To optimize everyone’s mtn biking enjoyment while on group rides, it is helpful to have riders ride trails best suited to their mtn biking abilities.  These abilities are both technical skills and physical fitness/aerobic ability. 


To help riders find the best group to ride with, the following mtn bike specific guidelines for technical and fitness levels are provided below. 





You have mountain biked < 10 times.  Sorry, road riders, if you’re new to mountain biking you are initially a newbie.  A few good places for Newbies to practice shifting, braking, cornering, standing, and other basic skills include Point Pinole (paved), the Carquinez Straits trail (paved), the Nimitz trail (paved), the Alameda Creek trail (unpaved), and flat fire roads.  If you’re comfortable with those, then work up to slightly hilly fire roads. 



You have mtn biked at least 12 hours on slightly hilly fire roads or flat narrow trails.  You are becoming comfortable on uneven terrain.  You can competently shift, brake, and corner while standing. You will soon be riding over very small rocks and roots, and are confident in descending gentle, fairly smooth terrain hills.  Soon you are excited to have confidently gone down a moderately steep fire road.  You are becoming accustomed to fire roads with ruts and rocks so you can soon be riding narrow trails with a different natural features.  Some routes you may become confident riding include the Sequoia-Bayview trail at Joaquin Miler Park, the Wildcat Trail at Wildcat Canyon Park, the Shoreline trail at China Camp, or the Old Briones and Valley trails at Briones (all of these suggested trails can be ridden as out-and-backs).  The REI Intro to Mtn Biking class Level I is spot-on for you. Learning early on important skills lays a foundation for the optimum in future mtn biking!    


Strong Beginner

You can ride over a succession of small rocks and roots, and can descend moderately steep trails.  You can ride shallow ruts and over bumpy terrain.  You have ridden narrow trails (<3’ wide).  You are excited to have learned to sit forward and ‘lean low’ to successfully get up a steep hill.  You are quickly learning to keep your weight over/on the pedals and to stand frequently.  Some accomplishments may include Brandon trail at Chabot from the stone bridge up to Red Tail, the Ten Hills trail at Chabot, the Old Briones to Mott Peak loop at Briones, the Bayview trail at China Camp (walking rocky spots), the Sequoia-Bayview and Big Trees trails at Joaquin Miller Park, and the Monte Bello to Saratoga Gap loop. The REI Intro to Mtn Biking class Level II is perfect for you and will speed up your move to more advanced levels. 



You can pedal up a steep somewhat slippery dirt hill for a sustained 10 minutes. You have confident control of the bike even on rutted downhills and on trails with exposure (drop-offs).  You know what flow trails, berms, and tabletops are and can ride them with confidence.  You can competently ride wide up- and down-hill switchbacks without touching down and have begun to conquer tight and rutted/rooty switchbacks. You can ride wide bridges, roll over small logs and rocks, and keep traction on both wheels during a steep climb. You enjoy riding locations such as Crockett Hills, the Bayview to Shoreline loop at China Camp, some trails in Wilder, the Brandon to Redtail to Soaring Hawk loop at Chabot, Eldridge on Mt Tam, Emma McCrary in Santa Cruz, and may have tried the Cinderella trail at Joaquin Miller Park.


Strong Intermediate

You can get over most moderate rocks and logs without stopping. You’re able to climb and go down steep rocky trails (e.g. Buckeye trail at Skyline Park in Napa). You are confident with technical singletrack climbing through rough and bumpy terrain (e.g. Bayview trail at China Camp).  You can ride down successive drops/steps in the trail (e.g. Tamarancho, Skyline Napa).  You may be able to do a front wheel lift to get over moderate obstacles and maneuver tight and steep descending turns on technical terrain. You may pump flow trails and you probably have a seat dropper post. You may enjoy riding Tamarancho, Skeggs, Soquel Flow trail, Cinderella trail at JMP, Diaz Ridge in Marin, and you may be contemplating a trip to Whistler, Moab or Park City!  



You love long steep climbs, gnarly/rocky steep descents and you can easily get over large rocks, moderate to large logs, and you rock rock gardens. You may do a lot of downhill riding even downhill racing. You enjoy doing 3-4 foot drops and jumps. You may race Enduro or ride Northstar downhill runs. 



You race. You have a coach. You have sponsorship, you go crazy fast over everything.                                                         




At a minimum you should be able to ride on flat terrain (e.g. Point Pinole, Carquinez Straits trail) without being out of breath. Enthusiasm for improving your fitness in order to better your mountain biking experience will help to move you to more advanced levels.  



Can ride for 1-2 hours (approx. 8 miles) on flat to rolling terrain with stopping every 10-15 minutes (e.g. Wildcat trail at Wildcat Canyon). Can ride a slight to moderate non-technical uphill for 2 miles (e.g. up Brandon trail from the stone bridge to Red Tail, Old Briones Rd to the end of Valley trail at Briones) with stopping less than 1-5 times for 3-5 minutes each time. 

Strong Beginner

Can ride for 1-3 hours (approx. 10-12 miles) on rolling terrain with occasional semi-steep sections and stopping 2-4 times for < 3 minutes each time (e.g. Brandon from stone bridge to Red Tail to Deer Creek to stone bridge in less than 1.25 hours at Chabot).



Can ride for 2-3 hours or 12-15 miles on rolling terrain with occasional steep sections with stopping every 15-20 minutes. Can ride a moderate uphill for 2 miles with stopping 2-4 times for < 2 minutes each time. You have no problem riding Dan Cooke at Mt Diablo, the Bayview up to the bridge loop back to Shoreline at China Camp, and Crockett Hills.


Strong Intermediate

Can ride for 3-4 hours or 15-25 miles on moderately challenging terrain with occasional steep sections and stopping every 20 minutes. Can ride a moderate uphill for 2 miles with stopping 1 to 2 times for 2-minutes at a time.  You can ride Dan Cooke at Mt Diablo up the Summit trail to Rock City, the Bayview trail at China Camp up to the Nike site, and the climb out of Skeggs (you know the one!), or Diaz Ridge or Green Gulch without stopping.  



Can ride for 4-5 hours or 20-30 miles on moderately challenging terrain with steep sections and stopping whenever. You can ride Briones, Las Trampas, Mt Diablo uphill trails, Eastridge and Westridge uphills at Redwood Park without stopping or breathing hard. 


Pro / Expert / Doping

Zoom ….




*Rider Level Test


From: https://www.reddit.com/r/MTB/comments/32yluh/whats_the_difference_between_a_beginner/#bottom-comments


The only way to know what level you are on is to go on a bicycle spirit quest.

Bike as far as you can into the woods. Draw a circle the diameter of your wheel-base into the dirt. Strip naked, drink a shot of chain-lube and wait.  Your bike spirit guide will find you and take you on the gnarliest dirt-coaster your wheels have ever shredded. Brown-pow my friend. You will shower roost on upon the forest creatures, flow through the finest berms and clear the smoothest doubles.  At the end of your ride your bike spirit guide will hand you a bill for the ER you've just come out of. If bill is below $1,000 you are a beginner, between $1,000 and $5,000 you are an intermediate, $5,000-8,000 you are advanced. Over $9,000 you are Goku.

© 2020 Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay

thanks to our sponsors