Trail Rage Incident Leads to Arrest
Mountain biker dust-up gives pause to review trail etiquette
The last time a mountain bike violence video went viral on YouTube, it was an Antelope assaulting a cross-country racer in South Africa. Earlier this month, however, another video began making the rounds. And this time, it was a mano-a-mano mountain bike confrontation.
The short clip below was uploaded by one Jordan Brizzell, 23, of Christchurch, New Zealand. After repeatedly trying without success to pass a slower rider ahead of him, Brizzell’s complaining evoked an angered response from the slower lead rider.
At the end of the trail, words were exchanged, chests were puffed, and then the older, pot-bellied lead cyclist snapped in rage and physically attacked Brizzell—not once but twice; the second time in an attempt to get Bizzell’s camera.
The unknown assailant got away, but Bizzell used the video footage to ignite on online wildfire of outrage by posting it to the viral social news website reddit. After the story was picked up by several local New Zealand news outlets, it was only a matter of time before the Christchurch mountain biker was identified. That he was riding a rare and out-of-production Fat Chance frame certainly didn't help his anonymity.
Before long, the aggressor was identified and on Monday, April 23, 45-year-old Aaron William Dalton admitted to assault in court. He’s out on bail and will return for a judgment July 23, according to local news outlet TVNZ.
“Mountain bike” and “violence” are two terms not normally associated with one another. Most of the hurt that comes out of this glorious sport comes from lung-searing, soul-crushing climbs, or from vicious crashes.
Reading between the lines, and tracking the copious comments that came out in Bizzell’s reddit posting, it’s clear that this case isn’t quite cut-and-dry. Bizzell initially uploaded only the inflammatory 53-second clip embedded above, but he later uploaded the full 5:43 video showing the 2.3-kilometer trail in its entirety. In it, the younger rider can be heard goading Dalton repeatedly, at one point (jokingly?) telling him he was going to run him off the trail.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Rules of the Trail are a great place to start understanding what went wrong.
Rule number four, “Yield Appropriately,” seems to allow some room for interpretation, so we asked IMBA communication director Mark Eller to weigh in.
"The rules are meant to act as guidelines, and we try to position them as just that—guidelines—with the caveat that different areas and different bike cultures will operate differently," says Eller.
“But if you’re trying to pass someone and have made it clear what your intentions are and the lead rider is not going to allow you to pass, the best thing to do in that situation is gather yourself, put your foot down, and let the slower rider get some distance ahead of you. There’s no rule or guideline that gets around the fact that sometimes people don’t always play nice.”
Eller stressed common sense in all cases, and noted that sometimes the rules can vary.
“Our rules are very much geared towards shared-use trails where traffic flows in both directions, but there are plenty of places where an aggressive rider can assume that if they’re going faster, they will have the right of way, because with the emergence of purpose-built, one-direction mountain bike trails, slower riders, or users coming uphill on a downhill course, are expected to yield.”
Back in New Zealand, Bizzell's two clips have totaled some 200,000 views—nowhere near the 13.5 million racked up by the antelope striking the XC racer. And that’s no surprise. The antelope attack had a raw, visceral Wild Kingdom quality to it. This pissy Kiwi episode was just, well, ugly.
So what’s the takeaway here? First, the episode is a good reason to keep Eller’s trail etiquette tips in mind. Second, if you can tune out the squabbling and skip the scuffle at the end of the long version of the clip, by all accounts the Flying Nun trail of Port Hills, outside Christchurch, looks like a pretty sweet stretch of singletrack.
Based on this second, non-violent video, it’s worth checking out if you’ve got some extra time on New Zealand’s South Island.