Outside Kind: Ride Kind

As spring begins to warm the air and dry out the trails, we continue our series of Outside Kind. This week, we’re talking about Ride Kind, bringing our best selves to the biking trails. We spoke with Mel Cronin, Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association Board Member (SWMMBA), about the initiative, trail tips, safety measures, and what you can expect while biking around Bozeman. 

Ride Kind

Do right by others. Be a good trail user. Be kind, even to someone who’s not.

She explains, “That’s what is so exciting about Outside Kind; it’s the easiest, simplest thing to say, ‘Bring your best self to the outdoors.’ So many psychological studies show that being kind and doing nice things for other people is good for our brain.”

Ride Respectful

Be nice. Respect trail use guidelines, timeshare days, and closures. Don’t ride when it is muddy. Make space. Park respectfully. 

"We strongly encourage the use of common sense. If it’s wet out, don’t go. Every type of soil handles moisture differently. For the most part, our soils are not good when wet. Whereas in the Pacific Northwest, there is a lot of loam or organic matter, we have a lot of clay. Someone putting a rut in the trail could cause extended maintenance. Many trails run through public land; if the trail belonged to you, would you want to see that kind of damage? If you think it’s going to be annoying to clean your bike, or your boots, turn around and find a dryer place to hike or ride..”

Ride Considerate

Smile, say hi. Interact with other trail users to smooth encounters. Yield to other users when appropriate. 

“The general rule from the Forest Service is bikers yield to hikers and equestrians.  This is a good framework, but solid communication boils down to the best course of action. We are blessed in this area to have a lot of horses, but 

every animal and rider react differently in different situations. . It is best is to be cordial, say hello, and ask what the rider would like you to do. Take a pause and communicate how you are going to work it out. This creates empathy among different user groups; it creates connection. In essence, bring your humanity with you. Be nice, say hi, talk to each other.”

Biker on a high plateau

Ride Aware

Know the level of difficulty and type of riding each trail presents. Know your skill and physical levels and ride to improve but not beyond your abilities.

“One of the most important innovations for biking and hiking is the Trailforks App. You can get a free version within a 60-mile radius or pay $3 per month. It has user-sourced information and runs on GPS. SWMMBA tries to keep up with information through social media, newsletters, and trail reports to bike shops. But the employees in the 13 bike shops in Bozeman are pretty great resources for getting trail information. 

There are also group rides through SWMMBA and Bozeman Pedal Project, a women’s grassroots  group ride. Anyone can go on these rides, and you get fantastic resources and meet like-minded people. You gain a deeper understanding of the outdoor culture in Bozeman. Outside Kind is already the culture, and we want to preserve that. That’s why people want to move here; when you walk down Main Street, people smile at you and are kind. We want to keep it that way; it’s an oasis of civility.”

Ride Prepared

A helmet, water, snacks, dog treats, and a poop “evacuation kit” are the basic ride requirements for any outing.

“Many areas do not have cell service, but apps such as Trailforks work off GPS, so be sure to look at the map before leaving cell service.

Remember that you are sharing the trails with wildlife. Carry bear spray. If you are by yourself, sing or make noise. The human voice is incredible. Bells can create a false sense of security; animals don’t recognize them as well as a voice because they are a novel sound to most bears; it may take them a moment to recognize them as a warning . Don’t put your headphones on, and keep your head down. Be aware. 

Don’t wear tree camo; sometimes, it’s hard to see with shadows and light. Bring yourself out and be aware; you never know when you will encounter someone you can’t see. Bring a helmet, pump, and extra tube.” 

Mountain bikers on a forest trail.

Ride smart

Access is a gift. Know what types of trails are open to your type of ride. E-bikes are welcome on motorized routes, but on some trails, e-bikes are not.

“We have an amazing spectrum of rides here, especially with Copper City Trails. There is something for any level of rider. As you get farther out into the National Forest, it generally becomes more difficult but is extremely rewarding. Some of the most beautiful outdoor opportunities are relatively close to town. As trails get refurbished or renewed, the new trail building standards are phenomenal. 

Our forests are different than others regarding what types of uses are allowed on what trails. We also have a timeshare program on some popular trails, where specific days, mountain bikes, or motorbikes are not allowed, or days it is not recommended that horses go. There are also seasonal closures for sensitivity to wildlife. You can find this information on the USFS website."

Ride No Trace

Take only pictures. No poop left behind, people or pooch. Don’t leave poop bags along the trail. If you see the trace of someone else, be kind and pack that out too. Leave your favorite trail better than you found it.

RIDE KIND is a trail etiquette and community initiative to help all riders be their BEST selves while on the trails and enjoying our public lands. RIDE KIND promotes safe, responsible, low impact, and enjoyable wheeled recreation. The traditional yellow trail yield triangle is a good starting point for basic trail encounters; RIDE KIND is meant to go beyond the basics to help all riders build a better and more KIND trail culture in their community.


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