Home | SF Bay Area Rides | Gear | Long Distance Cycling

SF Bay Area Rides::Explanation of Categories

This is taken directly from Carol Shaw & Dick Blaine's Western Wheelers Bicycle Club Ride Catalog.

The ride rating description was changed in 5/95. For rides prior to 5/95, click here.

RIDE CATEGORY (A-F): Indicates pace as expressed by average speed with A being the slowest. Average speed refers to speed while riding and is independent of the length of the ride. A ride with multiple stops may have the same average speed as one ridden without stops. A & B rides have frequent to semi-frequent stops to wait for all riders. New and inexperienced riders are welcome on A rides. On C-F rides there is no obligation to wait for slower riders if a route sheet is provided.

HILLINESS RATING (1-4): Indicates elevation gain as expressed in feet per mile with 1 being mostly flat. The hillier the ride, the slower the average ride speed. If you are unaccustomed to judging ride difficulty based on the number of feet of climb, or if the ride description is unclear about the amount of climbing, call the ride leader for advice and/or additional information.

MILEAGE ESTIMATES: Mileages stated are approximate and have been known to vary depending on weather and group composition.

RIDE RATING EXAMPLE: "C/2/35" indicates a ride of approximately 35 miles, with between 900 and 1700 feet of climb, ridden at an average speed of 13 mph.


1 (< 25) 2 (25-50) 3 (50-75) 4 (75-100)
A 8 7 NA NA
B 11 10 9 NA
C 14 13 12 10
D 17 16 15 13
E 20 19 18 16
F 23 22 21 19

CHOOSING YOUR RIDE CATEGORY: The table above indicates average speeds for rides with different hilliness ratings in categories A though F. If you are a new rider, the speeds in your category may seem low because you know you can ride faster at times. Remember, however, that the numbers represent the average speed for the entire ride. Please do not attempt rides significantly beyond your level of experience. If you are taking your first club ride, err on the conservative side.

If you are unsure in which category to ride on hilly rides (hilliness ratings of 3 or 4), time yourself climbing Old La Honda Rd. and compare your time with the time range listed below for your ride category. If your time is within the range, you can feel comfortable in riding with that group on hilly rides.

B 40-60 minutes
C 30-40 minutes
D 25-30 minutes
E 20-25 minutes
F Less than 20 minutes

If your time is higher or lower, you should consider riding with the next faster or slower category. If you choose to ride outside your category, you should neither push the pace of the group (in the case of a faster rider) nor expect the group to wait for you at the top of the hill (in the case of a slower rider).

WEATHER CONSIDERATIONS: Rides on pavement may be canceled if rain seems likely during the ride. If in doubt, call the ride leader.

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT: As needed, please try to bring basic tools, sunglasses and sunscreen, water bottles, food or food money, a first-aid kit, phone change, "layered" clothing, etc. Bright clothing is recommended.

MOUNTAIN BIKES: Rides are rated with a letter designating pace (A to E, with A the easiest). The number following indicates the difficulty of the hills including both steepness & length (1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest). The last number indicates the approx. mileage of the ride. Rides will be canceled by rain at the time or within the 48-hour period prior to the ride. Other severe weather may also cancel rides. Call to confirm with the ride leader if you are unsure. All riders are required to sign a release/waiver before every ride. Minors need a parent/guardian with them to sign the release.

Ride ratings for rides submitted prior to 5/95
Expected pace on level ground:

A: UNDER 10 MPH. Relaxed pace, frequent stops to wait for everyone, new and inexperienced riders welcome.

B: 10-12 MPH. Sightseeing pace, semi-frequent stops at key points to wait for all riders.

C: 13-15 MPH. Steady pace, rest stops every hour or so, no obligation to wait for slower riders if route directions given.

D: 15-18 MPH. Vigorous pace, occasional stops, no obligation to wait for slower riders if route given.

E: 19-21 MPH. Advanced pace, few stops, no obligation to wait.

F: OVER 21 MPH. Racing pace, few if any stops, no waiting.


1: Flat (except perhaps for occasional overpasses).
2: Rolling Hills (e.g. Canada Rd, a few small hills)
3: Large Hills (e.g. Old La Honda Rd, a 1300 foot climb).
4: Hill mania (multiple long and/or steep climbs).

Comments or suggestions? Send me an email.