Explained: MTB Enduro

For some of you this term is nothing out of the ordinary, but for those of you who are not quit familiar with MTB Enduro yet, here is a brief explanation from Jazz Kuschke.

The four things you need to know about this growing bike-racing discipline.

Downhill Masters World Champ Myles Kelsey© Ewald Sadie
1. IT’S ALL DOWNHILL, SORT OF
Enduro is relatively new in South Africa but has been popular in Europe and the USA for years. It’s a bike-racing discipline that involves daylong or multi-day mountain bike races where riders pedal uphill but are only timed on the multiple descents. “Basically it’s the same as a marathon-style event, except the racing occurs only over select sections, much like a car rally,” says Meurant Botha from Dirtopia. “The sections between special stages are neutral and not timed.” Botha is kind of the granddaddy of MTB trail building in SA, but has found a love for enduro because it appeals to him as a rider. “These are the first events we've organised where I can sort of participate, so we organise them because they are fun and I believe that’s a crucial part of the MTB scene.” Botha and his crew organised the first multi-day, multi-stage Enduro in SA back in 2012. He believes the major challenge to the sport’s development lies in finding venues with enough elevation and route options to make up four to five stages in a day. “Because most of our events have been geared towards marathon riders (yes, it's a cash flow thing) the majority of our trails have been designed as link trails rather than gravity runs,” he says. “For all our enduro events we've had to build special sections to ensure enough vertical competition.”
Gary Perkin climbs toward the next timed downhill© Ewald Sadie
2. IT’S JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY MORNING RIDE WITH YOUR MATES While the racing is fiercely competitive, the vibes are super chilled. This could stem from the fact that it is not a flat out race to the finish line or the type of biking character the format attracts. “We all ride together to the top of a singletrack section, have a quick drink and then bomb down the trail one by one before regrouping at the bottom to tackle the next ascent,” Botha explains. “Of course the special stages are more technical than on your average marathon race, making it appealing to more technically proficient riders on longer travel bikes.”
3. THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S EASY Enduro appeals to the technically sound rider who enjoys a tough day on the bike. “You are strongly advised not to wear lycra shorts,” Botha stipulates. “You'll feel like a roadie and although no-one will point, there might be the occasional snigger.” In terms of equipment, five to six inches of travel is the bike norm and most riders are at least wearing knee pads. If only to look fast, according to Botha. SA courses are very ridable so you basically only need to be enthusiastic about riding fun singletrack. “Once you see your times you'll quickly realise what speed really means and it could take you as long as month to come to terms with the fact that Gary Barnard is, on average, 50% faster than you,” says Botha. 4. IT’S UNLIKELY TO GROW BIGGER THAN MARATHON RACING “I doubt enduro will ever explode to the proportions of marathon racing, and we certainly wouldn't want it to,” Botha comments. He believes however that (in SA, at least) it will certainly be much bigger than downhill, which has become specialised to the point where very few riders can manage the technicality of international standard courses. "The major challenge of organising an enduro event – apart from finding a suitable course – is managing the timing and results," he says. "We've made lots of progress with the Trailtag system that can offer realtime results, but not without a tremendous amount of growing pains and continuous and seemingly never-ending investment. The fact that the events draw a fraction of the numbers as a marathon will therefor make most organisers think twice whether it is a financially worthwhile undertaking." Source: www.redbull.com

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