Passing rules: solving endurance racing's manners problem

A way to encourage courtesy on the trails

Riders who pass inconsiderately have become a bit of a problem in enduro racing here in Australia. There have been full and frank exchanges of views, there have been tears and there have been threats to "sort out" known repeat offenders. I think there's a couple of simple things race organizers can do to help alleviate the problem.

Riders are hard to identify once they've passed you, so race organizers, who universally hate the idea of their less confident and experienced customers being hassled, can't do anything about an inconsiderate pass. Easy solution: pin-on numbers on riders' backs. But all that does is identify the alleged offender for the subsequent he said/she said session. Unless there are witness - unlikely deep in the woods of a typical enduro course here - it doesn't help much.

I think a better solution is to reward proper behaviour. Allow riders to nominate each other for a prize for best race etiquette. There'd be two prizes - one for passing and one for getting out of the way. I am sure that now and then fast riders do come across slower riders who are simply being obstreperous. As the rider in front, they have an absolute right to ride their own line, but there's no reason not to give a pat on the back to those who yield to the fast guys and girls. Enduro racing is about sharing the course after all.

I've been involved with enduro racing either as an announcer or a participant ever since the first Mont 24-Hour race in Canberra back in 1998. Since that race, which had less than 300 riders, the enduro racing scene here has exploded - 2006's Canberra Scott 24-Hour had almost 3000 riders turn up.

It's not hard to see why. You can have a go at enduro racing even if you're a relatively slow and unfit rider. You pootle round for a lap at your own pace, hand off to a team-mate and chill out for a couple of hours till it's your turn again. It's a very unthreatening race format.

But that means that the course is host to a very wide range of abilities at any given time. It's not unusual for complete beginners to find themselves being passed by Olympians and solo world champions. Those very top riders are not usually the problem though: they usually have stunning riding skills, forged from years of spending hours and hours per week on the mountain bike. Getting past a slow rider presents them few problems, wither or not the slower rider moves over. I know, I have been passed plenty of times!

But there are less skilled riders who, while fit and fast, don't necessarily have the ability to get past without occupying the line a slower rider is on. Those riders need encouragement to behave better.

What I have in mind is a tally system, with riders effectively voting for each other; the rider with the most votes gets a substantial cash prize and if there's more than one it goes to a random ballot. Or a 'nice-off' conducted by the event MC. Putting my race MC hat on, I could have some fun with that.

There should also be an incentive to nominate, so there'd be a smaller prize for one of the folks who nominated the winning rider.

I don't expect this will totally cure the problem, but it's got to help move it up a bit in riders' minds.

Based in Sydney, Australia, John Stevenson is BikeRadar's international editor, a job title that he admits sounds good, but doesn't actually mean very much.

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