How To Protect Wild Spaces for Wild Rides: A Mountain Biker's Perspective

mountain bike tips, protect mountain bike trails, mountain bike trails, mtb trails, mtb wild, mountain bike wild
March 2nd, 2018

Beyond an activity that provides an extraordinary amount of fun, mountain biking connects people with common interests, builds community and fosters an appreciation for wild spaces. As mountain bikers, we depend on wild places to stay wild. We have a shared interest in becoming engaged in local politics, conservation efforts and community meetings to ensure the protection of trails and natural areas from development and overuse. We play an important role in conservation. We’ve broken down how you can protect wild places into three categories: 

--> The least you can do. 

--> step it up a notch.

--> think big. 

Small actions can create big change, let’s work together to protect what we all love - tall trees, singletrack, slickrock and wheels on dirt. 


the least you can do. 


The easiest thing you can do to protect your local trails is to respect trail closures. Trails are closed for a reason, so simply stay off them. Erosion, fallen branches, unsafe terrain, poor drainage or trail maintenance may be the causes for the closure, so respect the warning and choose a different route.


You may think, “But, I’m just one person, how much damage can I cause?”


Well, a lot actually.


When one person decides to ignore a trail closure, the next person that comes along sees tire treads and decides to follow, thinking “someone else went this way.”


Your small actions can have a big impact without you knowing it. Riders will usually report trail closures or hazards with your local mountain bike club or on Trailforks, so check ahead of time and plan your ride accordingly.

2. Don’t take shortcuts.

Trails are designed to respect and flow with the topography of the land. Drainage, erosion, sensitive areas and grade are all taken into account when building new trails and it’s a complex process to ensure trails are built properly. In response, don’t cut corners or take shortcuts to save time or avoid sections of trail you may find challenging. Footprints and tire treads can create divots that reroute water, and you can trample sensitive ecosystems if you decide to wander off the designated trail. Lastly, respect "No Trespassing" signs and private lands. Don't compromise relationships with private landowners just because you discovered a new line to ride.    

mountain bike trails

step it up a notch. 

In the last 10 years, the image of a ‘stereotypical mountain biker’ has come a long way, and it’s taken some effort. Mountain bikers weren’t always (and still are not always) welcomed with open arms on multi-use trails. Communities, municipalities, and government bodies have slowly come around to recognize the conservation efforts, economic and recreational draw of the mountain bike industry.


Our public image has slowly shifted from the gnarly, 20-year old male destined to shred and drift back wheels to an image of men, women, and children enjoying the great outdoors on two-wheels, which more accurately depicts who we are. Public perception is difficult to change, especially when social media and other tools are available for people to share information and take one personal experience with mountain bikers as a representation of the entire mountain bike community. This, in reflection, is another reason to be a responsible rider - you are a representative of the sport and the community.

Here are few ways you can become involved in your community:

1. join your local mountain bike club.

If you want to learn more about trail building, maintenance and community issues that affect your trails, join your local mountain bike club. Most clubs organize a monthly trail building/maintenance day where you can learn proper techniques and gain a better appreciation for the sweat (hopefully no blood or tears) that goes into the trails you love to ride. Clubs offer an amazing networking opportunity to create relationships that build positive change and put ideas into action. Clubs will usually hold fundraising events to help with trail building projects, advocacy initiatives, equipment, insurance, permits and bike wash stations. Not to mention, they also offer up camaraderie, new friendships, and regular club rides.

2. volunteer with your local conservation group.

For the sport of mountain biking to experience continued growth, we need to protect our local trail networks and natural spaces. Become familiar with the flora and fauna in your city and understand how your presence (as a mountain biker) affects natural landscapes. Local conservation groups can provide educational resources on the threats to wild spaces and how you can help. It’s also a great opportunity to make connections with non-mountain bikers and understand how you can work with other trail users to create a better experience for all. Many people misunderstand mountain bikers, but we’re conservationists too!

3. engage with your city councilors and town hall meetings. 

 Understand what’s going on in your community and stay up to date with development projects and proposals that threaten natural areas. Sometimes, developers face little or no opposition to their plans for subdivisions and high rises that encroach on natural spaces. Without opposition, they begin projects and it becomes too late for us to protect what we love. In many cases, increasing and protecting green spaces open to a variety of users provides substantial economic value by increasing property values, promoting healthy living, decreasing health costs and providing natural storm management. 

mountain bike trails

think big. 

1. think nationally. 

Of course, not all mountain bike trails border large cities or are IN large cities (have you seen the Don Valley Trails in downtown Toronto!) Some trails are built in rural and wild areas among mountains, deserts, and forests. This makes it that much more important to become engaged on a provincial, state or federal level to protect the wildest of places. Understand what drives conservation efforts on every scale and how political leaders influence natural areas. Usually, the first step to protecting natural areas is with your vote and your voice.  So don't be afraid to speak up for the places you love. 

2. make time for personal reflection. 

As mountain bikers, we are consumers. It’s trendy (and expensive!) to purchase the latest gear, upgrade your bike every year and have multiple riding kits. Protect wild places on a global scale by limiting your consumption and testing gear to its limits, use it until it’s unwearable or unfixable.  Think about purchasing used gear at sporting thrift shops.

mountain bike trails

Mountain biking is more than just two wheels and dirt. It’s about building an inclusive culture and community of riders that love the great outdoors, pushing our limits and protecting wild places. So, the next time you're out for a ride, remember it’s the small things that count in protecting what you love. Ride responsibly, engage with your community and reflect on how you can make create positive change with your two wheels.

Do you do anything else to protect the trails in your area? Let us know!