Desert Biking and Cycling Tips

Safety, Rules, Etiquette

Cycling Safety

The desert is a wonderful place to ride, but it can be dangerous if you are not prepared. Every year, people get in trouble, some even die. The desert is not a forgiving environment.

Keep in mind a few simple guidelines for a safe ride.

  • Always carry plenty of water. One gallon per person, per day, should be a minimum! Don't forget to drink it. It does you no good in your water bottles.
  • Know your limitations in the heat and rugged desert terrain. Temperatures can reach 125 degrees F.!
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Use a hat and sunscreen.
  • Use maps. Detailed topographic maps of the entire park are available at Visitor Centers and at local businesses.
  • Make sure your bike is well maintained and dependable. Bring along tools and adequate spares.
  • There are lots of thorny plants in the desert -- consider using a tire sealant in your inner tubes.
  • Don't ride alone. Use the buddy system.
  • Tell someone else about your trip plans.
  • If you find yourself in trouble, don't panic; help will soon be on the way.

Bike Rules

All park hiking trails are closed to bikes unless designated as bike trails.

  • Never ride off-road.
  • Do not ride faster than safety and common courtesy dictate.
  • Bicyclists must obey all traffic laws.
  • The vehicle code considers park jeep trails the same as city streets.
  • Obey all signs.
  • Helmets are required for riders 18 years old and younger. They are strongly recommended for all bicyclists.
  • Keep to the right, single file on paved roads.
  • Don't obstruct traffic.

Bike Etiquette

Consider these guidelines:

  • Bikes share park roads with horses, hikers and vehicles. Always give way to horses and hikers, and you should yield to most vehicles.
  • Please give right of way to the downhill rider unless there is adequate room to pass. When passing another rider, tell them on which side you intend to pass them.
  • Downhillers, when passing an uphill rider, let them know how many other riders are descending behind you.
  • Do not obstruct the trail. Move off the trail when stopping.
  • When you see wildlife on the trail or nearby, back off, move out of the way or go an alternate route.
  • Stay out of wet areas (streams, wetlands, mud). If you can't, get off your bike and carry it across the driest route possible, but don't detour off-road.
  • When descending very steep stretches, stand on your pedals and transfer your weight to the rear of the bicycle. This puts your center of gravity over the back tire which minimizes skidding.
  • When you ride the brakes downhill it can cause rutting and erosion.

Education is the key. Pass the word to the new riders in the area.


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