Spoke Talk: What’s with Enduro? | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: What’s with Enduro?

Matt Hightower/For Steamboat Today

If you are a mountain biker, you have most likely noticed a new and growing term in the industry, "Enduro." What exactly is Enduro? Is it a bike? Is it a trail? Is it a new flavor of Stinger waffles? Well, I will try and shed some light on the new discipline of Enduro.

Enduro is one of the fastest-growing forms of mountain bike racing; it is very popular in Europe and is rapidly gaining steam in the U.S. Enduro is not cross country and it is not downhill racing; it is a mix of the two. An Enduro race typically consists of three to seven individually timed "stages" spanning one to three days of racing. These timed stages are mostly downhill and are technically and physically demanding. Racers typically start the stages individually at 30-second to one-minute intervals. To get to each of the timed stages, there are "transfer stages," which are untimed and are the routes to the next timed stage. These transfer stages are accomplished either by riding your bike, riding a lift or a taking shuttle. You must make it to your next timed stage by a predetermined start time or be penalized. Sounds easy enough right? Well, it's not.

Enduro has been attracting the best professional riders from various disciplines — downhill to endurance XC racers — and you can never tell who is going to come out on top. You can't just be an XC racer with iron lungs, because you have to be able to ride the technical terrain found in a downhill course. On the flip side, a rider who has excellent downhill riding ability must also have the fitness to handle the short punchy climbs often found in courses. This levels the playing field.

For instance, the second stop of the Big Mountain Enduro tour, recently held at Keystone Bike Park, consisted of six timed stages over two days. A majority of the courses were single- to double-black diamond trails with technical terrain, mandatory jumps, drops, manmade rock gardens and a green or blue trail mixed in somewhere down the course that required a lot of pedaling to test the rider's physical endurance. In the end, it was the best all-around rider, Jared Graves, who came out on top, with a time of 49:53 over very technical and physically demanding terrain. Yup, that’s right — 49 minutes. In comparison, your average World Cup Downhill race is 2 to 5 minutes long, and an XC race is about one and a half hours long.

So short end of the story: Enduro is basically endurance downhill mountain bike racing with just enough pedaling sections to test racers' all-around skills and physical abilities like no other mountain bike racing format out there. This is why it has become the fastest-growing discipline of mountain bike racing.

If you aren't quite an XC racer and not exactly a downhill speed demon, but still have a competitive spirit, Enduro racing might be for you. I highly encourage you to come out for the Steamboat Enduro-X race on Aug. 23 at the Steamboat Ski Area. It is sure to bring together a great group of knobby-tired enthusiasts for a fun day on the bike. For information, visit http://www.enduro-xrace.com.

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Matt Hightower is a Routt County Riders board member and enduro racer.