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Ride Difficulty Ratings

Rating rides can be a subjective process. One person's epic challenge may be another person's walk in the park. So, to encourage consistency in ride difficulty ratings, IAMC, with the help of our friend Ryan Cantrell, has put together the following guide. We have provided sample images of rides for each category, as well as links to ride reports that exemplify these types of adventures.

When rating your ride, keep in mind that for an inexperienced rider, the most difficult section of a ride might be the most important. If 90% of the ride is a level 2, but 10% of the ride is a level 4, the overall rating should be 4.


Level 1 Level 1 - Beginner

Even the most inexperienced rider will feel comfortable taking their shiny new 1200GS or similar bike on a level one ride. Level one rides consist of all pavement and gravel road, with predictable corners, and generally flat grades. Riders will progress at slower speeds such as 30 m.p.h. or less off pavement.

1-CastleRockRoad_TB (1K) 1-PhilAndZane_TB (2K) 1-PhilAndZanePrairie_TB (2K) 1-PokerFunPavement_TB (1K) 1-VStromDirt_TB (2K) 1-VStromHill_TB (2K)


Level2 Level 2 - Basic Skills

Slightly more challenging than a level 1 ride. A rider with minimal experience will still feel comfortable riding a larger bike (such as a V-Strom 650) on a level 2 ride. Level 2 routes include primarily gravel roads with tighter corners and steeper grades. You may encounter some very easy double track. You should be comfortable with steady speeds on straight gravel, averaging 40 m.p.h. when appropriate.

2-HeathChinaWall_TB (2K) 2-HeathSawtoothMtns_TB (2K) 2-ICTDoubleTrack_TB (2K) 2-kylePinyonLookout_TB (2K) 2-RyanICT2track_TB (2K) 2-RyanSawteeth_TB (2K)


Level3 Level 3 - Advanced Skills

Level 3 rides will include rutted double track, and uneven roads. These may be rocky and difficult at times. A 1200GS or similar bike will feel heavy in this terrain, and will require an experienced rider. A moderate rider on a 650cc bike will be able to maintain 20 to 30 m.p.h. without a load. Little or no single track will be present on a level 3 ride. You may encounter moderate water crossings (less than knee high). Expect higher average speeds on easy sections of the route.

3-BarryWaterCrossing_TB (3K) 3-PhilForest_TB (2K) 3-RyanNevada_TB (2K) 3-RyanSandWash_TB (2K) 3-RyanThreetrack_TB (2K) 3-SamHillclimb_TB (3K)


Level4 Level 4 - Master Rider

A level 4 ride will require an experienced rider who is willing to take the risk of falling at some point during the ride. Trails may include the following:

  • Single track (less than 2' wide with tight turns)
  • Steep grades
  • Large rocks and ruts to navigate
  • Water crossings
  • Slick conditions (patches of mud or snow)
  • Deep gravel and/or sand

A level 4 ride is for experienced riders who are able to ride quickly and comfortably through very difficult conditions. Level 4 rides often take riders to remote places in the backcountry, which means that those who participate need to be able to support themselves with tools, tire changing skills, basic mechanical abilities, and some survival equipment such as GPS or maps & compass, first aid kit, etc.


4-HeathWaterCrossing_TB (2K) 4-HumptyBumpCreekbed_TB (2K) 4-ICTLooseDownhill_TB (3K) 4-ICTRockyIncline_TB (3K) 4-IronMountainRocks_TB (23K) 4-MuddyHillclimb_TB (2K)


Level5 Level 5 - Insane

On a level 5 ride, you will go places that the dual-sport motorcycle was not intended to go, and do things that a 650cc or larger motorcycle was not intended to do. A level 5 ride will include extreme water crossings, exceptionally steep inclines, and tight, narrow, single track trails. Speeds may be exceptionally quick at times, and riders must be advanced and skilled to safely participate.

5-HeathDeadfall_TB (3K) 5-KyleSnow_TB (2K) 5-MuddyTire_TB (2K) 5-RockyHillclimb_TB (2K) 5-RyanRiverCrossing_TB (2K) 5-RyanStreamBed_TB (3K)