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Gavin Richardson - January 28 2024

Unraveling the MTB Trail Grading System: Choosing the Right Adventure for Your Ride

Not all trails are created equal. Whether you're a beginner looking for a leisurely ride or an expert seeking a challenge, understanding the trail grading system is crucial. Let's delve into the world of MTB trail grades and explore the factors that determine each difficulty level.

Although these are the official grade systems, from personal experience they are just a guide. One trail centres red may be very different to the red of a bike park like DYFI.

Always pre ride the trails first and scope out any features, re ride it, now you know it hit it hard! and enjoy!

Exploring the Basics of MTB Trail Grading

Mountain biking trail grades serve as a universal language for riders to assess the difficulty of a trail.

For UK riders the existing system, prominently used by Forestry and Land Scotland, categorizes trails into Green (Easy), Blue (Moderate), Red (Difficult), Black (Severe), and Orange (Extreme). Each grade is tailored to specific skill sets and biking capabilities.

You may not see this as often now, as the grading system was updated to Green (Easy), Blue (Moderate), Red (Difficult), Single Black (Severe), and Double Black (Extreme).

Dyfi-bike-park-super-swooper-red.jpeg__PID:d88c9dbd-c796-43ea-832f-0b46f14467a6

A typical section of a Red Trail at DYFI bikepark

Deciphering Trail Colours: What Each Signifies

Understanding the colour-coded difficulty levels is crucial for selecting the right trail for your skill.

In the UK I would look at it like this.

Green - Beginner trail, no features (Jumps, Drops, Rocks etc) suitable for anyone that can ride a bike.

Blue - Intermediate, flowy trails, some small features like rocks and roots. Suitable for people dipping their toes into the world of mountain biking.

Red - Proficient riders only. Steeper trails with more features. Possible small/medium steps/drops. Could include small table jumps, berms are a must! Everything will likely be rollable. Its time to move fast.

Black - You will need a quality bike for these trails and some expert skills. Expect steep downhills, varying terrain unavoidable drops, rock rolls and gap jumps.

Double Black -  Consider yourself a pro level rider? Expect everything from a black but harder. Bigger jumps so jumping skill is a must, steeper downhill sections with corners etc thrown into the mix. Demanding trails for any rider.

Triple Black - Ridiculously steep, off camber, crazy moon booter jumps and very challenging at every section. Only take this on if you are and expert.

Dyfi bike park insta 360 single black

What to expect from a Single Black at DYFI bikepark

Trail Grading from Across the Globe

MTB Trail Grading System - British Cycling

The British Cycling MTB Trail Grading System emphasizes the suitability of trails based on cyclist proficiency. From Blue - Moderate for intermediate riders to Black - Expert mountain bike users, used to physically demanding routes. Quality off-road mountain bikes. 

Although this is the British Cycling grading system, I would suggest from personal experience the Forestry and Land Scotland's grading is more accurate for most UK riding.

Green trail icon easy
Blue trail icon moderate
Red trail grade symbol difficult
Black trail grade symbol severe
double black trail grade symbol extreme

Mountain biking trail grades - Forestry and Land Scotland

Forestry and Land Scotland introduces a new grading system, including Green, Blue, Red, Black, and Double-black categories. Expect everything from smooth, wide trails to extreme descents requiring expert skills.

Tirol's Difficulty Rating System for Mountainbike Trails

Tirol's meticulous trail rating considers width, surface, gradient, and technical features. Easy, moderate, and difficult trails cater to riders of varying skill levels, ensuring a comprehensive experience.

Gran Canaria Mountain Bike's Mtb Trail Difficulty Rating System

Gran Canaria Mountain Bike adopts the Single Trail Scale, categorizing trails into easy, medium, and difficult. Colour-coded identification simplifies the assessment of expected difficulty levels.

Gran canary mtb trail difficulty rating

International Mountain Bicycling Association's Trail Difficulty Rating System

The IMBA Trail Difficulty Rating System, a global standard but predominantly USA, provides a basic yet effective method to assess the technical difficulty of trails. It serves as a valuable resource for riders seeking accurate trail information.

IMBA Trail Difficulty Rating System

What do the different difficulty colours in mtb trails mean - Reddit

Reddit's MTB community breaks down the colours, This insight from fellow riders adds a practical perspective to the grading system and their versions of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What factors determine the difficulty of MTB trails?

 A1: MTB trail difficulty is typically determined by factors like surface features, gradient, trail width, natural obstacles, and technical features.

Q2: How should riders interpret the colour-coded grading system?

A2: Colors represent different difficulty levels, with Blue being moderate and suitable for intermediate riders, while Black and Orange signify severe and extreme challenges.

Q3: Can beginners find suitable trails?

A3: Absolutely. Trails labeled Green or Easy are designed for beginners with basic bike skills, offering a great starting point for those new to mountain biking.

What to expect from a Triple Black at DYFI bikepark

Conclusion

Embarking on a mountain biking adventure requires a thorough understanding of trail grading systems.

From the classic Green to the challenging Double Black, each trail grade offers a unique experience.

Riders should choose trails aligned with their skill levels, ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride. One persons idea of fun is another persons idea of craziness. So ride what you enjoy.

Remember - Pre-Ride, Re-Ride, Freeride. 

MEET THE AUTHOR

GAVIN RICHARDSON

Some say Gavin invented the wheel. They are lying of course, but he does build a mean set.
Chief of Cykel House, aging rider and father of 3. Gavin has been riding the majority of his life in multiple different forms. He created Cykel House out of passion and enthusiasm for the sport which cannot be matched.
Always on the hunt for the best products and latest trends his finger is right on the pulse.

Interesting fact - Gavin won a handwriting competition at age 7. What a legend.
Likes - A well built berm, beer and raw sprouts
Dislikes - Stainburn woods, headset cable routing and lycra

Gavin working on a bike