A modest proposal: Trail Rating System

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by neduro, May 25, 2008.

  1. neduro

    neduro Addict Super Moderator

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    To my eye, one of the biggest problems we have in dual sporting is an inability to communicate clearly about the places we ride. One person's "extremely difficult" is another's "walk in the park", One person's "3 hours" is another's "2 days".

    This means we can't reliably recommend trails for one another, we can't recognize cool accomplishments like when someone puts a neat loop together, and we can get each other in trouble when someone takes a n00b on something over their head, etc. I don't make recommendations about places to ride for this reason alone, I never want to be the guy that sent someone to their version of the Bataan Death March.

    Two other sports have dealt with this issue in ways that seem highly relevant to riding: Rock Climbing and Whitewater boating. I'm not an expert at either one (although I've done both) but it seems to me that part of their success can be attributed to the clarity with which they communicate about their experiences. When someone says they did a 10 pitch 5.9 ascent in the Andes, that means something. When someone says they ran a class 4 rapid, others who boat can identify with that. When we say "I did 100 miles today", that could mean anything from just over an hour of freeway, to an epic that will be remembered for years.

    Further, it allows bragging rights. What is more compelling than that? :lol3

    So, I propose we put our heads together to develop a trail rating system, and then spread it as far and wide across the internet as we can, in an effort to improve communication and make communication more viable.

    Some background material:

    Climbing:

    http://home.tiscalinet.de/ockier/grade.htm
    http://www.geocities.com/theclimbingpage/rating.htm

    A useful distinction they make is between class and grade- class denotes the time and exposure of the climb if not the actual difficulty, and grade denotes how difficult the maneuvers required are.

    So, a route might be multi-pitch and requiring multiple days (and thus be a high class) without having any crux that is particularly difficult. Or, a climb might be ridiculously difficult but if it's near the ground and short it has a low class.

    Boating:

    http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Wiki/safety:internation_scale_of_river_difficulty

    Here's some distilled text:

    Class I Rapids

    List of Class I thru III Rated Rapids

    Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

    Class II Rapids: Novice

    List of Class I thru III Rated Rapids

    Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+”.

    Class III: Intermediate

    List of Class III Rated Rapids

    Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+” respectively.

    Class IV: Advanced

    List of Class IV Rated Rapids

    Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting may be necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively.

    Class 5: Expert

    List of Class 5 Rated Rapids

    Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain** large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential. Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV, Class 5 is an open-ended, multiple-level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc... each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last. Example: increasing difficulty from Class 5.0 to Class 5.1 is a similar order of magnitude as increasing from Class IV to Class 5.0.

    Class VI: Extreme and Exploratory Rapids

    These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class VI rapids has been run many times, its rating may be changed to an apppropriate Class 5.x rating.

    Next: A proposal and issues to be considered
    #1
  2. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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    Surely it can be done. A Trail Rating System that means something would be wonderful.

    John
    #2
  3. JMartin

    JMartin Been here awhile

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    Hi Ned,

    Great idea for the reasons you've listed above and for the possibility of sharing more rides. Some thoughts off the top of my head:
    • It is the stuff at the margins we are most interested in: can you get through with street tires, can you get through on a GS. It is not that helpful to know you can get through on a DRZ400e
    • Ideally we keep each factor separate. For example, the rating includes something for both the number of water crossings and the degree of difficulty of the worst water crossing. This adds complexity to the rating system, but it is much more informative than trying to lump the two together. I suspect grades also have multiple factors (steepness, surface, ease of recovery from a tip over).
    KTM Tours has a little rating system that may also spark some ideas.

    Jay
    #3
  4. JMartin

    JMartin Been here awhile

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    Okay, you've got me engaged.

    Here is an example for rating water crossings:


    Quantity (#)
    Characteristics of worst water crossing
    • Depth (shallow, deep, potential to drown bike)
    • Bottom surface (smooth, slippery, rocky, rutted)
    • Water Motion (still, slow moving, rapids)
    • Recovery (easily extracted by self, two people would have to work at it, potential to lose bike)
    Example
    [FONT=&quot]W:8, D-drown, B-rutted, M-slow, R-2 This rating indicates that this ride has eight water crossings. The worst water crossing is deep enough to drown a bike that has not been modified to breath in very deep water, the bottom has ruts, the water is slow moving, and two blokes could drag it out if it tips over.

    Again, not a lot of thought has gone into this, so pick it apart. I'm just trying to throw a little gas on this fire.

    Jay

    [/FONT]
    #4
  5. Wannabeeuro

    Wannabeeuro Tuner chic

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    Great idea. Even mountain bikers and 4 wheelers have a trail rating system. The 4x4 ratiings do not seem to apply to us very well as we can usually find a line on a bike that a truck can not. How do we get started?
    #5
  6. neduro

    neduro Addict Super Moderator

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    It's a bit difficult to communicate about starting a language, for obvious reasons.

    But, here's my very first attempt at it...

    Class I thru VII could be brought over from climbing with no changes (1 hour to expedition in steps, with allowance made for the relative exposure based on infrastructure, remoteness, etc).

    Class I - Requires 1-2 hours
    Class II - Requires half a day
    Class III - Requires most of a day
    Class IV - Requires a very long day
    Class V - Requires an overnight stay on the route
    Class VI - Requires a few days
    Class VII - Expedition

    So, for example, the White Rim in Canyonlands takes somewhere between a half (II) and full day (III) to complete, but since it has no navigational difficulty and plenty of traffic and support services, it gets bumped down to II. The same loop, but with no traffic and lots of navigation might be a III.

    I suspect the Transamerica trail as a whole (which I have not ridden) is obviously a high grade because of its length, while individual days might vary between III and IV.

    Rafting has certain "control" rapids spread around the country, I think that's a useful concept to echo. So, to return to the White Rim, since so many people ride it, and it's pretty consistent in terms of condition, it would make an excellent control example in the SW.

    Grades are tougher. But, a proposal is:
    Grade A is graded dirt road
    B is easy jeep road
    C is moderate
    D is occasionally technical
    E is continuously technical
    F is gonzo

    So, I'd rate the White Rim as a IIC.

    The 1000 course in Baja is a VID (maybe only a C, but the technicality comes from tons of sand and rocks and sustained speed).

    The entire kokopelli trail including Rose Garden Hill and such is a IID. It would be a III but navigation is a non issue and a good pace can complete the ride before lunch.

    Boreas Pass, Cottonwood Pass, or any other 2wd pass is probably IIA.

    Major issues with this proposal that I see:

    - D will get overused. Sure, there's plenty of A, B, and C, but most things have a stream crossing or a sand section or something that bumps them out of moderate to many people. My first guess is that if you can walk or doggy paddle the bike through the difficulty in a reasonable amount of time, it remains moderate and is not truly technical. If it requires either a committed move (like a ledge) or remains technical enough for long enough that doggy paddling will take you out of the time reference (turning a II into a III for instance), it gets bumped to D.

    That's still pretty open to interpretation depending on the skill of the rider, though, so I fear we need some defined characteristics, such as height of ledges, size of rocks, whatever.

    - Different difficulty depending on direction of travel, and weather/ conditions. This could lead to a single ride having 4 ratings, one in each direction, and for both clement and inclement weather.


    OK, gotta get to work. Thoughts?
    #6
  7. playzNmud

    playzNmud I love pedal derby

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    each trip, have a couple of fairly new riders go out with a couple of experienced riders and combine their experiences?? The more the new ones crash (and the experienced ones having to help) could help to determine the level of the ride :lol3 :lol3
    #7
  8. Eugene

    Eugene -

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    You're not very nice. :thwak

    I do believe some of the other types of ratings systems did something similar though, except the crashing part. :lol3


    I like the idea and think it would be a great tool to have. The classifications/grades you've outlined are easy to understand and I think they make sense. I'm a n00b to DS so I hope my opinions aren't too far off.

    As far as major problems with Grade D, I think you outlined it well. To potentially address the gray areas, what if there was a secondary warning rating? It could be used solely for the purpose of notifying riders there are obstacles or small sections that may bump it up a Class or prove to be more difficult for newer riders. If these few(or short) obstacles/sections are clearly separated from the overall ride it might be easier to rate the trail/route to begin with.

    I don't know how detailed the ratings system could get before it became difficult to deal with. There's a happy medium in there somewhere. I don't have any idea where though. :lol3

    As far as direction of travel and weather, I think several ratings would be a good idea. Different ratings for seasons would be good too, if that wasn't included.

    Is terrain going to be addressed in the description of the trail/route?
    #8
  9. Wayne Weber

    Wayne Weber why are we stopping?

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    Rampart trails used to be rated kinda like ski slopes, green-begginer, blue-intermediate, black expert. It wasn't too bad.

    One of the problems is our bikes have a wide range of capabilities; I wouldn't bring my 950 on almost everything I ride on the 550, where as rock climbing, rafting and skiing, the gear is pretty darn similar.

    I'll think about it more. I just tell everyone "it ain't too bad".:lol3
    #9
  10. inte

    inte neophyte serendipity

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    Was just thinking the same thing.

    Mountain bike trails are a good example - one rating system, but I ride a fully-rigid bike so many of the trails would be far easier on a freeride bike.

    Seems there'd be a couple options:

    1. Pick a "standard" bike with which to rate rides (something common like a KLR 650). People would have to then make mental adjustments depending on what they're riding.
    2. Make it a 2-stage scale - big bike, small bike (maybe a "twin/single" rating system). Trail w/more serious offroad might have a higher difficulty rating on a big twin whereas a ride that throws in 500 miles of pavement would have a higher rating on a single.

    :dunno
    #10
  11. Bentley

    Bentley Wannabe Adventurer

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    #11
  12. retroone

    retroone Long timer

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    If it is doable on a 640a then it's easy right? :lol3 :lol3 :lol3

























    :ricky Sorry. Rate a trail should help. :thumb
    #12
  13. twofur

    twofur Been here awhile

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    One thing that both climbing and whitewater have that makes their rating system work is guide books. Someone needs to put a collection of trails together in one source where we can discuss standards, criteria, and terminology needed to make comparisons. Probably best done on a regional level (you have to have ridden the trail to discuss it.)

    Kurt
    #13
  14. HellSickle

    HellSickle Scone Rider

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    Northern Colorado Trail Riders agonized a long time over this one. What is fast to a new person, is a crawl to a very experienced person. Where one person might struggle with deep sand, they may excel in rock gardens.

    As mentioned, 4x4 groups, climbers, and whitewater folks all have a rating system. We could find nothing for motorcycles.

    Here's the system we came up with to rate our rides. In addition to rating the nature of the trail, it is also important to try and quantify the pace that is expected and the length of the ride. Everyone is different in a wide variety of ways. This is our first year on the new trail rating system and, so far, we've gotten very positive feedback.


    2008 and Later Ride Difficulty Ratings

    General - Although we are attempting to rate the rides as indicated below, if you have never ridden with NCTR, you should call the ride leader for more details about the terrain, ride difficulty, and general pace of the ride. Also, we will help one another through particularly difficult sections, but in order to maintain the pace as indicated for a particular ride and overall enjoyment of all the riders, we ask that each rider be able to handle the ride as described without excessive help or stops. Generally most rides are all day (40-80 miles), so bring plenty of fuel, water and lunch/snacks. Ask ride leader for details.
    Difficulty (Conditions include a majority of the ride and some or all of the descriptions below):
    • <LI class=form>1-Novice: flat single track, ATV trails or dirt/gravel roads, no rocks or hills. <LI class=form>2-Easy: smooth, few rocks, small hills on single track, ATV trails or dirt/gravel roads. <LI class=form>3-Intermediate: more rocks, bigger hills, rougher trails, water crossings on single track, ATV & 4x4 trails. <LI class=form>4-Difficult: Lots of rocks/tree roots, tough long hills, sidehill, mud/sand & switchbacks on single track.
    • 5-Advanced: Contact Ride Leader for trail description.
    Pace (Ride Pace): E - Easy I - Intermediate Q Fairly Quick F - Enduro Fast
    Trail (Width or Type): ST - Single Track ATV - ATV 4x4 - 4x4 road G - Gravel/Dirt road SL - Street Legal road (Street Legal bikes required or highly recommended)
    Mileage: Number of miles planned per day
    Obstacles: W - Deep Water (12 & deeper) B - Difficult Switchbacks H - Steep/Rocky Hills X - Extreme Sidehill R - Rock Garden S - Steep Slickrock D - Deep Sand
    #14
  15. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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    That looks like something I could get my brain around!

    John
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  16. neduro

    neduro Addict Super Moderator

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    Good input!

    For Dualsporting, I think there has to be a component of exposure added. We're not just going on a loop from the truck, after all, not that there's anything wrong with that as it's how I spend most of my time.

    The point about different difficulty on different bikes is valid. I think the rating system has to refer only to the terrain, so that it's left to the individual to say "I'll ride up to an XX on my GS, but an XX+1 or 2 on my DR-Z".

    :dunno
    #16
  17. Renazco

    Renazco Formerly AKA Boejangles

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    This is great Ned :thumb
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  18. Wombat_XJ

    Wombat_XJ n00b

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    This is a great idea. Like what was said before, the 4x4 community has a rating system(s) and they focus on what equipment you need to get through; ie. nothing, 33"s and lockers, to rock buggy and winch required!!:eek1

    The variety of our bikes is about as great. What's a walkover for an enduro or hard core bike (don't know which one, I'm newb), would be a wreck for a Strom or somesuch more street oriented bike. The rating should take into account a middle ground bike then go from there. The suggestions given are very good.
    #18
  19. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    We started off road 4x4 trail rating systems many years ago. Those systems would be the most applicable to 'trail riding' than any other I know.

    Also, to remember, rating are usually weather sensitive. A simple 2 can become a 5 in the rain...etc, etc...
    I would be happy to help, if possible.
    #19
  20. JMartin

    JMartin Been here awhile

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    Agreed. Exposure could include risks from animals, e.g. bears, theives or other unsavory characters (ADV inmates excluded), and weather.

    Jay
    #20