Saturday, November 29, 2003
Eric McEachern figured if he was going to drive 13-plus hours to compete in regional motorcycle enduro races, he might as well pack up the truck and drive 25 hours to compete at the national level -- and really see where he stood.
The former New Englander got his answer during the past racing season, taking top honors in the 250cc division of the American Motorcyclist Association's Racing National Enduro Series.
At the conclusion of the 11-race series, his first year competing nationally, McEachern found himself atop the standings in his division and eighth in the overall standings behind professional riders such as Michael Lafferty, Randy Hawkins and Robbie Jenks.
Enduro racing and riding is popular in McEachern's native New England, so the move to Steamboat Springs was an adjustment for the 30-year-old to make. Rather than compete relatively close to home, McEachern found himself driving to Texas with his blue Yamaha YZ 250 for regional races.
Instead, he decided to compete nationally at races in the East, Midwest and South -- and the first season was definitely a success, he said.
Enduro racing is off-road distance riding. At the national level, race trails must be more than 100 miles in length, taking riders through various terrain at varying speeds. Enduro racing isn't as spectator friendly or as popular nationwide as the high-flying sport of motocross, but McEachern prefers his discipline to any other.
"I like the terrain a lot better in enduro racing," he said. "You also ride a lot longer. You ride all day pretty much, and I'd rather do that than drive cross country to do a 20-minute race."
McEachern has support from his employer, Scott Borden, at the Mountain Sports Center in Steamboat Springs, but McEachern competes without the big-name sponsorships some of his professional counterparts enjoy.
Traveling cross country solo and serving as a one-man service and support crew would seemingly put McEachern at a disadvantage, but his desire to compete -- he's been racing since 17 -- enables him to succeed.
"It'd be fun to be paid a salary and just ride, but there is a lot of pressure," McEachern said. "Nobody tells me where to go."
Or how often to ride.
The competitive season for enduro racing is from February through October. McEachern realizes his competitors hailing from places such as California and Louisiana have the ability to ride year round, but he appreciates Steamboat's climate and doesn't believe his racing is suffering from him taking time off.
"I like to take a break and cross train," McEachern said. "It helps because I can get away from it and it keeps me from getting burnt out."
McEachern does take the occasional winter spin on his bike, complete with a pair of studded wheels. In New England, there was a winter race McEachern looked forward to competing in, but it's harder to find winter riding companions in Steamboat.
Locally, there is club of enduro riders and there are quite a few in Routt County, he said. Northwest Colorado has terrific terrain to ride and train on, and Rand, located between Steamboat Springs and Walden, is scheduled to host a national race during the 2004 season.
McEachern encouraged anyone interested in getting involved in enduro riding to contact someone already involved to get the best advice about equipment, places to ride and where to race.
He plans on competing nationally at least one more year, depending on his finances.