Racing bikes can be a daunting task when you first look at strapping on a race plate. Whilst racing enduro can be a little less technical than downhill, it still has it’s challenges. So how do we best prepare for our first enduro race? The first article in our ‘Rider Series’ takes a deep dive into getting ready for your first enduro race…..
By Mike Branch
Mountain biking is an addictive sport, one that seems to have us all begging for more trail time and working out how quickly we can go ‘pro’, at least in our minds. The reality is that most of us don’t ever have a hope of racing elite level mountain bikes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get stoked on racing and catch the racing bug. So let’s have a look at how we approach our first Enduro race.
1. Build Your Skills
You don’t need to be Danny McAskill when it comes to skills, in fact all you have to be is aware of your own limitations and be prepared to have a go. The best thing you can do is to progress to the **intermediate level before beginning your racing journey. This will help you have a bit more confidence on the trail, get the most out of the experience and have fun without getting hurt.
You won’t need to be able to charge down the trail like Sam Hill or bunny hop six feet in the air, but a bit of comfort with your bike handling skills is a wise idea. A great way to start is racing a grass roots race series like the Scenic Rim Enduro Series or Fox Superflow Series – these races are more relaxed, less technical and focus on an inclusive racing culture.
2. Build your fitness
Enduro racing is a load of fun and there’s little doubt that it is the most popular racing format in the world when it comes to the broader racing community. You get to spend a whole day on your bike chatting with your mates and racing against the clock, there’s no judgement and everyone is there to cheer the other racers on. But, you do have to ride to the top of all your stages, complete 5 to 6 stages on average at race pace and make it through the whole day.
There’s nothing worse than tackling your first race without the fitness to complete it, a fast way to stop racing is to DNF your first few races. So it’s a great idea to make sure you have the training and fitness to tackle the course for the given race you want to enter. Some races will be harder physically than others, some races will have a lot more climbing, a lot less gravity and a lot more flat sections in the stages. Every race is different and it helps to be ready to tackle the course physically.
This doesn’t mean you have to cycle for 8 hours a day for six months to get ready, but be prepared to spend a long day in the saddle and be fit enough to be able to finish the race. A good test is to be able to go for a trail ride for 3-4 hours and not bonk, you can build from there and at least you know where you stand.
3. Be prepared
There’s nothing worse than tackling your first enduro race and having to bail out because of a mechanical or because you didn’t bring enough food and haven’t eaten properly. You need to make sure you bike is in tip top shape and you have the spares to fix what you need to on the trail – with some extra tools and food in the car if need be. Don’t over pack and you definitely don’t need a backpack but make sure you can fix a flat and some minor mechanical issues on the trail.
Your body is just a machine with an engine that needs fuel, the more your burn the more you need to fuel the engine. Make sure you have enough nutrition, electrolytes and water to keep the engine running and allow you to finish the race without cramping up or bonking. The lower your fitness level the more food and drink you will need so make sure you can refill when needed.
4. Plan your day
Racing Enduro is all about strategy and conserving energy whilst going as fast as you can without crashing, all while fatigued from riding all day. Plan to tackle more technical stages early in the race when you are less fatigued, start on an easier trail to warm up and finish the day on the trails you find less challenging.
Make sure that you plan to refill your food and drink throughout the day, it’s ludicrous to try and carry everything you need for the entire day. A common mistake by novice racers is to pile all the gear in a pack and have at it, this will just fatigue you further, make you carry too much and waste your energy. You need a rest period to feed and the more you eat and drink to a degree, the better you will perform.
5. Race Your Own Race
Every racer rides at a different pace, we all think we are fast but the reality is much different. Trying to overcook each stage will just lead to you crashing and slow you down even further or ***worse injure yourself, stopping you from taking the glory either way. Aim to race each stage at 90%, race at your pace not the pace everyone else is racing at – if you try and hit every stage at 100% you are guaranteed to become unstuck.
If you need a rest before climbing to the next stage then take it, you may not be as fit as the people you are riding with so don’t kill yourself on the climbs – after all, it’s only the downs that are timed. Race your own race and enjoy the experience, you will build with progression and fitness, not many riders take the podium on their first race.
6. Have Fun
The whole reason we are racing bikes is to build the stoke, get involved with the awesome mountain biking community and have a laugh. Remember the bottom line is to have fun and have a great time on a bike with your mates. There truly is no better way to progress your riding than racing bikes, but enjoy the experience, immerse yourself in the mountain biking culture and have a great time doing it.
The Final Word
It’s no secret that the team at Brakes Wide Open love racing bikes, love the whole racing community and love to build the stoke around riding bikes, it’s what we do. Taking your first step into the racing world can be daunting to say the least, but when you break it down it’s actually just a whole bunch of fun on a bike whilst challenging yourself with your mates. Don’t take it too seriously, follow our simple steps and above all else…..enjoy it.