So this is mountain biking. With an increasingly widening gap forming between the two visible extremes of mountain bike competition – lycra-clad XC racers pedalling what are now little more than glorified road race courses, and full-faced downhillers facing massive gap jumps and vertical tracks – the one that’s turning more heads right now is Enduro.
Of course most of us riders fall somewhere in the middle, somewhere around the Enduro marker, perhaps having even dabbled in one or, however unlikely, maybe even both of these competitive extremes during our time in the saddle. But either way, it’s Enduro racing that is MTB’s next ‘big thing’. Bigger than Jesus? Probably. Bigger than 29-ers? Perhaps.
Enduro racing is still in its infancy, at least worldwide (in France it’s been going for a decade). While many events claim to be Enduro, the definitions are still being, well, defined. In theory an Enduro combines timed downhill stages with strung out, untimed climbs, set over a handful of stages during a day, weekend, or in the case of a the Trans-Provence, a week, and all of it is meant to be rideable on the kind of bikes that most of us ride everyday. Even the infamous 2600m-vertical Megavalanche in Alpe D’Huez coming up next month has enough pedaling uphill to make riders ditch the DH rig in favour of an All-Mountain 6-inch travel bike. And that’s the idea. For those out there that can’t afford separate bikes for the race weekend and for the romp around your local forest with your mates, Enduro is fitting the bill. You get to ride your 6″/150-160mm travel bike all the time without succumbing to any form of suspension travel penis envy on the start line. Okay then, maybe just a little.
With no separate pro, elite or punter classes you’re all in it together, kinda like your Sunday rides back home. As such, Enduro stands for accessibility. Enter, turn up and have a go. Just remember to keep your elbows out.
So as the French National series just finishes its first round this weekend in Samoëns, and former dedicated DH’ers like Tracy Moseley remolding their careers and turning their attention to smashing the field in Enduro, it’s refreshing to think that at last the world of competition mountain biking has returned to reflecting what and how most of us ride: that’s riding up with a grimace, and down with a grin.
Of course Enduro is really just what we used to call cross-country before that got too serious and riders started taking drugs and worrying about the batteries in their heart rate monitors more than how much fun they were having. But today’s bikes have taken the potential a whole lot further.
And to nail this message home, here’s a little vid of GT’s ex-DH World Cup podium placer Dan Atherton at home, riding natural ‘Enduro’ on a typically sunny day in his own Welsh backyard. It almost makes you want to move to Wales (Wales? Google it folks), or at least enter an Enduro event.