Trail Grading

UK MTB trails use colour codes to tell you what to expect. The colours are based on those used for cross-country skiing routes. The table below shows you what the colours mean for UK mountain-bikers.

GRADE Easy Moderate Difficult Severe
SUITABLE FOR Novice cyclists and families.
Children 4+yrs riding solo.Bikes with childseats or trailers.
Touring bikes.
Bikes for those with disabilities.
Occasional cyclists with some experience of road use or easy trails.
Reasonably fit families.
Children 10+ yrs riding solo.Suitable for mountain bikes, hybrids or robust touring bikes.
Regular cyclists with experience of moderate trails.Suitable for offroad quality mountain bikes. Expert mountain bikers who will expect and relish technical challenges.Suitable for offroad quality mountain bikes.
TRAIL TYPES Railtrails, towpaths, reservoir trails, estate or forestry tracks.
Traffic quietened roads, and those regulated by bylaws or other restrictions.
As “Green” plus bridleways, byways and unsurfaced unclassified roads.
Lightly trafficked lanes.
Any usable trail with pushing or portage unlikely to exceed 2% of total distance. Any, but with the expectation of technical riding which could include unforgiving terrain, severe climbs and descents, or considerable distances. Unlikely to be appropriate on PRoW.
GRADIENT Shallow climbs and descents capable of being ridden by children and less active adults. Shallow / moderate climbs +/- short sections of steeper climbs which may have to be walked. A wide range of climbs and descents of a challenging nature. Any ridable or usable gradient. May include “drop offs”.
SURFACE / WIDTH Blacktop or compacted limestone or gravel. Essentially smooth with a minimum content of loose surfaces. Normal width 2 to 3m. Mostly stoned surfaces.
< 10% earth based single track of width <2m.
Widths from 1m, and any usable surface. Likely to include singletrack and other technical sections. Mostly offroad. Expected to include a significant proportion of singletrack, with challenging surfaces.
ACCEPTABLE HAZARDS These trails should carry a very low risk…
Any unavoidable hazards should be identified in promotional literature and through notices at trail headand site of hazard.
Some loose surfaces, ruts, potholes and / or tree roots may be expected. The route should be judged on the basis that a reasonably experienced rider riding within his/her level of skill and prevailing ground conditions, would not be expected to fall. Hazards are expected, as assessed and agreed by an expert user.
Falling off will be expected!
TARGET LENGTH 5 – 20 km 10 – 20km 10 – 50km <1 to 100km including “skills” courses
MAXIMUM CLIMB <50m <100m <500m <1000m
These standards are not intended to be prescriptive, but should be use to provide broad guidance.
Full risk assessments should be made on all trails, following CTC guidelines.
All trails should, where possible, have shortcut options,and these, plus the main trail should be comprehensively and clearly waymarked.
Back up literature should clearly indicate the route, grade, distance, climb, and likely riding time, and this information should be reinforced by trailhead notices.
Where designated routes embrace a combination of grades, these should be expressed as percentages, e.g. 10% Green, 60% Blue, 30% Red.
Information should be provided to give the combination of trail grades likely to be encountered on permanent Trailquest courses.