Marines confiscate mountain bikes and ticket riders in San Diego

50 citations issued and 50 mountain bikes are confiscated

News
Marines ticket riders and confiscate their mountain bikes.

Marines ticket riders and confiscate their mountain bikes (click to enlarge).

Update: February 3, 2016

Scores of mountain bikers packed a church auditorium in El Cajon Monday night to discuss the aggressive enforcement and confiscation of up to 50 mountain bikes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also discussed the opening of new legal bike trails in the wake of aggressive actions by the Marines to shut down popular trails that cross onto their base.

The problem is that of access to prime riding real estate and there simply isn’t enough good riding area for the growing sport. Meanwhile, the Marines own a large swath of land that looks relatively unused and many feel it is a wasted precious resource.

The other issue at hand is the confiscation of bikes. This is unprecedented as mountain bikers are usually issued a ticket and set on their way. In the most extreme cases, the bike is held, or the front wheel until the end of the day to assure the mountain biker does not continue on riding the illegal area. Here, the bikes are held indefinitely until the case is closed and the fines are paid. Estimates range from 45-60 days.

The Marines assured the bike owners that the bikes will stored safely and not sold or tampered with. But that is little consolation for many of the bike owners. For many, this is the only mountain bike that they own and this is their lifestyle. They like to ride 3-5 days a week and that is a key part of their lives. This is prime riding season too in San Diego with cool temps, warm sun and a little moisture on the trails. This riding time lost can never be recovered.

What do you think?

January 25, 2016

Around 50 bikes were confiscated in the Sycamore Canyon area of San Diego for riding on federal land. These mountain bikers were ticketed approximately $500 for riding on trails in the Marine base property in Miramar.

The bikes will not be returned to their owners until the case is settled and the fines are paid. This can take around 45 days.

What do you think? Fair or unfair?


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Stupid Dog says:

    There’s a certain lot of Mtbers that think “I have bike, I can ride…anywhere”, childish…or maybe just children? Let’s be responsible, it can only come back in positive reviews of the sport as a whole.

  • Nick says:

    If you listen to the news broadcast, it obviously is NOT enforced equally since they let the kids go without a ticket or confiscation. As far as those posting that aren’t local, there is a LOT more to this than meets the eye so remember when it happens in your locale you will receive little sympathy from those of us affected out here. The Navy ran that same gunnery range (and all the land now in question) without any issues at all. There are folks who have ridden these trails for 15+ years. We know where the signs are, we know where to stay out. The trail in question is NOT posted where the riders entered, although there are plenty of signs as SDMBA Prez noted. He is however incorrect that it’s thoroughly posted and obvious. Also, north of 52 is shown as legal hiking/biking area on MTRP maps… Just stay south of the signs. Gotta wonder why these guys stopped though, they would have to physically apprehend me, and then the poop would really hit the fan. Hope you all sue the hell out of them when you get your damaged, deteriorated bikes back. Document your trail, show lack of signage… Done. Fight back. See everyone on Feb 1, it’s gonna be a helluva show.

    • Drew says:

      There are no MTRP Maps that say that the trails North of the 52 are legal. In fact there are signs posted in Spring and Oak canyon indicating that the area is undesignated. If you do not believe me have a look around the next time you are out there.

  • the matador says:

    this is directly in violation of the constitution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • David Wells says:

    Doesn’t sound like any of you were there – I was. There are multiple trails on the eastern edge of the base that are not marked, there is no fence, I have found 3 different maps showing different boundaries on the east side of the base including the county assessors map and Strava shows that when I was stopped by the Marines I was on park property and not on the base. Let’s assume the Marines are correct and know exactly where the line is – we were miles and 2 ridges away from the firing range. Now I am told this has been an issue for years and in all of this time an agreement could not be reached to make the north-south trail along the edge of the base legal? I have never been stopped before or warned by the Marines and telling me I should have known because it was posted on SDCMA’s website does not cut it. Build a fence, patrol it, complete the signage, create an easement for that trail – do something but grabbing property to “make and example” is not right,

  • McNab Rider says:

    If they were that worried they would have put up signs and barriers. Would they have done likewise if you had a riding event to sponsor aids or breast cancer awareness or to raise money and advocacy for inter-city kids. Seriously, this is just plain ridiculous.

  • stiingya says:

    Well if it wasn’t signed than I feel for you. I’d get your state rep’s and congress members on the line ASAP. On the one hand our military needs to have training area’s, and they need to have “some” reasonable “cushion” for safety and security. But on the other hand, without a doubt, there have been and probably always will be some land grabs that can not be justified. We do have a similar situation in my town.

  • Gary Steinberg says:

    If I speed while on a marine base you better believe I will be stopped and ticked by a marine. They are the law on these federal installations. Bikers have to realize they can not do as they please, whether on the trail or on a road.

  • Ian says:

    Maybe they should have let the riders continue … and carried on using the range with live ammo. There is a reason why the military don’t want you riding on the land that they control and it isn’t usually because they are selfish.

  • ian says:

    Should have brought a pocket constitution.

  • Patrick says:

    I learned to ride mountain bikes in this area 20+ years ago. We rode it hearing that it passed through federal land, but nothing ever confirmed that or where the federal land began and ended. There is legal riding out there in Martha’s Grove and by Santee Lakes, it’s just not obvious where you cross over into federal lands. I feel for these guys as there’s not a lot of stuff close by in SD to ride. I now live in OC with plenty of riding on state and federal land (CNF). If I can ride my bike through Camp Pendleton, there should be a way to figure out how to have civilians on a corner of this base. Kudos to the guy with the go pro on ” government land”.

    http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/santee-lakes-to-sycamore-canyon.html

  • Teleken says:

    Signed or not signed depends on who you ask. Seems a warning and forcing people to turn around would have been a better approach. I bet signs will be posted and the Seabees will be out digging trenches to block the trail.

  • Norco says:

    Been here. Hard to tell between public vs. private vs. federal land. I did see some signage that made me backtrack – didn’t want to get shot or ride over a dud. I probably did ride on a trail not meant for the public but signage is not enough. Would be nice if there was a fence or some sort of barrier that clearly stated where the boundaries are. All I remember was that my buddies and I tried to stay very close to the lakes to make sure as much as possible we weren’t on military land – which some maps do indicate.

  • Jeremy Ellis says:

    I rode those trails when I was stationed in San Diego. They are fun, but not worth losing your bike over.

  • JDUB says:

    Your Rental is $75 a day at 45 days that will be $3,375 please. Come again.

  • Dannbike says:

    So the private sector is required to abide by a million regulations and safety guidelines when setting up a private firing range but the government can leave it open undefined and unmarked and then on a whim seize property from innocent citizens because some officer got a bunch in his skivvies? There is no government-owned property. It’s owned by the people and if they want to keep people out for safety or national security reasons they need to fence it off and mark it. These cyclists were just doing a ride and minding their own business. What is up with all these government loving sheep?

  • Scott says:

    I have ridden that area for many years now. I did run into two Marines doing a survey last year. I stopped and asked them if I was allowed to bike through there. I was about 1 mile north of where these bikes where confiscated. The Marines told me I was in the Park land and that I was ok. There are no signs, there are no maps. If they want to keep people out it’s the responsibility of the government to post to inform the public. The bikers should of been warned and maybe ticketed BUT not had their bikes taken away. The bikes were there without any intent to harm the base.

  • W4RP1G says:

    This is to clear the air and to defend mtn biking as a sport. I road that area for 10 years with out a single incident, while living in San Diego. This what i know about the area, that part of the base when it was Navy/DOD was used for weapons testing(so was fort Ord aka sea otter), an retired Raytheon employee living next to Santee lakes told me this, but he explained it was cleared for the most part due to housing in the area, the area that is signed by the USMC has only been that way for maybe 5 years(people have been riding it for 20+ years), the area that marine corp is claiming is about 3 miles of single track(with signs) in a canyon north of the power-lines, there are ways into that area that are not signed(not an excuse, just a fact), not all of the land north of the 52 is military but most is, south and east are housing developments, the gun range is on the other side of spring/oak canyon by the air base is closer to housing than sycamore, sycamore open space preserve boundaries are not entirely clear(they only sign where they think you ride and they have fences! too), there are four other parties in that area a land fill site, pg&e, a water treatment reservoir and a RV lake resort all have boundaries that are confusing that area for riders(they have signs too) yeah they clean their sh*t water and dump there trash there the environment not a priority, this is a marine air base(aka old navy top gun base) I’ve never seen a military land vehicle just aircraft flying over, San Diego is very very conservative by cali standards this area has even earned the nickname “Clantee” by locals, this is a sh*ty bit of land that the military owns on a semi-historic road on the boarder of open space preserve in white trash part of SD that no one knows what to due with, so mtn bikers have unlawfully claimed it to ride on because of a bigger issue, (by my estimates) 95% of all single track on public/government park land in California is off limits/illegal to bicycles for no legitimate reason and the stuff we can ride on is the sh*t nobody cares about……. if i ever came across military personal on the ground i would have stop riding there but i didn’t. look at the area 32.876425, -117.004269 judge for yourself, there are the facts…. btw… every mtn biker even on legal single track in California runs the risk of tickets, fines and confiscation of property so how is this any different than any where else in California. Yours Truly 25 year veteran mtn biker

  • tyrebyter says:

    Albuquerque has a similar situation with the Air Force: some prime riding is on DoD property contiguous with National Forest. There is a sign every 50 feet for miles. Would have been cheaper to fence it. People have been ticketed, but not recently and no one has had a bike impounded that I know of. Very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ now. Sounds like over-zealous commanders out of touch with the community… and reality, in San Diego.

  • piperpilot964 says:

    Sad situation you all are dealing with out there. Makes me glad I live on the east coast. We have our issues with land but never have I heard of impounding bikes. I hope you all are able to get SDMBA support and advocacy to work for you and reach an agreement on riding locations. Best of luck.

    • ljsmith says:

      It has happened in Rock Creek park in Washington DC (federal park land that is off limits to mountain bikes). So it happens on the East Coast also.

  • Bob Martin says:

    Bad situation, Fun Trails, but anyone who didn’t know this might happen needs to get a clue. I moved away from the area 12 years ago and there were issues with the marines taking names and occasionally citing people back then.
    Be part of the solution. Not just the problem.

  • Carl says:

    So maybe if we make our borders Military property we wont have illegals coming across anymore.

  • Catmando says:

    All of this sounds like a real “Cluster ***K”. Yeah, it has a stink to it no doubt about that. I think the officer that ordered and authorized the confiscation of bikes has to be a real douchebag. I see no reason to confiscate bikes unless the whole area was fenced off and people were either jumping the fences or cutting through the fences. Since it seems that the area is not completely closed off I think just the issuing of tickets should of been enough to get everyone’s attention. Anyway, here’s the thing that most people don’t know about entering a property or facility operated by the Feds: The moment you enter federal property you are subject to their rules, regulations.. The laws that pertain to search and detainment are completely different when on federal property. When on federal property you can be searched “at any time”, no questions asked. No doubt they can hold your personal property indefinitely as well if it behooves them to do so. If you wish to fight them legally you don’t go to your local county or state court system. You go through the federal magistrate. The best way to keep from having a legal issue with the feds is to stay out of their ballpark. I know this isn’t what people want to hear but it is what it is. ~~ Anyway, it’s my bet that the DBag that ordered this is getting his a8s chewed out because everyone in the military has an officer over him/her that they have to answer to. The higher ups don’t like hearing about problems with the locals and the bad publicity it brings.

  • Philo says:

    I think these assholes should have to serve a short time in the military if they are repeat offenders. The Marines have to cease their firing practice because dumbass mountain bikers are in the way??!! (I am a mountain biker and ex-military, btw.)

    The Marines are protecting our freedom and now the Marines can’t do their job because of the few morons on bikes. Classic.

  • Chadster says:

    The trails in this area are very confusing and have limited markings, even the legal ones. There is no doubt that some well meaning biker could unintentionally land on military property and not know it. However the area where the bikers were stopped is quite clearly off limits and no doubt all of them had to know this. You don’t find these trails without knowing what you are getting into.

    These guys took a calculated risk and lost. The problem of course is that it’s one thing to get fined, but quite another to have your bike confiscated for some unknown period of time. Even people who get DUI’s can go get their car the next day.

    The real problem is the base is in the middle of a heavily populated metropolitan area. While it’s great that the base commander is worried about someone getting shot from the gun range, I’m more worried about a Jet crashing into my house and killing my family while I”m away at work (look it up).. It’s been long overdue to move this base to a new location. This is just the latest of many examples why.

  • krelldog says:

    These bikers are very lucky. In North Korea they will be shot dead on spot.

  • Catmando says:

    What might be a good idea; Perhaps when the people who had their bikes confiscated go to pick up their bikes that they also be required to view the potential danger ( If there is indeed such a danger ) over by the firing range. I would think that the marines could arrange to have someone ride a bike on the trails closest to the firing range so the civilians could see what they are indeed dealing with. Now if they are unwilling to do that then perhaps the whole thing is indeed “BS”. The way I look at it; “We don’t need someone getting shot and creating another, “Kent State” debacle”. Whatever, the area around the firing range should be properly secured.

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