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Classification of the technical difficulty of the tracks

Classification of the technical difficulty of the routes
(IMBA Trail Difficulty Rating System)

The described method of evaluating the technical difficulty of the tracks for recreational use is the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association)developed on the basis of the international route classification system used in ski areas around the world. Many locations with developed networks of mountain bike trails use this system. It is especially suitable for mountain biking but is equally applicable to other types of users, such as bikers or riders. The final judgment on the track is made by evaluating the same based on the proposed classification criteria and combining this assessment with personal judgment and input provided by users.

The IMBA route difficulty classification method can:

help users to make "informed" decisions;
encourage users to use tracks that match their technical capabilities;
contribute to risk management and accident minimisation;
improve the outdoor experience of many users;
help the planning of routes and the system of paths.

The criteria considered include:

Path width > the average path width.
Type of bottom of the track > the type of the bottom and its surface stability.
Slope of the track (maximum and average) > The maximum degree of slope measured in % on the steepest part of the track, which is however longer than 20m. The average gradient measured over the entire length of the track.
Natural and artificial obstacles present on the track > elements that add difficulty by opposing the progression. The height of each obstacle is evaluated from the track surface to the top of the obstacle. If the obstacle is irregular in height, the point at which it is most easily overcome shall be evaluated. The artificial obstacles of the track (Technical Trail Features - TTF) are objects possibly placed in place for increm


The philosophy followed by the IMBA method for the "technical" evaluation of the paths is summarized below:

The system is focused on the classification of the technical level of the path and not on the evaluation of the necessary athletic effort (physical exertion). It is not convenient, in fact, to evaluate both types of difficulties with a single evaluation system. Consider, for example, a sweet and wide path along 35km. The technical level of the track is low, but the distance requires a high level of athletic effort. The solution is to independently assess the technical level, clarifying the level of athletic effort required through further indications, such as length and elevation gain. The joint indication of length, height difference and technical difficulty of the track is simple to integrate and at the same time easy to understand by the user.

In order to reach the final score of each track, the route assessments expressed for each criterion (a track may merit the green circle in two criteria, but the blue one in two different criteria) are combined with personal judgment. In fact, there is no prescribed method to reach the final score of each track.

Tracks are evaluated for other tracks in the area. It is not in fact convenient to evaluate each track individually, while it certainly is to compare them to each other. This helps to classify the relative difficulty of each and will help users to select the most suitable path. A "black diamond" track from one region can be considered "blue square" in another region. The classification is therefore relevant at local level. The assessment of a route is not 100% objective. It is in fact convenient to combine measurable data with subjective judgments in order to arrive at the final assessment.