CTC off-road trail grades

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A grading system for way-marked off-road cycling trails has been adopted in the UK, and is used by official bodies such as Forestry England and IMBA-UK. It was originally developed by Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) employee Colin Palmer in June 1999, based on a system widely used for grading cross-country skiing routes.

Colour Grade Suitable for Trail type Gradient Surface/width Acceptable hazards Distance Maximum climb
Green Easy Non-cyclists and families, children aged 4 or above riding solo, bikes with child seats or trailers, touring bikes, bikes for those with disabilities. Rail trails, towpaths, reservoir trails, estate or forestry tracks, traffic-quiet roads, and those regulated by bylaws or other restrictions. Shallow climbs and descents capable of being ridden by children and non fit adults. Blacktop or compacted limestone or gravel. Essentially smooth with a minimum content of loose surfaces. Normal width 2 - 3 metres. These trails should carry a very low risk. Any unavoidable hazards should be identified in promotional literature and through notices at trail head and site of hazard. 5 – 10 km (3 – 6 miles) 50 metres
Blue Moderate Occasional cyclists with some experience of road use or easy trails, reasonably fit families, children aged 10 or above riding solo, suitable for mountain bikes, hybrids or robust touring bikes. As 'Easy' plus bridleways and byways and un-surfaced unclassified roads. Lightly trafficked lanes. Shallow/moderate climbs with short sections of steeper climbs which may have to be walked. Mostly stoned surfaces, 10% earth based singletrack, 2 metre width. Some loose surfaces, ruts, potholes and or tree roots maybe expected. 10 – 20 km (6 – 12 miles) 100 metres
Red Difficult Regular cyclists with experience of moderate trails suitable for off-road quality mountain bikes. Any usable trail with pushing or portage unlikely to exceed 2% of total distance. A wide range of climbs and descents of a challenging nature. Widths from 1 metre and any usable surface. Likely to include singletrack and other technical sections. The route should be judged on the basis that a reasonably experienced rider riding within his/her level of skill and prevailing ground conditions, would not be expected to fall. 10 – 50 km (6 – 31 miles) 500 metres
Black Severe Expert mountain bikers who will expect and relish technical challenges. Any. But with the expectation of technical riding which could include unforgiving terrain, severe climbs and descents, or considerable distances. Any rideable or usable gradient. May include 'drop offs'. Mostly off-road. Expected to include a significant proportion of singletrack, with challenging surfaces. Hazards are expected as assessed and agreed by an expert user. Falling off will be expected. 1 – 100 km (2 – 61 miles) 1000 metres

A solitary major hazard (e.g. one steep hill or a difficult junction) will not necessarily raise an otherwise 'Easy' route into a 'Difficult' one.

UK trails by grade[edit]