MTB TRAIL DIFFICULTY RATINGS – BIKE AUSTRIA GUIDING

THE SINGLETRACK SCALE USED IN THE AUSTRIAN ALPS

With the Kitzbüheler Alpen to the north and the majestic Hohe Tauern to the south, a clear ratings system is necessary to differential the wide variety of difficulty.  Mittersill offers incredible riding options for every level and interest.  It is important that riders pick tours appropriate for their level.  On our “RIDES” pages we set out general levels of difficulty.

MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES

  • LITE: max. 500 hm, fun trails in the valley
  • SPORT: max. 700 hm, technical trails
  • ENDURO: max. 1700 hm, earn some big downhill trails
  • FREERIDE: With Lift + max. 800 hm, demanding trails
  • RIDE & LEARN: combines skills training and a fantastic bike tour

eBIKE RIDES

  • eLITE: max. 800 vertical meters, easy roads
  • eSPORT: max. 1000 vertical meters, easy roads and trails
  • eENDURO: max. 1500 vertical meters, challenging trails
  • RIDE & LEARN: Technical training and subsequent half-day tour exploring local highlights

GRAVEL BIKE RIDES

  • EASY: max. 500 veritcal meters
  • PUSH IT: max 1500 vertical meters
  • GO BIG: max. 3000 vertical meters

Trail riding requires a more detailed rating system. In order to ensure a fun and safe day on the mountain bike or eBike, it is important that you have the skills to ride the intended trail.  To assist with tour planning, several rating systems have been devised. Given our location in Austria, we have elected to use the scale most commonly used here and referenced on www.bikerides.at.  It includes three general difficulty levels familiar to skiers and then broken down into six described levels of difficulty.

TRAIL DIFFICULTY SCALE

The singletrack scale (STS) is divided into three general levels of difficulty: Easy, Moderate and Difficult. These are indicated by the respective Blue, Red and Black markings usual for ski slopes. These classes are based on the skills of an average rider with a properly maintained modern mountain bike.

For a more concrete classification and accurate differentiation of the trails, six relatively well demarcated levels, known as the S-Grade, are used: S0 to S5. For an average rider, the lower end of the scale is “Easy to Ride” and the upper end “Too Difficult”.  The difficulty Class Easy comprises the degrees S0 and S1, Moderate S2 and Difficult. S3 and above.  The STS is open top at the and limited to the difficulty of a flat path at the bottom. The entire range of S-grades is primarily intended to the description of singletrack.

The singletrack is classified on the basis of the dominant trail characteristics under ideal conditions, such as sufficient daylight and dry ground. The classification is thus independent of and not influenced by subjective or variable factors such as:

  • the degree of danger (danger of falling),
  • the weather (wet, wind, fog and snow),
  • the lighting conditions or
  • the driving speed

When orienting to S-grades, it should therefore be noted that the driving-technical requirement can shift significantly upwards, for example, due to poor weather conditions or faster speeds.

S-Grade

The following are the criteria of each S-Grade listed. More information and examples can be found on the detail pages, which are linked via the above navigation menu. For printing you can alternatively use this PDF document .

S0

S0 describes a singletrack that has no particular difficulties. These are mostly flowy forest and meadow paths on non-slip natural soils or solidified gravel. Steps, rocks or root passages are not expected. The slope of the path is easy to moderate, the curves are wide. [»More]

S1

On a path described by S1, one must already expect smaller obstacles such as shallow roots and small stones. Isolated gullies and erosion damage are often the reason for the increased degree of difficulty. The subsoil can be occasionally loose. The gradient is a maximum of 40% (22 degrees). Switchbacks are not expected. [»More]

S2

In S-grade S2 you have to expect bigger roots and stones. The soil is often loose.. Steps and flat stairs are to be expected. Often there are tight curves and the gradient can reach 70%. (35 degrees) [»More]

S3

Blocked single trails with many larger boulders and / or root passages belong to the S-grade S3. High steps, switchbacks and tricky sideslopes are common; relaxed rolling sections are rare. You can usually count on slippery surfaces and/or loose scree.  Steep slopes over 70% (35 degrees) are common. [»More]

S4

S4 describes very steep and heavily blocked singletrack with large boulders and / or challenging root passages, often in between loose boulders. Extremely steep ramps, tight switchbacks and steps  are common. [»More]

S5

S5 is characterized by blocky terrain with ridges, boulders and landslides, loop-like hairpin bends, and high obstacles like fallen trees – all often in extreme steepness. Obstacles must be mastered in succession with little braking distance and without opportunities for rest. [»More]

IMPORTANT

Not all factors have to be fulfilled in order to assign a passage to a certain S degree. A singletrack may also have different difficulties in passages or sections. The trail may be described as “S2 with two S3 passages”.

Fine grading

For ease of classification, the STS is divided into as few as possible distinct S grades. It is also common to see the use of plus and minus sign to further subdivide the classifications. A trail characterized by S2 + has a more sophisticated character than you would expect from an average S2-level trail. Since there is no defined boundary between a plus-grade and the minus-grade higher in difficulty (eg, between S2 + to S3-), one needs some experience of this fine-tuning. However, such an accurate classification is usually not necessary either, since the S-grade itself is usually sufficient.