Cycling near Lake Ohau Lodge on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail |  <i>Daniel Thour</i>
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Cycle Trail & Mountain Bike Grading System

Find the right adventure for you


When it comes to choosing an adventure, one of the most important things is finding a trip that matches your expectations, is achievable and enjoyable.

The below grading guidelines have been carefully constructed based on our many years of cycling experience as well as feedback from our past travellers. We consider daily distances, duration of trip, number of hills, technical terrain and support vehicle access. 

If you're still not sure after reading, that's okay. Give our friendly team a call and they'll get you on the right track.


Grade 1 - Introductory

Suitable for novice riders, families and e-bikers looking for an easy, relaxing cycling experience with manageable distances (approx 15-35kms per day). Riders are encouraged to go at their own pace with time to stop for our famous morning tea and coffee stops, and photo opportunities.

Cycling is on predominantly flat terrain, with some gentle slopes and a mix of sealed road and compacted gravel surfaces. The trails are generally wide enough for side by side riding and have little to no traffic.

We expect those on a grade 1 cycle trail trip to be confident riding a bike, changing gears appropriately and generally be fit and healthy. We do ask for a medical certificate for those over 75 or for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Riders are capable of riding 20-40kms per day, for 3+ day.

E.g. Otago Central Rail Trail, Nelson Great Taste Trail.


Grade 2 - Introductory to Moderate

This grading is much like an introductory trail, but may have longer daily distances, more days on the trail or have a few trail features. E-bikes are suitable if ridden appropriately and manage battery life (i.e. not on Turbo the whole time, and in the correct chain ring for climbing hills).

Trail surfaces are mainly firm on sealed or compacted gravel but may include some muddy or loose shingle and small obstacles such as roots and rocks in places. Parts of the trail may also be narrow and could include short climbs and small stream crossings.

On-road trail sections may have low to moderate traffic levels, mostly on back-roads. Riders need to be confident riding with some traffic.

Riders are capable of cycling distances between 35-80km per day, for 4+ days. There's still plenty of time for our casual morning tea stops.

E.g Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail and West Coast Wilderness Trail.


Grade 3 - Moderate

For regular experienced cyclists with a good level of fitness. E-bikes are suitable if ridden appropriately and manage battery life (i.e. not on Turbo the whole time, and in the correct chain ring for climbing hills).

Long sections of the trail may be remote, where our support vehicle is unable to reach the trail.

Mainly off-road, moderate trails often have features such as switch backs, narrow tracks, hills, rocks, mud and small river crossings.  If you are worried about these, practice riding on similar surfaces at home and it will be much more enjoyable.

On-road sections may have moderate traffic levels (up to 1000 vehicles a day), and include hill climbs and gravel sections.

Riders are capable of cycling distances between 40-80km per day, for 5+ days. There's still time for our morning and afternoon tea stops, however they may be slightly shorter to keep us on track.

E.g. Timber Trail and Milford and Fiordland Hike Bike and Kayak (Around the Mountains).


Grade 4 - Moderate to Challenging

For experienced cyclists with a high level of fitness and good off-road skills who ride technical trails often. E-bikes may not be suitable.

Trails are narrow and often remote single-track with steep climbs and unavoidable obstacles. They include a mix of compacted gravel and loose rocky sections, where there is likely to be mud and poor traction. Some sections may require walking.

On-road trails have moderate traffic, plus significant hill climbs and possibly gravel sections.

Riders are capable of riding technical terrain between 45-80km per day. Morning tea's and lunch stops will likely be shorter to make up daily distances.

You may be required to carry more warm gear, food and equipment with you in a backpack.

E.g. South Island Gravel Grind.

Grade 5 - Challenging

Suitable for experienced and highly skilled mountain bikers with a high level of fitness.  We expect you to ride challenging trails regularly at home at a nearby mountain bike park or forest park.

Trails are challenging and remote with long steep climbs and decents, single track, dangerous drop-offs and technical terrain (rocks, roots and river crossings). A quality, well-maintained, full-suspension mountain bike is essential (E-bikes are likely not suitable).

You'll still get morning tea's, but will likely shorter as we may be pressed for time making up the distances. Some accommodation may be in shared in remote huts. Some sections may require walking.

E.g. Old Ghost Road Mountain Bike Adventure.



Use our advanced trip finder to search for trips based on trip grading.

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