Route Grading

Here's how we have graded routes. Grading a route gives you some idea of what to expect and if the route is suitable for you and the current conditions.

A commonsense warning

Firstly, remember that route grading is quite subjective. This means that an easy route for some may be very hard for others. Good fitness and technical skill will help you tackle harder routes, but poor weather conditions and a lack of preparation can turn an easy route into an epic. It's also worth bearing in mind that the time of the year will make a big difference. For this reason, we don't give precise timings for how long each route should take, as there are so many variables to take into account. For example, a ride that would take a fit rider an hour and a half to complete in summer, may take four hours for an unprepared rider in the depths of winter.

Why grade routes?

We have graded the routes so riders can have some idea of what challenges to expect. Harder routes are more suitable for experienced riders who have good levels of fitness, navigational skills and riding ability. Easier routes will be more suitable for beginners, or more experienced riders with limited time.

What makes a route hard or easy?

There are many things which make a route hard or easy, amongst them would be:

  • Distance. Longer routes will take longer to ride and more effort to get around.
  • Height Gain. More climbing will take longer, as inevitably going uphill takes longer than the same distance on the flat.
  • Technical difficulty. Gravel tracks are usually slower than roads, and narrow single track is usually slower than gravel roads. Technically difficult obstacles will take more skill and effort to traverse. Sections which require you to push or even carry your bike will require even more time and effort.
  • Remoteness. Although simply being in the middle of nowhere will not make you slower, the lack of facilities such as shops, pubs and cafes will mean you have to carry everything you need, and if things go wrong in really remote areas you are pretty much on your own. Inevitably remote routes will go over high upland areas where the weather can often be worse.
  • Navigation. Working out where you are, and where you are going can make a route much harder and slower, as you will have to stop and try and determine where you are more frequently. If you get lost, you may have to backtrack which will take even longer.

How grading works

We have attempted to grade each route with a number from one to five, with 1 being the easiest, and 5 the hardest. Unlike an artificial trail, natural routes may have sections of widely differing difficulty in one ride, so we have to grade on the overall difficulty of the route, whilst trying to bear in mind any particular section which might raise the difficulty level. Remember that climatic conditions and season can change the character of a route and the degree of difficulty. Snow on the ground, wet and muddy conditions and high winds (all of which you might find in winter on the moors) can make an 'easy' route a bigger challenge than a 'hard route' in perfect summer conditions.

What to expect

Difficulty rating 1-3: Easy Routes

Distances will be short, typically less than 14 miles (22 km). The amount of climbing will be limited, and less than 1500 feet (460 metres). Surfaces will a mixture of tarmac road, forest tracks and some easier single track. Descents may be steep but will lack the technical difficulties of higher grades. The routes are in the less remote areas, and unless otherwise noted there shouldn't be pose too many navigational difficulties. These routes are suitable for beginners who are confident of their abilities, or for evening rides in the summer or night rides in the winter by more experienced riders.

Difficulty rating 3.5-4: Moderately Hard Routes

Distances will be longer, and can range from 15 to 25 miles (24 ? 40 km). Climbs will be longer, and sometimes off-road and can include up to 3000 feet (910 metres) in total height gain, although most are under 2500 feet (760 metres). Surfaces will include more single track although forest tracks and roads may be used. Technical difficulties such as rocky sections and small drop-offs may be encountered. Descents may be steep and include some trickier surfaces. These routes are suitable for riders who have been riding for some time, have a good level of fitness and want a ride which will provide a full afternoon or morning of riding.

Difficulty rating 4.5 to 5: Very Hard Routes

Distances vary but will be often longer than lower grades. There will be frequent and hard climbs both on and off-road which may require pushing or even carrying the bike. The routes will often be in the more remote areas, and feature extensive sections of single track with technical obstacles such as big rocks and drop-offs. Descents can be very tricky in places, demanding excellent bike handling skills. Navigation can be difficult as there may be sections with difficult to follow tracks. These routes are suitable for experienced riders, familiar with riding in moorland areas, with excellent fitness and technical skills.

List of Routes by Grade

Rosedale Abbey Easy Loop
A beginner's route on quiet roads and an easy bridleway near Rosedale Abbey, in the central moors
Lastingham Loop
A short, fun ride in the central part of the Moors featuring some of the best technical singletrack in the area.
Rudston Loop
A short route, mostly on gravel tracks, in the eastern part of the Yorkshire Wolds
Scaling Dam
A short and easy moorland route in the north east of the National Park.
Everley Loop
A short ride starting from a pub, in the east of the National Park near Scarborough
Ravenscar Short Loop
A short, but hilly route around Robins Hoods Bay
Helmsley Loop
A long route around the quiet, forested valleys north of Helmsley, passing the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey
Sutton Bank Short Blast
A short but intense loop around Sutton Bank, ideal for summer's evening.
Harwood Loop
A short, easy ride around the hills and dales of Harwood Dale ideal for beginners and evening rides.
Harwood Dale and Cloughton
A short but quite hard ride in the east of the National Park.
Cropton Forest Loop
A shortish, technical ride with a mixture of forests tracks and moorland singletrack.
Bransdale High and Dry Loop
A hilly route, mostly on gravel tracks, around Bransdale, suitable for wet weather riding.
Castle Howard
An easy, mostly off-road route near Castle Howard in the Howardian Hills.
Kirkham Leavening Loop
Mostly grassy tracks on the eastern end of the Howardian Hills, and in the valley of the Derwent river
Buttercrambe Loop
A moderately difficult route around the Derwent valley, just to the east of York
Sheriff Hutton
An easy route though the Howardian Hills, suitable for beginners.
Pickering Newtondale Forest Loop
A moderately difficult, hilly and forested route to the north of Pickering.
Chop Gate and Urra Moor
A short, but physically demanding and technically hard moorland route in the north of the National Park.
Great Fryup Loop
A short, very hilly and technical route in the central moors.
Hawnby Loop
A hilly ride around Hawby in the south west of the National Park.
Langdale Loop
A hilly route through wooded valleys in the south eastern part of the Moors near Scarborough.
Rievaulx Loop
A hilly, half day ride around the forested dales in the west of the National Park.
Nawton Loop
A hilly route through valleys and moorlands in the central part of the National Park.
Robin Hoods Bay Loop
A little bit of everything the moors has to offer in one ride, in and around Robin Hoods Bay on the coast.
Esk Valley Railway
An long but technically easy route along the Esk Valley using the train to return to the start.
Levisham Loop
A long moorland route in the centre of the national park, with a mixture of fast gravel tracks and moorland singletrack.
Millington Loop
A hilly route on the western edge of the Wolds, on grassy tracks and quiet roads
Thixendale
An easy but long route in the Yorkshire Wolds on grassy tracks and quiet roads.
Grosmont Pickering Railway
A long ride over remote moorland single track using the North York Moors Railway to get the start.
Wetwang Circuit
A long, difficult route over ancient trackways in the Yorkshire Wolds
Gilamoor Loop
A substantial and hilly moorland ride around the remote Bransdale valley.
Farndale Loop
A long, remote and challenging ride in the middle of the moors.
Roseberry Castleton Loop
A hard route, over a mixture of different terrain, in the north west of the National Park.
Cleveland Way Long Loop
An 'all day epic' along the western edge of the National Park. Not for the unfit or slow.
Fylingdales Loop
A long, very hard, moorland route circling Fylingdales, in the centre of the national park
Moors to Sea Variations
A long route over the eastern moors loosely based on the Moors to Sea Cycle route.
York, Whitby, Scarborough Multi-day Route
A 2 day ride from York to Scarborough over the Howardian Hills and Moors