Blackline Guides | Dirt Biking
I struggled for a long time considering whether I should designate a section of Blackline Guides for dirt biking. The conclusion was that I absolutely needed to. Idaho has some of the best off-road trail systems for dirt biking in the nation. In the last few years the Idaho State Parks and Recreation Department has started to charge off road user fees. These fees are being used to further develop these trail systems as well as educate the users on their responsibilities to stay on designated trails and treat the environment with respect.
My family heritage has been one of protecting wild lands in Idaho and promoting the expansion of wilderness areas and wilderness study areas. My grandparents have been active in fighting against motorized use in Idahoís desert lands and mountains. This family background has weighed heavily on my decision to include a section on motorized use in this guidebook.
So often I see other authors of non-motorized guidebooks turn a blind eye to motorized use. They draw a clearly defined line in the dirt with the tagged response of ďclose all trails to motorized use.Ē I believe that with any issue it is important to understand and consider each of the userís perspective and point of view.
Dirt biking is one of the most enjoyable activities that I have encountered. The trail machine allows a person access deep into areas of Idaho that would otherwise never be experienced. I have developed friendships with other riders that share the same interest in the outdoors and exploration. The challenge of coaxing the bike through a tight area on the trail while keeping feet on the pegs is similar to that of running difficult rapids on a river. Developing the knowledge of how the machine works and being able to make trail repairs is an exciting adventure in itself. I suppose that most importantly, I believe that dirt biking is good for the soul. It is one of the most strenuous and physically challenging activities that I have been exposed to. It is a balance between communing with nature and celebrating the innovations of humankind.
With these innovations in machine comes a greater need to exhibit acts of responsibility and respect. A trail machine can cause absolutely awful degradation of the land in a very short period of time in the wrong hands. Erosion, noise pollution, and destruction of vegetation are all concerns related to trail machine use. This last summer I was riding up a trail in one of Idahoís amazing forests, perfectly enjoying the day, when I heard a buzzing sound similar to a hornet behind me. Within seconds a dirt biker was passing me between trees, throwing a plume of dirt and soil into the air from his rear tire as it slipped on the dirt trying to propel the rider at maximum speed through the forest. The rider hit my right handlebar as he tried to squeeze between me and an oncoming tree. He was gone in a split second. At the top of the hill, I encountered him. He had his helmet off and was smoking a cigarette. I was fuming mad! But I held my temper. I told him that the forest was not a race course and that his actions would have a negative impact on every other trail machine userís ability to keep using these trails. He did apologize, and we did have a good conversation. He finished his cigarette, and thank goodness put it into a Ziploc bag instead of throwing on the ground, and headed off up the trail.
A few years ago I was riding on a trail in the Owyhee desert and off in the distance I saw two dirt bikers hill climbing on an untracked virgin hillside. I took a trail that went near the base of the hill and shook my fist in the air at them. They got the message and rode off the top of the hill, down to the trail and hightailed it out of there in the opposite direction. What these users may not have realized is that the tire tracks they left behind only took minutes, or even seconds to create, but the desert will take a year or more to repair this damage. The time scale of nature vs. machine is vastly unbalanced. They have smashed plants and brush and created a very direct path down this hill for water to flow, creating undue erosion.
I give these two examples because I want to inform the public to what sometimes does happen when irresponsible individuals, trail machines, and our public lands collide. It is this one percent of riders that will encourage closures of trails to motorized vehicles. After each of these instances, I had the urge to call my legislator, write an editorial in the local newspaper and ask them to consider these areas for non-motorized use. It is a sad day when the public themselves cannot exhibit enough responsibility to take care of their own public lands and we enlist government to do the job for us, but I believe with more population in Idaho and limited recreational resources, government intervention will become inevitable.
I also give these examples as testimony that over many years of dirt biking these are two rare incidents of neglect that stand out. On the whole, dirt bike and trail machine users are a friendly group of folks that very much do respect the land and environment. After all, most users are out there to enjoy the environment and it isnít their intent to destroy what they love.
With that being said, here are a few recommendations to insure continued use of public lands and respect both other users and the environment.
- Do not modify your exhaust to create a louder machineÖeven if it does give you a small bit of increase in horsepower. This only adds to noise pollution and most users are not out there to listen to your machine. They will not be impressed or think you are cool for having a loud machine.
- Always ride with a forest service approved spark arrestor. You donít want to be known as the guy that started a wild land fire. Also, this could be detrimental to your pocket book, as the forest service and BLM now have provisions to charge irresponsible users the costs associated with extinguishing a human caused fire.
- When encountering nonĖmotorized users, always yield to them. It is best to stop, turn off your machine, and take your helmet off. A rider with a helmet on can look pretty intimidating to oncoming hikers. I have stopped, taken my helmet off, and had many pleasant conversations with other users. This also helps to insure that trails will stay open to motorized use.
- When encountering or overtaking another motorized user. Make sure they know you are behind them. Wait until they pull over for you or until there is a wide enough area to stay on the trail and pass them safely.
- And the number one rule, and I canít stress this enough, STAY ON TRAILS. This means staying on the main trail. Donít take shortcuts between switchbacks. There are enough trails in Idaho. Believe me. I have tried to write about as many as possible and I am only scratching the surface. Think quality over quantity. We want to work together to maintain a well defined trail system that can manage erosion and vegetation degradation so that future generations can use these trails. What we donítí want is trails straight up hillsides, and braided trail systems that resemble eroded streambeds.
- Overall, educate yourself and your riding friends and have respect for other users and the land you are traveling across. As a trail user, you are a part of a community. Donít think of yourself as an individual. Every action that you take will have a direct effect on other members of this community of trail users.