Chicken or Egg?

By Mark Langton

Mark Langton at the Cindy Whitehead Desert Challenge, circa 1988

There’s a saying that goes something like, “as soon as there’s two of anything, there’s going to be a competition.”

Competition, in the form of racing, has probably been around since pre-historic times. When it comes to bicycles, racing has been part and parcel of the activity since the very beginning, and in the early 1900’s track racing was the most popular sport in the United States, drawing bigger crowds than baseball.

But like most things, there’s a time and a place for racing. As a motorcycle RiderCoach for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I am constantly reminded of the statistics of sport bike riders who are killed or severely inured because they race each other on the roads of our local mountains. I am also constantly reminded that people like to go fast on their mountain bikes on our local trails, to the detriment of others and even to themselves. I have nothing against people who race. The problem I too often see is with people who think that because they are training for a race, they can ride the local shared use trails at race pace. Our trails in the Santa Monica Mountains are used by a wide variety of people, including new mountain bikers who have no idea what “on your left” means.

Again, I have nothing against people who race, or go fast for that matter. But when around other users, there is no excuse for not slowing down to others’ speed, uphill or down. If you want to go fast, make sure you can see far enough ahead so that your speed will not impact other trail users.

If you want to go fast but are not into racing, there are several places you can go where speed is allowed, such as Mammoth Mountain Bike Park (

Mark Langton, Malibu Creek State Park, circa 2012

As I’ve said before, simply slowing down for other users (slowing to their speed) virtually eliminates the problem that people have with mountain bikers;┬ábeing scared by getting passed at a high rate of speed. Slowing down improves things for mountain bikers, both from an image and safety standpoint. And it makes for a much more pleasant experience for everyone.┬áRemember, your actions speak for the entire mountain bike community.

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