Mountain bike trail difficulty rating system
Apart from skills parks and trail filters or qualifiers, effective trail rating system will significantly contribute to:
- Managing risks and reducing the injuries
- Providing crucial information regarding trails to visitors
- Providing better user experience
- Encouraging step by step progression
It would be beneficial for everyone and specially trail users to develop uniform system for trail rating at least in the wider European area.
Regardless of the confusion caused by different trail rating systems, in our opinion, the most advanced trail rating system has been developed by International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), which provides accurate classification of trails according to the:
- Treadth width
- Treadth surface
- Maximum and avarage trail grade
- Natural obstacles and technical trail features.
- Easiest (white circle)
- Easy (green circle)
- More difficult (blue square)
- Very difficult ( black diamond)
- Extremely difficult (double black diamond)
As no trail rating is completely objective, the rating should not be rigorously based on trail systems, but should be rated relative to other trails in the region and based on personal experiences, common sense and input of trail visitors, who will provide valuable feedback on the accuracy of your rating. For example the trail often seems to be more difficult for some users because of psychological challenges based on terrain along the trail. Trail rating should consider only the technical difficulty of the trails, however physical exertion of the trails can be shown through trail length and elevation. Individual judgment is also required as trails do not always fit into one category by all parameters and it has to be decided which parameters will prevail.
Trail ratings are useless unless the difficulty of each trail is properly and adequately marked along the trail and also displayed on the maps of trail systems so that the users can plan ahead and are encouraged to choose the trails that match their skills. Apart from the signage of the trail rating, the features on trails such as drop, jumps, etc. and optional lines should also be marked to inform the users about the upcoming obstacles.
Efficient trail rating will provide information which will encourage the users to use the trails that match their skills. This will make all users more satisfied as they will be directed to the trails where they will feel comfortable and will not cause distractions to more advanced and faster users. And as you know satisfied users will return more often and would spent more money!