Published on August 1, 2022
There are as many definitions of mountain biking as there are types of people, skill levels and locations. Some prefer the speed and thrill of the trailscross-country, while others may prefer the big jumps in a bike park, but most regular riders fall somewhere in the middle and would like to enjoy all that mountain biking has to offer.
The freedom, the effort but also the adrenaline and the desire to push one's own limits are what enduro riding is all about. What started out as an activity reserved for the pros - reaching the top of the mountain and racing downhill as fast as possible - has quickly transcended competition and become a discipline in its own right accessible to the greatest number of people. Originally a form of mountain bike racing, enduro has become a true lifestyle.
In this article, we'll look at what makes this discipline so attractive, how to get started in enduro, what equipment you need, and finally, the best places to practice it.
Enduro: just a racing style?
As the name suggests, enduro comes from endurance, so you can already imagine that it is about physical effort, long distances and a race against the clock. Have you ever seen a rally race? An enduro race is quite similar. It is essentially an event consisting of three or more timed stages, which takes place over one or more days, where the finish times of each stage are added together to get an overall time that determines the winner. The stages are mainly characterized by long descents and steep technical sections, but they can also include climbs of up to 10%. All of this is designed to test the skills and physical condition of the riders. It is essential to be well prepared and to have an adapted diet. The connecting sections between the stages are often done by bike, but they are not counted in the overall time.
Compared to other disciplines, enduro has developed differently. Cross-country and downhill races are designed around the specific courses and conditions of these disciplines. But with enduro, it is the race format we just described that came first.
The term enduro is also used to describe a mountain bike ride where you ride up and down a hill without constraints. You may ask: but is "trail" the same thing? Yes and no, what makes enduro unique from trail riding is that it puts much more emphasis on the descents, which are much more technical and comparable to downhill trails.
Modern enduro racing has existed in Europe since 2003 with enduro and super enduro races. However, it was not until 2013, when theEnduro World Series (EWS) provides a platform for enduro racing, that the popularity of this discipline explodes. Today, it is one of the main mountain bike disciplines and is even recognized by the International Cycling Union.
What is an enduro bike?
The rise in popularity of enduro racing is not only due to the exposure given by the race format - bike manufacturers also get their share of credit. With the evolution of technology and geometry, increasingly capable trail bikes have begun to combine effective climbing characteristics with downhill capabilities that were not previously possible. Early enduro bikes, such as the Nukeproof Mega in 2012, were also very popular, and within a few years most brands began to jump on the enduro bandwagon. Increasing improvements in suspension shocks, single chainring transmissions helped boost performance. This led to an explosion in bike development and riding capabilities. Today, enduro bikes are among the most versatile bikes on the market.
Enduro bikes are a lot like trail bikes, although they sacrifice some climbing agility for better downhill capabilities. The best enduro bikes generally have 150 to 170 mm of suspension travel front and rear. There are some very good examples of bikes with less travel, such as the Yeti SB130which are perfectly suited for an enduro race thanks to their progressive geometry and the efficiency of the suspension.
Enduro mountain bikes are generally all suspendedbut you can also venture out tosemi-rigids. Finally, as far as wheel size is concerned, over the last few years, 29" wheels have become the preferred size leaving 27.5" wheels for more recreational use. Although some riders have started to use mullet wheel setups (29 in the front, 27.5 in the back).
What equipment to ride enduro ?
As the races are often held over a whole day, riders must be prepared for changing weather conditions. But the most important thing in enduro, as always in mountain biking, is protection. For enduro riding, it is best to have a light and well ventilated helmet. Convertible full-face helmets with removable chin straps have gained popularity because they are able to offer downhill safety certification for downhill riding with the open ventilation of an open face helmet for uphill riding.
The rest of the safety equipment is a balance between comfort and safety. Good knee pads are the bare minimum and will provide vital protection in the area most frequently affected in a fall. To provide better eye protection from dirt and debris, goggles and gloves are best to make gripping the bars easier and protect the hands. And since this is generally a self-sufficient discipline, you should carry basic tools such as a universal tool and a tire repair kit. If you're new to mountain biking, be sure to check out our guide with the 7 essential equipment for your ATV rides.
What are the best places to ride enduro?
There are many places in the world where you can enjoy enduro riding, and no, you don't have to be in the Enduro World Series to ride. Here are some of the best places in Europe where you can go and spend a day (or several) riding:
Les Deux Alpes - France : 70km of single track among 21 different trails. "Les 2" is known today as one of the top cycling destinations in the world. This amazing place was the scene of the first European Crankworx mountain bike festival. So if you want to go to Whistler, Canada, but don't want to fly, this is the place for you.
Châtel - France : Châtel's Bike Park at Pré-La-Joux is considered by many to be one of the best options in Europe. Two lifts located in the park allow mountain bikers to access the area's crazy trails, rated pro and difficult. While the bike park and Châtel itself are geared toward experienced and intermediate riders, there are also areas suitable for beginners. If you feel the need to venture further afield, the massive Portes du Soleil network links over 400 kilometers of trails across 12 resorts and 5 bike parks, giving you plenty of accessible options.
Livigno - Italy : A resort nestled in the Italian Alps, near the Swiss and Austrian borders, but with an Alpine feel. There are two bike parks, Mottolino Fun Mountain and Carosello 3000. The latter is the one recommended for enduro with about 20 km of renewed tracks.
Crans-Montana - Switzerland : This high class ski resort is a great destination for mountain biking outside the snow season. As a stage for the EWS 2021, it is located in the main valley of the canton of Valais and its south-facing slopes offer an amazing selection of trails ranging from natural singletrack to bike parks. Lift access allows riders to make the most of the area's elevation, so get ready to eat some good chocolate milk and ride down 2330m of vertical drop.
Loudenvielle - France : On the Enduro World Series calendar for the second time in 2022, this amazing place is located in the French Pyrenees. Here you will be faced with steep natural trails and some big, big days in the saddle in the Louron Valley. Freedom and cycling, what more could you ask for?
Is enduro a discipline reserved for the pros?
Although enduro requires a certain level of fitness and technical skills to complete the course, it is one of the most accessible disciplines for an amateur cyclist. Here are some reasons why enduro is great for all levels of cyclists:
In timed races, it's just you, your bike and the clock. Therefore, there is no need to worry about passing others or being passed.
Men, women, professionals, amateurs, everyone rides the same course! So, whatever your ranking, you can compare your times to those of all the others.
It is perfectly normal to carry a backpack or a fanny pack. Tools, repair kits and even food are welcome.
It's essentially an outing but challenging and more motivating! Think of the enduro as an outing you'd like to do... but with a bunch of new friends and a little more motivation to push your limits on the downhills.
Of all the race formats, the enduro is known for its friendly atmosphere. Wait for your friends to finish the timed stages, then ride to the top together. And of course, celebrate with your new and old friends at the finish line with race talk, good food and good beer!
So get ready to pedal and take on some big challenges! Choose your bikeand start training. If you have a dog that also loves the mountains, you can even train with your best friend. It's your turn to do your research, choose the race that suits you and don't worry about your time. The important thing is to enjoy and push your own limits.
It's your turn to ride!