the less you see of me riding, the better

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Say, ho. Yeah you. Can I axe you a question?

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You like to poach ? Oh, you don’t want me to talk to you like that. Well you like to respectfully ride trails on which you aren’t technically allowed?

Say you live someplace where the options for riding trails are limited. For example, there might be a large, undeveloped, publicly owned area nearish by that has a great trail network which, for whatever reason, is “off limits” to bicycles.You might find yourself in the midst of what is essentially a large grazing operation, on which the shit-herders pay minimal fees, abusing any notion of “wilderness”. You might find yourself scorned by the Sierra Club soccer-moms with too much time, money and self-righteousness on their hands. You might find yourself looking at the ass-end of some we-were-here-first horsey folk as they post-hole their careless way around ever-widened switchbacks, they might even be running guided tours for money. You might say to yourself “what the fuck?” .

You may ask yourself, “how do I work this?”. You may ask yourself, “where is the fair and equal access for non-motorized trail users?”. You may tell yourself,”this is bullshit.”

Several hypotheticals occur to me:  You might take up roller- blading. You could write a strident letter to your elected official. Or, unable to reconcile this exclusion of non-polluting, minimally impactful, wholesome and good, clean fun you might decide to poach.


I’m not talking about breakfast, and I’m certainly not advocating getting ahold of some poor beast’s Xs or Ys. I’m speaking of sneaking in and riding trails that are not open to bikes.


It’s just so wrong. Don’t do it. Drunkcyclist officially tells you NOT to poach trails.


As an exercise in what-ifs, though…if one were to poach a trail it were best done the right way.

Firstly, it would be important to KNOW YOUR ROUTE- what’s the designation? BLM, Forest Service, National Park, state park, county park, city park…and what that designation entails. Know your consequences, and be prepared to deal accordingly. For example, trespassing in a National Forest is a Federal misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine of up to $500, 6 months imprisonment, or both. Going in, you would want to have a general plan in place for dealing with enforcement. Would you stop and take your medicine? Or would you flee?

Secondly, it would be important to KNOW YOUR ROUTE ,which means know the entrances and exit. Know the quick bailouts! If you were just learning, you would take a map, and learn these as quickly as you could . Consider how you might escape. Always be aware of your options for escape in light of your current circumstances. How far is the nearest bailout? Is it uphill or downhill? It makes a difference.

Imagine entering. You’d approach with cautious awareness. It should not need stating, but: dropping in with folks around would compromise your enterprise. It would be better to ride away and scope the scene from a hidden vantage. You’d need to be prepared to be denied. “I drove 2 hours to get here, so fuck it” would NOT be a smooth move, and neither would parking your stickered-up car anywhere near the place.

It would be in your best interest to pay attention. LOOK- are there signs of recent use? Tire tracks, fresh maintenance, unlocked gates, etc. would be worth noticing. LISTEN- what are the usual noises? Motor sounds, tool sounds, people talking…if you were observant, you’d have a much better chance of pulling off your sneaky ride and as a bonus, you’d have a fuller experience.

If one were choosing equipment with stealth in mind, muted colors would be the logical choice. Muted tones for bikes, as in: one black bike looks like every other, but an orange bike stands out. Earth tones for clothes. At night, red is plenty dark and has a lot less criminal implications than all-black. Consider layers for easy changes from one appearance to another. Reversible items, fake noses, camoflage, go crazy.

As for evasion and escape, having an agreed upon plan would be most helpful. In one possible scenario, person 1 (who, in the best circumstance, knows the lay of the land) leads and persons 2 thru (where n is the highest number in a party which really ought to be fairly well limited for any number of reasons) follow at a small distance. If person 1 were to happen upon a- mmmmmlet’s say-  ranger, he/she could decide what to do without having more riders pile up and get busted. Person 1 might have arranged to whistle in that event, and the other rider(s) would have agreed to stop at that whistle and wait for another whistle to signal evacuation or 2 whistles to signal a come ahead. For example.

And in regards to escape, it would be provident to have thought about dealing with- mmmmlet’s say- rangers on foot (bikes are faster if they don’t get grabbed), or on horseback(a spooked horse could really hurt someone- likely the rider- and that’s an outcome to be avoided in fantasy and reality) or motorized enforcement. Motos would be a tough one. If it were a truck, consider how difficult it is to go fast in reverse. Finally, a radio cannot be outrun… but if you were to get out of sight, you would have options.

As to the exit, the best practice would be to (know the route) stop before one were visible from the outside, wait and see. One at a time.

Penultimately, just because we both ride bikes doesn’t mean we’re friends. I’ve done questionable things with questionable people, and have learned the hard way it’s better to do questionable things with fucking rock-solid people. Never brag, and never talk to kooks. For fucks sake don’t put a poach on Strava, you goddamned clown!

And so. You get popped and cast your eye about for an alibi? “Have you seen a little brown dog?” Undeniable.

What’s funny to me about this? The real stumbling block for most will be not posting pictures on their social media of choice.

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10 Replies to “the less you see of me riding, the better”

  1. Pingback: the less you see of me riding, the better | PEDAL CANTON

  2. Another sound tactic when riding in a small group is to change up the riding order and refuse to say who was in the lead. Sometimes that matters.

  3. @mikey

    Never ridden in a group. Always solo. I’m annoying like that.

    Groups rides any good ???

  4. So Your Reverence. Lemme ax you this:

    I’ve seen trails that said “No mountain bikes”. Now I’m famously infamous for riding any bike on any surface at any time, including wispy steel road bikes shod with 700x23s on dirt.


    If I were to ride one of those trails and get called out, would the “But the sign said MOUNTAIN bikes. See the drop bars? See the skinny tires? See the 52/42 double and the corncob cassette? If you meant ALL bikes, that’s what the sign should have said” type of defense keep me out of El Hosgato?

    I mean, that would follow the letter of the law, right?


  5. *Hosgato*
    Meant “jusgado”. My Spanish is a bit awkward. Lo siento.

  6. Sounds like it requires a lot of confidence. Like going conference crashing for the free food; you have to act like you belong, but still want to avoid confrontation.

  7. I’m shocked, SHOCKED!

    Shocked, I tell you, to find that Drunckcyclist is surreptitiously encouraging Banditing trails.

    Next thing, we cross paths with some tree hugging, bunny loving, militant Greenie who goes full auto on our arses!

    “Ho Le Fuk! (I’ve always thought that that would be an excellent name for a Chinese takeaway), a Mountain biker trespassing on sacred ground”!

    BaddaBaddaBaddaBadda!! Kapow! Kapow!

    “You killed him/her/gender flexible carbon based life form!!”

    “No I didn’t, it was the wind whistling through all the holes that did it”

  8. I just ride at night.

    Can’t see the signs then, were there any to be seen, that is….

  9. Queeeeesssssssstionable people doing queeeesssssssstionable things. Well, at least I got it all on starva bro!

  10. Yeah well, that’s all fine and good, but I heard nothing of canis lupus familiaris. When is killing something (for a sweet ride) OK?
    I wouldn’t ever default to causing harm to an animal, but if they are dumb and bitey then isn’t it inevitable?
    Like a poorly raised child: somebody’s gonna teach ’em.