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Mountain Bike Safety and COVID-19

Love your local trails

“It’s great to see more people outdoors discovering how vital trails are for our communities. As mountain bikers, we can lead by example for responsible riding and sharing trails with others, including new users who may not be familiar with generally accepted rules of the trail. Please be kind and patient. It always feels better to pedal away from a friendly encounter than a conflict."

—David Wiens, IMBA Executive Director

For Mountain Bikers

Check with state and local governments for information about your community’s COVID-19 response plan, and with your nearest IMBA Local partner for the most relevant local riding and trail maintenance information. Refer to the CDC for best practices on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Before you go:

Stay close to home

If you have trails close to home, particularly that you can ride to, it’s great to stay local. Stay up-to-date on trail closures and facility changes. 

Do your research

If you’re itching to ride further from home, do your research to determine whether it is appropriate. Check with state and local governments about trail openings and closures as well as guidance for travel. It’s important to respect the small gateway communities that border our favorite recreation hubs and the limited medical facilities in these places.

Have a plan B

Take cues from the trailhead to assess whether it’s too crowded to honor social distancing. If it is, try another trail or try another day. Riding roads, gravel or paths can be alternatives to crowded singletrack trails.

Follow the ABCs

We all know the ABC bike check: air, brakes, cranks and chain. Make sure your bike is ready to ride before you leave the house to minimize time at the trailhead. If you’re driving, get dressed for riding at home. Helmet optional in the car!


At the trailhead: 

Beat the rush

Consider riding at off-peak times to have more space on the trails. This may vary depending on where you live, but early morning is often a less busy time on the trails.  

Bypass the crowds

Ride from home if you can, consider less popular trailheads, or check a map for alternate trail access points where there will be less user congestion. If you’re driving, consider parking a short distance from the trailhead and riding from there to avoid crowds. (But of course, respect the neighbors!)

Make driveway tailgates trendy

After your ride, celebrate the awesomeness back home to minimize trailhead time and crowding.


On the trails:

Ride cautiously

Take it easy and ride within your skill level. This will minimize the strain on healthcare facilities and avoid exposure risks for yourself and for medical staff.

Pass with care

The safest way to pass with social distance is to stay alert, slow down, and communicate with each other about how to proceed. One user should step six feet off-trail perpendicular to the trail to let the other user pass. Riders can leave their bike on the side of the trail. Walk back to the trail the same way to minimize any environmental impact. When you are identifying a spot to step off-trail, be cautious of sensitive or dangerous vegetation, insects, animals and loose or steep terrain.

Break with space

When taking breaks, be conscious to avoid group bunching, intersections, or spots on the trail where other users can’t pass you safely.

Cover your face

Wearing a face covering while exercising isn’t fun, but face coverings are added protection if a trail is crowded and maintaining social distance is a challenge, or if you unexpectedly need to be in close proximity to others. You may need to aid an injured rider, assist with a mechanical issue, or encounter another user in a spot that’s too tight to pass with proper social distance. Neck gaiters or “buffs” are one familiar face covering option that can be folded into layers for safety. Check locally—some governments require users to wear face coverings on paths and trails.

Listen, and be heard 

Ride with a bike bell to alert other trail users of your presence from a distance. Pick one up from your local bike shop. And if you sometimes ride with headphones, consider leaving them at home in favor of listening for approaching trail users.  

For IMBA Local Partners

With so many new users on the trails, it’s a great time for community education on responsible riding. The best way to encourage responsible trail usage is to set a good example. If you are working through your own recommendations, please err on the side of caution, encourage social distancing, and first and foremost, keep all communities safe.

Communicate with local land agencies

Work with the land manager on how to best tackle trail maintenance while complying with state and local government guidelines. Obtain the appropriate permissions or permits, work in very small groups, honor social distance, and be mindful about if and how to share tools. Work together to reschedule projects and events once a safe timeline to do so becomes clear. Work with the land manager to post trailhead safety guidance, if possible. Let your land agencies know if you are providing trail sharing guidance to your members and supporters.

Communicate with members and supporters

Keep your network of riders informed of local government information, trail updates and any facility closures as best you can. Quick emails with a link or a social media post will help.

Communicate with IMBA

Let us know what challenges you are facing locally and how we can help.

Continue work for more trails close to home

Virtual meetings: limiting your events doesn’t mean you have to limit your organizational meetings. Online resources like Google Meet and Free Conference Call allow you to have virtual meetings or conferences.

Planning: Use your virtual meeting time to put together plans and strategies. As your events are postponed or cancelled, it could free up time for you and your board to put together plans and strategies you may have been holding off on.

Survey your membership: With many companies requiring their employees work from home or limiting the hours they’re able to work, it’s a good time to send out surveys to get feedback and have two-way communications with your community.

Stay up-to-date

Our partners at PeopleforBikes are tracking relevant mandates and riding guidelines state-by-state. Some cities or counties may have guidance that conflicts with state mandates, and in those instances turn to the local government for clarification on which guidance to follow.

For Land Managers

These operational recommendations may help alleviate trail congestion and trailhead overcrowding so trail users can better maintain social distance.

Sign two-way trails as one-way trails

Directional trails reduce trail user interactions once users are in the trail network. Effectiveness of directionality is largely dependent on the design and layout of the trail network. Trails that were designed without consideration of directionality may not be able to be converted to a complete one-way trail network. Additionally, some two-way trails may need to remain two-way to avoid dead ends or forced trail interactions.

Create multiple access points

Added access points disperse trail users across a trail network. Careful consideration will be needed as access points are developed in order to avoid negatively impacting adjacent landscapes and neighborhoods. For example, in cases where trailheads or parking have been closed to encourage local use, the side effect has been that parking still takes place along entry roads and side streets.

Provide local guidance

Provide clear and up-to-date communication of executive orders and local guidance to the public. Signage should be placed at each access point, trailhead, and trail hubs. Post this information on websites where trail users check trail conditions.

Install trail counters

Trail counters will identify peaks and valleys in trail visitation. Identify when the trails have low use and encourage users to modify their habits to visit trails during low use time periods. While some trail users are accustomed to night riding, it is not recommended to encourage that use at this time.

Caution on closing trailheads

Closing trailheads may not be advisable as a measure to disperse visitors while unloading and loading. Observations at locations that have closed trailheads and parking lots to disperse visitors have shown that adjacent streets and neighborhoods are impacted by trail users parking nearby.

Page last updated: May 14, 2020

Mountain biking is a full-body puzzle. The feeling of accomplishment and confidence you get when you solve a new piece of the puzzle is something that translates far beyond the trail. It’s hugely rewarding to know our work is furthering that feeling.

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