Question about trail difficulty signs and trail technical features (TTF)- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Question about trail difficulty signs and trail technical features (TTF)

    For some reason I was not able to embed the trail difficulty chart; it's also on: https://www.imbacanada.com/resources...iculty-ratings

    trail_difficulty_2.jpg

    I have not done a closed circuit course yet, and have seen a grand total of one downhill black diamond sign so far out there (it had jumps on the side of the trail so I don't think that really counts as hard).

    Just to be clear: a technical trail feature usually means a jump or drop, correct?

    This trail difficulty chart is Canadian, but I'm a bit confused as to how they classify the blue square between the green and black. Looks like I can do the green and most of the blue trails with no problem now, but why would they have the easy green trails with no technical features, and the next level blue with jumps/drops up to 2 feet? That's a big difference! Green = 0 foot drop, blue = up to 2 foot drop? Where is the 1 foot drop? And jumps & drops are different; it's not to hard to do a 2 foot jump but it is much harder, especially on a shorter-travel hardtail, to do a 2 foot drop. Doesn't seem like the best terminology or definitions. In other words I can do some blue trails with no issues but I can't ride down others at all w/o getting off the bike.

    When they talk about unavoidable obstacles, they mean ones sticking vertically up from the trail, like rocks, & roots, correct? Because it seems like they do a pretty good job of defining those: green is 2 inches or less, blue is 8 inches or less, black is 15 inches or less, double black 15 inches or more. I wish they would do the same stepped grading for drops that they do for obstacles, it would make the rating system a lot better.


    I'll give two examples of how my favorite trails would be mixed signs:

    1.
    Trail width varies between 12" to 72" (white, green, blue, black)
    Average trail grade 6% (blue)
    Natural Obstacles and TTF's 2 to 8 inches tall (blue)
    I assume this is a blue track?

    2.
    Trail width varies between less than 12" to up to 36" (double black, black, blue)
    Average trail grade 4% (white or green)
    Natural Obstacles and TTF's 2 to 8 inches tall (blue)
    This is all over the place for sign rating, what would you rate it as?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    testing to see if this .jpg is readable

    trail_difficulty_2.jpg



    There is a sub forum for that;

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    For some reason I was not able to embed the trail difficulty chart; it's also on: https://www.imbacanada.com/resources...iculty-ratings

    trail_difficulty_2.jpg

    I have not done a closed circuit course yet, and have seen a grand total of one downhill black diamond sign so far out there (it had jumps on the side of the trail so I don't think that really counts as hard).

    Just to be clear: a technical trail feature usually means a jump or drop, correct?

    This trail difficulty chart is Canadian, but I'm a bit confused as to how they classify the blue square between the green and black. Looks like I can do the green and most of the blue trails with no problem now, but why would they have the easy green trails with no technical features, and the next level blue with jumps/drops up to 2 feet? That's a big difference! Green = 0 foot drop, blue = up to 2 foot drop? Where is the 1 foot drop? And jumps & drops are different; it's not to hard to do a 2 foot jump but it is much harder, especially on a shorter-travel hardtail, to do a 2 foot drop. Doesn't seem like the best terminology or definitions. In other words I can do some blue trails with no issues but I can't ride down others at all w/o getting off the bike.

    When they talk about unavoidable obstacles, they mean ones sticking vertically up from the trail, like rocks, & roots, correct? Because it seems like they do a pretty good job of defining those: green is 2 inches or less, blue is 8 inches or less, black is 15 inches or less, double black 15 inches or more. I wish they would do the same stepped grading for drops that they do for obstacles, it would make the rating system a lot better.


    I'll give two examples of how my favorite trails would be mixed signs:

    1.
    Trail width varies between 12" to 72" (white, green, blue, black)
    Average trail grade 6% (blue)
    Natural Obstacles and TTF's 2 to 8 inches tall (blue)
    I assume this is a blue track?

    2.
    Trail width varies between less than 12" to up to 36" (double black, black, blue)
    Average trail grade 4% (white or green)
    Natural Obstacles and TTF's 2 to 8 inches tall (blue)
    This is all over the place for sign rating, what would you rate it as?
    Easy - wrap img tags around the url.



    Now, down to some of the whys. "Technical trail features" in the sense of the chart are specifically referring to things like elevated bridges meant for challenge. Not simple bridges crossing a stream, but like this:












    "Technical trail features" aren't necessarily things you're going to jump or drop off of. The chart doesn't include jumps or drops specifically, however the "unavoidable obstacles" criteria would cover drops, at least. Jumps tend to be considered under separate criteria and I'm not exactly sure if there is a real criteria-based difficulty rating system of jumps.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    This is all over the place for sign rating, what would you rate it as?
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    Unavoidable means there’s no alternate line.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    why would they have the easy green trails with no technical features, and the next level blue with jumps/drops up to 2 feet?
    You're misreading the chart you attached. The chart says:

    White: no drops
    Green: drops of 2" or less
    Blue: drops of 8" or less
    Black: drops of 15" or less

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Jumps tend to be considered under separate criteria and I'm not exactly sure if there is a real criteria-based difficulty rating system of jumps.
    There definitely is. The Whistler trail standards are canonical. BRMBA here in Oregon follows them. I don't know how to get a copy. I found a first edition online but it's over 15 years old. I did find some for Squamish, but they're pretty conservative... black diamond drops no more than 1ft high? That's silly.

    The IMBA/BLM GQTE enumerates specifics but they're from the old IMBA Trail Difficulty Rating System and don't have much to say about getting in the air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    The Whistler trail standards are canonical.
    I've never worked with these standards, or really ridden anywhere that spelled them out, which is why I said I wasn't sure. Being that it's hard to track them down online just illustrates a good reason I wasn't sure.

    Regardless, what Rich posted also doesn't really address getting in the air. Pretty sure this whole thread comes down to rich not knowing what constitutes a "technical trail feature" which I clarified for him. Drops count under "unavoidable obstacles" under this criteria, I think, but lots of black diamond trails I've ridden have more than just short sections of unavoidable drops higher than 15" so I'd say that part at least is on the conservative side. Maybe part of that has to do with the fact that these standards are dated a little. 15-20yrs ago, drops like those would have been much harder on most bikes that were available at the time. Nowadays, bikes are significantly more capable than they used to be, so it doesn't take quite as much skill as it used to.

    Most trails I ride don't have TTF's at all. Maybe an occasional downed tree that's been cut a bit with a chainsaw to make a skinny is about it.

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    That chart is pretty funny.
    I think ~90% of the trails in New England qualify as 'double black' by those critieria.


    I also don't think anything under 15" can really be considered a 'drop'. Sure as hell not a 'black diamond' drop. What's that, twice the height of a curb? You can ride a Big Wheel off that. LOL

    Maybe someone confused the "inch" symbol with the 'foot' symbol?
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    In my opinion, the IMBA standards are just rough ideas on how to rate trails. I hope no one is going out with a tape measure and saying, " Oh this drop is 9" I guess this trail is a black". You have to look at the trail as a whole and compare it to oher trails in your trail system. If you have ridden enough trails in enough different areas, you will find each system has a little different standard. Nelson BC will have a lot different standard they say, Park City. A Park City black would probably be a little easier than a Nelson blue. I have a single diamond trail I use for a baseline to compare other trails with in my area, as many of our trails are double diamond and we don't want to sandbag anyone. I use the same rating system as MTB Project with six categories, but we have a huge variation in trail difficulties. I reserve the green circle for only the easiest stuff, like a dirt road. The double diamonds are the most varied, but figure anyone riding that stuff can take care of themselves. After I ride a trail, I know immediately what to rate it, because I can just feel what it is without measuring anything. I would not even atempt to rate the trail you describe- I would have to ride it and then I would rate it according to my local trail system. Skiing is the same way- a black at Park City will be easier than a black at Alta.

  11. #11
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    I’ve seen many a “black diamond” trail that didn’t conform to the definitions set forth by that chart.

    But, here’s the thing:

    It really doesn’t matter.


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    You'll find trail ratings vary greatly by region and nearby trail systems may even have vastly different labeled ratings vs actual difficulty (largely dependent on the terrain). And most ratings I've come across don't seem to follow the above criteria as a standard.

    Condensing a trail into a green, blue, or black shape is more of an art than science and really shouldn't be taken too seriously. Always a good idea to take a slow cruise through a new trail to get familiar with the features despite what the colored sign says.

  13. #13
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    I agree these charts are comical...someone is trying to make it more complicated than it needs to be. This chart lists trails that are EASIER THAN EASY and lists them as >6' wide, hardened or surfaced and <5% avg grade...LOL!

    See the same crap at some ski areas. I've skied places that have TRIPLE black trails which are typically easier than single blacks at most 'normal' places.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunderland56 View Post
    You're misreading the chart you attached. The chart says:

    White: no drops
    Green: drops of 2" or less
    Blue: drops of 8" or less
    Black: drops of 15" or less

    So a drop is an obstacle and not a technical feature?

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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    So a drop is an obstacle and not a technical feature?
    No, those dims apply to roots and rocks, not drops as such. That's why it describes them as "tall". But I guess a drop is an obstacle if you're riding the other way. And once you get up to 15", if you're coming off it, then yes, it will be a drop if it was more level on the approach.
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    So a drop is an obstacle and not a technical feature?
    There’s no agreed-upon definition. Trailforks’ technical trail features can be bridges, skinnies, drops, etc.

    Bottom line is that this varies widely depending on who’s in charge, and you’re overthinking this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    So a drop is an obstacle and not a technical feature?
    According to the chart you shared originally, TTF's are specifically constructed, elevated FEATURES. That definition is fairly clear and it is used elsewhere by IMBA (and defined, too).

    Other sources will use other language with slightly different definitions.

    I agree that you are overthinking things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    So a drop is an obstacle and not a technical feature?
    Take the blue square column as an example. It says:

    - you may be forced to ride off a drop (or up a step) of up to 8 inches

    - there may be bridges (see pics above) up to 2 feet above the terrain

    The 2 foot is to the *SIDE* of a TTF. You don't ride off that.

  19. #19
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    This all makes me happy that rating trails isn't a widespread thing in New England.
    Besides pay-to-play areas, I dunno if I can think of anywhere that does it.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    This all makes me happy that rating trails isn't a widespread thing in New England.
    Besides pay-to-play areas, I dunno if I can think of anywhere that does it.
    None of the public land managers here (city, USFS, BLM) have or use formal trail ratings, but any trail guide or database (Trailforks, MTB Project, guidebooks) will include their own informal ratings as basic information. New England is no different in that regard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive View Post
    None of the public land managers here (city, USFS, BLM) have or use formal trail ratings, but any trail guide or database (Trailforks, MTB Project, guidebooks) will include their own informal ratings as basic information.
    I'm sure you're right; I've just never looked at any of those things.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive View Post
    There’s no agreed-upon definition. Trailforks’ technical trail features can be bridges, skinnies, drops, etc.

    Bottom line is that this varies widely depending on who’s in charge, and you’re overthinking this.
    Bingo!

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