By Dave Wiens
I have spent half of my life pedaling all over the backcountry of the Gunnison/Crested Butte area. These are some important guidelines that I follow when I’m out enjoying the trails on my bike. Remember, ride only on open trails, stay on the trail and be aware of and honor seasonal or temporary trail closure for wildlife protection and/or stock movement.
You will encounter wildlife in this country; that’s one thing that makes it special. When you do, slow down or stop. Try not to startle or scare animals and definitely don’t chase or “run” them. Give them the time they need to move on and be off of the trail. (Last summer I suddenly found myself heading for an imminent encounter with over 100 head of elk that were on the move. Our paths were going to cross and had I just continued on, I would have bisected this herd movement. Instead, I simply sat down and watched these amazing animals do their thing until every last straggler was well across the route I was on.)
Respect other Trail Users – Always be aware and ride in control, especially in areas with limited site distances. Trails in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area are much less crowded than most but are still used by a variety of recreational users – horseback riders, hikers, families with small children, motorized dirt bikers, etc. – and also by those that work daily on our public lands and are an important part of our heritage and local economy, the ranchers. Mountain bikers are under much scrutiny due to our large numbers. As a general rule, I yield to all other trail users I come across on the trail. For other mountain bikers, the uphill rider has priority unless they choose to yield, which sometime happens (gasping for air!)
This is possibly the most dangerous situation you could encounter while riding in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area. Since they are quiet and fast, mountain bikers can spook horses like nothing else, and potentially throw and injure their rider. When you encounter horseback riders, keep your distance, announce your presence and ask the rider what they would like you to do. Yield to riders on horseback by stepping off of the trail on the downhill side, talk calmly to the animals as they go by (even if it does feel kind of silly), avoid sudden movements and allow plenty of time after the last rider before getting back on your bike and pedaling on.
Due to their negative impacts on livestock and wildlife, please leave your dog behind while riding in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area. Also never ride with your dog on a leash. It’s dangerous.
Motorcycles AKA Dirt Bikes
Around here, many think it’s best for mountain bikers to yield the trail to motorcycles. Our trails continue to get wider and a motorcycle trying to get off of the trail for mountain bikers only makes this worse. It’s easy for mountain bikers to step off of the trail without causing any damage to resources or vegetation. Since most motorcyclists will generally yield to mountain bikers first, I try to motion for them to continue toward me as they approach.