Why Mountain Biking is Inappropriate in Wilderness

I just got back from a mountain bike ride. The trails outside of Bend, Oregon where I reside have numerous loops and degrees of difficulty.  Riding my mountain bike is a pleasant way to unwind, get…

Source: www.thewildlifenews.com

GR:  Good discussion of the issues related to this form of outdoor recreation.

1 thought on “Why Mountain Biking is Inappropriate in Wilderness

  1. “Good discussion of the issues related to this form of outdoor recreation.”

    Hmmm . . a “good discussion” requires facts rather than feelings and the ability to see both sides. Here’s some balance for the discussion:

    During the formation of the Wilderness Act, the word “Mechanized” was used synonymously with motorized. Congressional testimony leading up to the Act clearly indicates that there were two key goals–1. Prevent the intrusion of motorized vehicles and the infrastructure required to support them and 2. Get increasingly sedentary Americans out into their wild places–under their own power, not from behind the window of an automobile. The bicycle requires no more infrastructure than the boot and it is physically taxing (unlike riding a horse, which is allowed in Wilderness). The true original intent is clear in the original statute that implemented the Act. To avoid confusion, it defined “mechanized” as “powered by a non-living source.” The simple spouting of the word “mechanical” as evidence against bikes is disingenuous, misleading, and not in accordance with the original intent of the Act.

    “Mechanical advantage is not permitted”??? Fixed oarlocks on rafts provide a significant mechanical advantage as to hinged toes on cross country skis. Mechanical advantage IS permitted. The dividing line was not meant to be anything mechanical, but rather anything motorized.

    “There is no shortage of trails that are open to mountain biking.”
    In most western states, over half the roadless areas are designated Wilderness. Add to that National Parks and other USFS, BLM and local municipality restrictions, and bikes lose much more. Then, consider that many trails start and end outside Wilderness, but some portion of them pass through Wilderness, making the entire route nonviable as a mountain biking route. In my home state of Colorado, over 80% of roadless areas are closed to mountain biking. If hikers were excluded from 80% of their most desired lands, they would not be saying “that’s okay, there are plenty of other trails open for hiking.”

    “While mountain bikes may do less damage, than say, a pack string of horses” The author has already forfeited this argument with his own words, since that pack string of horses is allowed. Either both must be allowed or both must be banned–you can’t have it both ways and claim to have a valid argument.

    “the cumulative effect of numerous tires does create additional erosion, sedimentation in streams, and potential for trail damage.”
    As does the cumulative effects of numerous boots. Studies which have compared the effects of sustained trail usage by various groups show similar erosion from the same quantity of boot users and knobby users — both of which are far less than horses. The evidence with regard to trail impact is that there is no reason to favor hikers over bicyclists.

    “but the numerous new and often completely unregulated creation of trails.”
    Bikers have no corner on the market of unregulated or illegal trails. Hikers end up creating trails to lookouts, waterfalls etc. In the open space areas near my home, the hikers are as much, or even more responsible for the creation of such “social” or “bandit” trails. When two mountain bikers were discovered creating a bandit trail leading from the forest into Garden of the Gods, within 48 hours, the local bike club had mobilized and erased every last trace of the illegal trails. I’ve never heard of hikers self-policing so well.

    Nothing creates damage and hastens erosion like cutting switchbacks, which is almost exclusively a hiker phenomenon. And as for going off trail, that is done far more by hikers and even more by equestrians.

    “As previously outlined, mountain biking can and do more damage than walking.”
    Wrong, as supported by unbiased research.
    “The idea that some activities do more damage than another is not a reason to expand damaging activities.”
    And it is also not a reason to favor one group over another. And it certainly isn’t a reason to favor a more damaging group over a less damaging one. That doesn’t even pass the giggle test. If access needs to be limited, then so be it, but limit access in a way that allows all equally low impact users equal opportunity. Anything else is indefensible.

    “Zipping down a trail they can rapidly approach other trail users, whether horse riders or hikers.”
    I have been passed by trail runners when riding my bike. I grew up with horses and could gallop my horse faster than I ride my bike.

    “If one only mountain bikes, it may be difficult to understand why those on foot often are dismayed when a favorite trail is discovered and commandeered by mountain bikers.”
    First, use of the word “commandeered” is prejudicial and badly misused here. It’s also ridiculous that someone who has access to 100% of the trails in roadless areas can claim someone who has access to less than 20% could accuse the other of “commandeering” anything.
    Second, the implication that a cyclist can only see the issue from a cyclists point of view is also pejorative. Most backcountry cyclists are avid conservationists and share the same the same ethos with backpackers and cross country skiers than the Red Bull downhill bike racing crowd.
    Personally, I became an avid hiker at age 9 and didn’t get my first bike until age 35. In all those thousands of bike encounters when I was exclusively a hiker and equestrian, I never once had a negative experience with a cyclist. In fact, it was the many positive encounters I had which first led me to consider the bike as another appropriate means of enjoying the woods.

    “The more advanced our technology we drag along with us, the greater our alienation and separation from the spiritual values of wilderness areas.”
    Have you looked in the modern backpackers quiver? Freeze dried foods which contain a full day’s worth of calories in a sealed foil pack weighing no more than a couple ounces. Ultralight cookstoves no bigger than a soda can which can generate enough BTUs to boil a pan of water in only 5 minutes. Oh, yeah–those cookstoves allow the backpacker to burn fossil fuels in the backcountry–bikes don’t do that. Tents made with aerospace titanium poles and UV resistant ripstop fabrics. The mechanization of a bike is relatively low technology compared to a 5 ounce handheld GPS which pinpoints the users position on the earth by triangulating a signal off a constellation of satellites in orbit around the earth. And as far as technology taking you away from the wilderness experience is concerned, nothing beats an ipod, again far more prevalent among pedestrians than cyclists.

    “To many who are walking in quiet contemplation of nature, mountain bikes are an intrusion”
    Elitist claptrap. As if there’s only one way to enjoy the Wilderness! And how convenient that it’s your way! I enjoy the woods on my bike just as I do on foot. Nobody should be beholden to your narrow ability to commune with nature.

    “We honor those people by maintaining the sanctity of the philosophical purposes of the Wilderness Act intact.”
    If that were true, you would not arbitrarily exclude an equally low impact user group which the “philosophical purposes of the Wilderness Act” never sought to exclude in the first place.



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