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Difficulty Ratings

When deciding on your tour, it’s important to keep in mind that our difficulty ratings are relative to the trips that we offer, as it can be somewhat challenging to come up with a comprehensive rating system that applies to every rider.

On our trips, every participant rides at his or her own pace, so you’ll generally have all day to complete the distance. Slower riders (or those planning on lots of photo ops!) can plan to leave earlier in the morning while those opting to zip through the miles may linger over coffee. Typically, folks who ride at a similar pace end up as riding buddies sharing each day’s ride.

Although our supported tours are accompanied by vehicles that are available for your use should you find the going too tough, we strongly encourage each tour participant to come prepared to complete each day’s ride.

NEW for 2021, we’ve adjusted our Difficulty Rating Scale to take into account more information about each trip. Please take a look below at our rating system which is broken down into Adventure Levels (physical difficulty), Terrain, and Technical Difficulty, and the factors that we’re looking at to rate each tour. Keep in mind - your individual experience and fitness may adjust these levels for you; we list them as a general guideline and a comparison tool between all of our tours. As an additional reminder, they do not take into account weather conditions (heat, cold, wind, etc) or whether it is with a loaded or unloaded bike.

If you have any questions or want to discuss any tour in more detail, please feel free to chat, email, or give our office a call at 800.611.8687.

Adventure Levels (Physical Difficulty)
The Adventure Level of a tour, also known as the Physical Difficulty, is a way to see if a given tour has the right amount of challenge for you. There are guidelines for each level that help guide you to why we included a tour in this Adventure Level - you may be able to self-adjust these levels based on your personal training and experience.

Level 1

Great for those looking to try out bicycle touring and experienced riders looking for a more relaxing tour model. Average daily mileage is 35 miles and below. The terrain is generally gentle with occasional rolling hills. Average elevation gain is less than 1500 feet per day. (Formerly Beginner/Beginner+ tours)

Average Mileage: <35/day
Average Elevation Gain Range: <1500ft/day

Level 2

A great option to get out and explore. The average daily mileage for the tour is 35-45 miles per day. There is a little more climbing involved, generally characterized by rolling terrain. An occasional hilly section may be part of the route. Average daily elevation gain is between 1000-2000 feet, with any single day total not exceeding 3000 feet. (Formerly Beginner+ tours)

Average Mileage: 30-45/day
Average Elevation Gain Range: 1000-2000ft/day, high <3000 ft/day

Level 3

These tours average between 35 and 60 miles per day, and have generally hilly terrain, with some days very hilly or mountainous (the hilly or mountainous days may have shorter mileages). Elevation gain averages between 1500 and 3000 feet per day, with any single day total not exceeding 4000 feet. (Formerly Intermediate/Intermediate+ tours)

Average Mileage: 35-60/day
Average Elevation Gain Range: 1500-3000 ft/day, high <4000 ft/day

Level 4

A tour for someone looking to push themselves on their adventure. Average mileage between 45 and 60 miles per day, with a variety of terrain. Longer mileage days will typically have more rolling terrain, while shorter mileage days will have hilly or mountainous terrain. Average daily elevation gain between 2500 and 4500 feet per day, with some days possibly exceeding 4500 feet in elevation gain. (Formerly Intermediate+/Advanced Tours)

Average Mileage: 45-65/day
Average Elevation Gain Range: 2500-4500 ft/day, no high limit

Level 5

This level is reserved for our most challenging tours which includes our Epic tours (>30 days in length) and tours with big mileages and mountainous terrain. Average daily mileage is typically between 50 and 75 miles per day. Average daily elevation gain is between 2000 and 5000 feet per day with some days possibly exceeding 5000 feet in elevation gain. (Formerly Advanced Tours)

Average Mileage: 50-75/day
Average Elevation Gain Range: 2000-5000ft/day, no high limit

Terrain
Our Terrain ratings are based on an average terrain level you may encounter throughout the entire tour. Each tour will have variation: gentle tours may have some rolling hills while mountainous rated tours may have some less mountainous sections. This rating is to give you an overall sense of the tour, but be prepared to see some variation. We base our ratings on the elevation gain per mile each day (elevation gain divided by total mileage). The number range listed with each terrain rating is the elevation gain in feet per mile. The rating itself is the combined average for the duration of the tour.

Gentle

Gentle terrain means mostly flat roads and trails and is considered a relaxed type of ride. These tours typically have around 1,000 feet of elevation gain per day or less, and the grade is typically 1-4%. (0-19 vertical feet/mile).

Rolling Hills

Tours with Rolling Hills are those that have a bit more climbing in them, but the grades are still fairly relaxed. We’ll typically see climbing of less than 1,800 feet per day and venture into the 2-5% average for grade. (19-38 vertical feet/mile).

Hilly

Our Hilly tours have a consistent up and down nature to them. A typical day will have you climbing (and descending) between 1,500 and 2,500 feet. Grades on these tours can vary, but will typically be between 2% and 6%. (38-63 vertical feet/mile).

Very Hilly

A Very Hilly tour is just that. Expect to climb and descend regularly each day. Daily climbing will average between 2,500 and 3,500 feet, and we’ll move into typical grades of 3% to 6%, with occasional climbs reaching over 8% (these are typically short-lived). (50-75 vertical feet/mile).

Mountainous

Mountainous terrain will get your legs burning! These tours average more than 3,500 feet of climbing each day, and have spectacular descents to make it all worthwhile. Some tours may also be listed as mountainous if they regularly have steep grades over 8%. (75+ vertical feet/mile).

Varies

Tours labeled with this rating have a variety of terrain throughout the tour. This label is typically listed for our epic tours, which cross so much distance that one terrain rating would be too generic. For these tours, we’ve listed in the itinerary the terrain for that given section.

Technical Difficulty
This rating is relevant to our dirt-based tours, referring specifically to bike-handling skills. Most paved and many dirt/gravel roads don’t require any special technical handling skills — if you are comfortable on your bicycle, you’ll be comfortable on the tour. However, some of our rougher-road or singletrack backcountry tours do require a higher degree of technical riding ability.

Easy

Characterized by travel mostly on hard-packed dirt roads and trails, Easy Technical Difficulty tours can be ridden on a rigid-frame bike with a tire size of 35-42mm.

Easy to Moderate

Characterized by travel mostly on hard-packed dirt roads and trails, Easy to Moderate Technical Difficulty tours can typically be ridden on a rigid-frame bike with a tire size of 35–42mm. You may find some loose gravel/dirt on stretches of the route on tours with this rating. This technical rating may also be applied to tours with mixed paved/dirt surfaces.

Moderate

Characterized by travel mostly on dirt roads and trails, Moderate Technical Difficulty tours ride on roads and trails that contain sections of loose gravel, soft dirt, or ruts. Riders will find more comfort on mountain bikes with front suspension or plus-size/semi-fat (3in. wide) tires. These rides may feature sections with singletrack options.

Moderate to Difficult

Characterized by travel on dirt roads, trails, and two-track, Moderate to Difficult tours ride in more remote areas and challenging terrain. Climbs and descents on loose gravel are typically in the 2–6% grade range, and sections of singletrack are available. Hardtail mountain bikes with a good tire tread are recommended.

Difficult

Characterized by travel on dirt roads, trails, two-track, and singletrack, Difficult tours ride in remote areas and challenging terrain. Climbs and descents on loose gravel can be greater than 6%, and sections of singletrack are typically part of the route. Hardtail mountain bikes with a good tire tread are recommended.

2020 Tour Rating Scale
Prior to 2021, our difficulty rating scale was a Beginner to Advanced system. You can reference our past rating system here.

Beginner

Characterized by flatter terrain and comparatively shorter distances (25–45 miles per day). These tours have minimal hill climbing and are optimal for newer or easy-going cyclists, or those traveling with friends or family members unaccustomed to cycling. Exception: Family Fun trips tend to have mileage in the 20- to 30-mile per day range.

Beginner+

In comparison to our Beginner tours, Beginner+ tours have some additional climbing characterized by rolling hills and/or longer daily mileages (35–55 miles per day). These trips are great for newer cyclists looking to challenge themselves. Exception: Family Fun trips tend to have mileage in the 20- to 30-mile per day range.

Intermediate

Characterized by rolling terrain and medium-distance days (40–60 miles per day). Intermediate tours can involve some climbing, but the climbs are usually shorter (1–2 miles), and the grade tends to be no greater than 6% for an extended period. These tours are best for individuals who are regular or semi-regular cyclists.

Intermediate+

In comparison to our Intermediate tours, an Intermediate+ tour often has slightly more climbing or a few longer days (50–70 miles per day). A few of our self-contained Intermediate+ tours are ranked as such not due to high mileage or heavy climbing, but because riding loaded for several consecutive days can be physically taxing.

Advanced

Characterized by consistently undulating terrain and relatively longer distances (60+ miles per day). Advanced tours may also feature steep grades (greater than 6%) for extended periods. These tours are best suited for more experienced cyclists or folks with a higher fitness level.

Most of our longer (more than two weeks) self-contained tours are rated as Advanced or Advanced+. This has less to do with high mileages or unrelenting climbs, and more to do with the tour length, group roles and rotations, and the added challenges of riding loaded bicycles on lengthy tours.

Advanced+

In comparison to our Advanced tours, an Advanced+ tour will see a greater number of consecutive higher mileage days (60+ miles per day) and a larger number of climbs. An Advanced+ tour might involve some exceptionally hilly terrain, high mileage days, and/or take place at higher altitudes.

Most of our longer (more than two weeks) self-contained tours are rated as Advanced or Advanced+. This has less to do with high mileages or unrelenting climbs, and more to do with the tour length, group roles and rotations, and the added challenges of riding loaded bicycles on lengthy tours.

Tour Team Top Picks

Cycle the Divide - Montana
Cycle the Divide - Montana

Fully Supported. Here’s your chance to sample our heralded Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, fully supported and load-free! We’ll travel from the lively resort town of Whitefish, located near Glacier National Park, to the southern end of the spectacular Swan Range, one of Montana’s less-visited geologic gems.

Acadia and Mt. Desert Island
Acadia and Mt. Desert Island

Inn to Inn. Spend a long weekend riding the scenic roads that bring you through Maine’s only National Park - Acadia. Relax by the rocky Otter Cliffs, listen to Thunder Hole, and maybe even take a trip on the famous Carriage Roads.