Bikes on the PCT

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The Metal Threat

I thought a lot about bikes on the trail. Their tracks were more common that I would have thought. Rather than let all that quality trail thinking time fade into obscurity, I put them down here.

First, some disclosures:
I am nearly fanatical when it comes to bikes on the trail. They are not allowed and should not be allowed.
I believe that bikes do have a place in nature. Just not the PCT.
I give advice on this page.

What to DoWe know what we are breaking the law but you are you wrong.

  • When you see a bike on the trail, get out your camera. Take pictures, or pretend to take pictures.
  • Stop the bicyclist. Make yourself as wide as possible, using your poles if you carry them. This is assuming, of course, that your immediate safety is not threatened. Move to a place where natural barriers, such as trees, rock, and steep drop-offs prevent them from going around you.
  • Ask the cyclist if they know they are on the PCT. This saves you the twofold embarrassment of launching into a rampage if you are off the trail and in a place where bikes are allowed. It also gives them the benefit of the doubt, and allows you to gauge your response. Most riders know they are on the PCT. Where riders are tend to be well marked, especially with No Bikes signs.
  • Then ask the cyclist if they know that bikes are not allowed on the PCT. They probably passed a sign.

What you do from there is up to you. It's most important to let them know that you think that it's not OK. Bikers think that silence equals consent. Be vocal. You probably will not change their mind, but you might make them think twice about coming back.

On the very rare chance that you see someone from the jurisdiction, report your bike encounter. It's worth the time.

Remind the biker that even if they are riding safely, there are bikers who do not, making it unsafe for everyone. Hiker discomfort is reason enough to justify the law.

Remember that you are dealing with other people. Treat them with respect, even if you are angry. Threats don't do anyone any good, even a pompous biker.

Trail De-Maintenance

In the heavily used areas, create obstacles for bikes. Place rocks so that a turn is wide when a wide turn means slowing down. The same with creating uncomfortably tight turns. Pull branches and logs across the trail, especially at naturally narrow points on the trail. Look at the uphill and downhill experience. If the rider is flying down the hill, where will a well-placed obstacle be the biggest joy-drain?

Keep in mind that bikes can jump some obstacles, so put another obstacle to keep the jump from happening. Parallel branches work well. Or find a natural obstacle/jump and add a rough landing to it. You get the idea.

These efforts may not keep them off the trail, but at least it will decrease their speed (and fun). And then maybe they'll not come back and not tell their friends about that section of trail.

Uncomfortable with messing up the trail? The bikes will do a lot more damage, and long-term damage, if they travel fast. De-maintenance is obnoxious and in your face. Cumulative bike damage is more insidious and a threat to the tread of the trail.

High Use Areas

I noticed high use in the following areas:

Just south of Barrel Springs

The (large) area around Mojave and Tehachapi

Near Walker Pass

Just north of Sierra City: climbing Sierra Buttes and points north

South of Ashland

Anger Fuels Insanity

Presumably you are not hiking to spend a lot of time angry. Learn to take action rather than get angry. There's not a lot that you can do because you won't encounter most of the bikers. You'll only see evidence of them. If you stew in the anger, when you do run into a biker, it could erupt. I speak from experience.

I enjoyed my hike more when I was doing what I could (being vocal, creating obstacles) and let the rest go. There's lots of time to think when hiking. Don't let it be about pointless negative stuff.

Here are some of the more crazy things I thought about when hiking:

Trip Lines
A line across the trail, just above handlebar level. There are many obvious reason that trip lines are not a good idea, including hiker safety.
Trip Line Signs
Signs with a simple graphic showing a biker getting thrown off the back of a bike. Perhaps they would have the text, "Hiker Warning: Bike Trip Lines Ahead" There would be no trip lines, just signs.
Tire Trapper
Create a V-shaped device on the ground that would funnel a bike tire into the center. When the tire passed through, the device would lock the tire. Like a car boot, but instantaneous. Impractical and dangerous.
Photo Enforcement
In heavy use areas, like just north of Sierra City, install photo equipment, like the systems used for traffic enforcement. This is the last thing I want to see in the wilderness, but my mind had other ideas...

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