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  1. #1
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    Have trail ratings made things better or worse?

    Maybe it's the fact that I have yet to ride a trail I thought was over my head, or maybe I'm just not a *****, but it seems like trail ratings have been a bad thing. I'm not talking the lift served gravity riding at ski resorts, I'm okay with rating them. I mean for average XC trails.

    I over hear talk all the time about how someone won't ride this or that trail because it's rated expert. I hear it in the shop when I'm working, I hear from my riding buddies who are new to riding. I see it on the internet. It's just annoying. How does anyone know they can't ride something if they don't try and how will they ever get better if they don't try?

    Sometimes I wish I could drag my new riding buddies back to the root and rock infest trail I cut my riding teeth on so they can see where I started riding as a complete newb. Myabe then they'd stop making excuses as to why they can't go to the more technical trails.

    If something was too hard, I walked, but only after trying and failing. Sometimes I tried the same section over and over again. Some days I tried once and moved on but would try again next time I rode. I got better because I tried.

    I feel like rating trails makes new riders less likely to explore and progress. Just give the a map and let them loose. Why discourage them from trails because someone gave them and arbitrary rating?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    It's all subjective. What looks like an easy trail to one, will be a really hard trail to another. Here in Utah, for example, there are a lot of "beginner" XC trails that will be hard for an "expert" from the flatlands. Maybe it's just a way to rate what it's doable without really going all the way there and realizing that you're way over your head...
    With that said, riding a tough trail does help you get better, assuming that you survive ;-)

  3. #3
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    They're probably people who wouldn't ride the stuff anyway, and would prefer the easier stuff, anyway. My wife's like that to some degree. Until she feels confident on something lower level, she won't even think about trying something harder.

    I think ratings are a very good idea. They give people an idea what to expect. If they don't want hard stuff, then they can just avoid the harder stuff altogether. But even for people who do like the hard stuff, they can find ways to link the tough stuff together, or find ways to avoid the easy stuff. It really goes both ways.

    Empowering people to make a choice isn't a bad thing.

  4. #4
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    Way to subjective...

    A good description is all that is required.

    For example 43 km 2000 ft climbing 2 to 5 hours...

  5. #5
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    Being a flatlander myself, it's not really the difficulty of the trail but the altitude that gets me when I head out west.

    In regards to what is hard to one is easy to another, how did the experience riders get to the point where things seem easy? My guess is they spent time on stuff that was hard for them and progressed to the point where it was easy.

  6. #6
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    If someone won't try a trail just because of its rating, they deserve to miss out due to their own stupidity. Haven't you heard, its everyone else's responsibility to make sure you make the right decisions. What if somebody accidentally stumbled onto it without knowing it was hard? God forbid they try and fail, then they may have to sue the landowner.

  7. #7
    Back at it
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    I think worse, when I started riding XC in the mid 90s I just went and rode whatever even as a beginner. There were def trails over my head but that's how I got to be a better rider. My wife came out for her first XC ride about a month ago and was hesitant to ride the "advanced" loop, after some encouragement she hammered it and only had to walk one hill
    Research | Build | Ride

  8. #8
    Off the back...
    Reputation: pinkrobe's Avatar
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    I'm okay with XC trail ratings, as long as there is an actual definition posted somewhere. For example:
    Green - trail width ~5', tread width ~3', max grade 10%, obstacles up to 6" high with ride-arounds
    Blue - trail width ~4', tread width ~1', max grade 20%, obstacles up to 12" high with some ride-arounds, some wooden structures within 1' of ground level
    Black - trail width variable, tread width variable, max grade in excess of 25%, obstacles in excess of 12" high with few ride-arounds, wooden structures within 3' of ground level
    HC - use at your own risk, notify next-of-kin, active zombie and werewolf population, some poison ivy

    What I don't like is when trails are rated, but you have no way of knowing what the rating means. Is a ride technically challenging? Aerobically challenging? Both? As speedmetal said, ratings are very subjective. What might be intermediate in Pisgah might not be intermediate in Tahoe. Stacked-loop systems can help by directing riders through easy terrain in order to get to more difficult trails. Gateways ["you must be this gnar to ride this trail" tests] may also keep the less-adventuresome off the more challenging stuff.

  9. #9
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    On an urban trail system with a lot of traffic, I expect some signage, especially indications of obstacles and go-arounds. A topo map at the trailhead and/or at intersections gives me all the info about climbs/descents I'd need.

    On a remote trail, I expect to be more cautious about what's ahead and I don't expect any signs. Most remote trails I've done don't even have blazes on the trees so getting lost is a real possibility.

  10. #10
    Space Ghost
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    What do the trail ratings matter. To some (the OP) they are irrelevant. He will try whatever, and good for him. To others, who may be more cautious, they may get intimidated and not bother trying. So what! Keep the ratings for those that will heed, because the rest will ignore. Do your own ride and be done with it. If you don't like your riding partners lack of guts or their kamikaze nature ...then find new riding partners. It isn't that difficult. I personally like trail ratings, but don't like the lack of continuity. Depending on what park I go to, the "very difficult" trail might be covered in roots or may have very rocky, rooty, techy climbs and drops.
    "No good deed goes unpunished"

  11. #11
    S&G CREW
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    All i need is a description of the trail if riding something new trail rating are good i guess but some of the fun is finding out for yourself.

  12. #12
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    I haven't really found the rating system all that helpful. Is it considered intermediate because it's 9 miles long and not a loop (18 total miles being considered too much for a beginner)? Is it intermediate because it includes steep climbing (again, fitness level not skill)? Or because it has steep descents that most beginners don't have the speed and braking control to handle? Or because it has multiple dicey creek crossings? Rock piles? Roots half the size of the tree trunks they're supporting? Or (my personal favorite ) rock piles and roots leading steeply down to and then out of multiple dicey creek crossings? A steep rocky downhill for the first mile and a half and then all fast and flowy for the next 5? Some of that stuff I can ride some of it I can't. Some of it I would be willing to walk through and some of it I'd be willing to at least try.

    I have found mountain bike forums and trail descriptions extremely helpful, though. I can usually dig up some kind of descriptive information with a good search and whatever I don't find that way, well, I can always just ask.

    The problem with the rating system (as I see it) is that it just doesn't tell you anything all that useful. You still have to go digging, so what's the point? It would be more helpful to have some kind of feature rating such as steepness, length, technical features, etc. included for each trail.

    Give me some information I can actually use.
    I'm enjoying my childhood way too much to ever give it up.

  13. #13
    GOT ME A 29ER!!!
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    I'm 14, technically a beginer and go down black trails without thinking twice about it, as long as you are careful and go around obstacles that are way out of your league, you may have to walk some parts and may wipe out a bit but that is how I hope to get better. As to signs none of the trails near my home have them, I live in SW BC so there is a huge trail network and I have a map with ratings on it but it is usually wrong. I find I have the most fun when I'm out with my buddies, completely lost somewhere ontop of a mountain and I end up on some crazy DH trail. I think you should judge a trail by riding it, not from a colour on a map/sign.

  14. #14
    Retro on Steroids
    Reputation: Repack Rider's Avatar
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    What's a trail rating?
    It don't mean a feng if it ain't got that
    shui.

  15. #15
    NONDURO
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    Quote Originally Posted by Repack Rider
    What's a trail rating?
    Itís for riders with skinny legs.
    QUOTE from MTBR.COM: You have given out too much Reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later.

  16. #16
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    The trail ratings are very subjective and don't provide enough info anyway. There is a trail here in El Paso that splits into blue in one direction and green in the other.

    The blue is actually just a fire road-singletrack type deal, but is a somewhat difficult climb. Many people walk this trail at the end because their legs run out of steam. There aren't really any difficult obstacles though. It's just an old jeep road basically.

    The green doesn't have as much elevation change but is actually more technical in some sections (bumpy, switchbacks, all singletrack...you have to be alert).

    It threw me off as a beginner but now I kinda know better.

  17. #17
    "Oldfart from Wayback"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Repack Rider
    What's a trail rating?
    +2

    Half the trails I ride are rarely rididn by MTB'rs let alone listed in a "guidebook" or rated.

  18. #18
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    As stated, it's completely subjective. More importantly though, it's completely subjective by location.

    For example, my local trail in Connecticut (Mianus River Park) is just as difficult as a "technical" advanced trail in Georgia (...say, South Loop at Blankets Creek). Ask most Connecticut riders and they'd say that Mianus is a beginner/intermediate trail.

    Trail ratings can be useful, but nothing will be as accurate as actually riding it.

  19. #19
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    I thought that there were only two trail ratings ... illegal and that other type.

    Those double black diamonds stuck on wooden poles out in the sticks, they aren't back country bus stops? ... cool!

    That is good to now know, because I was thinking that I keep missing the bus. This is a good thread. Now I know, I'll get a few things sorted. I had better buy a bike and ride into town. I was getting pissed-off waiting for the bus that never came.

    Warren.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Wassa
    Those double black diamonds stuck on wooden poles out in the sticks, they aren't back country bus stops? ... cool!

    Warren.

    I love this ^^ !

    That pretty much sums up their usefulness.
    I'm enjoying my childhood way too much to ever give it up.

  21. #21
    ouch....
    Reputation: Shark's Avatar
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    An accurate description is the best info.i enjoy seeing new trails, even if they might be over my head, that is what walking is for.
    Riding.....

  22. #22
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    Better. I would think if a trail is rated expert the people who ride it are more likely to be able to clean it and therefore less cheater lines and less "fixing of trail features so I can ride it" being done by people who can't ride the trail sections.

    I hate it when my trails get dumbed down and so should you. It's not that hard to walk something and you won't make anybody mad at you by doing it.

    Remember: That section you can't ride may be someone's favourite section of the trail. Don't spoil it for them.

  23. #23
    Bike to the Bone...
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    I do think it would be good to know the level of a trail if you don't know it. While I don't mind walking some sections, I feel frustrated if I feel I'm walking 50% of the time (even if it's less).

    But, I really think it's very hard to rate a trail. What's easy for some it's hard for others. To me, saying that trail 'x' has this elevation for this many miles is not too meaningfull (for some they visualize that easier), but maybe saying 'trail 'x' has a huge uphill that might take 1 hour to pedal...if you're fast and fit' would be more meaningfull, but, how to know if it's 1 hour, 30 minutes or 2 hours for somebody?

    Also, I really think that group rides are very hard since it's even harder to rate them. Unless you know every rider on the group, it's pretty easy that some riders that say 'I'm kind of slow, I have been biking for 1 month' might be at the front the whole time, and some saying 'I'm an expert' will slow the whole group for the whole ride. Maybe some of the most dangerous ones are 'he/she's able to do spinning classes for 2 whole hours, this ride should be a piece of cake..', and then having the group stopping every half a mile for him/her to walk to where the group is.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwnhlldav
    I feel like rating trails makes new riders less likely to explore and progress. Just give the a map and let them loose. Why discourage them from trails because someone gave them and arbitrary rating?
    Personally I'm down with rating trails. For my area I did a rating system based on technical & physical difficulty. For example, trails that aren't that physically demanding, but technically difficult would be rated green and black. The trails here were being braided by riders that couldn't ride the techy moves, so they would create a new routes around the feature. This led to the sustainable route, being the rock, to be braided by a dirt route that eventually eroded.
    This rating system was only on a map, so if you didn't have the map, you didn't know the difficulty of the trails.

    The BLM is currently working on adding a trail rating system to this area and is endorsing closing the braided routes created by riders in over their heads. I know some people won't be happy about it, but preserving the nature of the trail is the intent. Like ski areas, trails rating should be based on the area, it's more specific, so you'll find a green here is not a green everywhere, but it's relative.
    Last edited by gunnirider; 05-19-2011 at 07:34 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwnhlldav
    I feel like rating trails makes new riders less likely to explore and progress. Just give the a map and let them loose. Why discourage them from trails because someone gave them an arbitrary rating? Thoughts?
    Let's see:
    To
    avoid a miserable time
    avoid injury (possibly leading to a need for rescue)
    avoid the chance of being turned off mountain biking forever because they were overwhelmed and discouraged by their first experiences on a bike
    avoid being stranded on a trail after dark because they had to walk most of it

    Congratulations on your extremely adventurous & resilient spirit; you are stimulated by challenge and that is the approach that works for you.

    I like multiple, good descriptions and separate ratings for technical and fitness. Use them as guidelines and then decide.

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