British Cycling introduces grading system for sportives

1-5 grading will allow prospective entrants to see which courses provide enough - or too much - of a challenge

by Simon_MacMichael   December 4, 2013  

Blenheim Sportive 1

Cyclists entering sportives will next year have a way of judging their relative degrees of difficulty – at least, the ones registered with British Cycling – with the governing body today announcing British Cycling Grading (BCG), which will be based on a 1 to 5 scale of difficulty.

The scale, devised with the help of Marie Curie Etape Series organisers IMG Challenger World will allow prospective entrants to gauge the scale of the challenge facing them and compare events against one another.

It adds that it will also prove beneficial for organisers when planning routes aimed at cyclists of differing abilities, reflecting the fact that many sportives have a tougher, longer course and an easier, shorter one.
According to British Cycling:

BCG calculates the difficulty of the sportive by analysing the distance of the event and the total elevation. Both parameters can be taken from any GPS plot. Events are then graded on a scale of one to five, or against a descriptive scale – e.g. “moderate” or “challenging.”

When two events fall in the same bracket, BCG allows users to compare events more accurately, using a more detailed rating. Calculated using the same combination of total distance and ascent, the BCG score delivers a detailed breakdown of where all Graded events sit relative to one another.

It adds that BCG will be rolled out to all events in the 2014 season, and that icons will appear on the event listings on its website to denote the event’s grading.

More information about the system and how it works is available on the British Cycling website, which also shows how distance and climb combine to produce that grading – yellow denotes 1, up to red which equates to 5.

British Cycling says that the table “shows the relationship between the distance of the sportive and climbing. The five colour bands are represented, along with a more detailed British Cycling Grading score. Sportives are graded from two to 787, calculated on distance and ascent.”

The organisation’s Cycle Sport Events Manager, Jonathan Day, commented: “We are delighted to get this system up and running for 2014.

“We want everybody entering sportives to enjoy the experience and by providing an easy to understand grading system riders will be better informed about the physical demands of the events they enter.

“It will also help organisers to promote and publicise their events to the right audience so we’re very confident that British Cycling Grading can have a very positive and significant impact on the ever-growing sportive scene.”

Cyclosport, the event listings website, has been providing rankings of degree of difficulty of various sportives, including many registered with British Cycling, for several years.

It uses a scale of 1 to 10 based on the organiser’s perception of the difficulty of the course, so unlike the British Cycling system events may not be directly comparable.

39 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Perhaps we should have another grading system too...

called the "F factor".

On the X axis - no. of residents adversely affected.
On the Y axis - no. of businesses adversely affected.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
4th December 2013 - 18:23

11 Likes

If I've understood climbing elevation bit correctly, they may need to recalibrate for some of the more bonkers events out there such as the Dave Lloyd mega challenge - http://www.cyclosport.org/06-May-2008/news/dave-lloyd-mega-challenge-upd... - 5400+ meters of climbing last year...Wink

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [222 posts]
4th December 2013 - 18:37

9 Likes

Not basing any of it on the individuals level of fitness then? It's about as good as the BMI chart, which! It looks surprisingly like even down to the colouring.

I am British and use miles when riding in the UK... I use Km when riding in Europe. The Velo rules...... What a load of absolute f-ing hogwash. I don't know who are/is the biggest idiot, the people that follow them or the idiot who wrote them?
Ride using km or mph YOUR choice.
To find out how hard a ride is, learn to read a 1-50000 map, it will take you 60 secs to find out.
Wear mixed team kit if you want
Use a bike satchel if you want
Put your f-ing glasses arms under your helmet strap if you want.
Wear a world champion jersey if you want.

Do what you want.
Enjoy your bike however you want and just have fun.

The opinions are my own, no cyclists were hurt during the typing of this post.
I accept all of the keyboard warrior comments that will follow on an individual basis and will respond within 24hrs.

To Everyone else who has an independent and logical mind, please accept my apologies.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [226 posts]
4th December 2013 - 19:29

19 Likes

The flaw to this whole chart thing is that a fat bloke like me might see a 200k with 250 metres of climbing very differently to a 50k with 1000 metres of climbing. And yet this table equates these two examples equally.

The degree of difficulty must also surely depend, to a certain extent, on the actual gradient to be climbed.

For instance, I find the hills on the London to Brighton ride a real killer, and it's only 58 miles. And yet I did a gently undulating 150 mile ride this year, with roughly the same amount of total climbing, and it was a breeze.

Obviously, creating some sort of mechanism that leads to "league table" participation can be a good marketing ploy, but this particular algorithm is bonkers.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
4th December 2013 - 19:32

8 Likes

^^^^^^ What Neil said. Agreed with 100%. A bit more than bonkers though!

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [226 posts]
4th December 2013 - 19:36

7 Likes

Cyclist wrote:

To find out how hard a ride is, learn to read a 1-50000 map, it will take you 60 secs to find out.

Do what you want.
Enjoy your bike however you want and just have fun.

Exactly. Why do people feel the need to have their bike rides 'organised' for them anyway let alone have them 'graded' too?

When I was 15 in the 70's we'd jump on our steel-framed bikes and ride 100 miles to a Youth Hostel without a second thought. We'd be armed with an OS map, a yellow plastic cape in case it rained and some chocolate digestives for nutrition. What more do you need?

It's as easy as riding a bike.

posted by Joeinpoole [308 posts]
4th December 2013 - 19:52

17 Likes

So where's the axis representing wind speed and direction?

posted by nortonpdj [26 posts]
4th December 2013 - 20:36

6 Likes

Agreed, the Rules aren't rules, but some of them are right. Why would I measure in miles? Your 1:50,000 map isn't in miles. 0.5km is 500m, what is 0.5miles? The length of the emperor's parade ground? 'We' don't use miles Cavasta, last time I checked bike components, builders plans, and my Topman jumper are in mm/cm.

Having said that, who would wear their sunglasses OVER their helmet straps? So that you have to take your sunglasses off to take your helmet off? And feel the straps pressed into the side of you head all day? The Rules are more of a style guide.



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1434 posts]
4th December 2013 - 20:43

6 Likes

nortonpdj wrote:
So where's the axis representing wind speed and direction?

and how much you had to drink the night before and what time you got to bed

Northernbike's picture

posted by Northernbike [173 posts]
4th December 2013 - 20:58

7 Likes

Cyclist wrote:
Not basing any of it on the individuals level of fitness then? It's about as good as the BMI chart, which! It looks surprisingly like even down to the colouring.

I am British and use miles when riding in the UK... I use Km when riding in Europe. The Velo rules...... What a load of absolute f-ing hogwash. I don't know who are/is the biggest idiot, the people that follow them or the idiot who wrote them?
Ride using km or mph YOUR choice.
To find out how hard a ride is, learn to read a 1-50000 map, it will take you 60 secs to find out.
Wear mixed team kit if you want
Use a bike satchel if you want
Put your f-ing glasses arms under your helmet strap if you want.
Wear a world champion jersey if you want.

Do what you want.
Enjoy your bike however you want and just have fun.

The opinions are my own, no cyclists were hurt during the typing of this post.
I accept all of the keyboard warrior comments that will follow on an individual basis and will respond within 24hrs.

To Everyone else who has an independent and logical mind, please accept my apologies.

Sounds about right. Only one rule that people should actually adhere to:

Rule #77 // Respect the earth; don’t litter.
Cycling is not an excuse to litter. Do not throw your empty gel packets, energy bar wrappers or punctured tubes on the road or in the bush. Stuff em in your jersey pockets, and repair that tube when you get home.

posted by jug_23 [27 posts]
4th December 2013 - 21:40

10 Likes

Oh great, now we can have grading debates just like climbers.
Dave's point is spot on. Daft grid.

posted by james-o [213 posts]
4th December 2013 - 21:57

3 Likes

Rule 43 is pretty key as well. Though I'd translate it into British English thus:
"Don't be a dick"

anyway.

So that 10km, 3750m ascent, sportive. Given most start where they finish, that's a 133% average climb (45° is 100%, 90° is ∞%).

Somehow mange that, how many stops for new brake pads, rims are you going to need coming down?

posted by Al__S [645 posts]
4th December 2013 - 22:10

4 Likes

james-o wrote:
Oh great, now we can have grading debates just like climbers.
Dave's point is spot on. Daft grid.

Eg. some bellends from yorkshire hammering on about how it's not a real hill if 'it in't in t'dales'

bikeboy76 wrote:
The Rules are more of a style guide.

The rules are a piss take made up on the internet that middle aged portly types have somehow been suckered into following in hopeless belief that there are actually 'rules to the sport' Smile

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
4th December 2013 - 22:15

6 Likes

Al__S wrote:
So that 10km, 3750m ascent, sportive. Given most start where they finish, that's a 133% average climb (45° is 100%, 90° is ∞%).

Somehow mange that, how many stops for new brake pads, rims are you going to need coming down?


Parachutes. And rockets. This might not be UCI compliant, but what the hell.

posted by Argos74 [301 posts]
4th December 2013 - 23:00

5 Likes

Al__S wrote:
Rule 43 is pretty key as well. Though I'd translate it into British English thus:
"Don't be a dick"

anyway.

So that 10km, 3750m ascent, sportive. Given most start where they finish, that's a 133% average climb (45° is 100%, 90° is ∞%).

Somehow mange that, how many stops for new brake pads, rims are you going to need coming down?

I'll agree to that Smile

I think they've tried to do something that's simple for sportive organisers to assess themselves against, but clearly at the extremes it hasn't worked - that scenario is ludicrous, and I'd argue that a pan-flat 210km is more than "moderate"!

As people have said, difficulty is more about gradient than total ascent, but that's tougher to assess, whereas this just needs 2 figures.

It would be nice to see the maths behind the chart - fundamentally it just doesn't seem right to me.

posted by jug_23 [27 posts]
4th December 2013 - 23:01

3 Likes

Quote:

It would be nice to see the maths behind the chart - fundamentally it just doesn't seem right to me.

Really?! It's Grade = Distance x Ascent!

Or were you, rather, asking to hear the thought that went into it, ie "Hmmm, how can we grade sportives? Ah, I know, let's just multiply the distance by how high you climb. Easy, done it. Do I get a sweet?"

posted by Jimbonic [111 posts]
5th December 2013 - 6:34

4 Likes

Quote:
I think they've tried to do something that's simple for sportive organisers to assess themselves against, but clearly at the extremes it hasn't worked

Statistics never works at the extreme ends - that's the whole point of statistics and why statisticians use things like 95th percentile, bell curves and best fit lines.
Look at Body Mass Index as well - that often shows athletes as being "morbidly obese" because it can't take into account the super-fit/muscled people.

The point is that to a relative novice, new to the sport it gives a consistent formula rather than relying on what the organiser thinks it is. For the majority of events the majority of the time it'll work quite well. Which is basically what statistics does - model most things well most of the time.

posted by crazy-legs [568 posts]
5th December 2013 - 8:33

5 Likes

Fitness dictates whether an event is tough, be it flat or hilly.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1018 posts]
5th December 2013 - 8:53

8 Likes

bikeboy76 wrote:
last time I checked bike components, builders plans, and my Topman jumper are in mm/cm.

good luck getting those metric pedal threads into your cranks Wink

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
5th December 2013 - 9:00

4 Likes

Exactly and most metric parts on bikes are imperial sizes converted anyway.
Cyclists are like runners the use km's as it sounds faster/longer Party

posted by stuartp [64 posts]
5th December 2013 - 9:26

5 Likes

alexholt3 wrote:
cavasta wrote:
Hope they're going to produce an imperial version of the chart as well. We still use miles in the UK. Good idea though.

We? BC quotes both units for events. And the majority of cyclists use proper units nowadays.

I still think in miles, I'm afraid. And don't most signs still give distances and speed limits in miles as well?
Though, I can never remember how many yards in a mile. And don't give me temperatures in Fahrenheit - means nothing to me!

(Not that I have any interest in "sportives" - not even sure what they are).

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [753 posts]
5th December 2013 - 9:36

3 Likes

Dave Atkinson wrote:
bikeboy76 wrote:
last time I checked bike components, builders plans, and my Topman jumper are in mm/cm.

good luck getting those metric pedal threads into your cranks Wink


If bicycle compont manufacturers think they can add more planned obsolescence, they'll do it.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
5th December 2013 - 9:53

4 Likes

See Rule # 24.

posted by consciousbadger [19 posts]
5th December 2013 - 10:23

3 Likes

"Check out my new 25.4mm handlebars"

"Wow gotta get some of those, the ones I am using are an inch"

Don't get me wrong I wish we were totally metric or totally imperial, not stuck forever in this halfway house.
How many kms/litre does you car do for instance?

posted by stuartp [64 posts]
5th December 2013 - 10:35

2 Likes

Rapha do their jerseys in metric sizing.

End of argument.

Wave

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [569 posts]
5th December 2013 - 11:33

1 Like

stuartp wrote:
"Check out my new 25.4mm handlebars"

What is this 1998?

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
5th December 2013 - 11:46

2 Likes

presumably the colours chosen have some sort of significance - yellow is for cowards?

and since the rules don't allow triples a factor should be applied so a grade 5 with a triple would be 5-3 = grade 2 ?

Wink

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [174 posts]
5th December 2013 - 12:43

2 Likes

William Black wrote:
stuartp wrote:
"Check out my new 25.4mm handlebars"

What is this 1998?

It was just an example, you are most likely riding 31.8mm which isn't anything like 1 1/4" at all.

posted by stuartp [64 posts]
5th December 2013 - 14:16

3 Likes

To everyone who is looking for flaws in thus fable.
It is a guideline for difficulty not a rule! This table will generally apply quite well to most sportives. I think for those who are just getting a touch more adventurous in the will find this helpful!

posted by Cookie91 [17 posts]
7th December 2013 - 9:43

2 Likes

nortonpdj wrote:
So where's the axis representing wind speed and direction?

Those variables my friend are taken care of by the commissares. Not only wind speed and direction, but temperature, humidity, UV, level and prevalence of doping in the field, equipment performance, you name it, are all taken care of off the chart. All you need to worry about are one or two numbers in the chart. That's all it comes down to.

posted by dogcc [126 posts]
7th December 2013 - 16:47

4 Likes