be nice say hi

Know Your Trail Users

by 38

Charlie takes a light hearted look at the wonderful variety of people we share the trails with.

It’s that time of year again when the clocks go forward, the sun comes out and at 10am precisely on the first sunny Sunday your peaceful and uncrowded trails will suddenly be awash with trail amateurs. Happily whizzing through singletrack will be replaced by a giant slalom event weaving around a variety of fleshy obstacles.

“Trail Amateurs at 12 O’clock!!!”

You know who I mean. Why can’t they get themselves organised. Can’t get their heads around the idea that they are not the only trail user. Can’t step to one side. Can’t say something nice and appreciate the sporting and social colour bikers bring to the countryside?

Who’s who on the trail?

Now, if you can identify the human chicanery ahead, then you can anticipate their moves and plan accordingly. Let’s get to know our amateur trail users.


These people ride giant animals and their saddles cost even more than a Brooks! You need to know these horses have bitey bits and kicking bits. But they also have feelings too, so be nice. Best bet is to slow the hell down, say hello, and carry a packet of polos.  Pay the 900kg gatekeeper off with a polo and live to ride another day.

Zig Zag Cider Folk.

Fort William World Cup 2017
Keeping hydrated at outdoor events is crucial, so come prepared – much like this chap.

The local cider festival is on. It says 4% on the barrel, but that measurement was taken last summer and this apple juice is now chewy hallucinogenic apple’shine. These happy lost souls have escaped the morris men and their infernal bell’ing and prancing, and are making a break for home. They could not walk a straight line to save their lives. The best strategy here is to try and carve left/right to match the rhythm of their sway and stagger… but in the opposite direction. You go right as they go left, and you will pass with incident. Don’t speak to them as the sudden increasing of the social scene can cause them to fall over.

Towpath Spacemen.

malverns classic 1994
Real, real, real. Do you feel real? And if so I’d like to know. How to feel real real.

Similar to the Zig Zaggers, but they are packed with unpredictable moves such as going for a big love hug or making 80’s rave shapes. A good strategy is to tell them that someone has left a Roland TR-808 on the bench down there.

Vigilante Defender of Rights.

This guy isn’t going to clear the trail. Why should he? He is the self-appointed guardian of the path. He has every right to be there too. And he was walking way before a bunch of hooligans invented mountain bikes. Ignore this guy, or be really really nice. He will hate both of those options equally. Expect a grumble of “bloody cyclists… road tax…. I didn’t vote Brexit for this”.

Yeah, but not yet’ers.

Oh, I see your plan. Your despicable passive aggressive plan. Is this all you have left to live for? You are going to get out of the way, but only once I have had to come to a standstill. Smile and trackstand. Get a bell.

The Switcheroo Family.

Do you remember that kids TV game show “Run Around” with Mike Reid? A bundle of kids were asked a question, given a few answers and would then run over to an answer. Mike would then cockney at them with a growl of “Ruuuun Arooooound” and they could change their 70’s sherbert minds and would all run to a different answer. On the trail the question is “what side of the trail do you want to go?”, they make a decision, and as you get to them… yes you guessed it, they run around and swap sides. Aim for the middle with your brakes covered. Shouting “ruuun arooound” as you pass is not compulsory.

The Over-reactive.

They hear you at the last moment, turn around with a terrified look on their faces, then try and run out of the way whilst looking backwards, and run into the brambles. Meanwhile you are stationary wondering if they know something you don’t. Is there a grizzly bear behind you? Get a bell, and maybe a bear bell too.

The Wide Family.

Look here, the fireroad is 20 foot wide, and you don’t need all of it. I just saw you narrow down as you passed an oncoming family. Turns out the road is wide enough for eight people.   However, as soon as they passed, your family morphed sideways to consume the entire fireroad again, just as I was about to pass. Get a bell.

The Dog Walker Assassin.

Armed with a 5m long almost invisible flexi dog lead, dog one side of the trail, and owner the other. Slow down, say Hi, and maybe get yourself a quick doggy cuddle.

Who Have I Missed Out?

Every neighbourhood has its own variation of trail folk. Please tell us about your trail amateurs in the comments below. Was it Sheldon that rode through an amateur smut shoot, with a dozen other bikers, with the actress displaying herself on a fur coat?

The Solution.

All of these super dangerous scenarios can be solved with the new Timber! Yew Mountain Bike Bell. (Oh, I see. Charlie made me read all that just to sell me a bell. I now feel dirty, but happy).

The gentle ding a ling can be heard 200m away. Simply turn it on when you see them and then keep your hands on the grips for control. Trail awareness when you need it. Silence when you don’t. Turn that “bloody cyclists” into a cheery “hello, nice day for it”.

Get your dong on!

What’s New With The Yew Bell?

  • Serviceable and rebuildable.
  • A spring-loaded piston to the on/off lever for smoother shifting.
  • A hinge pin in the bar clamp for easier mounting.
  • Now fits 35mm bars and includes shims for standard 31.8mm and 22.2mm bars.
  • The 22.2 allows you to mount it in the thumb zone near your grip.

We have only 15 bells left in stock at the time of writing this, with the next delivery many weeks away.

be nice say hi
Don’t be a trail dick.
Author Profile Picture
Charlie Hobbs

Merch & Marketing Manager at Singletrack

Grumpy, happy, hairy, overweight and awesome. I started riding offroad in 1978, and never stopped. I was once Charlie The Bikemonger, I invented orienBEERing, the Clunker Classic, and the Dorset Gravel Dash. I own the Bum Butter brand and I'm a co-owner of Dirt Dash Events. I also work at Singletrack, I have the self-appointed job title of "Overlord of the leftovers" and look after the merch shop, and marketing. Other interests include skateboards, surfboards, motorbikes, and cooking (I invented the Beefer Reefer).

More posts from Charlie

Viewing 38 posts - 1 through 38 (of 38 total)
  • Know Your Trail Users
  • ChrisL
    Full Member

    I think your Wide Family is the same as my Nuclear Family Skirmish Line, whose cunning tactics can allow 4 people to occupy an exceedingly wide trail. When making room for someone to pass them they each intuitively know to head for the side of the trail furthest from their starting point too, ensuring some synchronised crossing manoeuvres almost worthy of the Red Arrows.

    Full Member

    I often walk canal tracks with an old friend and we are often passed by mountain bikes. Now, my dear friend has high frequency hearing loss and cannot hear bicycle bells, not even the marvellous Timber Bell. I have to tell him when a rider is approaching from behind.
    Now there are lots of people like him walking out there so be careful.

    Then of course there are those with earphones in who dont hear anything (in future years there will be a great epidemic of deafness in many of these earphone users).

    Finally there are those so intent on their conversation that they hear nothing. Be patient.

    Full Member

    Similar to the over reactive is the deaf shrieker.

    Usually a middle aged couple, who despite numerous ‘dings’ from 100ft away, then 50ft, then 40, 30, 20, 10… Ding. Ding. Dingdingding. DINGDINGDING! fail to hear you approaching. After sitting behind them for aout 30 seconds following the aforementioned dings with a friendly ‘excuse me!’ the female of the couple lets out a surprised ‘EEEEK!!’ before jumping 2ft into the air and into the nearest bush/ditch/canal.

    And there’s the headphone user. Always strolling down the middle of the path, meandering slightly from left to right, usually because they’re 100% focused on their phone, so you never know which side is safe to pass. They won’t hear you no matter how loud your bell or verbal cries.

    And lastly, the worst ever. The splitters. Usually on a narrow path just wide enough for 2 people. Instead of both going to one side, they stop completely dead and stand either side of the trail, giving you about 500mm to fit your 800mm bars through… Sometimes combined with the shrieker, above.

    Dogs not on a lead are probably the most predictable trail user of them all. Slow down a bit, if it’s an older dog they’ll probably just stand still, ignoring thier owner. A young puppy and you’ll have a new trail dog for they next half a mile as they completely ignore their owner and decide to follow the strange person with wheels which looks like fun to run alongside 😁

    Full Member

    That’s a the longest bell advert I’ve ever read

    Free Member

    Missed the ‘never happy bloke’

    And it is always a bloke! No matter how slowly, politely you approach him, it will always be wrong. If you say ‘excuse me’, he will respond with ‘get a bloody bell’, whereas if you ring your bell he’ll pull a sour face and tell you ‘just because you’ve rung you bell doesn’t mean i’m jumping out of your way!’. To be fair we knew that.

    Full Member

    Who Have I Missed Out?

    The getting jiggy with it couple who thought they were in the middle of nowhere. Best dealt with by a ‘lovely day for it!’ exclamation, rather than a stop to chat…

    Full Member

    That’s a the longest bell advert I’ve ever read


    But I feel neither sad nor disappointed. In fact I feel at odds with the world right now, as an advert has made my day slightly better.

    Free Member

    You missed the “Gang Of Hoodies” – Waiting until you are within grabbing distance and then trying to steal your bike with a few punches and kicks.

    But that doesn’t sell bells, unless you get the hoodies to wear them.

    Full Member

    Uncontrollable/Uncontrolled dog owners

    The owner is shouting themselves hoarse trying to control the spaniel who unless there’s actual food involved, has very selective hearing. The idea that leashes exist comes as a surprise to both owner and dog. May get happy dog slober and /or doggy cuddle though.

    Full Member

    The Strava Bore:

    Determined to ignore the fact that the towpath is the only alternative to a main road that doesn’t have pavements along it’s entire length.

    The fact that they’ve driven to ‘the countryside’ for a bike ride entitles them to missuse a path that’s the local’s safest way to go about their daily activities.

    Full Member

    Indeed… and because they are city folk and don’t understand how the countryside works, they assume that no one else could ever be out here in the middle of nowhere… whilst they get jiggy 300m from a busy NT carpark and cafe.

    There was a paragraph on this but the magical editorial wand was waved and all the rudeness was taken away.

    Full Member

    I got round all these problems. I did my kayak training on the canal. No bell, no random peds no ding,ding ,ding cyclists asking for their bell to be inserted into them. I did once have a staffy jump on my spray deck but nothings perfect!

    Full Member

    The Shedless:

    Usually a miserable middle aged bloke accompanied by a bored dog, occasionally smoking a cheeky spliff.

    Desperate to get away from home but is barred from the pub and doesn’t have the imagination to get a proper hobby.

    Full Member

    the magical editorial wand was waved

    Strange euphemism….

    Full Member

    There was a paragraph on this but the magical editorial wand was waved and all the rudeness was taken away.

    really? I remember not so long ago that there was a very long thread on here about encounters while out on a ride with naked folk performing various forms of “exercise”, there were some very graphic descriptions.

    Full Member

    The owner is shouting themselves hoarse trying to control the spaniel who unless there’s actual food involved, has very selective hearing. The idea that leashes exist comes as a surprise to both owner and dog. May get happy dog slober and /or doggy cuddle though.

    I had one of these, last week, combined with

    Missed the ‘never happy bloke’

    And it is always a bloke! No matter how slowly, politely you approach him, it will always be wrong. If you say ‘excuse me’, he will respond with ‘get a bloody bell’, whereas if you ring your bell he’ll pull a sour face and tell you ‘just because you’ve rung you bell doesn’t mean i’m jumping out of your way!’. To be fair we knew that.

    His spaniel wanted to play, not be on a lead, but as I rode past slowly he muttered something about ringing a bell, as if my ringing a bell would have got his dog on a lead any quicker. This led to a new category of Trail User, Apoplectic Cyclist Who Later Felt Guilty About The Robust Anglo-Saxon Phrases, Deserved As They May Have Been. 😀 or maybe 🙁

    Full Member

    I imagine raised heartbeats, meaningful looks, glitter exploding from the tip of wand at the, er, climax of the debate.
    Followed by a quick cuddle and a discussion about whose turn it is to put the coffee on.

    Full Member

    I just bought a bell. What on earth happened? I was suddenly overcome with a sudden need and desire for a new bell. I should probably get back into the lab and do some work before I buy a new bike to put the bell on.


    Free Member

    .@gazzab1955 I suspect it’s probably something to do with the difference between forum postings which are cunningly hidden in – er – lots of other forum postings, and editorially sanctioned ejaculations that go up on the front page and are frantically spaffed about on social media.

    I may well be wrong, though.

    Full Member

    Pay the 900kg gatekeeper off with a polo and live to ride another day.

    A word of caution, Don’t pay Dobbin off with a sugarfree polo. Anyone standing to the rear of the equine will not thank you!
    One sugarfree mint is like a dose of Picolax for horses 💩💩

    Full Member

    Bring question about the bell, how is it serviceable? I liked mine, but eventually the nubbins wore down so it would just slip to always on at the slightest bump.

    I was going to correct the bring/boring typo, but decided to leave it.

    Full Member

    The “Stop! My dog wont bite”

    Ride past slowly and their 80kg dog starts barking and chasing. Then the owner shouts out “Stop! My dog wont bite” Well, I don’t fancy taking my chances with a dog thats bigger than me and howling at me. I’m riding off.

    Full Member


    Timber say “It’s built stronger, and all parts are now completely modular, including the cable and clapper ringer system. If anything wears out or breaks, you can replace it quickly and easily. So ride hard, ride often, crash into stuff; we’ve got ya!”

    Full Member

    The mum militia.
    5 prams across with the newest mum in the middle. They own the park and anyone else is a baby murderer.

    Full Member

    You missed out the “doggy litterer”, the latest dog owner technique on the ridgeway appears to be park car, get out, the dog will then rush to have a crap within 50 yards of the car, which is either not noticed and left or even better(*), noticed and bagged but left there (on the main path) so it can (*allegedly) be picked up on the way back to the car.

    Full Member

    You missed the ‘professional’ dog walker with a pack of a dozen dogs randomly running around, who once they see ‘prey’ aka a bike start chasing while the ‘professional’ dog walker keeps staring at their phone. Only chance is stealthy passing why they are distracted by another victim. Sorry a bell won’t help!

    Full Member

    @Anne +1

    – amorous couples increase in number dependent on:
    – proximity to a countryside cafe or pub
    – proximity to a city
    – a calculation around late summer and evening rides
    – Falkirk

    Full Member

    Maybe it’s just where I (sometimes) ride, but you’ve missed out the self-appointed CROW lawyers when I’m riding a footpath (or a trail that has no designation whatsoever).

    “You’re not allowed to cycle along here you know”

    “This is a footpath you know”


    Or, the gun-wielding gamekeeper that jostles and barges and intimidates if you ride a public footpath across a grouse Moor, but thinks nothing of tearing up the trail on his quad bike!

    Full Member

    A “gang of hoodies” robbed a woman of her £3k TREK eMTB at 5pm last week – about 30 minutes before I go past the same location – I did wonder why I spotted someone with a MTB helmet on but no bike – time to change the commute route.

    Free Member

    I rang my bell multiple times on Sunday on the curbar/froggatt edge path in the peak. All was fab. No problems at all. Even the group of DofE practice kids walking 3 abreast carrying rucksacks twice the size of themselves filtered into single file on the left as I rolled past.
    Ding dong 🔔🛎️

    Full Member

    The DoE kids are a highlight in the Peak, either ecstatic or (more usually) wet and wondering about their life choices.

    Full Member

    You’ve forgotten the Chain Reaction Ramblers.
    These are normally a group of walkers, average age of 73, with enough gear to scale the north face of the Eiger whilst walking wide forestry roads on popular FC land.

    When approaching by bike from behind and ringing a bell the most rearward one will shout “BIKE!” which echoes towards the front of the pack, getting louder each time while they ricochet off each other and the edges of the trail like some kind of human Brownian motion.

    Full Member

    Came back to say the other trail users are the long cream puffy jacket, bobble hat, impossibly white trainers, small dog and selfie for insta ready Brigade…

    Full Member

    Keen to try out my new Timber Bell, I set off on my bridleway/xc commute, and had three bellworthy encounters:

    – Bloke and dogs heard me a mile off, and gave me an “ok mate I’ve seen you, stop bloody digging now” gesture.

    – Old man with a cane and J Mascis hair, who shouted “Gor Blimey! Why don’t you ring a bell” as I passed.

    – Bloke and dogs heard me a mile off and smiled as I passed.

    Full Member

    I don’t fancy taking my chances with a dog thats bigger than me and howling at me. I’m riding off

    I came across a lovely 14 month old vizsla last week on one of our local routes. In the end I stopped and said hello as it just wanted to play. On top of that, I didn’t fancy my chances of cycling off and leaving it (it could run faster than I can cycle).

    Full Member

    RTFH- reluctant town family hikers- only one of the parents wants to be on the hike, the others want to be at home- watching game shows and playing on their X-Box’s, one of them will be walking along with their head in an iPhone trying to order a KFC via Uber Eats, another member’s focus would be dodging any mud or puddles as not to get their white Air Jordan’s dirty, all inappropriately dressed for hiking, (apart from the one parent who wants to be on the hike, who is dressed as if they have just walked out of a GO Outdoor’s changing room) All of them are walking 4 abreast on the trail, all of them don’t know your coming, & despite many “rider” and “coming through” calls they still don’t know your coming. carnage.

    Full Member

    spot on! they are everywhere!

    Full Member

    We have a seemingly unique brand of trail grannies. They pop out of nowhere like wrinkly ninjas, usually jogging or powerwalking up the bikes-only singletrack as I’m heading down, at pace. I suspect their own laboured breathing is all they can hear. They certainly can’t hear a bell, squealing brakes or my arse letting go at the thought of taking out someone’s nan.

    We also get the grumpy dog walkers who treat the NCN as a dog toilet. Most of them CAN hear a bell, but still choose to force you to a stop while they drag Buttons, Shirley and Mr Flibble back out of the bushes on the other side of the doubletrack while spouting about how their dogs are frightened of bikes you know and you should find somewhere else to ride. On the National Cycle Network.

    Don’t get me started on joggers with bloody headphones in. Many a time I’ve been tempted to kick one into the canal after riding at shuffling pace up the narrow towpath.

    Our horse riders are all very friendly. So there’s that.

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