How would you describe the difficulty of this road to another rider?

The classification of paved roads – freeway, highway, county road, city street, etc – tells a motorcyclists a lot about the nature of any particular road and aids tremendously when selecting a route.  Similarly, dual sport riders need a classification for non-paved roads.  I propose the following rating system for establishing the relative difficulty of non-paved roads for travel by adventure and dual sport motorcycles.  Using this classification will help dual sport and adventure riders select roads and routes most suitable for the riders level of skill and the capabilities of the motorcycle.

Class 1: Improved dirt, gravel, etc.  Passable by any motorcycle capable of off-pavement travel.

  Examples of class 1 roads include:

Old Maverick Road, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Salt Branch Road, Mason County, Texas
Old Junction Road, Kimble County, Texas
CR 350 (best DS road outside of Big Bend), Edwards County, Texas
Hackberry Road, Real County, Texas

Class 2: Poorly maintained dirt, gravel, etc.  Rocks, sand, mud holes, ruts, inclines, water crossings, or other similar obstacles make this road difficult for larger, heavier adventure motorcycles and requires some rough terrain riding skills.

  Example of class 2 roads include:

Road to Batopilas, Copper Canyon, Mexico
Northern end of Pinto Canyon Road, Big Bend region, Texas
River Road, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Sandy Creek Road, Llano County, Texas
Bullhead Road (connects RR3235 to RR 2631), Real County, Texas

Class 3: Rugged, unmaintained dirt, gravel, etc. roads.  Significant obstacles such as moderate sized rocks, deep sand, deep or long mud sections, deep & wide water crossings, and/or steep inclines with loose terrain & tentative traction make this road/trail extremely difficult for large adventure bikes and very challenging for large dual sport motorcycles such as 650cc thumpers.  Advanced rough terrain / off-road riding skills advised.

   Examples of class 3 roads include:

Middle section of Kent Creek Ranch road, Real County, Texas

Class 4: Extremely rugged road that contains highly challenging obstacles such as steep drop-offs, deep & fast moving water crossings, very steep inclines with loose surface, boulders, deep & long mud sections, downed trees, and deep & long sand sections.  Generally not passable by large adventure bikes, extremely difficult for large dual sport motorcycles such as 650cc thumpers, and very challenging for smaller dual sport / trail bikes.  Should be attempted only by those with significant rough terrain / off-road riding skills and experience.


This rating system does not include trails or single tracks.  It is for the classification of roads only.

How to use the rating system

The purpose of the rating system is to give adventure / dual sport riders an established standard for classifying roads.  This system will help riders select roads that are appropriate for their skills, motorcycle capabilities, and desires.

1.  Roads are classified according to the most difficult section of that road.  Classifications should not be “averaged”; instead, classifications should indicate the most difficult section a rider will encounter along that road.  For example, the James River road in Mason County, Texas is a class 1 road with the exception of a class 2 water crossing.   The entire road is, therefore, a class 2 road, even though the majority of the road fits in class 1.  The single class 2 river crossing means the road must be classified overall as class 2.

2.  In addition to giving a road a class rating, when possible give a description of the obstacles found along that road.  For example:

The James River Road is a class 2 due to a single class 2 water crossing that is about 12 inches deep and extremely slick and treacherous with algae.  The remainder of the road is all class 1.
“Kent Creek Road is a class 3 road about 5 miles in length.  The class 3 section consists of about 1 mile of travel in a creek bed consisting of large, loose rocks.  Navigation is particularly difficult due to road being overgrown and difficult to distinguish from other, private roads that intersect Kent Creek Road.  The remainder of the road consists of both class 1 and 2 sections.”