As the weather warms up (and hopefully dries out!), thoughts turn to mountain biking on Turkey Mountain. All kinds of people come out to visit the mountain for various reasons, so you need to be aware of what you might encounter on the trails. Here are some things to consider before you roll.
Pedestrians and horses have the right of way. Like it or not, it’s the same on the trails as it is on the road. I have yet to encounter a horse on the trail, but I do know how skittish they can be. Twelve-hundred pounds of spooked horse is not where I want to be in the close quarters of a singletrack. Horses and people move slower over rough terrain than a mountain bike can, therefore it becomes our duty to keep everyone safe. Announce your presence and intent as you slow down to allow them time to adjust their path, but keep in mind this is not always possible. Be prepared to stop. I always appreciate walkers who step off the trail to accommodate me on my bike because they don’t have to. When I’m on foot, I always step out of the way of cyclists as a courtesy.
If you meet another cyclist on the trail, slow down and make enough room for you to pass each other safely. If you’re on a hill, the climber has right of way.
If you happen upon a slower cyclist in front of you, always announce your presence and intent such as “on your left.” Be prepared though, as people will get their lefts and rights somewhat confused under pressure and trail conditions may not be conducive to the cyclist being able to move over.
Don’t ride muddy trails. Mountain bike tires leave deep ruts in puddles and soft spots. Going around said puddles pushes the mud around, making low spots even bigger. Someone has to fix these issues to maintain the trail’s integrity; otherwise a washout becomes a serious concern. It’s better for you and your bike if you stay on the paved trails until the dirt is dry enough.
Wear your helmet! Every time I see a mountain biker without a helmet on Turkey Mountain, I say, “Look ma, no brains!” You never know when you’re going to miss your line and get dumped into the rocks, or when a tree branch is going to reach out to smack you. Even the most seasoned riders have been hurt on the trails they frequent the most. So always, always, always wear your helmet. Gloves are handy (no pun intended) for when you have to steady yourself against a tree or fall over on a rock. Knee pads and elbow pads are optional, but I know people who swear by them. If you take nothing else with you, be sure you have your cell phone in case you get lost, injured, or you find someone who’s hurt.
Watch your dog. I know a lot of walkers and riders who take their dogs to the mountain off leash. It is posted that all dogs must be on a leash, but I have mixed feelings about that. The dogs I know are OK and can be trusted. But there are people who have been bitten in the past. I’m not going to advocate one way or the other, but just let me say this: Any dog can go on the attack under the right circumstances. Make sure your dogs are vaccinated and prepare yourself if you let them off leash. The person they bite is not going to be very happy with you.
Please don’t move the rocks. I know the trails are rough and it’s tempting to move certain rocks out of the way to make them easier. However, our technical trails are what draw people from all over the country to visit our fair mountain and what gets Turkey Mountain listed as the No. 1 trail system to visit in Oklahoma. Rocks help prevent soil erosion as well, so just leave them be. They’re happy right where they are. If you happen to see limbs down or obstacles (not rocks) in the trail, be kind and remove them if you can. If they are too big, please make note of where they are and contact the appropriate entity to take care of them.
Also, whatever you take into the woods, please be sure to take out. Water bottles sometimes bounce out of holders as you bounce over the rocks, but food trash can go right back into your pocket or under the edge of your shorts.
It doesn’t take any extra effort to be considerate of trail users and trail fixers. Following these simple guidelines ensures everyone who comes out to Turkey Mountain has a great experience. Remember, we’re all out here to enjoy the same sunshine, trees, and dirt for all the same reasons.
Keep the rubber side down!