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  1. #1
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    Trail Guide/difficulty ratings

    Anyone know of some good difficulty rating guides for trails? I went out with my 20 yr old son and we were on some that were WAY too tough for me.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Nope.

    To expand on my "nope," nobody does anything on an international or even national level. You don't say what country you're in.

    On regional and local levels, sometimes there are resources, with varying degrees of usefulness.

    I like to talk about myself, so to take my region as an example, there's a club that maintains a wiki discussing most of the western half of my state, though it focuses more on trails closer to Seattle. It's a wiki, so content is user generated and subjective. It also doesn't distinguish between technical in an old-school rocks and roots sense and a new-school man-built features sense. However, I don't think I've ridden something that was rated with five stars and thought "that was easy" and vice versa.

    There's a guide book available, but it's somewhat out of date.

    My local trail network is maintained by a smaller, local club that publishes a map every couple years. They distinguish one-way downhill singletrack with features from everything else. Though they don't distinguish between a downhill trail with a couple little kickers and a freeride trail with a bunch of skinny, elevated woodwork.

    I do think knowing the amount of elevation change gives me some insight. The fewer topo lines a trail crosses, the easier I expect it to be - steep grades can be difficult on their own, and they make most obstacles more difficult to negotiate too.

    Points being, look for local knowledge (try your regional forum and your LBS) and don't go barreling around corners faster than you can see or stop.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
    T.W.O.
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    Nope, just like what Andrew said.

    Check out your local forum on this site, ask for the recommendation. Another good source are your Local Bike Shops, LBS, and ask them if they can recommend some beginner's friendly trails in your area.

    YouTube is also another good source, however, when you watch the vid multiply the difficulty by 2-3 times for a few reasons.

    One, the riders who post the vids are usually experienced and have some good riding skill. They make it looks too easy sometimes.

    Two, you can't really get the sense of steepness and roughness of the tech sections on a 2D vids. I saw the bikeskills "Rock garden" on youtube, I thought it's doable, heck it looks pretty easy as I figure I don't have to go as fast as Brian Lopes. Few months later I took a bike clinic with bike skills, one that taken place on the same "Rock Garden", first time I walked down that section, I almost crap my pants.

    When you talk to people take into consideration that most riders pad the experience in either directions. If it's challenging but I can do it, then it's easy, piece of cake right, just make you look good. I hear that all the time especially when it comes to climbing. Sometime you just get the over protective type that everything is hard, use your judgement, I guess

  4. #4
    Hi There!
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    I can't give as good an answer as the two above, but I will tell you that I can go to two different trails near my house and the stuff that one trail says is black diamond would be rated intermediate at most on the other trail. It's a shame that there can't be a better way to standardize the ratings, but I just don't think that would be possible.
    NTFTC

  5. #5
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    Here is a fairly general explanation of why ratings are not very consistent from place to place, and some guidelines on how to improve that consistency.

    Trail Difficulty Ratings and Signs | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    Keep in mind that unless all of the land managers in an area are cooperative, it's very likely that someone will invent their own idea of a trail rating system that differs from what you might find on another property, even one fairly nearby. Where I live, folks have been trying to get ratings developed according to the chart on this page. For the newer trails, this is working well. Many of the older trails don't have any rating officially assigned at all.

  6. #6
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    Thanks everyone. Makes sense that ratings could be misleading. I have met with a local group, and I'm sure they can help. I know a few beginner trails I can stick in the meantime.

  7. #7
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    I think you are located in MD.

    Here is a local Frederick, MD LBSs website with some guidance on where to ride. I found a website that listed trail difficulty, such as the ones in Patapsco, which I think is near you in Ellicott City.

    The Bicycle Escape Where to Ride

  8. #8
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    It's the same issue with snowboarding/skiing. I'll go down double black diamonds all day at one mountain, and at another I'd be risking almost certain death. For that matter, one hill may be a black because it's really steep, while another that is not as steep is still a black because it's narrower and has more obstacles to avoid. So, which one is harder? Depends on the person. On a snowboard, the faster I'm going, the happier I am. On a mountain bike, I'm more confident on a rockier trail that's not as steep, because speed still scares me a little (gotta work on that riding loose part, and rocks hurt more than snow).

    In other words, I never trust the rating system anyway. I just take it slow the first time down and I'm not too proud to get off my bike and walk if I get myself in over my head (which happens more often than I'd like to admit).

  9. #9
    Rock n' Roller
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    Locals know best. Whenever I am riding in a new place, I make a point to stop by the local bike shop and have a detailed (and honest) conversation about the trails in the area. I don't really focus on the trail ratings as much; I'm not looking for trails that I can do, but trails that I can really enjoy.

    When people come into CB and ask me what trails they should ride, I ask first, what they like to ride. Do you like flowy, wide single track? Technical rocks and roots? Hard climbs? Root drops? Do you like quick loops or long, epic rides that really get you out there? What's more important - the trail itself or the views and places that the trail will take you?

    Rather than asking about difficulty levels and what you can actually get down...try to narrow down what type of features you want to ride and what trails will be the most fun for you and yours.

    For example, Strand is one of my favorite rides. It has an intense but do-able climb that always makes me feel like superwoman, flowly single track through thick woods, a few steep root drops that let you soar, and one techy move that again, makes me feel like a goddess when I clean it. It's rated a blue and yes, an intermediate rider could ride the trail, but you really need upper intermediate to advanced skills to enjoy the trail and have fun on it. If someone comes up to me and says, what's the best quick ride in the area for an intermediate rider, I say Strand - because I love it so. But if they say, what's the best ride in the area? Oh, and I'm not a big fan of lung busting climbs and I'm not that good at drops or roots. That's one of the last trails I'll recommend.

    So, in short, don't trust the trail rating system. Talk to someone who rides it. Ask what features the trail has and see if those features match the trail you want to ride. And remember, walking is just another way of getting down.

  10. #10
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    @Hammie - you got me. I'm near Patapsco and plan to keep tooling around there on the trails. I know some which are easier and will keep trying some of the ones that are tougher for me. I'll eventually end up walking less

  11. #11
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    Trail Guide/difficulty ratings

    Quote Originally Posted by hitnkickn View Post
    @Hammie - you got me. I'm near Patapsco and plan to keep tooling around there on the trails. I know some which are easier and will keep trying some of the ones that are tougher for me. I'll eventually end up walking less
    Here is the site that I was thinking of before.

    http://gpstrailsource.com/parks/by-location/maryland/

    Good luck!

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
    2013 Trek Marlin (Black)

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