Mountain Bike Track Grades Explained

Mountain Bike Track Grades Explained

Mountain biking is becoming ever more popular in New Zealand. This is reflected in the increasing demand for our range of mountain bikes, like the awesome Giant Trance 3 which is a powerful blend of superb design, engineering and performance - and it’s very affordable too for a bike of this quality.

But no matter what sort of mountain bike you’re on, you want to be sure you are riding a track that matches your experience, skill level and fitness. The Kennett brothers are widely known in New Zealand bike circles for the work they do in promoting cycling as a sport and leisure activity, and they have developed a track grading system. It’s easy to follow and neatly sums up what you can expect when you’re about to ride one of New Zealand’s fantastic trails. The Kennett brothers have split up local tracks into six grades, as follows:

Easiest: (Grade 1) This is a type of track that’s ideal for riders new to mountain biking. It’s also a good place to get used to a new bike before you put it through its paces on more demanding 

tracks. Grade 1 is reasonably flat and wide, and you can look forward to riding on a smooth track or even a gravel road. 

Easy: (Grade 2) A mostly flat track is in prospect here, although you can expect a few gentle climbs on a smooth trail. For some added spice, you’ll likely encounter obstacles like rocks or potholes but on an easy track, they should be easily avoidable. 

Intermediate: (Grade 3) Things get a little more demanding here so this track is a good test for less experienced riders. Grade 3 promises steep slopes and/or avoidable obstacles - all this might appear on a narrow track that could have poor traction in places plus there may be exposure at the outer edge of the track. 

Advanced: (Grade 4) Things are getting serious on a Grade 4 so you want to bring plenty of experience with you. Expect a mix of long and steep climbs, made even more challenging with a narrow track that’s generally exposed at the outer edge, poor traction, and obstacles that are hard to avoid or jump over. A lot of riders say it’s easier to walk some sections on a track of this nature.  

Expert: (Grade 5) Riding on a Grade 5 is a technically challenging experience as you’ll face huge climbs and a narrow track that presents plenty of hazards like perilous drop-offs, sharp corners and difficult obstacles. Riders who are used to tracks like this say you can expect to do a fair bit of walking, and bike carrying.

Extreme: (Grade 6) The ultimate challenge and probably best left to elite riders. Extreme is a very apt description for a Grade 6 track as it consists of extremely steep sections, along with large drop-offs and obstacles that you just can’t avoid. A track of this nature might include man-made structures and jumps just to make things even more difficult.

Here in New Zealand, we’re fortunate to have amazing tracks that fit into all of these categories. We hope this guide gives you a better idea of what to expect when you head out on your next adventure. For the right bike for the right track, contact us and we’ll help you make the correct choice. 

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