when I’ve been riding in different parts of the world.

    It’s purely just for discussion, and to raise awareness following the accident and the fact people were still riding around. Sorry if the tone was off, @northwind

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    Oops, din’t mean no ‘arm, honest 😀

    Premier Icon droplinked
    Full Member

    I didn’t know about this until recently when I saw it on a YouTube vid. My first reaction was “which bellend blocked off this feature” before it clicked. It would be enough to make me think and slow down though.

    I’ve seen the ski and snowboard thing before though.

    Premier Icon Lauren Jenkins
    Full Member

    Oops, din’t mean no ‘arm, honest 😀

    Not at all, just defending my honour. Ha. As I said, I definitely do still ride like one at the best of times.

    Again, just wanted to open the discussion. Didn’t mean for things to come across like this is the rule and everyone should know. As I admitted, I’ve never seen it myself. Hopefully we don’t see it often, but perhaps it can be adopted where sensible if there’s a need to block the trail.

    Premier Icon WorldClassAccident
    Free Member

    Common sense IS VERY common. Ask anyone if they have common sense and most people will say they have more than the average.

    So if everyone has more than the average amount it must be very common with one poor sod with a massive deficit just to make the match balance out.

    Premier Icon wildhunter2009
    Full Member

    Not gonna lie never heard of this until now. Also no idea what the crossed skis thing meant either? Theres a lot of us who have no exposure to winter sports so maybe quite a big assumption?
    I would stop but it would be 50:50 that I would assume its a)maybe a crash b)morons having a look at the jump and forgetting about other trail users c)morons trying to film there mate in peace and blocking the trail for others.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Full Member

    ^^ And there’s a man who’s crashed once or twice 😀 (WCA!)

    Premier Icon Tom Howard
    Full Member

    So if everyone has more than the average amount it must be very common with one poor sod with a massive deficit just to make the match balance out.

    It’s very noble of you to take the job on though. 😉

    Premier Icon Kendo
    Full Member

    Upside Down Bikes on the Trail, Do You Know What It Means?

    I didn’t know what it meant the first time I saw it, but it becomes pretty obvious once you’ve passed a bike positioned like this and then a casualty on the floor. Doesn’t hurt to raise awareness though to reduce the number of folk trying to blast past.

    Premier Icon vdubber67
    Free Member

    Surprised no-ones been along to comment about how bikes should never be flipped upside down like that etc….

    Premier Icon fooman
    Free Member

    Warning: Aussies on trail

    Premier Icon Phill
    Full Member

    Never come across it in all my years of riding either. Curiosity would make me stop and look around. I’d assume it was somebody attempting an artful photograph who’d been caught short and needed to nip for a piss.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Full Member

    Never heard of it but cleary a good idea. I think I would have braked if I’ve seen a couple of upside down bikes on the trail

    Premier Icon adrian adams
    Full Member

    I also did not know this (or the crossed skis thing). Would definitely slow down/stop if I seen it on a trail though. Will for sure stop now that I know this. Thanks for the education

    Premier Icon Mike
    Full Member

    Been riding since the start of the 90’s

    Must be knackered by now!

    I’ve never seen that before but it is a good idea.

    Premier Icon tjagain
    Full Member

    Upside down bikes don’t mean anything. Its not a recognised sign and people put bike upside down all the time

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
    Full Member

    Upside down bikes don’t mean anything. Its not a recognised sign and people put bike upside down all the time

    Well there’s really only two options:

    1) I’m a total idiot who’s put my bike there as I’m trying to fix a puncture without any thought as to what is going on around me or where I am.

    2) I’m helping a casualty out of sight but directly on the trail, perhaps around this blind bend or over the lip of this jump so I’ve put the bike in a bloody obvious position where it’s clear that it’s been done deliberately (rather than the bike lying down where it could be the outcome of a crash or fall).

    Either way, any oncoming rider should see that and think “gosh there’s an obstacle there, I’ll slow down / stop and investigate”.

    Honestly, in MTBing (or cycling in general actually), it’s equally likely to be either of those options, I’ve seen some people put their bikes (and often themselves) in unbelievably stupid places when trying to fix it.

    Premier Icon Mark Alker
    Full Member

    Upside down bikes don’t mean anything.

    But if it’s upside down AND blocking the trail it probably does. And now you know because today, TJ, you’ve learned something new. Cool eh?

    Premier Icon feed
    Full Member

    In all fairness, it doesn’t really matter whether people know what it means or not as one way or the other it’s going to achieve it’s desired effect.

    Premier Icon reeksy
    Free Member

    Erm … it means i am fixing a puncture.

    Upside down bike

    … in all honesty there’s rarely anyone around where I crash.

    Premier Icon seosamh77
    Full Member

    If it’s me, either I’m fixing a puncture or trying to sellotape my derailer back on. 😆

    Happened to me 4 times(2 of each) crossing the devils straircase last week. 😆 worst run of “mechanicals” in history. 😆

    But aye, If I see a bike like that across a trail, I’m gonny enquire if they need help. kinda obvious if on the trail really that you should ask

    Premier Icon dyna-ti
    Free Member

    Upside down bikes don’t mean anything. Its not a recognised sign and people put bike upside down all the time

    Do they ?. I mean do they place two bikes side by side, across a trail in a manner that only works to block passage, especially given those in the pic are at the base of a short steep hill where you cannot see over the other side.
    If someone thinks that isnt a warning sign,about what might be over the other side of that hill, then they shouldn’t be outside unsupervised.

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