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Idaho Mountain Trail Riding Guidelines

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A recent thread about a new video with Shane Watts riding in Idaho and doing some things that are not acceptable to all of us who love Idaho's technical and relatively pristine trails has prompted me to post up some trail riding etiquette guidelines a friend and I developed. Idaho has some of the best trail riding in the world, but they can be severely damaged by knucklehead riding like Shane does in the video. It is critically important that riders "Ride With Respect" to keep these trails in good condition, and don't ride them like it is a GNCC or MX race. This doesn't mean you have to ride like grandma, you can still ride plenty fast, but without tearing things up in the process. While this was written with Idaho in mind, it should be applied on all trails if we are to continue to enjoy them for the long run. Take a look, and please do your part. :lol:

I am interested in your thoughts on these guidelines, as well as any additions you might suggest.

Motorcycle Riding on Idaho’s Mountain Trails

By Ross Williams & Bill Dart


The motorized trail system in Idaho is a national treasure. There are approximately 9,000 miles of motorized trails in Idaho that possess unparalleled beauty and technical challenge. As riders, we need to take great care to preserve the unique characteristics of the Idaho trail system so that future generations can experience and enjoy this incredible asset. These trails are often very narrow, steep and very challenging, and will not sustain much abuse. Riders are attracted to these trails because of their relatively pristine characteristics, but unless riders “Ride With Respect”, they will lose that pristine character pretty quickly. With that in mind, we offer these trail riding guidelines, and we hope that you will respect these guidelines, and ask your riding partners and other riders you meet to do the same.

General Protocol

Tread Lightly

Treading lightly means to have as little impact as possible. Enjoy the Idaho experience but leave little evidence that you were here. This includes, but is not limited to, having a quiet muffler on your bike so as not to offend others, having the proper bike setup in order to minimize your impact on the trails, properly disposing of your trash, being respectful of the rights of others, and generally being a good ambassador for the sport of motorcycling.

Be Respectful of Other Users

We are fortunate to have so many motorized trails in Idaho to enjoy. These trails are enjoyed by other types of users as well such as hikers, mountain bikers, and horsemen. In general, when you come upon any other user, slow down so that you don’t make dust or noise and to minimize the risk of hitting someone. Particular care should be taken with horses. When you see them, stop your bike and turn off the engine. Let them pass or wait for them to motion you by. You should push your motorcycle past them unless they tell you it’s OK to ride. If the horses are acting nervous, remove your helmet and talk so they know you are a humana, not a predator threat

Preserve the Trails

The trails in Idaho are pristine and we want to keep them that way. Always use a trials tire on the rear of your motorcycle and ride with a minimum of wheelspin.

Stay on Existing Roads and Trails

The various governmental agencies responsible for managing Idaho’s public lands strive to balance the needs of many competing interest groups. The designated trail system is one of the tools they use to achieve this balance. Therefore, it is important to respect the rights of other interest groups by riding only on designated motorized routes.

Proper Preparation for Safety

Riding in Idaho is beautiful and fun, but can also be dangerous. Prepare yourself and your machine properly to make your Idaho riding experience as safe as possible. Suggested items to take on the trail: an adequate supply of food and water, a lighter, a well stocked tool belt to perform minor repairs on the trail, a tube and CO2 cartridges to fix a flat tire, spare nuts and bolts, a map or GPS unit, and rain gear or a jacket. Don’t rely on anyone else to carry these things for you—you may get separated! Know how far your bike will go on a tank of gas and the length of your ride. Factor in a margin of error and carry extra fuel if there is a possibility you will need it.

Machine Setup

Trials Tire

Always use a rear trials tire on Idaho mountain trails as opposed to a knobby. A trials tire is designed with soft lugs and radial ply that wraps around and contours the ground for unmatched traction and minimal trail erosion. A trials tire will enable you to ride many trails you couldn’t with a knobby while causing almost no impact to the trail. Suggested tire pressure: 6-8 lbs.

Quiet Muffler

Protect our right to ride by installing as quiet a muffler as you can find. No one likes to hear a loud, obnoxious engine.

Low Gearing

Idaho trails are steep, tight, and extreme. Put the lowest gearing available on your motorcycle. Your gearing can’t be too low! Keep in mind that expert riders cover about 15 miles per hour and intermediate riders about half that.

Proper Jetting

Jet for the proper altitude where you will be riding. Most Idaho mountain trails vary from 6,000-10,000 feet above sea level. Improper jetting will limit engine performance and reduce fuel economy. Using the appropriate pilot jet and needle, and air/fuel screw settings is the most critical part of proper mountain riding jetting because this affects how well the bike runs in technical sections. You won’t be using the main jet very much on Idaho trails!!


Unanticipated complications frequently happen during an Idaho trail ride. Having a headlight is a good insurance policy against the unexpected.

Trail Riding Techniques

Ride Clean

Idaho mountain trails offer little margin for error. Precision riding is the order of the day. Keep your tires on the middle of the trail, especially on sidehill. Ride smoothly and don’t worry about speed. The faster you try to go, the more mistakes you will make which can be costly.

Minimize Wheelspin

Spinning your wheels could cause you to go off the trail or to lose momentum on a hill climb. Reduce wheelspin by:

• running a trials tire at the proper tire pressure of 6-8 lbs

• using throttle control and moderately rolling on the gas instead of gunning it,

• slipping your clutch instead of spinning your rear wheel, and

• short shifting into a higher gear instead of winding your engine in a low gear.

• Ride heavy on the seat to get traction over rocks and roots, with your feet on the pegs or in front of them. Don’t push with your legs as that un-weights the rear tire and leads to wheelspin

Hill climbs

Hill climbs are one of the most challenging obstacles in Idaho. Build your speed as much as possible at the bottom and let your momentum carry you up. Use plenty of throttle and clutch control to control wheelspin and keep your front end down. If you get stuck on a hill, DON’T sit there and dig a rut. DO turn around, go back to the bottom, and try again with the proper technique.

Protect Your Legs and Feet

There are lots of hidden obstacles, such as rocks, stumps, logs, or roots, on Idaho’s mountain trails which can catch your feet causing a broken foot, ankle, or leg. Minimize your chance of injury by keeping your feet in close to your engine and back on the footpeg (ride with the balls of your feet on the peg). If you see an obstacle coming too close, pick your foot off the peg.

Keep Eyes on Trail (No Sightseeing)

Many of Idaho’s mountain trails are high, narrow, exposed sidehill trails. While the views can be incredible, if you try to take them in while riding you are sure to go off the trail. If you want to sightsee, stop your motorcycle first!

Don’t Ride a Trail Above Your Ability

Be honest in assessing your riding ability and find out how difficult a trail is before riding it. If it’s your first time riding in the Idaho mountains, start on an easier trail first to see what it’s like and then graduate to the more difficult trails.

If You Ride Off a Trail, Lift the Bike Back Onto the Trail

The trails are often very steep, narrow sidehill trails. If you slip off the trail, do NOT spin the wheel and dig a rut to get back up to the trail. Stop, and lift the bike back onto the trail.


By following these guidelines, you will have a safer, more enjoyable Idaho mountain riding experience and maximize the chances that you, others, and future generations will be able enjoy these trails as well.

Happy Trails!

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Excellent advice :lol: thanks for taking the time to raise awareness, I'm just getting into the sport and would like to enjoy it for a long time. We all need to do our part in order to keep trails open, not just in ID but everywhere. I'm tempted to print this and post it at trail heads...

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Excellent advice :lol: thanks for taking the time to raise awareness, I'm just getting into the sport and would like to enjoy it for a long time. We all need to do our part in order to keep trails open, not just in ID but everywhere. I'm tempted to print this and post it at trail heads...


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Great post bill, this one section has been fixified and accurized for the riding enjoyment and safety of all. :lol:


Unanticipated complications frequently happen during an Idaho trail ride when you sleep in until 11 and don't get started riding until noon or 1. Having a headlight, or getting out of bed earlier is a good insurance policy against the unexpected.


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Hill climbs

Hill climbs are one of the most challenging obstacles in Idaho. Build your speed as much as possible at the bottom and let your momentum carry you up. Use plenty of throttle and clutch control to control wheelspin and keep your front end down. If you get stuck on a hill, DON’T sit there and dig a rut. DO turn around, go back to the bottom, and try again with the proper technique.

Happy Trails!

First off, thanks for the write up!!!! Very good info for every rider!!!

The little section about hill climbing is a good one, and one of my pet peeves... It really discourages me when someone gets frustrated on a hill and hits the rev-limiter digging a rut trying to start mid-hill...

If you can't start and tractor up it mid hill, GO BACK TO THE BOTTOM... your degrading the trail to no end... [end rant]

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I couldn't agree with you more!!! I am usually out of bed by 6 AM, but when your riding partner runs 24 hour Mexican restaraunts (a Vegas thing!!), they tend to have different sleep habits than most people. The problem was compounded this summer after he got one of those hi-zoot Trail Tech HID headlights. Now he has no fear at all of being out past dark, and instead HOPES we are out late!!! I normally ride with a chain saw rack on my forks in the summer, so I have to remove my headlight. This summer I had to buy a couple of MagicShine LED lights, one for the bars and one for my helmet, and ended up using them several times!!!!

On the positive side, night riding with good lights is a kick in the pants. Getting an earlier start means I am out of energy before dark, so I never wanted to go out again once the sun went down.

You and other TT readers might enjoy a story Charlie Williams wrote about a ride that took longer than expected. Charlie is the "Hunter Thompson of Dirt Biking", check out his website www.Gonzorider.com if you like his style

I've Been to the Mountain

I've said it before here in the ABATE magazine, Lawrence County Recreation Park is not the final step in off road riding, it is a building block that opens doors to riding around the world.

See, as off road riders, we want to ride to far off places and LCRP is a great place to build the skills so you can ride off to a far away land. Outsiders don't understand this, they think just riding around in circles and dust should make us happy. They don't understand it's not the bike, it's what you can do on the bike, like visit far away places.

Had I not learned to ride when I was young, and built my riding talents at places like LCRP and Big Johns farm and Red Bird I could not have gone on the adventure I went on a few weeks ago. I'll tell you about it:

Somewhere in the west, a friend of mine bought a small cabin. Over time he and another mutual friend had gotten tired of riding all the popular trails and had been researching old trails that are legal, but forgotten. In this far away land, if the trail is not constantly maintained, it will get completely choked off by dead trees falling across it until soon it is lost. The only evidence is the blazes cut by the first people using the trail. A blaze is a rectangle cut in the bark of a tree by a axe, from one you should be able to see the next and that's how trails were marked in the beginning.

Now in the beginning these trails would have been animal trails. Trappers and Miners would have followed these trails and they would have cut the blazes. Most of the time a trail goes some where, now that "Somewhere" may be long gone, but these trails would have been major transportation arteries back in the day. Miners would have to get from the mine to town or to the river or to another mine or even the brothel. Trails went every where.

So my friends had been studying the maps, kind of connecting the dots between the local small town and the mine high above in the mountains. They decided there would be a trail there, it just needed sleuthed out. They had been exploring and had found some evidence of a trail and blazes and it looked like this trail should go to point B on the map.

So I was lucky enough to be there on the day they made the big push to open the last several miles. Two bikes with chain saws mounted on them and me for grunt work. Well we were way off the beaten path, way way way off the beaten path... No one had been on this trail for many many years. We were high on a mountain ridge and the trail meandered from one side to the other. On the east side it was calm and still, but when the trail crossed over to the west side of the trail the wind was blowing about 50 mph and sheets of rain were falling off in the distance. Just a couple of degrees above snowing.

The progress was slow and at times we were just guessing on the best way to get a bike through. Just because a Miner and his mule can get through, does not mean it will make good motorcycle trail. There were sections where we were on very narrow side hill trails with say 1,500 feet of exposure. Now, it would not be a straight down fall and if you slipped you would probably only go a little way, but if you really messed up and your bike flipped over and gained one ounce of momentum, well it would not stop until it reached the valley floor 1,500 feet below. Here's an idea that will help you visualize this. Next time you are riding your street bike, see how long you can keep both tires on the white line next to the shoulder. Then pick a section with no shoulder and try it, then find a section with a 1,500 foot drop and try riding the white line. Very nerve wracking and you really need to get your head clear before tackling something like this. Then, add some 50mph winds and some rain, this is the kind of trail riding I live for. No you can't find any of this at LCRP, but you can build skill and nerve so when you do get a chance you can do it.

A skill you can work on at LCRP is jumping logs and the next section on our trail was just that. We were back on the narrow ridge top and you could see blazes straight ahead for a couple hundred yards, smooth sailing, except there must have been 100 trees laying across the ridge in every direction imaginable. I saw this and just went wild, I love hopping logs and took off! I was in dirt bike heaven, I hopped and jumped logs for ten minutes or more. Some times getting trapped and having to back track to figure my way out of this maze. There were logs ten inches tall to logs over three feet tall and every one of them on a tricky angle, I was very happy. Now my two partners don't like jumping logs as much as I do so they took the time to chain saw out some of the worst ones, but man, for that short period of time I was in nirvana.

It was getting very late in the day, it had taken much more time and work to find and open this trail than expected. See, there was more than just cutting logs, we did quite a bit of rock moving and trail building just to get through. We were well past the point of no return. We had one head light between three bikes, it was 3 hours of hard riding back and we had 30 minutes of light. To ride this country in the dark would have been hellish if not impossible. A night out in 50mph winds and rain? Ummmm better keep pushing on and hard. See here is another hard ship you can't practice for, but experience will help with, crunch time. Both chain saws were getting dull and cutting slower, we had no idea how much further to the intersection that we were only hoping existed, we didn't actually know if this trail connected to our escape route. I could have had a melt down pretty easily, I wanted to have a melt down, but there was no time. My two friends cut and scouted at a fierce pace, it's serious business now.

So back to LCRP, you build your riding skills, then when you get on a big adventure you can handle it, we've already seen terrifying side hills, steep climbs and descents, tricky rock gardens, logs to jump by the hundreds and now the mental game of race the clock.

Lucky for me, both my companions are rock solid, experienced experts and I am honored to be with them at this point. We may spend the night out, cold and wet, but we gave it a hell of a try and I know we will be safe and make it through the night, build a fire, build a shelter, I've already eaten all my candy bars..... Is it too early to think about cannibalism? They both have chain saws, I'll be the first one to go. Maybe I'll shit my pants to keep them away.... See how quick the mind can go when you are under stress?

There, off in the distance is a white tarp tent. Now that's scary to me too, is it a hunters camp? Are hunters ever glad to see dirt bike guy's? Ever seen the movie Deliverance? My mind just races off in another terrifying direction.

The trail went straight to the camp so did we. It was abandoned and a mess, some one had left all their trash and junk out in the woods, one heck of a mess.

We pushed on, cutting logs and searching for the life giving blazes on the trees, we must keep going to get out. Then as Bill was cutting his last log, he hollered: "Here it is!" He was standing about 5 feet from the trail we were searching for. You could not see it until you were right on top of it.

Now the new trail we were on is considered a very rugged trail but after what we had seen, it was a highway and we cruised down the mountain and got back to the cabin about 5 minutes before black. And I mean black, no moon, no stars, just low hanging clouds and black black black.

I had to use all the skills I've learned from riding bike my whole life on this ride, plus some skills where you just have to throw caution to the wind and keep pushing on.

The first time I rode this area several years ago, our guide put some Pink Floyd in the stereo, the David Gilmore tune went like this:

There's no way out of here, when you come in you're in for good.......

Wow, very poignant lyrics to where we were in our day. But we had made it home safe to big steaks and cigars not to mention warm beds. But I was left with a new feeling. I know now, that if I never get to ride my dirt bike again, I have been to the mountain and I can die a happy, accomplished rider.

So spend your time at LCRP riding, ride in all conditions ride like your life depends on it, then go some where. Seek out the highest mountain you can climb, it may not be Everest, but how far can you go? And that is what LCRP means to me


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I agree. Recently saw the Moto 3 trailer and wondering what trail they were on at minute 3:13.

Maybe the more pros we get respecting and ADVERTISING our right to ride, maybe we see more responsible riders? I like to play and ride fast at times but there are times we need to just hit the brakes.

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