There are few places better to ride a mountain bike than the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, West of the Cascade Mountains – which is where I live and ride. We have no poisonous snakes or spiders. Yes, we do have bears and cougars, but they are more afraid of you and are sadly are becoming less prevalent with the intrusion of their natural habitat.
What we do have are Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). Some people call them a scourge. The State of Washington recognizes them as a native species and will do nothing to eradicate them. So, what do we do? We live with them and deal with the effects of Stinging Nettles. I say …
Welcome Back Netty
Stinging Nettles are a sign that Spring has arrived. At this time of the year they are small and pretty easy to identify. By mid-Summer they can grow to 4 or 5 feet tall and they are very easy to see because they are about the only plant that stands up and stands out.
How can you tell the difference?
It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a Stinging Nettle and other native plants. My suggestion is just avoid them and leave all of the local flora alone. Of course, this is easier to say than to do. When you are riding a mountain bike it is inevitable that you will eventually brush up against the plants that line the trails. When you brush up against a Stinging Nettle you know it within a few seconds. While it’s not painful to most people it is certainly a feeling that gets your attention.
What do you do if you brush up against a Stinging Nettle?
For me – I don’t do anything. I’m used to the feeling and it doesn’t bother me. However, if I hit a big patch of nettles and I want to temper the sting I use a tried and true technique that is readily available --- MUD. Yes, Mud.
The Application Process is simple. If you cannot find a section of trail with mud you can create your own. Use the water from your hydration pack or if it’s all you’ve got use saliva. Mix up a little water with the dirt to make a mud paste. Then spread it on the affected area. Simple and effective.
After – So Simple and Effective
What makes Nettles Sting?
It’s the same as a Bee Sting --- Formic Acid. So, if you are allergic to bee stings you should be aware of this and bring your EpiPen. I’m not sure if the reaction to Stinging Nettles would be as significant as a bee sting, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Other Options - You can also use the sap of a deer fern, but why bother. As long as you can make mud you don’t have to look any further than the dirt beneath your tires.
Welcome Back Netty
While I don’t look forward to encountering you on the trails I know your presence means the riding season is getting into top gear.
Stinging Nettles are not all bad – there is Stinging Nettle Soup and here are Eight Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle and a few more Nettlesome Ideas. So, like with most things we take the good with the bad (or at least semi-painful) and make the best of it.
So, if you are so inclined. Next time you get “stung” grab a handful of leaves and make some soup.
I hope to see you on the trails. Don’t forget --- My offer is always open to anyone in the area or visiting the area to get out for a ride. Quite a few people have taken me up on this offer. Will you be next?