Motorcycle Council of NSW Ph: 1300 679 622 (1300 NSW MCC) |

When a Ride Leader decides to run a ride they need to set a grade for the ride so that participants can self-assess whether they should or should not attend. Previous ride grading systems have been vague and this document serves to provide a more specific set of grades that relate directly to the type of terrain being covered.

Within this document are:

  • An explanation of the terrain grades
  • A guide for the Ride Leader
  • A guide for the Rider

This set of guidelines are required so that a rider knows exactly what type of terrain a particular graded ride will cover and they can then use this information in combination with the condition of the bike, the rider’s state of mind, fitness and the type of protection to assess when making a decision to join the ride or not.

Terrain types and grading

Grade 0:

Think tar road but made of dirt. Very suitable for larger capacity Adventure style bikes and even the more adventurous riders on road bikes.

Grade 1:

Open fire trail/dirt road but expect some rocks, erosion and decent potholes. Hills with gentle gradients and the occasional bit of smooth single track. Large and medium capacity adventure bikes work well here and beginners on dirt bikes.

Grade 2:

Overgrown and rocky fire trail. Challenging hills, tight but flowing single track with small rocks and ruts. Expect smallish logs (up to 20cm), sand and mud. if you are on a medium capacity ADV bike or beginner dirt rider this can be hard work but very rewarding.

Grade 3:

Single track combined with rocky or rutted terrain. Large logs (up to 40cm), steep hills with ruts and rocks and rock ledges. This is now into pure dirt bike territory. Beginner riders should not attempt this grade.

Grade 4:

Rock ledges, very steep hills, very large logs (40cm+), deep water crossings.  Experienced riders only.

Grade 5:

Extreme terrain suitable only for very experienced riders, think Erzberg/Romaniacs.


  1. All terrain grading is increased by 1 when very wet and muddy.
  2. Distance plays a part as well. A low grade ride could be higher if the distance traveled is further.
  3. All terrain grading is increased by 1 when ridden at high speed.
  4. In hot/humid conditions, ride grading should be increased by 1.

Guide for the Ride Leader – determining a ride grade

The best rides are ones where everyone is of similar skill and the terrain is of a type that matches the rider’s skill level yet provides some sufficiently challenging sections to test and enhance the rider’s ability. The key to enjoying a ride is to not have sections that are excessively difficult for the riding ability of the attending riders as this leads to exhaustion and possible injury. The ride flows with only stops for conversation or rest/regroup and ends with everyone uninjured and buzzed.

When grading a ride you need to rate it at the hardest level of terrain that would be included that all riders must ride over. Generally we create rides that have similar grading along the entire length and that should be the basis of determining the ride grade.

In the case where a ride has only a couple of higher grade sections (say grade 3) but the rest of the ride is say grade 2, then it should be posted as the lower grade but with higher grade sections and assistance will be provided as necessary.

If a rider over-grades themselves (i.e. the rider is OK at grade 2 but is either on a bike not suitable for grade 3 or does not have the ability to ride at grade 3 level) then they need to be advised of such.
This is for their own protection and consideration of the quality of the ride for the other riders. An offer to take them on a lower grade ride until they gain the skills should be considered.

Guide for the Rider – determining what ride you should attend

The bike

Some bikes are not suitable to go on rides of higher grades, for example, an ADV bike on a grade 3 ride. A highly capable rider may be able to handle it but it begs the question, why? Similarly your bike should be in good condition with all brake, oils, fluids and electrics in workable order. The bikes must be registered.

State of Mind

This is quite critical and is highly personal. If you have doubts about your own ability to meet the ride conditions, then think twice about riding, or go on a lower grade ride. If you are confident but consider the ride to be a challenge, then let the Ride Leader know beforehand so you can be accommodated.

You need to know if you are as talented as you think you are. Overconfidence will get you hurt and can ruin a great ride for your companions.

Fitness and health

Riding dirt bikes can be fitness intensive and extremes of heat and changes to the trails due to wet weather can and will have a dramatic impact on your stamina. If you are suffering fatigue from stress, anxiety or lack of fitness, let your ride leader know so they can accomodate you. Be aware that there will always be some physical demands on your body and you will very likely have to pick your bike up at least once. Any impediment to your ability to manhandle your bike should be taken into consideration for sake of the other riders and your own well-being.

Weather conditions

In hot/humid conditions take additional water or if very unfit, avoid riding. Any grade ride will seem harder. In cold weather, wear a suitable jacket to protect you from wind chill. In rainy conditions have good eye wear – either double lens goggles or safety glasses. Be prepared to pick your bike up a lot.

Body Protection

On Grade 1 rides this is still important but the conditions are generally less challenging so minimal armor is acceptable. Bear in mind that the decision NOT to wear armor is you choice – most riders always  wear comprehensive protection for ALL rides. For Grade 2 and above rides armor is an absolute necessity.

Armor includes:

  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Knee guards
  • Body armor
  • Elbow guards
  • Long sleeve jersey
  • Padded dirt bike pants