It’s not Strava’s Fault Mountain Bikers are Ignorant

By Mark Langton

It has come to our attention that it is possible that small group of mountain bikers is using the web site Strava to have “competitions” in various locations around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area.

Strava allows you to track and upload your outings onto their web site via a GPS tracking device. The data ncludes the time it took you to traverse a particular route. It seems that some mountain bikers are using this feature to create a “time trail” competition and posting their times to see who is fastest. Obviously, trying to go as fast as possible on our shared use trails is not acceptable as it can endanger other users, including but not limited to mountain bikers. In response to this situation, we have learned that National Park Service rangers will be intensifying their presence at locations known to be experiencing this time trial scenario, Cheeseboro Canyon Park in Agoura Hills being one of them.

Currently it is the policy of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s managing agencies that events that displace or affect the safety of other trail users on public open space trails are prohibited. If you want to race, go to a sanctioned race (usacycling.org). If you want to go fast, go to a location that is set up for high speed mountain biking, such as Mammoth Mountain (mammothmountain.com).

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20 Responses to “It’s not Strava’s Fault Mountain Bikers are Ignorant”

  1. Bryant Likes says:

    Hey Mark,

    Not sure if you’re referring to my event or not, but we shouldn’t be putting anyone in harms way. We are only competing going up a few steep climbs and it is more of a challenge just to do the climb rather than to be the fastest. I really doubt that the uphill speeds would put anyone in harms way.

    Let me know if you have any questions or would like to speak further.

    Thanks.


    Bryant

  2. Interesting post. Strava definitely is a motivator when you are trying to improve your fitness. Many years ago in one of the MTB rags I read an article how the evil of momentum in the Mountain Bicyclists world. Trying to maintain this momentum causes us to lose sight of other trail users as well possibly take unnecessary risks. Wish I could find that article! In the pursuit of better times other trail users are often seen as impediments to ever faster elapsed times. If you must ride faster than other riders I always figure that you are better off riding your bike faster on the uphills. At 8 to 12 MPH you are a lot less threatening – possibly the noise from your body grunting and breathing alerts other users as well. Downhill biker/hiker encounters leave long lasting impressions. It is hard to forget the Local Bike Store employee who ran down a hiker on the Sycamore Blacktop many years ago. One selfish person can change the course of your life!
    Another issue with Strava is that they publish all submitted rides which include numerous trails that are not open to us. Want to see how fast others have ridden Chamberlain Trail? I believe this brings more riders onto trails where we are not permitted to ride just yet. Perhaps the State and NPS could use the data to decide where to enforce the rules – although I do not see that happening. The new Ranger in town is a cyclist – let us hope that he sees the good we do and not the results of the few riders pushing their limits at the expense of others.

  3. Scott Hardy says:

    Mark,
    If you are implying that the Santa Monica Challenge is cause for some safety concerns then I suggest that one takes a closer look at it. It is a challenge set up for riders to complete some of the toughest CLIMBS in the area. It is not designed with downhill and flat segments that tend to have more safety issues due to high speeds. This particular challenge has some nice benefits. It encourages riders to explore our beautiful area and ride parts of our mountains that they normally wouldn’t. I personally was exposed to climbs that I had never ridden and wasn’t even aware of. I don’t think Strava safety concerns should be commingled with this particular challenge.

  4. Dominic says:

    I am just wondering why some trails (a lot of them in sycamore ) are off limits for mountain bikes. I have been hiking on some of these trails and during the week (a lot of times on the weekend as well) you will never see a single person on them other than the occasional mountain biker and me. Never once in my life have I seen a trail that said no hikers or horses. I have done all three and see no reason for this other than selfishness. Another thing with all the heavy use of our trails why would the park ever close a perfectly good trail? Just to further congest our trail system? Trying to create more conflict? There are so many acres of land in these parks that go un used, there could easily be a trail that parallels the main road through sycamore for bikes only to get them off the road where 90% of the hikers are and the same goes for Cheeseboro. I noticed that you basically told all mountain bikers that want to go fast to go somewhere else, NICE! I wonder how they feel about you? How do you think that would make you feel if THEY were the ones calling the shots and told all hikers and horses to drive 3 hours each way to go do your thing. There is plenty of room right here for all of us and given the opportunity to build their own one way trials would flock to help build them. Yeah I know there is probably some weed or insect that needs protecting even though they have survived for centuries with no help at all. The real danger comes from people that have ear plugs in and can not here the warnings or someone politly asking them if they can pass. Once they are finaly screamed at they are scared and angry and more than likley the ones complaining.

    • Steve Clark says:

      All of the trails east of the main Sycamore Canyon Trail are in a State Wilderness Area. Bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas, period. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the way it is. Until the law is changed, we will never be able to legally ride in the wilderness areas.

      There are some other trails outside of the wilderness that are closed to us in Pt Mugu State Park: Hidden Pond, Coyote, Fireline, Ray Miller, and just about all the trails in La Jolla Canyon. Why not come out to one of the CORBA monthly meetings and talk about things that the mtn biking community can do to get these trails opened to us? Complaining to ourselves and our friends isn’t going to accomplish what we would like – we need some concrete action that is supported by the entire community to get what we want. And by “action,” I do not mean poaching the closed trails. That would be completely counter productive!

  5. Douglas Kubler says:

    I’ll add two points about Bryant’s competition and the criteria of safety and displacement.
    1. Safety is not compromised. The average speed of the #1 rider is 8.23 MPH.
    2. No one is displaced. The competition is virtual. There are no crowds or mass starts or jammed parking lots (other events are guilty). Riders can ride anytime on any day. The only meeting place is online.

    • Steve Clark says:

      Doug, I guess you don’t get the North Ranch egroup postings any more. If you did, you would have known about this issue from a posting there on Sept 2:

      “Recently the National Park Service posted a bulletin on line regarding issues with mountain bikers at Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon that there is ongoing stepped up enforcement of rules and regulations regarding mountain bike riding there. I recently spoke to a Ranger regarding this. The issue appears to be a small group of riders, likely a splinter group from a club that frequents Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon. These riders appear to be participating in a web site call Strava which provides the ability to do time trails from the start to the end of a known/mapped trail. The time which is calculated on a smart phone or Garmin GPS can be uploaded and posted. What appears to be happening is this has gotten competitive for best time, and now there is a group or individuals going all out to beat times at the Sulfur Springs Trail. This has gotten the notice of NPS for many unfortunate reasons, and causes all of us a problem. Those are the facts as I have been told. There are other complications, these riders/group have not been traditional mountain bikers and come from a different place where there is likely a lack of knowledge regarding trail etiquette and how difficult it is to keep trails open and have new trails provided.
      If you see someone at race pace, maybe wearing a glaring club jersey have a nice little chat about proper trail use.”

  6. Greg says:

    There are 3 trails leading up to boney ridge from Sycamore none of which bikes are allowed on. Is this an attempt to bar us from this location; is it only a great spot to visit for hikers or horses? It seems reasonable to allow bikers on one of them so they can visit this location as well. I have hiked the loop trail twice and never saw another soul, is there a reason bikes are not allowed? The trails are there let’s use them!

    • markmtb says:

      The Open Space in Pt. Mugu State Park to the east of Sycamore Canyon is State Wilderness, and therefore closed to bicycles (considered “mechanized transport”).

  7. Flytrap says:

    I realize the original intent of this post was to discuss unsafe MTB speeds on our trails, but since the topic of trails that are off limit to mountain bikers was brought up, I thought I would add my two cents since I think there is a related solution that would solve the problem regarding speed.

    I concur with Dominic that I can see no reason why certain trails are open to just hikers or equestrians yet closed only to mountain bikers. If our NPS really wanted to do something about the problem of speed, they would employ the same tactics other areas of our state and around the country have implemented. That is, alternating days when mountain bikes are ONLY allowed on downhill trails with days that ONLY hikers and equestrians are allowed. I know MTBs would absolutely abide by these rules, as they’ve already done in areas where this is the standard. To be completely shut out of a beautiful trail for no good reason to me shows no respect, and many MTBs will ride them out of spite. However, even if they were open to ride two days a week…and it wouldn’t even have to be on the weekends, I bet all if not most of these incidents would fall by the wayside.

    If this idea has been brought up to the NPS before and shot down, I would like to know why.

  8. Steve Clark says:

    All I have to say at this point is that it’s great to see that so many people are reading CORBA’s blog and some of them, typically only a small proportion, are taking the time to make comments. Sometimes I wonder if we’re blogging just to ourselves.

    • Flytrap says:

      Hi Steve. I want to thank you and Mark for taking the time to reply to our postings. Your idea of attending CORBA meetings makes a lot of sense, especially if there is a representative there from the NPS. Is this always the case?

      Also, can you please tell me if the idea of alternate trail days (those for hikers / equestrians and those for mtn bikers) has ever been brought up at a previous meeting? If so I would like to know why this policy has not been adopted by the NPS.

      Thanks once again.

  9. Steve Clark says:

    Flytrap, I’m not a CORBA official, just a volunteer who believes in CORBA’s goals of responsible mountain biking and opening more trails to us. Those two things are linked – we won’t get the second without the first.

    Since you directed your questions to me, I’ll answer as best I can, but board members Mark Langton and Steve Messer may have more complete answers.

    I try to go to as many of the CORBA monthly meetings as I can so I can keep informed of what’s going on. There have been a number of discussions over the years about what steps could be taken to get people to ride more responsibly (and riding downhill as fast as possible on a multiuse trail isn’t responsible!) and reduce conflict with other user groups. Also, people need to keep in mind that climbing mtn bikers generally don’t appreciate others bombing down the trail towards them, so it’s not just hikers and equestrians that are getting pissed off at racers. I don’t recall specifically if alternate trail days were discussed as a possible solution.

    Usually an official from the California State Parks attends the monthly meetings, but NPS representation is less frequent. But the SP official is pretty knowledgeable about other land managers’ policies, so I’m sure he could answer most of your questions.

    Hope this has helped.

  10. Flytrap says:

    Steve, the map points me to the middle of the wilderness. If you guys want people to attend then there needs to be a better map showing exactly where the meetings are held. Is it in a building across the street from the Park near the Hindu Temple / Muse School?

    • Steve Clark says:

      There are a lot of things to like about Google Calendars, but the map feature isn’t one of them. The link is added automatically by Google and is something we have no control over. For locations in or about the open space and trails, the map is almost always wrong. The critical part of the event is the description:

      “Description: Please RSVP to info@corbamtb.com so that we can provide directions and notification of any changes. ”

      This is critical because often the meeting time, and occasionally the location, changes because of people’s availability.

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