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Minimal Impact Riding Tips

The best way to ensure we will have places to ride in the future is to look after the places we've got to ride today.

Here are some tips that will help you minimise your impact on the environment - without spoiling your fun.

Minimal Impact - Stay Covered in Summer

The hotter weather brings many temptations - including the temptation to forego some of the standard protective riding gear. Problem is, you just never know when you are going to need the protection of proper boots, pants and tops.

Even a casual ride can easily turn into a painful session having gravel picked out of torn skin. And it can get a lot worse.  

Remember, even on a hot day you will be air-cooled while you ride, so there's no reason to depart from the ATGATT mantra (All The Gear, All The Time).  A little heat discomfort is way preferable to a side full of gravel-rash!


Minimal Impact - Always have an Escape Route

Contingency planning - It's about expecting the unexpected. Around every corner could be an oncoming bike, quad or 4WD; a tree across the trail; a large rock or washaway.  It's one of the things that makes trail riding so exciting - you never know what challenge you're going to face.  

Planning an escape route is an important way of dealing with the unknowns around the next corner.  That means constantly being aware of what is either side of the trail and making sure that you have enough control to be able to switch lines quickly if you need to.  It also means not doing anything that blocks you in - like riding two or three abreast.

Try this on your next ride;  Think consciously at each blind corner or hill crest about where you would head if you suddenly meet someone or something coming the opposite direction.  

A little mental practice, a little mental preparation could make a big difference if you ever find yourself in that position.


Minimal Impact - Be Fire Safe

After a mild start to summer the hot weather is now here in spades.  Any recreational activity in dry bushland is a fire risk, but trail riding has some added risks so we have to be extra careful when we're out there.

Here are some tips to stay fire safe this summer:

  • Don't park your car on long grass.  The hot exhaust can ignite dry grass.
  • Take care when refuelling.  Fill up before you go or at a petrol station and if you must refuel from a jerry can make sure you're on bare ground.
  • No campfires, and if you must smoke, extinguish cigarettes on bare ground and pour a little water from your camelback on it just to make sure.
  • It should go without saying, but never remove your exhaust's spark arrestor.
  • Stay on track.
  • Observe fire bans and be aware of total vehicle movement bans that can be proclaimed on extreme fire ban days.
  • If you have an off and your bike goes down on grass or pine needles pick it up as quickly as possible and check to make sure it hasn't spilled any fuel.  Hot exhausts can ignite dry grass (there was a fire at Pinjar last year caused by a bike going down).  It there's any signs of smoldering use your camelback or whatever you have handy to dampen it down.

Our continued access to forests during summer could be jeopardised by a single trail bike-related fire, so we all need to be aware and take extra care.


Minimal Impact - Watch for Wildlife

During summer it makes sense to get out early or late to avoid the mid day heat.   Turns out we're not the only ones out there with the same idea.

Early morning and late afternoon is a busy time for wildlife, particularly kangaroos.  If you're riding a property fenceline, remember that the 'roos will generally be heading towards the property out of the bush in the morning, and back to the bush in the late afternoon.

Watch in both directions, of course, but pay closer attention to the side the 'roos are most likely to appear. 


Minimal Impact: Adjust to the Dust

With summer just around the corner it's time to adjust to the dust.

Here are three easy things you can do to make your summer rides more enjoyable and safer:

  1. Give it a minute. If you use a corner man system on your rides it doesn't matter how spread out the group gets. So give it a good minute or two before you take off after the rider in front and let the dust settle.

  2. Pick your position. After the first few regroups you should know where you sit within the group in terms of speed. Don't take off first if you know everyone is going to pass you, and don't take off last if you know you're going to pass everyone else!

  3. Think of the guy behind. A bit less throttle equals a lot less dust, particularly when taking off or entering a dirt road. And if someone faster comes up behind, let them pass at the earliest opportunity.

Adjust to the dust and you'll not only enjoy the ride more but you'll save some time on all that air filter cleaning!


Minimal Impact: Is There a Car Wash on Your Way Home?

When the wet season hits most riders knows how important it is to properly wash your bike between rides to prevent the spread of dieback. But here are three good reasons to wash your bike at a car wash on your way home.

  • Mud is easier to get off while it’s still wet
  • One less thing to do when you get home and you really just want to put your feet up and grab a beer
  • You may not realize it but washing your bike at home can actually introduce dieback into your backyard or neighbourhood.

So remember to keep some change handy and plan a route home that will take you past a car wash.


Minimal Impact: Caring for Erosion Mounds

They may look like they exist just to make hills more interesting for riders, but those ripper little jumps found on steeper hills are there to prevent water running down the hill and creating ruts.

As riders, we can look after these mounds by not following a single line through them and by not being agressive on the throttle as we hit them. 

Help keep hills in good condition and you'll help keep hills for us all to enjoy.


Minimal Impact: Maintain Momentum on Hills

There's nothing quite like that 'Yeeha!' moment when you get to the top of a challenging hill.

Watch a good rider tackle a gnarly hill and you'll see that they pick a good line and hit the hill with enough momentum to ride smoothly to the top. If they don't make it they'll roll down to the bottom and start again. 

There are a couple of tips on this. First, have a look at the hill and plan your line. Knowing where you want to go will give you more confidence to tackle the hill with a bit more speed. 

Go back to a point where you can accelerate so you hit the base of the hill at the right speed and in the right gear. Don't try to start right at the bottom and accelerate up. 

Most damage to hills comes from riders trying to start half way up and revving the bejeesus out of the bike with the back wheel spinning and digging a trench. 

Once the dirt is loosened like that the next rain will start a rut forming. And once a rut starts on a hill it can only get worse. Before long the hill will be a mess and 'those bloody trail bikes' will be blamed.

Get the technique right and you'll not only look like a hero but you'll also be protecting your trails!


Minimal Impact: Dieback Doesn't Die

In Spring and Summer when the weather dries out it's easy to assume that we don't have to be as careful with dieback.

Unfortunately this isn't the case.  Dieback spores which can easily be picked up in mud or puddles remain 'live' even when the mud dries and can then be shaken loose further down the trail and start a new infestation.

So make sure your bike is properly clean before each ride, stay out of known Disease Risk Areas and try to avoid wet areas. Dieback is a huge problem and we all need to play our part in preventing its spread.


Minimal Impact: Avoid Wet Areas

Winter riding means some of the places we ride with minimal impact in summer will become waterlogged and prone to damage.

Water is the most damaging thing that can happen to a trail, and where - and how - we ride through wet areas can mess things up for years. You can help protect our trails by avoiding trails that develop known bog-holes or swampy patches and not creating or worsening ruts up hills. 

If there's standing water on the trail, slow down and ride through it rather than making the trail wider by riding around it.  And remember that dieback spreads more easily when mud is picked up on wheels and frames, so be especially aware of DRA exclusion areas and always make sure you wash your bike thoroughly between rides.

Winter is both the best time to ride and the time when the environment is at its most vulnerable. We all need to take responsibility for protecting our trails for the future.


Minimal Impact: Pick your Path through Puddles

When you come across a puddle on a twin-track trail, the shallower line is usually straight through the middle.

This is because the wheel ruts caused by 4WDs will be either side of the middle and can be quite deep.

The trail surface before the puddle will usually be a good guide to the surface beneath the water. If the trail surface is generally firm then it's likely that it will remain firm through the puddle.

You're less likely to encounter boggy conditions if you go through the middle rather than going around it and you will also do less damage to the terrain and avoid widening the trail.


Minimal Impact: Improve your Cornering Technique

Improving your cornering technique can reduce wear and tear on your bike, your body - and the trails.

If you carry less corner speed than the rider in front you will need to accelerate harder out of the turn and brake harder into the next turn to maintain your position. This can create stutter bumps on the trail (which eventually become bike-swallowing whoops!) and can loosen the trail surface which makes it susceptible to water erosion.

With a higher corner speed you can maintain a more even speed with less braking and acceleration. It’s smoother on the bike, easier on the body and friendlier to the trail.

So: weight forward, elbows up, inside leg out and towards the front wheel to increase front-end grip, bum on outside edge of seat, torso upright with bike leaned in. Now get out there and practice!