How to choose which grade of Mountain Bike Trail to ride? Most Mountain Bike Trail centres apply a grade system to their trails and, although they can be a useful guide, they aren't always consistent from one centre to the next.

If you're new to an area or trail centre, please take a look at the their grade system and any terrain you are unsure about to give you an idea of what the trails are like.

Singletrack trail grades

Grade - Easy Easy Beginners in good health with basic bike skills.
Grade Moderate Moderate Riders in good health with basic off-road riding skills.
Grade - Difficult Difficult Proficient mountain bikers with good off-road riding skills & fitness.
Grade - Severe Severe Expert mountain bikers with high level of fitness.

These are a general indication of difficulty - there are easier and more tricky options available within each grade.

Non-singletrack trail grades

Grade - Bikepark Bike Park Extreme level riders with expert technical skills & good fitness. Technical bike skills important. Jumping ability obligatory.

The Grades Explained

  • Green grade trails are suitable for: beginners or novice cyclists.
  • Bike required: most bikes and mountain bike hybrids are suitable.
  • Skills needed: basic bike skills are required for this grade.
  • Trail and surface types: these will be relatively flat and wide. Trail surface might be loose, uneven or muddy at times. Might include short flowing singletrack-style sections. Some green routes can take trailers.
  • Gradients and technical trail features: climbs and descents are mostly shallow. No challenging features.
  • Suggested fitness level: suitable for most people in good health.
  • Blue grade trails are suitable for: intermediate cyclists or mountain bikers with basic off-road riding skills.
  • Bike required: basic mountain bike or mountain bike hybrid.
  • Skills needed: basic off-road riding skills to cope with uneven surfaces and small obstacles.
  • Trail and surface types: as for 'green', plus specially constructed singletrack trails. Trail surface might include small obstacles of root and rock.
  • Gradients and technical trail features: most gradients are moderate but might include short steep sections. Includes small technical trail features (such as roots and rock).
  • Suggested fitness level: a good standard of fitness can help.
  • Red grade trails are suitable for: proficient mountain bikers with good off-roading skills.
  • Bike required: quality off-road mountain bikes.
  • Skills needed: good off-roading skills and techniques to cope with technical trail features.
  • Trail and surface types: steeper and tougher, mostly singletrack with technical sections. Expect very variable surface types.
  • Gradients or technical trail features: a wide range of climbs and descents of a challenging nature will be present. Expect boardwalks, berms, large rocks, medium steps, drop-offs, cambers and water crossings.
  • Suggested fitness level: a higher level of fitness and stamina is required.
  • Black grade trails are suitable for: expert mountain bike users, used to physically demanding routes.
  • Bike required: a good quality off-road mountain bike is needed.
  • Skills needed: advanced level off-roading skills and technical ability.
  • Trail and surface types: as for 'red', but with an expectation of greater challenge and continuous difficulty. Can include any useable trail and might include exposed open hill sections.
  • Gradients or technical trail features: expect large, committing and unavoidable technical trail features. Sections will be challenging and variable. Might also have 'downhill' style sections.
  • Suggested fitness level: suitable for very active people used to prolonged effort.
  • Bike parks are suitable for: riders aspiring to an elite level of technical ability; incorporates everything from full on downhill riding to 'big air' jumps.
  • Trail and surface types: severe constructed trails and/or natural features. All sections will be challenging. Includes extreme levels of exposure or risk. Jumping ability obligatory.
  • Gradients or technical trail features: will include a range of small, medium and large technical trail features, including downhill trails, freeride sections and mandatory jumps.
  • Suggested fitness level: a good standard of fitness is recommended but technical skills are more important.

Mountain biking is a potentially hazardous activity carrying a significant risk. It should only be undertaken with a full understanding of all inherent risks. These guidelines must always be used in conjunction with the exercise of your own experience, intuition and careful judgment.