You may have heard of people referring to graded mountain biking trails and wondered what this means and what the difference between each grade is.
The last thing you want is to embark on a trail beyond your experience, ability or comfort zone.
Mountain biking grades take into consideration how technical the track is, what hazards are present and the gradient of the track.
It is worth noting that trails are graded to their most difficult section. It is possible to walk around the “crux” and ride the rest, however, this is not always a guarantee!
OK, now that we know what they are, lets describe what each mountain biking grade entails.
This is the easiest grade of riding. It describes flat, wide and smooth tracks or gravel roads.
You should not encounter unexpected trail features or hazards and grade 1 is suitable for all comfortable with riding a bike.
The next step up, grade 2 trails are predominantly flat with some short climbs or descents on a smooth track. All hazards and obstacles, such as rocks or potholes, may be present but are easily avoidable.
This is suitable for proficient bike riders with adequate fitness for the length of grade 2 trail described.
Grade 3 trails are described as intermediate mountain biking trails and are where things start to get a little more technical!
Steep slopes and avoidable obstacles will greet you on a grade 3, corners will start to become sharper and require technique and confidence to comfortably ride. The trail may be quite narrow in places with poor traction, and there may be exposure at the track’s outside edge.
A grade 3 may be a good test for less experienced riders looking to expand their mountain biking experience. Although hazards, such as rocks and drops, may be present throughout the trail, all will be avoidable if preferred.
Grade 4 trails are advanced mountain biking and will include a mixture of long, steep climbs, sharp blind corners and steep descents/drops throughout the trail. This is made more challenging by narrow trails, poor traction and obstacles that may be difficult to avoid and/or jump over.
Grade 4 is recommended for experienced riders who are comfortable on Grade 3s and looking to step up to the next level. Good fitness is required to tackle these tracks.
Many riders may need to walk some sections of a grade 4.
Grade 5 trails are for expert riders with great technical skills. Grade 5 trails include giant climbs, narrow tracks and numerous hazards along the way, including dangerous drop-offs, sharp corners and difficult obstacles. Not all obstacles will be avoidable and instead riders will have to jump, ride over and otherwise navigate the terrain ahead.
Very high fitness is required for this level of riding as riders must be able to react to the changes in gradient before them, adjust for obstacles and move swiftly and reactively.
Riders should expect to inspect portions of grade 5 trails before riding, and walking/bike carrying may be necessary through some parts.
Extreme. grade 6 is the highest rated mountain bike tracks and are the ultimate challenge for elite riders only.
A grade 6 trail will have extremely steep sections, large drops and completely unavoidable obstacles.
It is not uncommon for grade 6 trails to include man-made structures and jumps to add more challenge to the trail.
Grade 6 trails are extremely risky and should only be attempted by those with the sufficient skills and experience to do so.
There is always an element of risk involved in mountain biking, just like with every adventure activity. Riding to the appropriate grade for your skills and experience will help mitigate these risks.
Some of the common hazards we refer to while mountain biking include:
- Uneven Terrain: Mountain bike trails often feature uneven surfaces, including rocks, roots, and ruts, which can cause riders to lose balance and crash.
- Steep Descents: Descending steep hills or mountainsides can be thrilling but also dangerous, especially if the terrain is loose or slippery.
- Obstacles: Trails may include various obstacles such as logs, boulders, and fallen branches that require skill to navigate safely.
- Cliff Edges: Riding close to cliff edges poses a significant risk of falls and serious injury or even death.
- Wildlife: Encounters with wildlife, such as startled deer or snakes, can startle riders and cause accidents.
- Mechanical Failures: Equipment failure, such as a broken chain or malfunctioning brakes, can lead to accidents, especially on rugged terrain.
The bike you are using must be suitable to the trail you are riding. If you are unsure about this, be sure to contact us.
- Fatigue: Long rides or challenging terrain can lead to physical and mental fatigue, affecting a rider’s ability to react quickly and make sound decisions. You should be sufficiently fit for the trail you are riding.
- Overexertion: Pushing beyond one’s limits can lead to exhaustion, dehydration, or heatstroke, particularly in hot weather or at high altitudes.
- Inexperience: Novice riders may lack the skills and confidence to handle technical terrain, increasing their risk of crashes.
- Lack of Protective Gear: Not wearing appropriate safety gear like helmets, gloves, and pads can increase the severity of injuries in case of a fall or collision.
- Medical Conditions: Remote locations and difficult access to emergency services can complicate the response to medical emergencies such as injuries, heart attacks, or allergic reactions. It is imperative we know about all medical conditions our guests have and they carry down all related medication.
We will do everything we can to mitigate these risks and inform you of the environmental risks prior to encountering them so you can prepare appropriately.
To mitigate these risks, we must know all the appropriate information to take you on or recommend appropriate trails for your skill level, fitness and equipment.
It is always worth remembering, if you are ever unsure on your bike, there is nothing wrong with walking around a section you are uncomfortable with.