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MTB Riding Tips: Sighting Down Trail
We’re often asked for tips to help riders improve their skills. One of the most important ones is learn how to better sight a trail.
This video will highlight where to look to see other trail users sooner which gives you more time to react and options at your disposal.
Sighting other trail users down trail is a lot like sighting a riding line, which we will get into down the road.
Developing the ability to not stare down at your front tire is critical to advancing your riding. The more info you can quickly take in the better.
Riders learn to ride with “split vision” almost – allowing them to stay actively scanning down trail while “holding” the visual data as it gets closer to the wheels. If you’re having to look down right in front of the wheel you’re probably about to bury the front end into something or fold it over anyhow. Even XC level travel bikes are forgiving enough to ride “through” some pretty chunky stuff if you let them.
Learning to better sight other trail users improves everyone’s day. No one appreciates the adrenaline surge from almost being run over, or, from the ninja hiker who’s decided to hide behind a tree until the last possible second right?
Viewing down the trail when it’s relatively straight is pretty easy. When the trail has direction changes you can look up over small or medium vegetation. You’re looking for colors, shapes or movements that stick out. Your brain will do this pretty quick. You may just see a hat, or in one of my more memorable moments a large rack of deer antlers…
It’s a good habit to learn to take glances further down trail when segments come into view. Anytime you can take in data that lets you know “this is coming up” your riding will benefit.
Riding at about 70% of your skillset will also leave enough in the tank for the emergency, or surprise deer jumping right in front of you on trail – like right in front. Like when you’re sure they went partially over your bars hahaha…
We look forward to getting more video content and riding tips headed your way on BikeCo.com
Original Script from Video (some cut in video for social media time considerations):
Let’s take a quick look at techniques for sighting down trail.
We’re going to highlight the areas that riders can scan to better assess where other trail users are or might be.
It’s important to ride at a pace you can confidently control the bike for the unexpected hiker, horse, deer, snake, double wide stroller, whatever you might find on trail.
If you’re often checking down trail you can be more confident that you’re not going to have to launch yourself into the bushes to avoid another trail user.
Scan the trail ahead but also look “above” the trail as you’ll see heads, especially in low vegetation like most of SoCal.
You’re looking for colors or movement that seem out of place. You also want to acknowledge the areas you simply can’t see and assume you might have another user. Quick turns with vegation blocking your line of sight are places to be aware of. We’ve illustated those with question marks.
By sighting well down trail I was able to see this hiker and slow down with room to spare. Sighting this hiker also made it somewhat more likely that there would be a hiker in this questionable area. too so I wanted to start to slow down and quickly scan there as well.
Now, it wouldn’t have surprised me too much had this hiker chosen to hop across the trail to keep themselves off the exposed lip of the trail. It’s what I would have likely done hiking in case the rider was having control issues. they’re not going to knock me down trail.
Going back through the footage as a self evaluation I found it interesting in my minds eye I actually came very close to a track stand stop for this hiker, when in fact I acknowledged and rolled by.
Probably something like when you’ve been on the freeway a long time at speed and you “slow down” for the offramp only to realize that half your previous speed might still be more than the offramp really needs.
Admittedly I assess trail users and base whether I come to a full stop or simply yield them some space. This hiker was young and seemed confident. If it had been my mom I would have adapted as needed right?