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Do Mountain Bikes Damage Trails?

do mountain bikes damage trails

Mountain biking has been around for years. It’s all about speed and friction, but many bikers wonder if this continuous friction damages the trails. This is a very common question, and luckily, we’ll get to the bottom of it in this article.

In short, mountain bikes damage natural trails. Natural trails are usually a pathway surrounded by greenery for hikers, joggers, passerby, and animals. They are meant for use by foot. In contrast, man-made trails are specifically designed for mountain biking. These trails can withstand friction, speed, and pressure.

The problem of trail damage arises when mountain bikes are used on natural trails. This causes soil erosion and loss of vegetation because bikers run their bikes on freshly seeded soil and plants. What makes mountain biking worse is poor technique and aggressive riding skills.

Do Mountain Bikers Damage Trails More Than Other Groups?

This question is quite the debate. Many bikers remain ignorant or blind towards the harms of mountain biking and claim that other groups do more damage. However, the weight and speed of a mountain bike are way more disrupting than a hiker’s heavy footsteps. 

Complaints about bikers damaging trails are quite common. Mountain bikers carve out their own trails. They also remove rocks, stomp on plants, and cut down roots. The less experienced, careless bikers also ruin trail paths by going too fast and stopping too suddenly. This causes friction, which damages the trails significantly.

A common misconception that many bikers have is that mountain biking is equally harmful as hiking. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many mountain bikers will carve out a new trail path each time they are biking. Under the law, they are not permitted to do so on private/state-owned lands. It is mostly an “in the moment” decision, meaning chances are that it was done illegally.

Mountain bikers also tend to always travel in a group, so the impact on the trail is not just of one mountain bike, but of many. Many bikers will argue that a horse’s hooves will do the same amount of damage as a mountain bike, but that is simply not true. Mountain bikes leave behind skid marks, chainrings, damaged plants, and can also harm animals that make their way to the trail.

When you’re mountain biking in a state-owned place, like an animal park, you’re causing erosion, killing small animals, and knocking down small plants while exploring a “natural trail.” This scares off the wildlife and all the other trail users. Mountain biking is clearly damaging the trails, but it is also driving away animals and hikers. 

All in all, mountain bikers tend to do significantly more damage than other groups that use natural trails. Hence, mountain bikers should try to avoid using natural trails in the first place, sticking to only man made ones.

How to Be Responsible While Mountain Biking

If you’ve made it this far into the article, it’s safe to assume you don’t want to contribute to more trail damage. If you want to be more responsible while mountain biking, continue reading below!

Ride Where You Are Allowed

Don’t disrupt the environment. You can always ride on trails that have been specifically designed for mountain bikes since they can take the pressure and friction.

Don’t Trespass

While riding, make sure you do not enter a private boundary. Even though wildlife parks are open to the public, you should still respect the fact that they are home to many innocent animals.

If you want to drive on private land, the responsible thing is to get a permit from the person responsible. Refrain from venturing into state-protected wildlife areas as you can get charged for this as well.

Cover Your Traces

It is highly irresponsible for you to leave splatters wherever you ride. If you ride on a muddy trail, there is a huge possibility that the mud will splatter everywhere.

Hence, you should always try to stay on a man-made trail or an already existing natural trail. This way, you are more likely to make less mess. Existing trails have less mud and soil due to repeated usage.

Stay Under the Speed Limit

It is very common for mountain bikers to get a rush of adrenaline and let out all their built-up excitement by going at an increasingly fast speed. Staying under the speed limit not only protects you from accidents but also protects the safety of passersby. Always keep your eyes on the road and try not to perform risky stunts in a public space. Know your limits.

Watch Out for Wilderness

If you are biking in a natural environment, you are already doing a lot of damage. The very least you can do is make sure not to kill any small animals while you are riding at high speed.

They can pop out in front of you from nowhere, and if you’re going fast, you may not be able to stop in time. You could run them over or scare them off. This will cause extreme chaos and might even result in other trail users getting injured by these scared animals.

If a fellow biker has already made a trail, stay on that one, and don’t make another one of your own!


It is important for you to keep your gear clean. From your biker jacket to your bike’s oil, it all needs to be cleaned and changed regularly. Bikes add to air and noise pollution. With dirty engines and old oil, you are contributing to pollution even more. 

Let Others Know

Before barging into a new space at high speed, make sure you let other trail users know you are coming. There will be signs up on every trail track, but still, it isn’t uncommon for people to ignore them.

If you see anyone on the wrong side of the trail track, especially random walkers, let them politely know that this is dangerous for bikers and them.

Take Baby Steps

No need to jump into a trail straightaway. It is common to be full of adrenaline, but the responsible thing to do, which most professional mountain bikers also practice, is to go in slowly.

Start slowly on your trail and build up the speed gradually. It also helps if you know the trail you are riding on. If you don’t, you should first explore the trail before mountain biking on it.

Safety Tips

● Always wear a helmet.

● Always check your tires before riding.

● Always check your fuel before going on a long trail.

● Clean your bike.

● Keep the chains in check.

● Wear all the body safety gear that you require.

● Wear gloves!

● Keep a small safety kit with you.

Final Thoughts

It has been made very clear from this article that mountain bikes do, in fact, damage trails. There is a downside to every activity. However, you can be a responsible citizen and know how to lessen the damage.

Be safe while biking, and do not trespass into land you shouldn’t be on, including the home of animals. 

Many still argue over whether mountain bikers should be allowed to continue this activity at all. You can bring a change to their mindset by being a responsible citizen. We hope this article helped you find the information you need! 

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