steven santini UK enduro
Trying to look cool, thanks to Dan Wyre Photography

I’m a pretty average mountain biker. I just like to get out and have fun on the trails. For the most part my high points are on the descents where you can push yourself and get some excitement. I see climbs as a necessary evil I have to endure to reap the rewards of my ride. screw em’, only XC guys enjoy a climb which is fine I guess…. bloody wierdos.

I felt like the natural next step for me as a mountain biker was to try my hand at some events. If anything, enduro is the best category for me in terms of where my riding discipline sits so I figured I would give it a go and share what I’ve learned. So here we go!

Choose the right event for you

From someone starting out, I wish I took more time selecting my first event as I basically through myself into a national series with the heavy hitters and on trails which were very technical and definitely outside of my skill level. It’s worth starting out on mini or one day enduro events where the riders and the trails are likely closer to your skill level.

Know before you go

Taking the time to read the pre-race briefing, normally available on the site, will make preparing for the event a lot easier. It should give you all the information you need from the trail types and conditions to agenda and on-site facilities. Use this information wisely to ensure you and your bike are ready.

Train and learn to manage yourself

No shit Sherlock, right?

It’s a no brainer I know but this is more than just general fitness. You can get away with a moderate fitness level depending on how well you manage yourself throughout the event, but be aware that your endurance will be tested. The climb up to a stage can drain you and whatever is left will be completely consumed by the sprinted stage that follows. Pace yourself and take the time to rest an refuel before and after each stage.

You should also try riding some trails which are relatively similar to what you’ll be riding on the day and if you can ride trails that you’ve never done before. Even after walking or riding a stage it’s easy to forget them and your lines so having some skill riding trails blind is a big benefit.

Gear up

The typical enduro mountain bike is a relatively slack 140 – 160mm travel full suspension bike but this is really only important if you’re trying to be competitive. My Giant trance seemed to hold out ok, at 140mm travel and with a more trail focused geometry. I did struggle with more technical sections but was still able to get through all the stages in one piece. Some folks were running hardtails so…

Whatever bike you have, just make sure that it’s been well maintained, you have the right tyres on for the conditions and you’ve setup your suspension for the trails ahead. Last thing you want is a mechanical half way down a stage.

Full face helmets and knee guards are recommended and some events make it a requirement. Again, know before you go.

Come prepared for the apocalypse

Imagine that there are literally no facilities there. Now prepare for every likely scenario. Just because there are facilities on site does not mean that they are going to be available to you when you need them most. Remember you’re there with many other riders who all have the same needs as you. Here are some examples.

  • Ensure you have a small selection of tools and components to repair your bike. Spare tyre, inner tube, old derailleur, bolts, zip ties.
  • Bring your own water. Avoid the lines at the tap and the runs down your leg.
  • Bring plenty of food, you’re going to need it.
  • Toilet paper, this seems to run out fast. Maybe it because not enough riders bring their own water huh.
  • Don’t expect the burger van or mechanic to be able to take card payments in the middle of nowhere.

You get the point.

Fuel. Fuel. Fuel.

These events are pretty much all day so your energy levels need to be kept high. Carbo load if you can but just make sure you eat well the night before, the morning of and during the event. Take some bars and gels with you as well as they will be important to pick those levels up between stages and climbs. I would suggest Cliff bars and SIS gels as they seem to be pretty well priced and did the job for me.

Take a walk

Get there early so you can walk some of the stages. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to walk all of them, unless you get there the day before, but have a chat to some of the marshals/organizers and identify 2-3 of the toughest to walk.

Choose some lines on these stages. It’s unlikely that you’ll remember them and it’s even harder to follow them in the moment but it’s worth getting into the habit and will help embedding some familiarity of each stage.

Be courteous

Don’t be a dick! If a rider catches up to you, get out the way to let them pass. You may not be trying to win this but they are. If you think the rider behind you is going to catch you mid stage, let the rider and the marshal know so they can give you more time before chasing you.

Have fun !

This is the most important. What’s the point of getting involved if you’re not going to enjoy yourself? It’s easy to feel intimidated and anxious but remember that you are surrounded by likeminded people who have the same passion as you do.

Ride the trails your way and don’t feel pressured to ride too far outside of your skill level or comfort zone. Push yourself without killing yourself is the way to go about it.

Hopefully this comes in handy to others thinking about starting out like me. I’m sure there is much more that can be done but these are what have been most important to me. Enjoy it!

 

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