Can I do this?
You must answer this question honestly! Otherwise it can affect how much fun we all have on the tour and you could quickly put yourself and others at risk. For each tour, we specify the required level of riding skills in the tour information. Based on this classification, you can judge whether the tour is suitable for you.
To characterize the required technical skill level, we use the 6-stage Singletrailskala (STS):
S0 describes a trail which has no particular difficulties. These are mostly flowy forest and meadow paths on dirt with good traction or compacted gravel. The slope of the trail is easy to moderate and the curves are gradual.
Even without any special riding techniques, trails with S0 can be ridden easily.
Example: The first section of the Zurich Adlisberg trail is S0.
On an S1 trail you can expect smaller obstacles such as small roots and rocks, the surface can be partially loose. The gradient can be up to 40% or 22°. Switchbacks are not to be expected but there can be some tighter curves.
Basic knowledge of riding techniques are required. More challenging sections will require for example both controlled braking and shifting your weight and center of gravity.
Example: The Antenna trail from Zürich-Üetliberg is an average S1, but has one or two S2 sections.
At S2 you must expect larger roots and rocks. The ground is often loose and slippery. Steps and shallow stairs are to be expected. Easy switchbacks will occur often and the gradient can be up to 70% or 35°.
Obstacles must be overcome by shifting your weight and you need to be constantly ready for this. Accurate braking and constant body control are necessary techniques.
Example: The main trail from Jeizinen (VS) via Bratsch to Niedergampel is mostly S2, otherwise S1. Many of the best trails of Switzerland fall into category S2.
Now it’s getting really tricky! These single trails can be blocked with many larger rocks and / or root sections. Deep steps, tight switchbacks and tricky off-camber sections occur often, relaxed sections are rare. Slippery surfaces and loose debris should be expected and gradients of more than 70% or 35° are not uncommon.
S3 trails still do not require bike trials techniques, but very good bike control and constant concentration are prerequisites to master this level. Precise braking and very good balance is necessary, rear wheel hopping in sharp turns can definitely help.
Example: The trail from Gotschnagrat to Schwarzsee Alp (Davos) has many tricky S3 sections. But it has been made easier and easier.
S4 describes very steep single trails heavily blocked with large boulders and / or demanding root sections, with loose rocks often in between. Extremely steep ramps, very narrow switchbacks with steps, and steps where your chainring could impact the ground can occur frequently.
Trials techniques, such as changing the position of the front and rear wheel (for example in the hairpin bends) are definitely needed as well as perfect braking technique and balance. Only extreme riders and exceptional bikers can cope with S4 trails. Sometimes even carrying your bike down certain sections can also be dangerous.
Example: Sections on the first part of the trail from the station Bettmerhorn on the ridge in direction of Riederfurka in the Aletsch region (VS).
Quote STS: "Only a handful of freaks try to deal with trails in this difficulty level - S5." These sections we will always walk / scramble down on our tours, if we pass one at all. But that does not mean they are impossible.
Please also check out the sample photos on this site!
The classification of technical difficulty is for guidance only and NOT indicative of the level of risk. The risk of injury tends to increase with the S level, but also a fall off an exposed S1 trail can have serious consequences (see topic exposure). Also, weather conditions and physical condition of the rider can make the trail much more difficult than it is classified. In alpine terrain, the difficulty can rapidly change due to erosion and also forestry and construction activities.
Here is the intonation of the STS by the Austrian Vertriders (very freely transferred to English):
S1: Pippifax – ‘no-brainer’
S2: Pippifax mit Wurzel – ‘no-brainer with root’
S3: Öha, a Stufe – ‘oops, a step’
S4: Öha, a hohe Stufe – ‘oops, a deep step’
S5: ÖÖhaa, zach! – ‘Ooooii, damn!’
S6: Oida leck! – ‘Shit man!’