5 Trail Cycling Tips from Orthopedic Surgeon, Eric Heiden

Dr. Eric Heiden is a Salt Lake City and Park City based orthopedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine. As a former USA pro-cycling champion, he enjoys staying active riding his bike on the road and trails. As Summer winds down, Dr. Heiden tries to hit the trails as much as possible. Here are his top 5 tips for cycling safety:

  1. Make a cycling plan.

It is always best to know which trails you plan to hit and how far you want to go. Have a backup trail in case your first choice is closed and let someone know where you will be going and how long you expect to be gone; maybe even take a friend. Knowing which trails you plan to ride can help you make sure your bike is built for that specific terrain. If you’re just starting out trail cycling, start easy. Slowly increase your trail difficulty and allow yourself time to get use to the bike. Remember that going for the hardest trail right away will only set you back further.

  1. Check the weather.

A rainstorm can roll in quickly, this is especially relevant in Utah. Checking the weather ahead of time can help you decide which trails might get washed over or too muddy. Always dress appropriately and bring a jacket, just in case. Consequently, remember rocks and trails will be more slippery in certain conditions and should be avoided.

  1. Gear up.

Wearing the proper gear can save you a lot of trouble in the future. Proper shoes, cycling shorts, a helmet, gloves and sunglasses are non-negotiable for Dr. Eric Heiden. Sunglasses aren’t just for the sun, they’ll save you from wind, rocks, or anything else that flies at your face. The proper gear can be the difference between getting back on the bike after a fall or heading to the hospital. Remember to carry an ID and emergency contact information with you, especially if you are riding alone. It is even a good idea to carry some cash, just in case.

  1. Water. Water. Water.

Did we say water? Always pack a water bottle, cellphone, and food, depending on how long you plan to ride. Even short rides can exhaust your body quickly, depending on the terrain or heat. Plan ahead and listen to your body. Injuries come in many forms and not taking care of your body could be less time on the trail in the future.

  1. Enjoy your ride.

When you are on the trail, look ahead at where you want to go. Target fixation works and will help your ride feel smoother and easier. Let your eyes roam the trail ahead before your bike even gets there. You are going to go where you are looking, so look where you want to go. Relax your grip, your legs and your arms. Your body generally has a pretty good built-in suspension. Tensing up your body causes it to fatigue quicker.


Most of all, be courteous on the trail. Horses and hikers have priority. Adding a bell to your bike can be a kind way to let others know you are coming up behind them. Remember, horses, hikers, bikers, in that order.



Thanx for posting this,
Here’s some Etiquette guidelines we post at trailheads in SF Bay Area Coastal Trails.

All outdoor trails visitors, please practice shared trails etiquette that will ensure a pleasant time for all.
1-Equestrians have trails right of way at all times….hikers-runners-cyclists slow ,stop and ask in a calm voice when-whether it’s ok to proceed, courteously follow horse rider instructions.
If in doubt err on the side of caution-stop and calmly ask!
2.1- Equestrians,thorough horse training is imperative when frequenting M/U trails,a well trained-socialized horse is much less inclined to spook whatever the situation encountered.
2-Hikers-runners-cyclists,when you encounter a horse on a single track trail. Stand on the lower side of trail.
Please avoid standing on the upper side, this may spook the horse.
3-Equestrians, when coming up to a single track look ahead and if you see folks hiking or riding bikes wait for them to clear the trail before you proceed.
4- Equestrians, when riding downhill and you see a bike coming up please consider giving them the right a way.
5-Headphone users- 1 ear open at all times when using headphones-earbuds.
Hearing courtesy voice or bells from approaching runners or riders is important to avoid startled surprises.
6-Mt Bike riders,please recreate on urban trails with complete anticipation-awareness of encountering Horse-Hiker-Runners around every turn at any-all times(slow down-skids are for kids).
Handlebar bells are bitchin, use them as a headsup howdy,not a coming through bark.
7-Dog people,control your dogs,pickup+properly dispose of waste.
8-See trash? Pick it up or report it if in copious pile.
Medical or other emergency dial 911.


Thanks Dr. Eric Heiden for sharing this post. As a sports medicine doctor, I too provide these suggestions to the candidates for cycling rides. These tips you mentioned help the professional to have a safe journey.


If we are hitting the trails and going MTB we always pack a backpack with a small medical kit and a snack or two just in case something happens while we are out.

@ Jim – FYI if your horse isn’t used to cyclists then you really shouldn’t be riding where they are bound to see several of them. You are just putting everyone else at risk. Rather desensitize your horse first.


Thank you for suggesting that hydrating is important when you are cycling. My father needs surgery and then he would love to cycle again. Hopefully, we can find him the best surgeon possible.


Hello My name is Dr, Vincent Marcel. I’m a Chiropractor, Triathlete, Inventor and Bike fitter. I have a client in Locus Groove Virginia, near Fredricks Burg. He is a Ultra Distant cyclist. He is looking to do RAAM. He has Moderate to Osteoarthritis, and a tear in the labrum of the lt shoulder. As well as several cluster bodies throughout.
Do you have any orthos in his area You might be able to recommend?

I would like to make an appointment for my self as well. I live El Segundo CA, just south of LAX.

Thank You for your time.


    Hi Vincent,
    For your patient in Virginia I’d recommend any of the providers at OrthoVirgina. For you, I would recommend seeing Dr. Frank Petrigliano MD at USC. He sees patients in El Segundo and is the team doc for the LA Kings.


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