You’re out on a run, passing through the desert, past one saguaro then another. Brushing past the creosote bushes, down the washes, and around the bends and you come upon an opposing mountain biker. He looks like he’s in a groove coming around the corner and as a courtesy to make it easier for him you step aside off the three foot trail and give him the lane and as he passes you throw out a, “Good Morning!”
No response. No “One more” to inform me he has buddies behind him. No “Good Morning!” back at me and certainly no “Thank you!”
Did he really just do that? Like the person that doesn’t say “Thank You” for holding the door for them at a store…
If this was a random occurrence out on the trail, limited to that one rider I’d let it go and move on. Except it’s not and not even close to a random occurrence.
In fact, I think it’s the rule rather than the exception.
Mountain bikers are just rude. Or at least a good number of them.
Think about it. You’re on a bike, with a seat. You don’t even have to pedal the entire time and you can still cover ground. Yet when I’m running up a trail, you’re going down, and I still make the effort of waving and saying hello and receive no response?
Is it really that hard to lift a hand? Raise a finger? Say something back? Isn’t it just natural to see someone else on a trail and say hello to them? Are you that focused that you chose to ignore another trail user? I thought were we of the same mold, no? We’ve shunned the road scene in our respective sports, we like beards, microbrews and being out on a trail more than defining our splits on a upcoming time trial. Shouldn’t a mountain biker naturally befriend a trail runner out there? We’re like cousins, where’s the love?!
It really wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t happen so often. The number to times a biker has blown by me without a simple hello is astonishing. Put up against the response from other hikers and runners, who nearly without fail say hello with each encounter, mountain bikers are bare none the rudest trail users of all.
I can back that up with some totally unofficial survey’s I’ve done over the last sixty days in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, a frequently used trail system of intertwining single track used every day by a swarm of mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders and trail runners. I run there for nearly 90% of all my training runs and have for the last three years. People always ask me what I could possibly think about being out on the trail so long by myself.
Well here you go:
I keep track of who is the friendliest out on the trail. I make sure I say hello to every single person I come across, without fail, and mentally note their response. (So there is a level of human error here but I have a pretty solid memory so it’s fairly accurate) Did they have a response? Was it a verbal with hand gesture? Was it just hand gesture? Did they have a dog? Were they hiking? In a group or solo? On a horse? On a bike? Trail runner? Generally though I could only keep track of total hikers/bikers/horseback/runners and a simple yes or no response. A “no” response was a total avoidance of my presence. No verbal, head nod, finger wiggle, wave, nothing. Totally devoid of any response to my greeting. A “yes” was any variation of those options. A simple lift of a finger off the handlebar for instance counts as a “yes” just as a “good morning” in response does.
So here are the numbers: In the Phoenix Mountain Preserve I ran 214.4 miles from October 16th to December 16th with a total of 32 different runs. That’s an average of 6.7 miles per run. With every run I’d track the results of that run on paper when I finished.
Here is what I came up with:
Encountering a hiker almost always was resulting in a pleasant wave and response to my “Good Morning/Afternoon/Hello” I’d give with an enthusiasm only a hotelier on 100mg of caffeine can do. Of the 167 different hikers I came across only 13 didn’t say something back. Which I can only assume was because they were deep into a conversation on the social implications of Facebook and our youth and didn’t see me fly by.
There are a lot of horse properties in the surrounding lots off the preserve but I rarely come across horse’s there. In my 32 runs only 4 times did I see a rider. All four greeted me back. Given I will stop completely to allow any horseback rider pass they always say hello and often stop and chat. My kind of people.
Encountering a trail runner was more surprising and interesting than I thought it would be. Depending on the trail you choose in the preserve varies on the necessary effort needed based on the terrain. ALL the trails are rocky and very technical and requires constant awareness, this admission I make now for both trail runners and mountain bikers. But only to a point. I had thought that trail runners would be unequivocally the friendliest people out on the trail, bar none.
I was mistaken.
Trail runners are frequent in numbers depending on the trail and on the Trail #100 you’re likely to see a half dozen in a 1-2 mile stretch in the pre-work/post-work hours every day. There is a mix of ultrarunners, road runners doing “cross training” and casual runners out there. Coming across another runner the other direction there is always the chance you might know them and maybe turn around and change course to run with them for a bit. In the case that you don’t know them I found that out of the 108 trail runners I came across, 28 of them said nothing in return.
25% didn’t bother to respond, raise a hand or say anything at all back to me.
I wasn’t tracking headphones as a culprit to any of the negative responses so it’s hard to say just how responsible that angle would be. However, I will say that often it seemed that the given person was in a state of mind where they were simply too focused on the trail, their music and didn’t even notice I was there, jumping up and down trying to get a response out of them. Ok, I wasn’t jumping up and down but you get the idea. The truth is those 28 were probably all road runners…(kidding again. Sorta)
Now the mountain bikers.
Trail #100 is a very common trail for mountain bikers. It’s beautiful, fast yet challenging with some technical sections scattered throughout. Easy parking and an endless array of trail options. Bikers are everywhere and to the point that I never listen to music while running on Trail #100 simply because there are so many bikers I don’t want to be “that guy” running along oblivious to the mountain bikers coming down behind me. I’m sure a mountain biker has written a blog about that…
So for the Phoenix Mountain Preserve mountain bikers are very common and in 32 runs I saw 238 mountain bikers. That’s 7.4 encounters for every run I did the last 60 days. That’s more than one per mile and more than a large enough sample size for this particular exercise.
238 mountain bike encounters while running. Of those 238 bikers, 97 refused any kind of acknowledgement of my presence on the trail. 97 bikers didn’t bother to raise a finger, wave their hand, nod their head, say thank you for getting off the trail so they could pass without even having to break cadence.
That’s 40% of the time. 4 out of every 10 bikers didn’t care enough to say thank you.
There were several runs that were far worse than that. The final run in tracking this it was 1 out of 11 that acknowledged my greeting. So ten people blew me off. Other runs I’d come across a group of bikers, 3, 4, 5 even 6 guys together and they would all say hello. Even stop and chat for a bit at the top of the hill they just finished pushing their bikes up. It seems though, that the larger the group, the higher percentage of time a response is given. I didn’t specifically track that, but it seemed to be the case that when a rider was solo, they were more apt to blow me off than if they were in a group. Nearly every group of riders would say hello. It was the solo bikers and pair of riders that were spread out that led to the high percentage of “I’m so lazy I’m not even going to lift my finger off this handlebar” bikers.
So what is it about mountain bikers that creates such a challenge for them to simply say hello? Can they not hear me through their helmet? Do they have headphones in there I just can’t see the wires for and they are not hearing me? Is it possibly that they are blind and are riding along by memory of the course from a previous life and therefore cannot possibly see my hand waving as they approach? Are they so focused on the trail at that moment that they cannot take a chance by saying something back?
None of this really matters of course. These are decidedly first world problems if there ever were any and with anything in life, it’s always the few that ruin things for everyone. But for someone such as myself that spends a great deal of time out on the trail it always seemed to me that mountain bikers blew me off more than anyone else. So I started tracking it and as unofficial as it is, it seems I was right. I’m sure there is some kind of prize for this revelation of insignificance right?
Maybe I’ll be overrun with bikers now trying to knock me off the trail, chasing me down at every turn. Chances are nobody will care and nothing will change. But just in case you are out there on the trail and you come across someone…
…Please say hello