Thursday, May 30, 2024 | TSTM

Motorcycle Riding on Idaho's Mountain Trails


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.

General Protocol
a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

d. 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.

e. 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
a. 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.

b. 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.

c. Low Gearing

The 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.

d. 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.

e. Headlight

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

Trail Riding Techniques
a. 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.

b. Minimize Wheelspin

Spinning your wheels could cause you to go off the trail or to lose momentum on a hill climb. Reduce wheelspin by: (i) running a trials tire at the proper tire pressure of 6-8 lbs., (ii) using throttle control and moderately rolling on the gas instead of gunning it, (iii) slipping your clutch instead of spinning your rear wheel, and (iv) short shifting into a higher gear instead of winding your engine in a low gear.

c. 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.

d. 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.

e. 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!

f. 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.

g. If you slide off the edge of a sidehill trail, resist the urge to throttle up to climb back onto the trail.

Do NOT spin the wheel!! if there isn't enough traction to get back onto the trail without spinning the wheel, stop and lift the rear wheel back onto the trail, or both wheels are off the trail, push and lift the bike and only use the motor if you can do so without spinning the tire.


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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