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Karma Points: A Running Diary Of A Recent Outdoor Adventure

That's fuckin' trippy, bro.

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) we are celebrating the return of spring with a running diary of Colin's most recent mountain bike ride.

Trail etiquette is super important and bad behavior during our time on trail can result in bad karma. Today on the show Colin keeps a running diary of the people he encountered on a recent 20 mile mountain bike ride; awarding karma points along the way.

Keep smiling everyone!

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Welcome to The Rock Fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head, I’m Colin True and If you’re not back on trails yet you will be soon. Today I’m going to give you a running diary of what I encountered out on my local trails just this past weekend.  Stick around for that.

But first have you signed up for Rock Fight’s newsletter “NEWS FROM THE FRONT? Each week you’ll see a recap of everything to come out of the RFU (that’s the rock fight universe to you) as well as a few goodies like outdoor industry history and our parting shot that you won’t find anywhere else. Head to rock fight dot co and sign up today so you get the next issue in your inbox next Sunday. Good? Good. Got it? Got it. Alright, let’s start the show.

Guys, it’s March! Spring has sprung in some corners of the northern hemisphere while some colder climes have already had a bout or two of Strawberry Spring before the real thing arrives.  

For the outdoor community, lift riding skiers in most places are as sad about a closing day as they are excited about their favorite ski hill’s annual pond skimming event. And winter enthusiasts are all doing their best to mask the relief that they soon can retire the snowblower for another season.

So as the northern outdoor world prepares for a return to trails, a return to mountain bikes and hikes, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone about trail etiquette.

A few weeks ago I had Susie Murphy from the San Diego Mountain Biking Association on to talk about trail advocacy, but we also talked a lot about trail etiquette and not just trail etiquette for mountain bikers but for all trail users. And she deftly pointed out that the most critical thing any of us can do when on any trail is to smile and say hello. Think of it as the best way to create good karma for yourself. Maybe you didn’t make the best decision about how to encounter that other person, but you were approachable, friendly and affable…you earned back some karma points.  

Because we all know how karma works, right? Do you think you get a flat tire or that you ever roll your ankle randomly?  C’mon now, that’s karma striking back for something you did earlier in your ride or run.  So by ignoring your fellow trail users you are courting certain death.  

So to give everyone a brief reminder of how to behave when you get back on dirt in the coming days, weeks or months I kept a running diary of a ride I went on just yesterday.  A 20 mile lollipop that starts on super busy trails yet finds some solitude at the furthest points.

Along the way I kept track of my own etiquette infractions, everyone else’s etiquette infractions and tracking all of our karma points. Here are the highlights. Cue the music.

Hey! Can someone cue the music?  Goddamit, I’ll cue the music.

Alright! Here’s how it went.


Left the parking lot on one of the busiest trailheads in the area, the boat ramp by Lake Hodges. This is a trail that sees traffic from everyone: horses, bikes, hikers, runners, families with dogs, families with strollers…everyone. I’m bound to run into some folks who piss me off or observe some truly bad trail behavior.


We have our first notable encounter of the day. This section of trail is rolly. Some ups and downs but no sustained climbs or descents that make it easy to discern who has right of way.  Combine that with the amount of use it gets and the prudent thing to do is to keep your speed low, your bike bell on and be ready to pull over for everyone.  Because most of the people on this stretch of this trail are not regular trail users and don’t know the rules.

I say all that because two gravel riders just came ripping through a corner without bells.  Way too fast, just too much for where we are.  That’s negative 2 karma points for each rider but! They made sure to announce who was coming up behind them and they were super friendly which means I’ll give them each plus one karma points bringing this encounter to -2 overall.


Time for some karma points for me! Coming up behind two hikers with dogs, I made sure my bike bell was ringing and slowed my speed so I wouldn’t surprise them.  They nicely enough pulled to the side to let me pass, I then threw them a hearty ‘hey how are ya! Good job doggos and capped it off with a have a great hike!’.  Whatever these hikers think of mountain bikers normally, i just elevated their opinion. Plus 2 karma points for me for being a good steward, plus 2 for them for being kind hikers.


Even more karma points for me.  I came across two other bikers who were pulled over and stretching so I also stopped to be sure they were ok. They said they were, I offered food in case they were cramping but they were just stretching out.  All good.  Plus 1 karma point for me.


Negative points for another gravel rider. I was actually pulled over to check the map on my phone so technically this rider who came up behind me didn’t do anything wrong, but we were at the top of a small climb so he wasn’t going fast, I waved and offered “nice job man!” and this guy didn’t even look my way let alone acknowledge my encouragement.  I’m sorry if you’re suffering, but all it takes is three raised fingers off of your handlebar. -3 karma points.


I came up on yet another gravel cyclist (they were everywhere) who had his bike flipped over and was working on a leaky tire.  I pulled over to be sure he had everything he needed and homeboy had out a small fan trying to dry some sort of sealant on a puncture he’d gotten in his tire.  He immediately relayed to me that he was a roadie and wasn’t sure how much he liked being on dirt. I told him how I prefer my mountain bike on these trails because for all the good miles they have for gravel bikes there are enough spicy sections that make riding a mountain bike more fun. He looked at me dumbfounded saying he had ridden these trails before on his road bike. In that moment I had a choice, engage in a conversation about how much fun he actually had on his bike or just nod and move along. It was then that I noticed his name printed on the frame of his bicycle and I figured that joy was not a primary motivator for bike riding for this guy and best to keep on trucking.  Zero karma points awarded or deducted.


As I dropped into what should be the most fun section of this particular ride, a flowy single track section of the Lusardi loop I encountered two e-bikers who should have pulled off for me one of whom was riding a full on commuter style throttle enabled fat wheeled e-bike. Both covered in mud. The bad etiquette and poor bike choice distracted me from what I should have noticed which was the mud. More on that in a second.  -1 karma points for the mountain biker, -3 for the throttle bike rider, but also -1 for me for my poor observations.


I’d like to thank all the assholes out there who couldn’t wait a few days to ride Lusardi after our recent stretch of rainy weather.  Because instead of getting to rip through the most fun part of this ride, I had to deal with big dried ruts and muddy sections that would have been dried out but instead had just been divided into multiple pools of deep muddy water thanks to constantly being ridden through in different ways.  This is the part where I have to be hard on myself in terms of karma points. I probably should have turned around and backtracked to my truck but I pressed on hoping it would get better.  And, oh I hate to admit this, I twice avoided the mud and rode through grass on the side of the trail because I was frustrated with the conditions.  Big ding for me here.  I became part of the problem. -5 points.

At this point I was about halfway through my ride and I am now sitting at -3 karma points with others I've encountered sitting at -8.  Let’s see if any of us can get back to zero on the back half of this ride.


Well that was quick! I came up on a group of hikers out with a little dog and pulled over so they could walk past which they were not expecting. +2 for me. Bonus +1 for busting out my favorite dad joke where I look at their tiny non-threatening doggo and declare ‘better make sure that guy doesn’t murder anyone’ which always gets a big chuckle from the owner. I’m back to zero! Let’s go, baby!


On the last sustained climb of the ride I encountered four bikers, two e-mountain bikers and two on analog bikes. The e-bikers were going the opposite way and immediately pulled over for me (that’s +2 for them). The analog bikers were in front of me and moving slower and they also pulled over for me. +2 for them. My hope in humanity is returning!


Back on the busy section of trail I started out on and I come to the point where there’s a big whoop de woo that as I came up to it had hikers almost to the top of the opposite side.  I paused, and let them complete their climb out even though it would have been way more fun to carry speed through.  +1 for me.


Back at the truck without incident.  The final tally on the leaderboard has me at +1 karma points and everyone else at -4.  Not bad. My score should have been much higher but I’m not worried about it because that bad karma has already hit me in the amount of cleaning I’m going to have to do on my muddy bike.

Lastly, I’ve ridden this same trail on days when others I’ve encountered would have had a negative karma score in double digits.  Today wasn’t that bad.  So if you’re listening to this and you’re about to take that first hike or run of the spring or you’re tuning up your whip, remember to smile and say hi to everyone and make it a point to be the person who pulls over. Make good decisions out there and don’t treat your trails like your own personal race track.  Everyone you encounter is trying to have fun or connect with nature, just like you are. 

I’ve always seen being out on trails whether it’s in the mountains or in a city park as a sort of secret language. Give each other that head nod or finger flip and let others know that you are also fluent in why we go outside.  That you too have learned the secret of going outside and running around. 

Have fun out there and happy spring everyone. 

That’s the show for today. What are your experiences out and about on your local trails? Email your stories to my rock fight at gmail dot come

Before you move on to that next podcast please click follow on whatever podcast app you are hearing this on so you are subscribed to the rock fight and then give us a 5 star rating.

The rock fight is a production of rock fight llc, i’m colin true, thanks for listening. And here to take us out is our guy chris demakes with the rock fight fight song. We’ll see you next time rock fighters.

Karma tracker 9000: Others: -4 Me: 1


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