Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What is Mountain Bike Enduro Racing?

What an amazing year. Again. The last two years were spent racing and training for cross-country (XC) races in Cyprus, South Africa, Italy, Czech, France, Germany, England, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria. Given a domestic race schedule this year I was wondering if I would be a little bummed staying "home". 


Enduro is a perfect fit for me, I love the technical and social aspect. I love that we can wear protection and are not throwing ourselves off technical features on a 17lb hardtail wearing nothing but lycra and a tiny 205gram helmet. I love that I have increased my skill more this year than in any other race season. I love that Todd can race too, even with a way-too-busy work schedule. I love that I didn't so a single interval this year. I love that I have way more people to "train" with. And of course I love all the new gear required for Enduro racing!

I did a radio show with Macky early in the year, it will be interesting to go back and listen to it after racing enduro all year and see if I have a different perspective. I never listened to it the first time since I didn't want to hear myself talk. :)

Until this summer I had never ridden a bike park, this summer I hit the road in the van for 8 weeks and raced at Angle Fire, NM, Crested Butte, CO, Keystone, CO, Canyons, UT and Winter Park, CO bike parks. I flew to Oregon twice and raced at Ski Bowl, OR bike park on the 2nd trip. Until this summer I had never shuttled, now Todd owns a shuttle truck.

Todd's shuttle truck

What is Enduro?

An Enduro race weekend is typically comprised of two days of racing. Each day there are multiple race (timed) segments which are mostly downhill with transition (untimed) segments in between. Each racer is sent off with 30-60second gaps. Fastest riders in each class are sent first to try and avoid having to pass which slows down both racers involved. The overtaking racer has the right-of-way so the other racer has to let them by quickly.

After each race stage racers congregate and socially make their way to the next start, these transition segments can require pedaling from a couple minutes to over an hour, a shuttle vehicle or lift access is utilized for some transitions. The wait at the next start depends on how dialed the timing crew has become.

Transition. photo by Justin Olsen
Open women congregating for a social transition ride at Moab BME
Races are held at bike parks, local city trail systems and/or remote backcountry trails. Most weekends were a mix.

Race (timed) segments differ, you'll find rocky DH bike park runs, jump line trails, smooth and flowy bermed runs and/or cross-country trails at any given enduro race.

How do races vary?

I attended the Big Mountain Enduro Series (BME), North American Enduro Series (NAET), 2 of 3 Enduro Cup races and the Colorado Freeride Festival Enduro (USA stop of the Enduro World Series at Winter Park).

The Oregon Enduro races I attended as part of NAET were mainly smooth trail made up of berm after berm requiring an overall higher rate of speed and dialed cornering skills.

The two races I attended of the Enduro Cup were both one-day events and very XC; the race at Canyons was a one-day event and while held at a bike park we only raced on XC trails and didn't utilize the DH runs. My bike was overkill for these races, I probably should have used the XC bike (4" 29er Cannondale Scalpel). 

My take is if you need to use a XC bike for all stages, it's a XC race, if you need a DH bike for all stages it's a DH race, if it is a mix and requires a bike in the middle (5"29er or 6" 26er) it's an Enduro race. Given that definition a 5.5" 27" bike would be an ideal Enduro bike. That is if the race officials settle on the same requirements when choosing courses... 

If I were only going to attend a handful of races I would pick the following:

Keystone BME was a blast with varied terrain and all of the race segments were at the bike park. This was by far one of my favorite races all year.

The Winter Park Enduro World Series race had everything, DH, techy XC, berms, jumps and wood features.

Durango BME was 100% natural trail with long backcountry descents one day and technical flat-ish trail the next which required pedaling, technical skill, power and fitness. 

Moab BME was natural trail as well, but very "XC", as in a lot of pedaling with no need for a bigger travel bike. Durango, CO and Moab, UT both contained a major backcountry day beginning at 11,000+ feet and ending in town (~6,500ft and 4,500ft).  Make sure you are cross-country fit and don't bring too big of a bike.

Angle Fire/Taos BME makes this list too for the varied terrain and because the XC stage actually contained technical bits which was perfect!

My favorite Enduro race in more detail

The Winter Park stop of the Enduro World Series was probably my favorite as it contained a bit of everything, Trestle Downhill, smooth and jump filled Rainmaker and No Quarter, and the rough and rocky natural Mt. Goat trail.

Trestle line selection pre-ride (select HD or you can't see much)

Rainmaker pre-ride (select HD or you can't see much)

The Enduro World Series was a three day event, the promoter released race segment maps a day before the actual race which made for long days of racing, recovering then pre-riding for the following day. Major afternoon hail/rain/thunderstorms made pre-riding difficult. In fact Stage 4 was canceled altogether due to lightening damage to the chairlifts (which was fine with me. I only pre-rode Stage 4 once and thought it was the only bad stage, a boring trail that didn't ride well). Stage 3a and 3b were two complete races, not sure why they released them as a and b.

Screenshot of freezing cold rain running through SRAM tent during practice

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3a and 3b
Stage 4
Stage 5
I also enjoyed the Winter Park vibe, it felt like a World Cup race with all the non-USA Enduro World Series racers and sponsors in the venue. I loved the fact that SRAM was at this race, it was the first race where I received any type of support. Even though Enduro racing is a much better fit for racing solo, a little support still goes a long way!

What makes a good Enduro stage?

Opinions vary on what makes a good Enduro stage. I say a good stage is something you ride and comment, "wow that was fun/exciting/challenging!" Typically 5-25 minutes long.

My least favorite BME race was Crested Butte because two of the stages were XC trails that were simply not fun. I would never go back on my own and say, "let's go ride that trail". Taos on the other hand ran a long XC trail (South Boundary Trail) which was a blast. I personally liked the more DH style rough and rowdy runs with features, a great Enduro race would be something that requires a 6" travel 26" bike (my Cannondale Jekyll) but as I said above, I think the consensus will be for a mix of trails which will (overall) require a 5" light 27" bike.

Gear Selection

I love that gear selection is a part of Enduro, picking the correct Kenda tires for the race was based on volume, tread pattern, how XC or DH it is, how sharp the rocks are = which casing (DCT, DCT SCT, or UST), what corner knob would be ideal, and if it was wet, dry, or loose.

Protection for me is G-form padding, light, compact, easy to ride in and it works. 

My travel luggage, gym bags, hydration packs, now even a hip pack are all Osprey. They have so many options I never trained or raced with a pack that was too small or too big for me and what I wanted to carry.

Forks, until I received the RockShox 160 Pike I was swapping out a 150 Revelation and a 160 Lyrik depending on the race. The Pike is just amazing.

I learned which NoTubes wheelset I needed at which races, I ended up with a Crest front and Arch rear with more tire pressure than I have run in the past. For more rocks, jumps or drops I ran the Flow EXs.

Race rules require that you settle on one frame, wheelset, rear and front suspension for the entire weekend. If you break something you have to bring it to the official and they will determine if you have to ride it as-is or if you can swap it out for a similar item. 

Training and Clinics

I have held clinics almost as long as I have been racing. My thinking has always been, it would have been easier if someone had just told me how to do that. I learned to ride by going fast, following other riders and crashing. So now I love giving pointers so others don't have to learn the hard way.

Taking Clinics

This year is the first year I have taken clinics, this spring I took Lee McCormack's clinic as part of the NICA coaches training. I hired Lauren Heitzman to teach me how to jump at Winter Park right before the World Series race. Anthony Diaz, my suspension tuning specialist in Durango, started giving me pointers so now any time I am in Durango I try to get him to teach me something. Not only is he crazy fast he is really good at explaining skills. Here I am following him off a drop.

Anthony just landed the snakecharmer drop to flat (right line) screenshot.

My turn

Giving Clinics

I was lucky enough to be asked to coach at the Beti AllRide Clinic in Keystone, CO. With 90 women signed up for the event and 12 coaches it was the biggest clinic I have participated in. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to everyone (boys should just wear a wig). You will be placed with the ideal group and coach for your current skill level. The level of organization and communication was the best I've seen at any event and the "crawl before you walk" approach was spot on. No one was placed in a class without having the proper foundation skills for that class.

Another fun series of clinics I participated in were the FairWheel Bikes monthly women's nights at the shop in Tucson, AZ. I look forward to pitching in when I get back to town this winter.

I continue to hold clinics wherever I may be, either one-on-one, organizing group events or holding spur of the moment clinics wherever they happen.

October 5th was IMBA's Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day so I held a clinic for the NICA/El Grupo girls in Tucson. We started with the fundamentals and in 5 hours covered bike fit, tubeless tire setup, how to change a tube and how to patch a tube (for the non-tubeless riders), balance, bike-body separation skills, and intro to pumptrack riding.

Explaining a pumptrack

Patching a tube (since I don't use tubes I had never actually done this, it worked)


An example of a spur of the moment clinic was one I did after the Interbike Enduro race when I ran into a few guys who wanted to know how to do a drop. We ended up doing a skills clinic to work on all the things you should be doing correctly before attempting a drop. Come to find out their friend had already broken his collarbone doing something similar.

Demoing a drop at OutDoor Demo

Some Race Coverage/Highlights/Links

I did a DH race at Angel Fire thinking it would be good training for enduro. The other girls called my 150/160 Cannondale Jekyll a "little bike" at the time I thought it was huge, the most travel I had ever had was 80mm rear/100mm front Scalpel 26". 

The DH race was awesome! Think I may need to try that again in 2014.

a short bit of my DH practice run (select HD or you won't see much)

Enduro Cup #1 Moab, UT 4th Place 

My first "Enduro". The format was fun, the people were great! I did not need a big travel bike for this XC trail though. Details in previous post.

Oregon Enduro Series Hood River 7th Place 

Second Enduro and this was more legit. Still not very technical, in the way I think of technical, but it did include more vertical loss and I felt like my enduro bike was fine for this race. The technical aspect was comprised of berms, highspeed corners and some slick patches due to rain, but almost no rough or rocky terrain.  Details in previous post.

BME#1 2nd Place Angel Fire/Taos, NM

BME #2  2nd Place  Crested Butte, CO

BME #2 Crested Butte, CO Podium
Video Recap:,5949/Big-Mountain-Enduro-Crested-Butte-Photo-and-Video-Gallery,58630/sspomer,2

BME #3  2nd Place 

(5 seconds off Heather, that's how close a weekend of racing can be)  Keystone, CO

BME #3 Keystone, CO Podium
video recap:,5673/Race-Report-North-American-Enduro-Tour-Big-Mountain-Enduro-Keystone-Colorado,58858/sspomer,2

Enduro Cup #2 2nd Place Canyons, UT

Enduro Cup #2 Canyons, UT Podium,5669/Krista-Park-with-her-Cannondale-Jekyll,59498/sspomer,2

Winter Park Enduro World Series race 9th, 3rd American, 2 seconds behind Kelli Emmett

BME #4 1st Place Durango, CO

BME #4 Durango, CO Podium

BME#5 3rd Place Moab, UT

XC Bike in Moab, Scalpel 29er 4"

BME #5 Moab, UT Podium
The Scalpel was a good choice till I experienced a mechanical before stage 4 (Hazard/Kokopelli/UPS/LPS/Porcupine). I lost all hydraulic fluid from the remote lockout for the rear lockout which meant I rode a hardtail for that stage. While it was a XC course it wasn't a hardtail course! (Not one downhiller turned enduro racer on the podium, it should be a mix of XC and DH backgrounds)

slideshow with voice and video:,6441/Slideshow,0/sspomer,2

more video:

I can't wait till next season, but I still have a lot planned this year. A couple more low key races, lots of techy riding, clinics and awesome people to ride with in Moab, Durango and Tucson.

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