Some of my mates did a great ride on the weekend. I know it included one track that mountain biking isn’t allowed on.
My attitude has changed a lot over time but, if I’m honest, I have to admit that I used to be the one who led the charge when exploring new tracks,and I didn’t care if it was legal or otherwise. And before you get too outraged please consider that I live in Tasmania which is three times the size of Wales with the same population as Bristol. The biggest maintenance issue with most of our tracks is that they aren’t used enough and get over grown. I have had landowners ask me to ride on their land to and help keep their tracks clear.
For me the biggest thrill of Mountain Biking is adventure, not riding in a park ( as fun as that can be ). And all adventures must include some risk. When a track stops at a fence what do you do? Do you turn back or do you jump the fence and keep on riding? Its not a simple answer. In many countries there are laws which allow you to continue across private land in certain circumstances. And if you aren’t bothering anyone what harm are you doing anyway? But I own property and I wouldn’t be happy if strangers used my property as a thoroughfare. Once I would have always jumped the fence, now I like to get the landlords permission before riding across private land and I find they are usually very agreeable.
But what about public land? Crown land, forestry land, council land, National Parks, reserves? I find this a bit trickier. My daily commute includes about 200m of WALKER ONLY track on a council bushland reserve. In 7 years I estimate I’ve seen 20 walkers. In that same time I’ve probably spent an hour a month or nearly 100 hours clearing and maintaining the tracks in this area. If I were to have strictly observed the trail designation and avoided this area this track would probably be overgrown and lost to everyone. There is another local track I use regularly which has NO BIKE signs at either end. A little bit of investigation and it turns out these signs weren’t put there by the local government and there is no law preventing bikes using this track. Very few people ride it and most people assume bikes aren’t allowed. And because of the NO BIKE signs walkers don’t expect so see riders so riding this track at busy time can be dangerous and cause tension, so we avoid it.
I now apply the following rules, Private land – be respectful. Public land – be sensible.
Maybe I’m just trying to justify my selfish behavior or maybe I’m taking a stand for land access for common people. It doesn’t matter too much as the places and times I ride I rarely bother anyone. But I’m very interested to know what other Mountain Bikers think, especially in areas where there is greater population pressure on tracks and track availability. When you come to a fence (or a NO BIKE sign) what do you do? Do you turn around or do you jump the fence and keep riding?