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.
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.