Etiquette when it comes to overtaking on singletrack

evade Posts: 115
edited September 2009 in MTB beginners
Hey all,

This is a bit of a rant, sure, but is actually meant as a question from someone newish to riding ST along with other hardened MTBers, and I need to know the score...

Last weekend I was riding down a fairly tech trail (Barry Knows Best, Surrey Hills) when I heard a rumbling close by. Guessing it was someone who was going quicker than me I pulled over to the left when I could - I was on a pretty tight bit of singletrack at the time. In the end, the timing was good and him and his mate rode past without losing any speed, said thanks, all was fine. I started off again and not ten seconds later the next guy was on my tail, just as I was about to make a little move the right. As I realised he was there, I pulled over to the left and stopped to let him past, and the geezer slams his brakes on and says "what the hell you going??" and before I clocked the enormity of the ape I said "trying to let you pass, what the hell you trying to do?" a very brief but heated argument ensued which got us nowhere and then he (thankfully) hooned off down the track.

A short time later a similar thing happened on a really really tight bit of ST, but this time I heard "coming from your right", I pulled over to the left ASAP and three dudes hooned past, all good, no incident, but this was getting to me now as it was the third time in one hour that I'd had to get out of my flow to let people overtake. And I started wondering why on earth the emphasis was on me to pull over, given that:

a) it's not like I'm exactly going slow, I'm pretty fast, not as fast as these guys with years under their belts, sure, but I'm still going pretty damned fast
b) I got to the track first, right?
c) I'm clearly the person with the least experience, the least idea of the situation (given that the person behind can see both of us, and the trail ahead), so surely the person behind is in the best position to take the initiative rather than me...

I'm a very experienced snowboarder and if you're tanking down a tight goat track and there's someone slower in front and you want to overtake, you wait, pick your line, and go when you can be sure that both of you are going to be safe, without any impact on the person in front. If it slows down your ride, tough. And pretty much everyone adheres to this rule - perhaps mainly cos if you crash into someone infront of you, you can get sued. It works really well in the main... And, until now, this is how I've been approaching MTBign when I've had people in front - actually I tend to just have a break and let them gain enough distance before setting off again..

But clearly this isn't the case on ST. So what's the eitquette here? Is there any?? Do I move over for people? Do I just hoon past people in front of me? Or are these guys just being idiots and I should just consider these incidents as one-offs??

(Yeah, yeah, of course, I could just learn to go faster...)

Cheers for your advice...

Scott Spark 35


  • The rider behind should wait until there is a safe place to over take, should call out which side he wants to overtake on, and should thank the rider for letting them pass.

    This is considered good form and is safe for everyone. It doesn't happen very often though and you get idiots complaining that you have spoiled their fun, or give no warning they want to come past.

    You don't have to give way, but it can get uncomfortable with someone breathing down your neck, no matter how polite they are.

    At events, when someone wants to come past me, I tell them when and on what side.

    e.g. I hear a rider coming up behind, 'on your right' they might shout. If i consider it unsafe I'll shout "no" or 'wait', when it is safe I'll call out 'pass on my right/left'.

    It does annoy some people (mostly Evans riders), but most are just happy that they have avoided a crash.
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • RichMTB
    RichMTB Posts: 599
    Basically here is trail etiquette as I understand it.

    You should yield to a faster rider when it is safe to do so but its up to the faster rider to make you aware of their presence as a) bikes don't have rear view mirrors and b) unless they are on an Orange Five you might not hear them coming

    I don't think its acceptable to blast passed people who don't know you are there
    I find a friendly hello while I'm still a bit behind and then "On your left / right" works most of the time always remembering to thank the rider you've just passed. Only exception would be if a slower rider is using a chicken run or similar and you can pass without interupting either of you.

    Another way to look at it is if you don't think you are a slow rider (and therefore trying to be a fast one) then if people catch and pass you try and stick with them as you rejoin the trail, watch where they are faster try and copy their line etc.

    Its worked for me and now 90% of the time I'm the one doing the passing
    Step in to my hut! - Stumpy Jumpy Pacey
  • fitch28
    fitch28 Posts: 155
    i do see your point but...
    i always find somewhere to stop and let someone past. at the end of the day sometimes you're the overtaker and sometimes you're the overtaken. most of the time singletrack isn't wide enough to overtake and my feeling is the faster person should have right of way.

    the person in fronts flow is only going to be briefly disturbed whereas if you are behind, potentially your flow is going to be disturbed for a lot longer than that.
  • joec1
    joec1 Posts: 494
    im new too.

    and whilst taking part in the lavington blast last weekend we adopted the "Passing left" or PAssing Right" approach wherever safest.. and didnt pass anywhere else....

    but as the slower rider at times i did pull left or right (before people got mega close) and let them past. wherever it was getting tighter and more technical. - MTBing in Wilts and the southwest, join up for info and ride details.
  • Daz555
    Daz555 Posts: 3,976
    I do tend to have a look back up the trail behind me when on tight bends but it can be difficult to work out who is behind you sometimes. If you are in a group it can be hard to tell if it's a mate riding with you who's happy to be there, or someone desperate to get past.

    When climbing and on slower sections/tight bends I'd happily move over right away but if I was flat out (for me) on a nice flowy section, I'd make them wait a little until I was ready to move over.

    A good rider will wait for the right stretch to overtake and not put the guy in front under pressure. Of course, nothing will make you get the hammer down more than hearing a rider rattling up behind you! 8)
    You only need two tools: WD40 and Duck Tape.
    If it doesn't move and should, use the WD40.
    If it shouldn't move and does, use the tape.
  • cee
    cee Posts: 4,553
    i think it is better for the slower rider at the front to tell the faster rider where to overtake.

    its all very well me hooning down a track and telling you that i am coming on your right, but if there is a nasty obstacle on your left then it leaves you no option, but to wither do what I told you and crash, or ignore me and let me crash!

    On DH tracks, the etiquette seems to be....shout "rider".... then wait for an opportunity to pass, whether its a wider bit of trail, an inside line, or the person in front shows you a door.

    This seems to be rioght, but only when everyone is polite and actually let faster riders past. but you are should not spoil your ride either...

    mutual respect for everyone and share the love.
    Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I believe in the future of the human race.

    H.G. Wells.
  • Personally i think the slower person in front always has right of way. I also think they're a bit of a inconsiderate prat if they don't let people through when the oppurtunity arises.

    From what i've seen, this tends to be the general accepted opinion. I've never been moaned at for finishing a section of singletrack before letting people through or waiting until a trail widens and shouting at someone to sprint through.

    The person in front doesn't always know your behind them, particularly if you leave a bit of space and they happen to be concentrating. I've generally found that a lot of people have been too polite to make me aware they're behind me!
  • if u shout right, do u move to the right or does he want to pass on the right?
  • snig
    snig Posts: 428
    hefalomp wrote:
    if u shout right, do u move to the right or does he want to pass on the right?

    if your over taking and shout right it means your over taking on the right but best to shout "passing on right" than saying just right.
  • I'll say a bit of responsibility from both riders it the best option - nobody wants to crash so do your best to avoid the situation -

    If I'm the slow one in front, I expect a faster rider to pass when it's safe and to make sure I'm aware of them. If they need to slow up a bit to make it safe, then I expect them to.

    If I'm faster, I'll slow down, make sure they know I'm there, then overtake when I can. If there's no room, I sometimes stop to let them get ahead, then start off again.

    Faster riders who just plow on through, expecting you to read their minds are a bit dim and probably crash lots :wink:
  • stubs
    stubs Posts: 5,001
    Its a very bad idea to spook a rider by blasting past without warning they might panic and take you off as you pass.
    Fig rolls: proof that god loves cyclists and that she wants us to do another lap
  • lesz42
    lesz42 Posts: 690
    been told "why are you braking?", "you are ignorant" , by some riders, they really put you off

    almost got pushed off the trail by a rider who tanked it past me at great speed, was gone before i know what happened!

    but most will say "passing right" or just "bike" and i move over a bit if safe,

    why cant some riders relax a bit ? get right huffy if someone is a newbie, and how dare they be in front of them?
    Giant Trance X0 (08) Reverb, Hope Hoops 5.1D, XT brakes, RQ BC, Works Components headset 1.5
  • Well either I am faster than I think (no one seems to pass me on my 'local') or my local really ain't that busy.

    If I come up behind a slower rider I don't shout at them but I do make my presence known, most usually let me passed once they get the opportunity and I say 'thankyou'

    If I believe the group or person in front is slower I will often wait about on the section to give them enough time to get far enough ahead that I can get my desired run in.

    I wouldn't feel comfortable just blasting passed someone, it's rude and shows a lack of respect to other riders.
  • stubs
    stubs Posts: 5,001
    If I believe the group or person in front is slower I will often wait about on the section to give them enough time to get far enough ahead that I can get my desired run in.

    +1 for that

    some people think they could show Steve Peat a thing or two they couldnt they are just some bloke whos faster in his head than reality it doesnt hurt to hang back and look at the scenery for a minute
    Fig rolls: proof that god loves cyclists and that she wants us to do another lap
  • If I'm the faster rider I just tend to freewheel/back pedal slightly behind them (1 advantage of hope rear hub - works well for walkers to). once they've clocked me I usually wait for a suitable spot. say something like "one your right" followed by a thankyou and a smile as I go past. If I'm the slower ride I'll just pull over at a suitable point, and possibly usher them through by waving my arm on the side they can pass on.
    Santa Cruz Chameleon
    Orange Alpine 160
  • As someone who is frequently overtaken, I find the following tends to be the unwritten rule; if the faster rider can see a suitable place to pass which willl not force the slower rider to change their speed or line then they should annouce their presense and intention by shouting "passing on your left/right" and then make the manoever.

    If overtaking would cause the slower rider to have to stop, slow down or move off his line then the faster rider will usually call something like "rider behind" or "when you can" and it is then up to the slower rider to either stop or move off his line to let the faster rider past as soon as it is convenient to do so. It's also sometimes necessary for the slower rider to shout "pass on my left/right" if it's not immediately obvious which line they are giving.

    As for riders who come up behind you and breath down your neck without saying anything; I usually ignore them and keep to my line and previous pace. If the rider wants to go past it is their responsibility to let you know. If they don't say anything then it usually means they're glad of the breather! :)
  • Beardface
    Beardface Posts: 5,495
    As above really.. if I'm wanting to overtake, I wait until its safe, and let the rider in front know which side I'd ideally like to pass on ("to your left/right" works well, followed by a smile and a thank you!) If I know someone is behind me and faster than me (pffft.. fat chance!! lol :twisted: ), I'll wait until it's safe for everyone before I pull over, if I can, I'll try to wave which side is best to pass me on.

    Barry knows Best is a nightmare for passing, as its so tight and twisty.. I usually just wait around at the top if I've just seen people starting off, so that they can enjoy their run and I can enjoy mine..

    Strange though, the majority of people over the Surrey Hills (at least, in my experience) are friendly, courteous etc, so sounds like you may have been unlucky.. we're not all like that evade!! :)

    And Mac, +1 for hopes or chris kings.. especially for walkers!
  • Markmjh
    Markmjh Posts: 415
    Stav83 wrote:
    I usually just wait around at the top if I've just seen people starting off, so that they can enjoy their run and I can enjoy mine.. !

    This is usually the best option. I would rather wait a couple of mins at the top of a decent than have potential issues catching up with riders in front. You also know you have a clear run and can really blast it down.
    Ride Crash Ride Again
  • .blitz
    .blitz Posts: 6,197
    I tend to ride at obscure times but I've never had a single problem on the Chase in nearly 15 years of riding there. Feel the love. Most people pull over ASAP and faster riders always pass the time of day "Cheers mate" "no problem" "thanks again" "you're welcome" etc.

    Pro 2s have helped a lot :wink:
  • I generally find that faster riders announce their presence and sometimes give advanced warning of which side they intend to pass.

    This happened A LOT during the Bontrager 24/12, in July, as it was my first Enduro event and I'm still feeling my way.

    On most occasions, I fired back a quick 'when I can' - or something similar, then pulled wide or slowed down at the first opportunity. The other rider would then take his chance, thank me, and blast off into the distance.

    There was one guy, however, who I would have happily thumped (If I'd been quick enough to catch him) - I was about 20 yards from the first tight, rocky technical descent on the course (Only about 20 or 30 feet long) and checked over my shoulder to see if there was anybody coming. There was one rider, quite a way back, so I carried on - imagine my surprise when, halfway through the descent, he came blasting past me giving me quite a fright (I still don't know how he managed to get past without taking us both out, and anybody who rode that event will know just the spot that I'm on about).

    No, I appreciate that he was probably in racing mode (Rather than survival mode, like me) but, considering that he could see me from quite a way back, and it only took about 5 seconds or so to traverse that section, he could have just backed off a bit to ensure that I was out of it before he entered.

    Anyway, rant over - and thanks to all the guys who passed me, but still found time to egg me on (Especiialy at stupid o'clock in the morning, when I needed the encouragement)

    If you didn't learn anything today, you weren't paying attention!
  • I normally say "Rider from the right" or something like that. I've encountered arsey riders out and about, I just rest assured that I've tried to be nice and if they can't appreciate me going out of my way then screw 'em.
  • @flamedude - you're from Vancouver, so that makes you very polite (and makes me very jealous)

    I hope you live in North Vancouver, so that you can get straight out onto the trails.

    One of my favourite places in the world - what a city!

    If you didn't learn anything today, you weren't paying attention!
  • I tend fo ride when I have rest days during the week so the trails are pretty quiet, which is pretty handy for a newb.
    MTB; Genesis Core 20 2009
    Road; Trek 2.3

    Reformed BMX biker.
  • joshtp
    joshtp Posts: 3,966
    if someone comes up behind me i carry on untill i feel there is a good place to stop and let them pass, im ruining my fun for them, and if they are grumpy, well....
    I like bikes and stuff
  • Northwind
    Northwind Posts: 14,675
    TBH I don't really understand why it's a discussion. If someone behind me is faster, I pull over as soon as it's sensible to do so, or make room if there's enough width- holding them up is just being a **** as far as I'm concerned, so I don't do it. And I expect other people to also not be ****s. Of course, overtaking dangerously or without warning is another way to be a ****, so the same applies there. It's really not too hard, and it hardly ruins your day if you let someone pass.

    Also, common sense means letting your faster mates away first if they want a blast, and likewise if you want a blast not setting out with someone bang in front of you- at trail centres in particular you sometimes see people leave 10 seconds after another rider then catch up, just ridiculous.
    Uncompromising extremist