Trail riding is in a relatively infant phase in South Africa. Well-organised trail riding that is. In order for this key area of mountain biking to grow and flourish, there needs to be some kind of structure in place that ensures all trail users enjoy a maximum level of safety and have a maximum amount of fun. Oh and the landowners on which those trails are built need to be able to sleep peacefully too. That’s it. Nothing else matters really.

When trail riding grew in the United States, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) was formed. Since 1988, IMBA has been bringing out the best in mountain biking by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trail work participation, cooperation among different trail user groups, grassroots advocacy and innovative trail management solutions. IMBA’s worldwide network includes 35 000 individual members, more than 750 bicycle clubs, more than 200 corporate partners and about 600 retailer shops. IMBA’s members live in all 50 U.S. states, most Canadian provinces and in 30 other countries.

Amarider ( is the South African affiliate to IMBA and follows similar principles to encourage trail sharing, growth and sustainability. We figured it would be useful to educate TREAD readers on IMBA’s Rules of the Trail. Not to create conflict, but to encourage trail use harmony, largely relevant to public land trails, but also applicable on private land trails too. Here they are:




IMBA developed the “Rules of the Trail” to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations, or with traffic conditions.

Ride open trails: Respect trail and road closures – ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorisation as required.

Leave no trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks.

Control your bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.

Yield appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming – a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Mountain bikers should yield to other non-motorised trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Mountain bikers traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.

Never scare animals: Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain).

Plan ahead: Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.


Originally published in TREAD Issue 22, 2013 – All rights reserved

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