There’s been a steady return to reasonable normality in South African mountain biking after the government’s reaction to the Covid-19 virus. Events are filling the calendar again and it’s just flippen awesome! But what’s not awesome is that not everyone knows how to pass slower riders without drama, so here’s a tutorial…

By Sean Badenhorst

A friend of my wife’s crashed during Stage 1 of the 2022 Berg & Bush Two-Day race. She broke her arm and required surgery to have it repaired. The reason for her crash, a male rider tried to pass her on a steep, rutted climb, cut in front of her and she went down hard.

According to our most recent SA MTB Crash Survey, more than 7% of riders’ worst crashes were caused by other riders. Based on my experience of mountain biking for more than 30 years, the passing of slower riders does create a critical moment that can either go fairly well or end in disaster for one or both riders. I have mostly been the faster rider; but when riding a stage race with my wife or others, I have been the slower rider. So I have experience in both positions.

While there are collisions that occur on wider gravel sections or jeep track during the passing process, the biggest challenges usually come on singletrack, when space is very limited. Communication and timing are everything. Here’s what works best for the faster rider and the slower rider.


  1. As you get nearer the slower rider, start easing the pressure on your pedals (if you’re pedalling) or start braking gradually (if descending). Use the opportunity to relax and take a sip from your bottle/pack. When you are sure the rider ahead is within earshot, say “Track Please.” Try say it clearly but without an alarming tone. You don’t want to frighten the slower rider, you just want them to know you’re there.
  2. They will know that you want to come past, but if you sense they’re not aware, let them know that you want to pass, but don’t make them feel like they’re holding you up. They know they’re in your way already and don’t need additional pressure. It’s not their fault they’re in front of you; it just is like that at that moment.
  3. Make sure they know that you only expect them to move over when it’s appropriate or safe to do so. They will still feel under pressure but this eases it a little and will likely ensure they move over safely – for them and for you.
  4. Before you start to pass, if there’s more than one of you, let them know that. If you know that there are three others on your wheel also wanting to get past, stay clearly “There are four of us passing”. This gives the slower rider the information he/she needs in terms of how long to stay out of the way. So many collisions happen because the slower rider was only expecting one to pass and moves back into the trail after that one rider has passed.
  5. If the slower rider pulls over and stops, wait until they’re out of the trail before passing. If they’re moving to the left or right (in South Africa we mostly pass right if the terrain allows) then make sure you are entirely ahead of them before moving back into the evident riding line. Moving back in too soon will see you cutting them off and one or both of you taking a tumble.
  6. Once you have made your passing move, try thank the slower rider. It’s a small gesture, but it makes a big impression. No show of gratitude will be remembered and that slower rider may not be as gracious in a similar situation in future.


  1. You are not in the wrong. The circumstances that led to you being ahead of the faster rider are likely not something you have had control over, so don’t feel inferior or bad for being ahead of him/her.
  2. Obviously the faster rider wants to get past you. But it needs to be safe for both of you. Do not panic and just move over! Maintain your composure, stay relaxed and engage verbally with the faster rider. Say something like : “I will move over as soon as it’s safe,” or; “I will stop and move off the trail soon.” Make sure you say this clearly enough that the rider behind you can hear. Take into account tyre noise and wind…
  3. It’s probably safest to stop and move off the singletrack. But ensure that the trail surface and surrounds allow for this. Don’t just stop. Try move off on the left to allow the faster rider to pass on the right, but if the surface or surrounds aren’t ideal then move off on the right, but communicate this verbally with the faster rider before doing so.
  4. If you feel the trail is wide enough to keep riding, then do so, but move to the left (or right if necessary). But be sure that there is enough time for a faster rider to pass. While they pass, avoid looking at them, rather keep looking at the trail ahead so that you maintain your safe line.
  5. Be aware that there may be more than one rider passing. If you aren’t sure, ask the faster rider before he/she passes if there is just him/her or more riders. If there are more, it’s usually safest to stop and let them all pass.
  6. When stopping, be mindful of the gradient and terrain. If you’re on an incline, shift to an easier gear so that you can get going again after the faster rider has passed. Same with rough terrain where you need to reach momentum quickly to become stable.

Passing riders doesn’t only happen in races, but on regular trail rides too. The interaction is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be dramatic or painful if you just follow these guidelines…