You're not the only one out there...
Being aware of and considerate of other forest users is critical to reducing the incidence of conflict between trail bikes and other forest users. Obviously conflict can be a simple finger of respect or it can be much worse and involve helicopters, doctors and nurses.
Appropriate rider behaviour when horse riders are encountered can vary as with 4WD vehicles, mountain bikes, and hikers or walkers.
For many reasons it’s important that signs are used that advise trail bike riders and other forest users what to expect while they’re in the forest and of approaching potentially sensitive or multi-use areas. Signs should alert the presence of forest residents or approaching picnic areas to make it much easier for riders and other forest users to act appropriately.
It is often the case that by the time a trail bike rider or other forest user has realised he or she should have slowed down and eased off the throttle for the picnic area or the house in the forest. He has already attracted a few disgruntled looks or fingers of respect, having destroyed the peace of the picnic, and reinforced the perception that trail bikes are noisy and their riders inconsiderate and always riding too fast.
Horses in the forest
This largely depends on the horse and the experience of the horse rider.
Some horses and their riders will be accustomed to trail bikes and not respond negatively, while others will be startled and may behave unpredictably. Obviously this is dangerous for the horse and its rider and the trail bike rider.
Some horse riders prefer you to keep riding while others prefer that you stop so it is difficult to make a definite call either way. You have to make a judgement call each time and pay close attention to the reaction of the horse and its rider as you appear.
Stop if you can and talk to the horse rider before other riders following catch up. Pay attention to the behaviour of the horse and any signals the horse rider is giving. He may be signalling for you to keep riding.
Where a larger group is riding together it is usually better for the group to continue to ride safely past the horse rider/s, as stopping may startle or be confronting for the horse. Place a marker rider ahead of the horse rider or riders to alert approaching bikes of the horses and riders.
There is also the idea that stopping and removing your helmet helps the horse to understand there is no threat posed by these possibly noisy and seemingly hostile machines. Certainly when a small group of only several trail bikes encounters horse rider/s it is good to stop. That it often surprises a horse rider when you stop, remove your helmet and have a chat is a sad indictment on all trail bikers as there are horror stories of seemingly out of control bikes startling horse riders all too often.
Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules here. It is often a judgment call that has to be made at the time.
Walkers and Picnickers
Other forest users can be startled by trail bikes in the bush if they have not heard them coming and already given way as is often the case. It is a good idea to stop and have a chat. This may surprise the walker and you may cop an earbashing for being a trail biker, but because your registered and licensed and on a public road you would calmly explain that you are also enjoying the bush legally.
By stopping and chatting you’ll know if you are about to pass a large or small group of walkers and similarly the walkers will know what they are in for; two trail bikes or ten!
For obvious reasons the forest walker will often perceive an encounter with a trail bike or a group of trail bikes very different to the bike rider. They will often think the trail bike is being ridden too fast and it’s not surprising when the average pace of a walker is compared to the average pace of a trail bike. So speeds should be appropriate to account for this perception where other users are or may be encountered.
It is important to be riding considerately and appropriately with regard to the road conditions and the likelihood of encountering other people. Generally speaking most people, with the exception of other motorised vehicles, will hear your motorcycle in the distance, and will often give way. This being the case however it is still important that you are riding at an appropriate speed so that you don’t incur their wrath and reinforce the negative perception of trail bikers.
Mountain bikers are similar to us in that they enjoy a flowing track or trail, but on the other hand they are similar to walkers in that they may be startled or even offended by the presence of a trail bike on their trail.
A mountain biker may or may not hear you approaching as the wind in his ears as he descends for example may prevent him hearing you.
Like walkers it is a good idea to stop and have a chat. You’ll know how many mountain bikers there are in the group and the mountain bikers will know how many trail bikes there are in your group.
Four Wheel Drives and Cars
When you come across a four wheel drive or car on the trail, it’s a good idea particularly when there are a lot of you, that the lead rider tells the driver how many more bikes are coming. In this situation most vehicle drivers will stop and wait until most or all of the riders have passed and the sweep rider will also stop or signal that he is the last rider. When there are a number of vehicles in a group they often have radios and will inform the rest of the group about you and your group and you will be able to pass incident free.
Also when you come across other vehicles it is usually necessary because forest roads are often narrow, to pull over to the left and allow the 4WD or group of 4WDs or other vehicles to pass. You’ll already be to the left so this won’t be a problem.
It might even be worth having a re-group at this point if there is room off the road to do so.
Drivers of other vehicles often underestimate the degree of control that trail bikers have over their motorcycle and will become unnecessarily alarmed by an encounter with a trail biker who doesn’t appear to react appropriately or considerately from their perspective by stopping or moving over. This is again another reason why it is important to be riding at an appropriate speed on all roads and trails.
Respect, respect, respect…!
To suggest that a logging truck doesn’t have right of way on a forest road is ludicrous. You will obviously lose! Be aware that a logging truck cannot stop, turn, weave, or dodge you coming the other way at great speed so be aware of logging activities and again ride at the appropriate speed.
You obviously don’t want to replace the badge on the front of the truck with yourself.