Compared to the rest of the United States, Texas has a small percentage of publicly owned lands. Somewhere around three percent of the state is publicly owned land, and much of that resides in the Big Bend region. These facts have presented Texans with a unique challenge that has netted interesting results.
Some of the best mountain bike trails are found on privately owned and operated ranches. While these private trails do not benefit from state or federal maintenance funds, the land owners do have a vested interest in ensuring that the trails are maintained and may be enjoyed by cyclists. The investment that trail-ranch owners have made to ensure that the Texas mountain bike community has great singletrack opportunities available has resulted in a shining example of how the bicycle community has an impact on the Texas economy.
Because many of the trails that are open to mountain biking in Texas reside on private land, Texas mountain bikers have a greater incentive to observe the rules of the trail. Below are guidlines formulated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). These rules are recognized around the world as the standard code of conduct for mountain bikers. Help keep trails open by setting a good example of environmentally sound and socially responsible off-road cycling. Please keep in mind that each ranch may have its own set of Trail Rules, and users should research these while planning the trip. The way we ride today shapes mountain bike trail access tomorrow. Do your part to preserve and enhance our sport’s access and image by observing the following rules of the trail.
IMBA Rules of the Trail
1. Ride On Open Trails Only
Respect trail and road closures (ask if uncertain); avoid trespassing on private land; and obtain permits or other authorization as may be required. Federal and state Wilderness areas are closed to cycling. The way you ride will influence trail management decisions and policies.
2. Leave No Trace
Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Recognize different types of soils and trail construction; practice low-impact cycling. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage. When the trail bed is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
3. Control Your Bicycle
Inattention for even a second can cause problems. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations.
4. Always Yield Trail
Let your fellow trail users know you’re coming. A friendly greeting or bell is considerate and works well; don’t startle others. Show your respect when passing by slowing to a walking pace or even stopping. Anticipate other trail users around corners or in blind spots. Yielding means slowing down, establishing communication, being prepared to stop if necessary, and passing safely.
5. Never Scare Animals
All animals are startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. This can be dangerous for you, others, and the animals. Give animals extra room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if you are uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses. Leave gates as you found them, or as marked.
6. Plan Ahead
Know your equipment, your ability, and the area in which you are riding – and prepare accordingly. Be self-sufficient at all times, keep your equipment in good repair, and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. A well-executed trip is a satisfaction to you and not a burden to others. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.