“So it’s a downhill race?”
“No, you climb up the hill to each stage all on your own.”
“So it’s a multi-stage cross country race?”
“No, only your downhills are timed. However, you do have to get to the top of each stage by a certain time.”
“So it’s basically just Super D?”
“No. Just go race one. You’ll get it.”
Needless to say, it took a few races to actually grasp the concept of what Enduro racing is all about. When this new discipline of racing took the cycling world by storm we weren’t sure what to make of it (most likely because we didn’t understand it). We watched some of the world’s fastest cross country and downhill athletes alike switch disciplines all-together in favor of this new phenomenon. In order to answer the question of “why”, we truly did have to immerse ourselves in the Enduro culture. Though each event was different, the heart of it remained the same. It was clear that Enduro was spawned from race directors thinking back to their childhood bike rides. Rides where you pedal up the hills with your crew of buddies so that you could all race each other down the hill. Rides where you’re hooting and hollering the whole way down, finishing to high-fives, huge grins, and dusty shins.
As with any sport, once the “racing” aspect of Enduro started to take off, we saw a bit of a shift in the last few years. Race promoters everywhere were jumping on the Enduro band-wagon, major cycling industry sponsors dove in head-first, race entry fees skyrocketed, factory teams began cropping up everywhere, and the courses seemed to get a bit gnarlier so as to continually keep spectators in awe. To be quite honest, it scared us. We wondered if the heart of Enduro would change. What if dollars and cents began taking over, and Enduro’s foundation of carefree fun fell by the wayside as steeply as some of its exposed cliff faces? Surely it would if it continued down this path.
Smanie has remained closely attached to Enduro over the last few years, perhaps as a small toddler not willing to let go of his parents’ pantlegs, or perhaps because we love all forms of riding and racing and just can’t get enough. The last Enduro event we participated in seemed to sum up our feelings and potential fears perfectly:
It was the California Enduro Series race at China Peak. We sat alongside a group of friends in campfire chairs, recounting practice runs while barbequing steaks and drinking IPAs chilled by the ice-cold stream babbling loudly a few feet away. Looking around the motley crew of slightly dirty, slightly beat-up riders, it began to hit us. Here we were, a vast cross-section of cyclists; seasoned Pros sharing their bag of chips with the Beginner sitting next to them, all the while recounting how Stage 2 was the best one and breaking down their reasons why. Anyone that walked by our camp got a warm hello, and an invite to the grub. We even saw a few guys offer some extra parts/components to a couple fellow racers that had mechanicals during practice.
Despite the inevitable changes that the sports’ growth has brought about, the true spirit of Enduro is still tightly intact. And we’re quite content and relieved that when asked “What’s the whole Enduro thing about anyways?” Our answer is the same today as it was 4 years ago, “Just go do it, Bro. It’s the only way to understand Enduro as a whole.”