Obey This Rule

07.12.2006 | 9:09 pm

I haven’t been talking much about my weight or fitness lately. Here’s a quick assessment, for those who care: my weight is way too high and I’m having motivation difficulties with dropping that weight, mostly due to a profusion of really good taco stands within walking distance of my office.

My fitness, though, is doing pretty well. This morning, for example, I climbed the Tibble Trail. This is not an easy climb, and most people would have to push most of it.

I, however, cleaned the first mile of this climb today. Meaning I didn’t put a foot down during the most intense mile of an extremely intense climb.

And I kept going.

I cleaned the second big pitch, too. That’s saying something, because the second pitch is even steeper than the first mile, and goes for about a quarter mile.

In other words, my legs are strong, and I’m climbing well.

So I thought, “Well, let’s see if I can clean this whole thing” (I planned to give myself a free pass with regards to the crux move, which is more of a miracle move than a real move right now).

And I kept climbing.

I cleaned the hard, loose pitch at the end of the first meadow. I cleaned everything leading up to the Mill Creek intersection.

And I kept climbing.

The section between the Mill Creek sign and the third meadow is very steep, rooted, and otherwise technical. Cleaning it is never likely, but I was doing well.

That’s when I saw a group of cyclists, descending toward me.

“They’ll yield,” I thought. “They’ll know the rule.”

They got closer.

“They’ll pull over,” I prayed. Surely they could see that I was climbing in a difficult spot and should be given the right of way.

And then the first guy in the group rolled by me, forcing me off the trail and off the bike.

I guess he didn’t know the rule.


The Rule

So, for anyone who mountain bikes but perhaps doesn’t intuitively know the rule of who yields to whom, here it is:


The climber has the right of way.


It’s obvious, really. Who has an easier restart? The guy going downhill. Who’s fighting harder to keep his momentum? The guy going uphill.

Yield to the climber. No exceptions. Any questions?


  1. Comment by Random Reviewer | 07.12.2006 | 9:18 pm

    this may be the rule, but you can see how a guy would blow it off. let’s just say, you’re descending tibble fork, maybe one of the top 5 descents in the world. you’re flying, reallly tearing it up.
    suddenly you see a chubby guy in a reeses peanut butter jersey climbing one of the steepest, gnarliest sections of the trail. would you think for a second this guy was in the middle of the best climb of his life, that he was cleaning more on this ride than ever in his career, that he had a chance to get all the way to the top and do a victory dance, that he would call his wife from the top and proclaim his greatness far and wide? that he would write about this in one of the most popular cycling blogs in the universe?
    or would you assume he dropped his candy bar on his way down, and was just going back up to get it, so who cares, you’re having the best downhill of your life, would it kill him to get out of your way for a second?

  2. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 07.12.2006 | 9:28 pm

    thank you for your question, dug. yes, you must still yield. the rule is not to be questioned, nor is it to be rationalized away.
    it is the rule.
    obey it.

  3. Comment by Jill | 07.12.2006 | 10:04 pm

    Thank you!

    This is always a cause of animosity, because uphill hikers usually yeild to downhill hikers, but it’s true. Bikers should always yeild to the climber.

    The worst thing I ever saw was a downhiller pull that same move that you described by a person on a horse. The horse jumped back and the rider was nearly thrown. I like to fantasize about using bear spray on cyclists that inconsiderate. They make all of us look bad.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 07.12.2006 | 10:50 pm

    Remind me again what you promised to "give away" if you didn’t make your Leadville 100 weight?

  5. Comment by Zed | 07.12.2006 | 11:52 pm

    What if the descender is in a race and the climber is just joyriding on the racecourse on race day–still no exception?

  6. Comment by Robin | 07.13.2006 | 12:42 am

    Where can I get a "The climber has the right of way" Jersey?

  7. Comment by Unknown | 07.13.2006 | 12:48 am

    Another instance where this should not apply, is in the instance of a large, shop or club sponsored, group ride.  If you met at the coffe shop and hooked up with 30 other people (95% you don’t know) and head out the to single track, you should ALL yield to the downhill rider (especially if he or she is solo).The group ride is fine for the road, but when it comes to single-track, it needs to be abolished.  Imagine if you will, you are having the BEST DESCENT of your life.   And after you are about half way down, you come across a group ride of 30+ mtb’ers, most of whom are there for the after ride drinking festivities, and now you must stop every 20 feet to accomodate this group trail-plug.  No sir!  The group riders should yield and apologize for taking a sport invented by loners, for loners and trying to turning it into a softball game.I understand it goes against the normal rules, but I contend that the group ride goes against what MTB is all about. 

  8. Comment by Kelly | 07.13.2006 | 1:36 am

    I had just been pondering this. It was keeping me awake at night. The tossing. The turning.
    Oh, the agony.
    Now, I know.

  9. Comment by Gregory | 07.13.2006 | 2:04 am

    Getting fay aye? Not losing weight? Sounds like your diet failed, time to give away the Bianchi!

  10. Comment by Ariane | 07.13.2006 | 4:23 am

    This is one of those unwritten "duh" rules; more a matter of basic courtesy than anything. There are lots of these rules for those instances when two or more humans are traveling towards one another. Like letting people on the elevator get out before you get on, or taking the right hand side of a double door, or not walking around a left-hand turn in a hallway in the inside.

    I guess I could think of one exception where a decender would not want to yeild to an ascender, but it involves golf carts, not bicycles, and silly-drunk collegiates, not cyclists.

  11. Comment by Tim | 07.13.2006 | 4:27 am

    I feel your pain when thinking back to how steep that climb is. It was serious enough coming down.
    What I want to know is though… Did you say anything to them??? If so, what?

  12. Comment by Glen | 07.13.2006 | 6:52 am

    I’m with Dug (sort of).  Making a climber yeild to you (screaming downhill) could be seen as a bit of a "mercy kill" – you can give them an excuse to stop, get off and push, what they’ve been dying to do for the last 5 mins but were too shame !

  13. Comment by craig | 07.13.2006 | 11:46 am

    The rule is an absolute but mostly never followed.
    If they could see you for a while and still did not yield I would have been upset.  I would have said something stupid. 

  14. Comment by Unknown | 07.13.2006 | 12:12 pm

    downhillers were probably using freaking ipods too!

  15. Comment by Unknown | 07.13.2006 | 3:27 pm

    Wait…you want the person going downhill at say 30mph+ to dangerously slam on their brakes and swerve over to the side to let huffing and puffing 5mph+ fat cyclists go by uphill?  Sure it takes you longer to get going again, but it takes almost no effort to pull over for you.  You can get 15 people downhill in the same time it takes 1 person to go up… if every one of them had to yield for you it would take the fun out of the most fun part of cycling (going downhill).  I’m going to disagree with this rule…though i have a feeling you’re next blog post will be the exact opposite (one doesn’t get $300 an hour for writing without realizing the power of juxtopositioning!)

  16. Comment by mark | 07.13.2006 | 4:17 pm

    The nice thing about being a fat cyclist is that you have more mass. I
    would have shoved the downhill rider and learnt him a lesson. All y’all
    have way more self control than I do.

    There’s this guy here in Boise that I really admire because he truly is
    a fat cyclist–has to weigh about 260+, but he’s still out there
    hitting the trails. Uphill or down, I yield to him every time. I think
    you just need to gain more weight if you want to get the respect you

  17. Comment by Random Reviewer | 07.13.2006 | 6:53 pm

    There’s no such rule.

  18. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 07.14.2006 | 6:20 am

    He obviously didn’t recognise you.  The rule is an absolute, but it’s not about climber vs descender.  It’s about cycling deity vs mere mortal.
    There’s no question of yeilding.  Put simply, you should have momentarily turned him to vapour (or yourself) while you both travelled through the same time/space co-ordinates simultaneously.
    All hail The Fat Cyclist.

  19. Comment by Theresa | 07.18.2006 | 1:35 pm

    interesting discussion and I enjoyed the comments. Around here, I find myself far more worried about cars that refuse to yield to bikers regardless of whether they are going uphill or downhill.  My mantra "Please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me"


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