To start off in the right gear, we’ll be talking about the current National Enduro format enduro’s, not time keepers. Though Papa Pierce and I have quite a few ICO Racing computers from back in our time keeping days, Time Keeping Enduros are long behind us. I’m ok with that.
And for those of you who may have gotten here looking for Mountain Bike Enduro information, this will still be relevant. Just think of the machine and the way you carry stuff a bit differently.
What is an Enduro?
An Enduro is an off-road endurance event. An event that can last all day, covers enough miles to make you want a beer afterward, and has the type of terrain you want to write home about. The events used to be 100+ miles and the machines were so pieced together at the time you were lucky to finish.
As we’ve moved throughout the past 40-50 years, land availability has dwindled, dirt bikes have gotten more reliable and riders attention spans have lessened. This brings us to the National Enduro format of today. Go as fast as humanly possible while in the test and then transfer to the next test section. In a Sprint Enduro, there are typically no transfer sections. In a National Enduro Format, a transfer section could be half a mile long or it could be a nice 5 mile jaunt through the woods. Whatever it takes to get to the start of the next Test section.
Prepare for an Enduro
You should prepare for an entire day on the bike! The way I look at it, you need to have all the food, water and fuel, as well as all the tools and parts, you will need to make it through the race. If you expect to borrow tools, eat food provided by the organizer or tell me there is water in beer at the end of the event, you’re going to be the guy finishing in the back of a pickup truck or getting taken to the hospital.
The riders meeting should let you know where the gas stop is. If it is back at camp, you’ll be able to refill your water and grab a bite to eat back at the truck. If the gas stop is away from camp, make sure you place a bag strapped to your gas can on the trailer taking the gas cans. At a minimum, you’ll want water, your snacks of choice, ibuprofen and a towel to clean up with during the break. I’ve gone so far as to have caffeinated drinks, GoPro batteries, extra gloves, extra goggles and an extra pair of big girl panties to make it through a race. Whatever it is you think you’ll need, plan for it, pack it and enjoy it.
How long is an Enduro?
As I mentioned before, an Enduro can be an entire day of racing. On a slow technical trail, 45 miles of single track could wear you out. If the terrain is more open and fast paced, 100+ miles might be more the tune of the event. The organizer, the terrain and the available land will all dictate the length of the race you’ll be taking on.
Lengths of test sections will also vary throughout the event. The variety in milage lengths could be due to terrain, the way an organizer wants to test the athletes or a combination of reasons.
Due to the endurance nature of an Enduro, you will want to make sure you prepare your bike and body for a full day of riding. If you’re looking to race your first enduro, test the waters by making sure you can ride 45-55 miles with your riding buddies.
If you’re not running an oversized tank, you’ll want to know how many miles your bike can go before needing fuel. My CR80 back in the early 90’s had a number plate gas tank so I could make it to the gas stops. Modern dirt bikes, whether we’re talking fuel injected or TPI, are very fuel efficient, but it’s still a good idea to have a rough idea before starting a day long event.
Hydration and Nutrition are key to enjoying your day on the bike. If you’re new to this, drink water throughout the day, get some sodium in, eat carbs and protein, and don’t introduce new foods on race day. Carbs do not only equal gummy bears or sour patch kids, oranges and bananas can go a long way for a day on the bike. You don’t want to introduce new foods on race day because you don’t want to have to be reminded that you forgot to pack toilet paper. It typically doesn’t end well.
Motocross tracks and riding parks are great places to be on your bike, but since most do not mark their terrain, you may not know how to follow trail markings. In an Enduro, you are following arrows. Even if the trail you are on goes left, if the arrow tells you to go right, you go right. The organizers might have you heading to a new trail, another trail system or you could be rerouted around an obstacle too gnarly for the event. Other markings to help you, the rider, know when to be on the lookout are large X’s and W’s. The X’s are used for caution points, the more X’s you see, the more potential danger. So if you’re blazing the trail, tapped out in 4th gear and see three X’s coming up, slow down and start to take your surroundings in.
W’s are used for Wrong Way markings. Referencing the right hand turn we talked about earlier, if you would have continued on the trail after taking a left, you probably would have seen a few W’s stapled to the trees. W’s aren’t fun to see, knowing you need to slam on the brakes and figure out where you missed the trail, but it’s way better than riding a few miles in the wrong direction and getting lost.
Keep it simple; If it points straight, you go straight, if it points down, slow down, if it points left or right, you’re turning. Some organizers will use marking tape as well, but you’ll know this from the riders meeting. This is to help you see the route they want you to go and to help you see quick trail turns.
How do Enduro rows work?
If you’re on row 44, that means your race will start on the 44th minute of key time, which is when the race will start. Key time has traditionally always been 8am, but with the National Enduro’s transitioning to a 9am key time, many other local organizers have adjusted the start time as well. If the key time is 8am and you’re on row 44, you’ll start at 8:44. The minute difference per row will carry on throughout the day. This also means if you catch racers in front of you, you’re going faster than them and they should give you right of way on the trail. If someone comes up behind you, they’re going faster than you, you should give them the right of way on the trail. Don’t let this be an ego thing, if someone is faster and catching you, give them space to pass. I let Cole Kirkpatrick do it every time, I have a video for proof.
Quick note on Enduro rows. There are 4-5 riders per row and you probably are not the fastest one. If you don’t know the other riders on your row, see what class they’re in so you have an idea on the pecking order. Don’t then decide to race them into the first turn, it’s not a XC race. I have punted many riders into the trees due to them thinking this first turn in a test was their chance to be the best racer. It’s not.
How do you win an Enduro?
To win an Enduro, or win your class, you need to have the lowest score of those you’re competing against. Enduro’s are a different race format due to the fact that you’re really racing the clock, not the racer next to you. Your score for each test section is the amount of time it took you to complete the section. Your score from each test is then added together to give you a score for the day. This is WAY easier than it used to be with time keeping enduros. If you really want to break your brain, google Scoring a Timekeeping Enduro, it’s not fun and you literally need a cheat sheet.
Last but not least, HAVE FUN! Most of us are not professional racers and we’re racing dirt bikes for personal goals, to challenge ourselves or just so we can sh!t talk with our friends for hours around the campfire.