Enduro racing. You might’ve heard of it. It’s been around for a while now. And I think we can collectively say it’s here to stay. Personally speaking it is my favorite discipline of racing mountain bikes, because it is truly all encompassing. You’ve got the lung busting transfer stages, the pure adrenaline of those downhill timed runs and memories.
Think about all those memories you create in the saddle day after day. I mean, what’s not to love. Let’s get technical just real quick.
When we’re referring to an Enduro mountain bike race, we’re talking about a race with multiple stages where the downhill sections of the course are timed. And then the transfer sections between the time stages are not timed.
So at the end of the day, you’ve got the accumulated over all time raced, which are the downhill sections. And then that’s how you find the fastest rider. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? So overall you really do need endurance on the bike because you’ve got a ride, you know, sometimes six hours or more, and then you need those technical riding skills as well because the downhill sections are where it counts.
Whether you’ve never before stepped foot into a mountain bike race atmosphere, or you’re a seasoned veteran in those multi-day stage races, there is something to be said about being prepared and knowing what’s to come. I’m going to share my personal insights into Enduro racing cause I want you to go out there and feel confident and ready to take on your next adventure.
We recently shared a video on getting your bike ready for race day. So make sure to check that out if you haven’t. There were also some tips on what I carry for spares and tools in there, as well. As for today, let’s get to the race actions.
Most of the time the race is going to start with a transition to get the riders up to stage one. And then after that, the transitions are just pedals linking up the stages, moving the riders around the course.
Now they’re not going to be timed as in adding to your race time, but there’s usually a cutoff time where you need to get to that next stage.
So you don’t want to milk those transitions too much, which leads me into Enduro walking.
Now you’ll see a lot of really, really fit racers out there, literally walking up the hills between the stages because we’re not getting timed. So we want to save our energy in those scenarios. Save it for the downhill sprints because that’s where it really matters.
Lastly, I personally like to know exactly how long my transfer stages are going to be length and time so I can prepare to get to the next stage with enough time to still put on my knee pads, have a little drink of water and drop in.
And now the fun stuff, the downhill stages, these are timed. So definitely go for it. Pedal every opportunity you get. Now, if you do have a start time to get to that stage, don’t want to miss it. That could actually result in a disqualification or a time penalty.
Tons of events do still go on without those specific start times. And they’re actually quite fun because you get to ride together in a bigger group atmosphere and kind of hang out with the homies.
Times on the race stages can drastically vary. I mean, three minutes on a shorter stage, that’s going to require you to push hard right out of the start gate. Give it everything you got versus a longer stage, which could be 15, even 30 minutes long.
That’s going to require you to moderate your energy a lot better, push when you can, but also reserve a little bit in the tank because you don’t want to make a big mistake out on track. So think about it and play to your advantage.
If you’re a super fit rider and you love pedaling, make the most out of those big transfers along ski hills perhaps, give it all you got. But if you’re more of a technical rider, then make sure to smash those downhill sections to make up for it.
Nutrition & Tech Zones
Know where the feed and the tech stations are out on course, if they’re available, cause that’s going to help you decide what to pack with you.
If you’re passing the feed zone multiple times throughout the day, maybe you don’t need to carry 10 granola bars with you, but you do want to always be self-sufficient because there is no one doing the bunk.
Only you can know how many calories you need for an all day effort. And what foods do you like to eat. Personally speaking, I like easy to eat food. Maybe some baby foods, some trail mix, just stuff that’s going to taste nice, be easy to go down on trail. If it’s a really, really big day, probably pack a sandwich.
If there is a tech zone available out on the course, then that’s quite helpful. Maybe you don’t need to bring as many spares or tools with you out on the race, but I like to be self-sufficient because chances are, if I go to the tech zone, whatever part I need, they’re not going to have it.
They can’t help you fix little things, maybe a bent derailleur or broken brake lever. But realistically you want to have everything with you, either on your bike or in your bag. Remember to eat early and eat often. Race days aren’t going to be planned around our ideal eating times.
So therefore I like to make sure I pack well enough calories to get me through the day. Make sure I’m not too fatigued. Sometimes crazy things happen. You have a mechanical, you don’t have enough time to stop at the feed zone.
So again, I’ll just reiterate it, be self-sufficient. Now this should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, water. So very important, especially on a big hot summer day. Make sure to pack a bunch of electrolytes in there. It’s going to help you not cramp up over those big pedals. And it’s also going to help speed up the recovery.
Now I know what you guys are wondering. Biggest question of any girl’s life. What do I wear now? Now it can be actually a little bit overwhelming picking out what to wear on race day, but for the most part, just go with what you know, don’t get too complicated here.
The usual suspects for me on any given bike ride are going to be a Jersey, shorts obviously, pair of bibs to carry my snacks or any spares in, armor, gloves. And then it gets a little bit tricky. Full face or half shell helmet? A lot of Enduro races do require the riders to wear a full face helmet.
So definitely read the fine print before you just show up in your half-lid. As for me, I almost always race in a full face helmet. I feel a lot safer at race speed. Chances are I’m taking a bit more risk. I’m not all together there if I’m a little bit fatigued at the end of the day. So I just feel better in my full face.
Today, even though it’s overcast, it is super hot out. So I’m going to half-lid for now. Glasses or goggles? I personally recommend everybody wear eyewear out on the race courses or riding because you’ve got dust, debris, wind in your eyes.
I mean, who wants to dart off the racecourse because a bug just flew into your eyeball? Not me. If I’m wearing the full face almost a hundred percent of the time, I’m going to go for goggles. But if I’m in the half shell, I might dabble with the glasses.
It really kind of depends on the weather though. Cause if it’s hot, muggy, humid or raining, it could get a bit fogged up in the goggles. And your vision is actually just going to get worse with those on. So you might spring for the glasses instead.
See as we’re here to race bikes and all at least some of us, I think it’s crucial to at least touch on the different timing systems that are out there. Now there’s a lot on the market these days, but personally speaking, the most that I see are either on the bike or on the person.
It’s important to be familiar with how they work so that when it comes time to drop in, you’re not fumbling around with your race chip. The most common timing systems that I usually encounter are the gate systems.
Now they’re super simple because you’ve got some sort of a sensor either on your bike or on the rider and you ride through two little gates at the start of the stage and the end of the stage. It’s quite easy.
You do want to be careful though, because if you’re hanging around the start gate and you get too close to the gates, it could actually pick up your time a lot sooner than you actually drop in. Another popular timing system is the tapping system.
Usually you’ve got a bracelet, maybe it’s on your wrist and you physically tap a sensor at the beginning and end of every stage. Now I know from experience this one’s a little bit trickier as a racer because after you’ve just dropped in for 15 minutes of downhill, you’re a little bit tired at the end. It’s hard to see straight.
It’s hard to put your wrist where you think it needs to go. So do practice this one if you’re going to encounter it out on the race course before you do stage one, just to make sure you know what’s going on.
When it comes time to practice the stages for the race, each event’s different. Plenty of top level events only allow riders to go through a stage one time for practice. This really helps preserve the nature of the track, keep it in tip top shape for race day.
But in that case, it’s really important to know what’s coming. My approach with my practice race runs since I usually only get one opportunity to check everything out is to drop in with a little bit of pace, but also just focus on trail scanning with my eyes.
Now, personally, I put a lot of trust into my own skills as a biker. I can pick lines quickly and adapt as needed, but if I come across a big feature, maybe a blind step down or shoot with lots of lines in it, that’s where I’m going to stop and spend a bit of time there.
I might have my favorite line that I’ve chosen. Maybe it fits my technical riding abilities best, but I like to practice all of them because when you’re in the middle of a race day in the middle of, you know, one stage, maybe at a six, you kind of forget and the tracks start to mesh into each other if you know what I mean?
So therefore I like to try all the lines that way, if I’m accidentally thrown onto the wrong line on race day, or maybe the weather changed an my high line over the roots isn’t working, I can adapt and I can overcome. Another helpful tip, especially for practice is to take out a GoPro with you, record your practice run so that you can revisit it later on and remind yourself what’s coming up on stage 1, 2, 3, 4, or five.
I’m sure you guys have heard the term slow is smooth, smooth as fast. And that makes a lot of sense when we’re talking about Enduro racing. It’s a good tip just to take her a bit easier than you think you need to. I kick myself in the butt all the time when I fly off the track, cause I’m going balls to the wall, like a maniac.
When really, if we just tone it down a little tiny bit, our overall time’s probably going to be faster hitting those marks than flying off the side of the trail. So do keep that in mind. Now, if you don’t have a lot of race experience, maybe you’ve not spent time in the race tape before, then here’s just a little tip I’m going to give you here, nothing to throw you off or overwhelm you, but unlike a downhill track where you might see both sides of the track lined with race tape, keeping the racers on course, enduros are not quite the same.
The tracks are extremely long, so they couldn’t possibly tape the whole entire track. So I use that race tape as a visual reminder, that chances are something’s coming up, either a line is marked off closed, and that’s why the tape is there. Or it’s guiding you around a big sharp bend, or maybe it’s saving your life by keeping you from going far right off of a cliff.
So practice with that race tape, get used to having it in your peripheral vision and use it to your benefit.
Go to Race
The final thing left to do is to go racing. If you’ve taken the time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for your race day, then the best part is yet to come.
All you’ve got to do is ride the course, manage your energy levels and have some fun between the tape. Make sure to push hard. When that timer goes off, up time on the course where you can and where it suits you best as a rider and just remembered a pedal. Dang it.That is the spirit of Enduro.
Thanks for reading the post today. And I really hope it was helpful and ripping off that first Enduro race bandaid.