Since its inception in the early 2010s, enduro racing has quickly become one of the most popular mountain bike disciplines, representing the type of riding a lot mountain bikers were already doing or aspired to do.
Enduro offers technical but accessible racing for riders who want to avoid the full-blooded tracks of downhill or the lycra-clad whippets of cross-country racing.
But what exactly is enduro racing? Read on to find out what enduro is all about, why you might want to give it a go and what you need to get started.
What is enduro racing?
There’s a clue in the name – it’s gravity racing but with an endurance element. In the early days, ‘enduro’ races were long-distance cross-country races, but those now tend to be known as marathon races.
Modern enduro events are very different. Enduro races are made up of multiple downhill stages, which are timed to generate the event’s result, while the uphills are ‘liaisons’. Here riders have to reach the start of the next stage within a time limit but, providing a rider meets that time limit, the actual time doesn’t contribute to the final result. Got it?
Enduro races tend to last one or two days with riders normally completing up to six timed downhill stages per day. The cumulative times of all their stage results are added together to create their overall time, which ultimately decides a rider’s finishing position in the field.
Whether riders pedal to the top of each downhill stage or jump on a form of uplift transport (whether that’s vans, buses, chairlifts or cable cars) depends heavily on where the event is organised and the amount of elevation change the day’s riding (or a particular stage transition) has.
The best-known and biggest enduro event is the Enduro World Series. The EWS visits some of the world’s best riding spots for each of its rounds. Each round has a winner and there’s also a series winner at the end of the year.
Many smaller, local enduro events also exist, and some of these have EWS qualifier status which means if you place high enough, you could enter an EWS event.
If you fancy a slice of the Enduro World Series action but can’t or don’t want to qualify, there are also EWS 100 and EWS 80 events, which allow non-qualifying riders to race in a separate event but on 100% or 80% of the course.
What’s so good about enduro racing?
Downhill racing requires extreme technical skill (and bravery) and expensive kit, while cross-country racing is largely about fitness (although XC race courses are becoming increasingly more technical).
However, anyone with a decent trail bike, some technical riding experience and enough stamina to ride their local singletrack for a couple of hours can have a bash at enduro.
You might also find yourself already riding enduro without knowing it. After all, enduro isn’t only about racing, it’s a style of riding in itself.
Do you pedal efficiently but relatively slowly to the top of descents, where you then ride as hard and as fast as you can downhill, expending the most energy? If so, you’re already an enduro rider!
Enduro racing is also arguably better value for money than downhill racing. You get a lot more riding for your entrance fee than at a downhill race, because you ride multiple stages rather than just one track. This also means a mishap or mechanical won’t necessarily put you out of the running because it’s the overall time that counts, rather than individual stages.
The other big thing going for enduro races is the friendly atmosphere. While the top riders are definitely in it to win it, further down the field it’s more about having a go and enjoying a bit of finish line banter.
The same, of course, could be said for almost any event – mountain bikers are generally a friendly bunch (we would say that!).
What type of bike do I need for enduro racing?
To race enduro competitively, you’ll want a full-suspension bike with at least 140mm of travel, and up to 170mm of travel.
There’s nothing in the rules to stop you using a hardtail mountain bike or lightweight cross-country bike but you’ll find it hard work on the descents. At the other end of the spectrum, longer-travel freeride and downhill bikes are a drag on the climbs.
It’s a good idea to fit a chain device and clutch-equipped rear derailleur so your chain doesn’t get bucked off on the rocky sections. Big-volume downhill-style mountain bike tyres are decent additions, too – they increased puncture resistance and add comfort.
Otherwise, a short stem and wide handlebar will improve control, and a dropper post will make it easier to throw the bike around when things get sketchy.
The growing profile of enduro racing, and the popularity of enduro as a style of riding, means that a lot of mountain bike brands now offer enduro bikes specifically designed and specced for the demands of the discipline.
Want to know more? We’ve got a full buyer’s guide to the best enduro bikes.
Do I need any specialist riding gear for enduro racing?
Full-face helmets are a good idea for rockier tracks but standard trail lids are often fine for more pedal-friendly venues. That said, some race series organisers mandate the use of full-face lids, so be sure to check the rules carefully.
Some brands offer convertible enduro-specific helmets, designed to offer the protection of a full-face helmet and the ventilation of an open-face lid in one package. We’ve got a guide to the best enduro helmets.
If you need to kit up, we’ve got these buyer’s guides to help you make the right picks:
Who are the riders to watch?
If you’re interested in watching top-level enduro racing, as well as trying it for yourself, the French have traditionally dominated, from former World Cup downhill stars Nicolas Vouilloz and Anne-Caroline Chausson, to enduro specialists like Jerome Clementz and Remy Absalon.
More recently, we’ve seen French riders such as Damien Oton and Florian Nicolai take wins, along with Isabau Courdurier, Morgane Charre and Cecil Ravanel.
The Brits and North Americans are always in with a chance, too. With riders like Richie Rude, Jared Graves and Jesse Melamed in the men’s field and Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, Katy Winton and Miranda Miller in the women’s events, you can be sure racing will be tight.
Where can I have a go at enduro racing?
Enduro World Series
The 2021 Enduro World Series consists of seven events.
|Round one||Trentino||23 June 2021|
|Round two||Trentino||25 June 2021|
|Round three||La Thuile||08 July 2021|
|Round four||Loudenvielle||02 September 2021|
|Round five||Crans-Montana||11 September 2021|
|Round six||Finale||18 September 2021|
|Round seven||Tweed Valley||02 October 2021|
Enduro World Series qualifiers
|Victorian Enduro Tour Falls Creek (AUS)||Falls Creek, VIC||06 February 2021|
|Intense Cycles Capital Kamikaze (AUS)||Mt Stromlo, Canberra||21 February 2021|
|Enduro Fest - Maydena Bike Park (AUS)||Maydena, Tasmania||06 March 2021|
|Emersons 3 Peaks Enduro (NZ)||Dunedin||13 March 2021|
|Tennessee National (USA)||Oliver Springs, Tennessee||14 March 2021|
|WA Gravity Enduro 2021 - Dwellingup (AUS)||Dwellingup||27 March 2021|
|Aorere Enduro with Specialised (NZ)||Maitai Valley, Nelson||02 April 2021|
|Fox Superflow sealed by Stan's (AUS)||Awaba MTB Park, NSW||24 April 2021|
|Israel Enduro Series - Misgav (ISR)||Misgav||08 May 2021|
|The Epic Hope PMBA Enduro - Graythwaite (UK)||Graythwaite||29 May 2021|
|Enduro Race Klinovec (CZE)||Klinovec, Trail Park Klinovec||12 June 2021|
|North American Enduro Cup (USA)||Kellogg||13 June 2021|
|Colombia Enduro Cup Round 2||Manizales||19 June 2021|
|Puro Pirineo Enduro Race (ESP)||Castejon de Sos (Huesca)||26 June 2021|
|CES China Peak Enduro (USA)||Lakeshore, California||26 June 2021|
|Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup #3 (IRE)||Ravensdale, Co Louth||03 June 2021|
|Enduro Series - MTB enduro french cup Peugeot cycles #2 Risoul (FRA)||Risoul||03 June 2021|
|Are Enduro (SWE)||Are||08 June 2021|
|CES Mt Shasta Enduro (USA)||Mt Shasta, California||10 June 2021|
|Black Hole Enduro (AUT)||Petzen/Jamnica||16 June 2021|
|2021 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championship (USA)||Winter Park, CO||17 June 2021|
|Rock The Besso trace par SB bike (SUI)||Zinal||17 June 2021|
|Levi Midnight Enduro (FIN)||Levi||22 July 2021|
|Enduro Akureyri 2021 (ICE)||Akureyri and Húsavík||24 June 2021|
|Marin Wildside Enduro Bromont (CAN)||Bromont, Quebec||25 June 2021|
|Slovak Enduro Cup #4 (SVK)||Myto pod Dumbierom||08 June 2021|
|Shimano Queensland Enduro Series Round 4 Mt Joyce||Mt Joyce||08 June 2021|
|Hope PMBA Enduro - Llangollen (UK)||Llangollen||14 June 2021|
|Enduro Series - MTB enduro french cup Peugeot Cycles #3 Thollon les Memises||Thollon les Memises||21 August 2021|
|Maxxis ESC Enduro Series at Arrowhead, NH (USA)||Claremont, NH||22 August 2021|
|Enduro Trails (POL)||Bielsko-Biala||27 August 2021|
|Epic Taxco 2021 (MEX)||Taxco, Guerrero||28 August 2021|
|Bikefest 2021 - CTM Enduro Race (SVK)||Kalnica||28 August 2021|
|Gravity Enduro Ireland Round 4 (IRE)||Wicklow||04 September 2021|
|Nesbyen Enduro (NOR)||Nesbyen||05 September 2021|
|Enduro Western Cape (RSA)||Cape Town||05 September 2021|
|Enduro Grand Raid Godefroy (BEL)||Bouillon||11 September 2021|
|Enduro Race Spicak (CZE)||Spicak||11 September 2021|
|MAXXIS ESC Enduro Series Box Showdown at Sugarloaf (USA)||Carrabassett Valley, ME||12 September 2021|
|Krasnaya Polyana Enduro (RUS)||Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana Resort||18 September 2021|
|Shimano Queensland Enduro Series Round 5 - Toowoomba (AUS)||Toowoomba||19 September 2021|
|Marin Wildside Enduro Mont Lac-Vert (CAN)||Hebertville, Quebec||19 September 2021|
|Enduro Series Willingen German Championships (GER)||Willingen, Upland||25 September 2021|
|Slovak Enduro Cup #5 (SVK)||Branisko||26 June 2021|
|Maxxis ESC Enduro Series at Jiminy Peak, MA (USA)||Hancock, MA||26 June 2021|
|CES Ashland Mountain Challenge (USA)||Ashland, Oregon||02 October 2021|
|CANCELLED Grand Himalayan Enduro (NEP)||Nagarot Hills, KTM Valley||09 October 2021|
|Metal Enduro (ROM)||Resita||09 October 2021|
|TRAILWORKS Swiss Enduro Series Lötschental powered by SUBARU||Lötschental||09 October 2021|
|Enduro Series Riva (ITA)||Riva Del Garda||17 October 2021|
|The Phoenix Enduro (NZ)||Christchurch||23 October 2021|
|LoboEnduro2021 (MEX)||Mexico City||06 November 2021|
|D.E.S. 2021 Round 4||Constanza, La Vega||27 November 2021|
Alongside the Enduro World Series and its numerous qualifying events, most European countries, as well as the USA and Canada, New Zealand and Australia, have their own local events, whether that’s one-off races or a series.
In the UK, these include:
One thing to bear in mind – rules and regulations tend to vary from country to country, so make sure you read the Ts&Cs.
Otherwise, seek out a local event and have a go!