Mountain bike trail grades

How is the route assessed?
Mountain biking on trails

What is the MTB trail grading system?

The trail grading system is to the mountain biker what the UIAA scale is to the climber and the SAC alpine scale is to the mountaineer. It has been developed by ambitious bike sportsmen and provides information about how demanding a trail passage is. This way you can perfectly adapt to the conditions even before the tour, which ultimately benefits driving pleasure. This MTB scale is an important reference, which is also recognised by official associations.

What is a mountain bike trail?

As the common name "single track" already suggests, a mtb trail is a path that cannot be used in pairs. A good example is a classic narrow mountain path, which is also used by trail runners or hikers. Which bike you ride on the trail is accordingly quite clear. The best way to get ahead is with mountain bikes, which, depending on the difficulty, only have to be equipped with a suspension fork or have full suspension.

The levels of the single track scale

Divided into six difficulty levels (S0 to S5), the scale is based on the technical challenge of a path. To ensure that this happens consistently, ideal conditions are always assumed, i.e. driving in good light and dry ground. The level of difficulty, weather, speed and the light conditions cannot be considered due to the high variability. The demand can therefore quickly shift if the conditions aren’t perfect, which is why the scale is also open upwards.

S0 - very easy:
The easiest trail type is characterised by light to moderate gradient, non-slip ground and gentle bends. To accomplish this trail there are no special demands on the driving technique.
S1 - easy:
Here, you can anticipate smaller obstacles, such as roots or stones. Partly unstable ground and bends become narrower, but without sharp bends. The maximum gradient here is 40%.
S2 - medium:
The level of difficulty increases and large stones and roots are to be expected. Rarely solid ground under the wheels and there are flat steps or stairs. Tight bends will also be regularly driven and the steepness can be up to 70%.
S3 - difficult:
In this category, you’re moving on blocked terrain with large boulders or long roots. Sharp bends and steep slopes and you must often anticipate loose ground. Regular gradients of 70% are available.
S4 - very difficult:
It is steep and obstructed. Long, challenging paths with roots and large boulders must be overcome and loose rubble is part of the daily agenda. Sharp bends and steep gradients place special demands on the driving technique and there are steps for which the chain ring is used.
S5 - extremely difficult:
The upper end of the scale is characterised by heavily obstructed terrain, loose ground with rubble, narrow sharp bends and high obstacles, such as fallen trees - of course, including steep gradients. There is little braking distance and the MTB technique is put to the test.

The trail scale is a very good tool for foreign bikers to assess the difficulty of the trails to be travelled on. The technical demands at racing events can also be better assessed with this system.

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