Mountain biking trail grades
Are you visiting one of our mountain biking trail centres and not sure where to start? Find the correct trail grade for your abilities using our guide below.
If you're new to off-road cycling or have a young family in tow, give our green trails a try! Been cycling for years and want to get stuck in to a thrilling dash through the forest? Then you may fancy heading straight to a blue. If your handling skills and fitness are up to it, progress on to a difficult red. And if you've been doing this for years already, dare you take on the challenge of a black trail?
Our mountain biking trail grades explained
Green grade trails are suitable for almost every type of cyclist and almost every type of bike. They will be relatively flat, wide and smooth.
Suitable for: Beginners or novice cyclists.
Bike required: Most bikes and mountain bike hybrids are suitable.
Skills needed: Basic bike skills.
Trail and surface types: 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 great fun for anyone who wants to experience the thrill of rough, off-road cycling! You might encounter some roots, small rocks or short, steep slopes, but nothing that a basic mountain bike with wide, knobbly tyres can't handle.
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: Much of a blue trail can be the same as a green trail. However, you will likely encounter sections of narrow singletrack trail and rough, bumpy surfaces.
Gradients and technical trail features: Most gradients are moderate but might include short steep sections. Keep an eye out for small technical trail features such as tree roots and rock.
Suggested fitness level: A good standard of fitness can help.
Feel you've got to grips with blue trails and want to test your skills going up steep climbs and down drop-offs? Red trails are for fit, proficient mountain bikers. A good mountain bike with front suspension will make all the difference here!
Suitable for: Proficient mountain bikers with good off-roading skills.
Bike required: Proper off-road mountain bikes only - wide, knobbly tyres are a must.
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. Expect boardwalks, berms, large rocks, medium steps, drop-offs, cambers and water crossings.
Suggested fitness level: A high level of fitness and stamina is required.
Trails for the experts. You'll need to have long mastered the red trails before taking on our black trails! These tend to be long and technical, with plenty of unavoidable features to keep fit and experienced riders on their toes.
Suitable for: Expert mountain bike riders, used to physically demanding routes.
Bike required: A good quality, off-road mountain bike is needed. Front suspension is a must!
Skills needed: Advanced off-roading skills and technical ability.
Trail and surface types: Much will be similar to red, but expect 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.
Non-singletrack trail grades
Orange: Extreme - downhill (DH), dirt jumps and freeride areas
Orange graded trails and bike parks aren't a progression from the singletrack trail grades above. They can require a whole different skill set! They can have an extreme level of exposure and risk, requiring expert technical skills - especially the ability to undertake jumps.
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: Includes 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.
Explore our forest road network
Of course, you are also welcome to cycle anywhere on our forest road network, as long as you follow any diversions and safety signage. However, do remember that 'road' doesn't necessarily mean 'cycle-friendly'! Surfaces may be uneven or loose, gradients may be variable or steep, and there might even be forest machinery on-site.
We recommend checking an Ordnance Survey map before you start your cycle. Although do bear in mind that some forest roads may be so new they're not even mapped yet.
However, if you know the forest well, an adventure around our forests can be great fun for the whole family!
Please remember mountain biking is a potentially hazardous activity carrying a significant risk. Please consider your skills and abilities carefully before choosing a trail. And always make sure your equipment - bike and helmet especially - is safe to use.
Enjoy your ride!