Trail Grades

We use the standard grading system for the New Zealand Cycle Trail to communication what level of fitness/ skill is needed to ride each trail.

1: Easiest

Trail Type:

  • Off-road trail surface is either firm gravel or sealed (e.g. concrete or asphalt) and is wide enough for 2 people to cycle side by side for most of the way.
  • On-road trails generally follow quiet roads with little traffic.

Suitable For:

  • Novice cyclists, families and others seeking a very easy cycling experience.
  • Any bike is suitable for riding Grade 1 cycle trails, including touring bikes, single speed bikes and children’s bikes.

2: Easy

Trail Type:

  • Off-road trails are predictable, i.e. no surprises and mostly flat with some gentle climbs.
  • The surface is either firm gravel or sealed (e.g. concrete or asphalt).
  • The trail is wide enough for 2 people to cycle side by side at times and may include sections where cyclists will have to ride single file.
  • On-road trails generally follow quiet roads with little traffic.

Suitable For:

  • Beginners, occasional cyclists and families who have limited cycling experience.
  • A multi-geared bike with medium to wide tyres is recommended, such as a comfort bike, touring bike or mountain bike.

3: Intermediate

Trail Type:

  • Off-road trails can be narrow and may include hill climbs, steep drop-offs and small river crossings.
  • The trail surface is mostly firm, but may include muddy or loose sections.
  • There may also be obstacles such as rocks or tree roots to avoid.
  • On-road trails have moderate traffic levels (up to 1000 vehicles per day) include hill climbs and possible gravel sections.

Suitable For:

  • Regular, experienced cyclists with a good level of fitness and over 12 years of age.
  • Children should be accompanied by an adult.
  • A mountain bike is recommended for off-road trails.
  • On-road trails that include sections of gravel will require knobbly tyres. Road racing tyres are not recommended.

4: Advanced

Trail Type:

  • Off-road trails are narrow with steep climbs and unavoidable obstacles.
  • The trail surface includes firm and loose sections, with lots of rocks and tree roots.
  • There will be poor traction in places and some walking may be required.
  • On-road trails have moderate vehicular traffic (2000+ vehicles per day) include hill climbs and possible gravel sections.

Suitable For:

  • Fit and experienced cyclists with good on-road and/or off-road skills, a high level of fitness and over 12 years of age.
  • Children should be accompanied by an adult.
  • A quality mountain bike is recommended for off-road trails.
  • On-road trails that include sections of gravel will require knobbly tyres. Road racing tyres are not recommended.

5: Expert

Trail Type:

  • These trails are technically challenging.
  • Off-road trails include steep long climbs, precipitous descents, lots of rocks and dangerous drop-offs.
  • The surface will be hugely varied and cyclists should expect rocks, roots and ruts.
  • There are likely to be river crossings, some of which may be dangerous after heavy rain.
  • The trail will be barely wide enough to ride in some places and some walking is likely.
  • On-road trails have high traffic volumes (3000+ vehicles per day) with a limited shoulder for riding, hill climbs and possible gravel sections.

Suitable For:

  • For highly experienced cyclists with a excellent on-road and/or off-road skills and a high level of fitness.
  • Grade 5 trails are for those who relish techncial challenges and are comfortable riding in traffic.
  • These trails can be both physically and mentally demanding and are not suitable for children under 12 years of age.
  • A quality mountain bike is essential for off-road trails. Full suspension is recommended.
  • On-road trails that include sections of gravel will require knobbly tyres (road racing tyres are not recommended).