The Rant: My Enduro

Originally posted on March 18, 2016 at 11:36 am

Illustration: Stephen Haynes

My event would allow only two bikes—any two bikes the racer wanted, but only two, with just tire swaps allowed between stages.

No question, the Enduro World Series is a great racing event. It’s well run, truly global in locations and is attracting some of the fastest riders on two wheels. I “raced” one a few years ago on a borrowed bike with a triple-ring crank and unclutched rear derailleur, and I had a blast doing it.

But you don’t read this column to be regaled with prose about the wonderfulness of things, do you? I don’t want to slag off on the EWS—I’d be glad to race another one anytime—but in reality, it has turned into downhill racing on trail bikes.

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It wasn’t always like this, as Carl Decker said in an interview in Dirt Rag #185: “There was a mix that rewarded cross-country fitness, strong bike handling and descending abilities. Now it’s definitely trending toward the washed-up World Champion downhiller.”

I’m all for a retirement circuit for the former fast guys, because they make for fun racing. But I always thought enduro was supposed to reward riders with a mix of skills, not just the ability to pin it going down.

What really got me thinking about this again was Grinduro (which we detailed in Issue #189), which really isn’t a mountain bike event at all. The key to making it interesting, at least to me, is a nice mix of stages that doesn’t favor any one riding style or bike. Grinduro has four timed sections: road hill-climb, dirt-road descent, rolling pavement and singletrack downhill. Choices like that make it very hard to choose the right bike, and throwing in the ability to draft on the pavement means some peloton skills are needed as well.

After a night watching Red Bull’s Hard Enduro events, having nostalgic thoughts about putting on our own Punk Bike Enduro in the past, debating making a trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for the Tour de Burg (whose motto is “All good downhills start with a climb”) and fondly recalling John Tomac racing cross-country and downhill on drop bars, I’m once again reminded that cycling is too damn specialized (not a pun).

I want to celebrate the amazing all-around riders who might never be at the top of their class in any one discipline, but kill it on any kind of bike, in any type of terrain. I’m betting there is enough interest among racers, spectators and manufacturers (as well as sponsors) to have a multi-day, multidiscipline event that truly would find the best bike riders in the world.

I’m thinking World Cup–level downhill course, 100-mile gravel/dirt-road race, multi-lap road crit and a day of enduro-style racing with uphill, downhill and rolling stages. Maybe even toss in BMX and cyclocross stages for good measure.

If it were up to me, my event would allow only two bikes—any two bikes the racer wanted, but only two, with just tire swaps allowed between stages. That would keep things even more interesting and truly would test the allaround performance of modern machines.

I have a lot of ideas in the course of a given day, and most of them just float off into the ether. This one seems to be sticking around, and now there is written proof. Maybe others might feel the same about this idea? I guess this is as good a way as any to find out.


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