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 of mountain bikers were already doing.
Enduro offers technical but accessible racing for riders who want to avoid the full-blooded tracks of downhill racing, 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 (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 per cent or 80 per cent 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, with cross-country bikes becoming more capable as a result).
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.
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 suspension travel, and up to 170-180mm 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 increase 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 designed and specced specifically 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 mountain bike helmets are often fine for tamer, 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.
Otherwise, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves and eye protection – many riders opt for goggles – are essential. A hydration pack with basic spares is a good idea too, particularly if you’ll be out for a long time and away from the event HQ or car park.
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 such as Jerome Clementz and Rémy Absalon.
More recently, we’ve seen French riders such as Isabeau Courdurier, Morgane Charre and Melanie Pugin battle it out with Brit, Bex Baraona, in the women’s field.
In the men’s field, the French dominance of old has been diluted, with stiff competition from Australians Jack Moir and Sam Hill, who have both battled USA’s Richie Rude for the top spots.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for Martin Maes, Greg Callaghan and Jesse Melamed, who are all capable of competing at the sharp end of racing.
And although Vouilloz and Tracy Moseley are from the old guard, they’re both contenders for the title in the electric mountain bike series.
Where can I have a go at enduro racing?
Enduro World Series
The 2022 Enduro World Series consists of seven events.
|1||EWS Tweed Valley||04 June 2022||Innerleithen, GBR|
|2||EWS Petzen Jamnica||18 June 2022||Petzen Jamnica, SLO|
|3||EWS Val Di Fassa Trentino||25 June 2022||Canazei, ITA|
|4||EWS Whistler||06 August 2022||Whistler, CAN|
|5||EWS Burke||13 August 2022||Burke Vermont, USA|
|6||EWS Sugar Loaf||20 August 2022||Sugarloaf Maine, USA|
|7||EWS Crans-Montana||17 September 2022||Crans-Montana, SUI|
|8||EWS Loudenvielle||24 September 2022||Loudenvielle, FRA|
Enduro World Series qualifiers
More than 50 Enduro World Series qualifying races are held through the year.
|Emerson's 3 Peaks Enduro (NZL)||Dunedin||11 March 2022|
|Oman Enduro Championship (OMA)||Muscat||12 March 2022|
|Tennessee National Windrock (USA)||Oak Ridge, TN||13 March 2022|
|Maydena Enduro Jam (AUS)||Maydena, TAS||25 March 2022|
|WA Gravity Enduro (AUS)||Dwellingup, WA||26 March 2022|
|Montenbaik Enduro Series Farellones (CHI)||Parques de Farellones||02 April 2022|
|Copa Colombia de Enduro (COL)||Manizales||15 April 2022|
|Israeli Enduro Series (ISR)||Misgav||19 April 2022|
|Triveneto Enduro MTB Series Aviano (ITA)||Aviano Pordenone||24 April 2022|
|Scottish Enduro Series Nevis Range (GBR)||Fort William||24 April 2022|
|Enduro X (CZE)||Susice||01 May 2022|
|Championnats de France d'Enduro VTT (FRA)||Accous||07 May 2022|
|OneUp Squamish Enduro (CAN)||Squamish, BC||07 May 2022|
|Enduro de Ambleve (BEL)||Aywaille||07 May 2022|
|Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rostrevor (GBR)||Rostrevor||15 May 2022|
|Willingen Bike Festival (GER)||Willingen||21 May 2022|
|Avimil Enduro Series Heredia (CRC)||Heredia||29 May 2022|
|Montenbaik Enduro Series Illapel (CHI)||Illapel||04 June 2022|
|Naturland Enduro Race (AND)||Naturland Sant Julia De Loria||11 June 2022|
|Giant 2W Rotorua (NZL)||Rotorua||11 June 2022|
|Epic Enduro Series Oaxaca (MEX)||Oaxaca||11 June 2022|
|Puro Pirineo Enduro Race (ESP)||Castejon de Sos (Huesca)||11 June 2022|
|Nesbyen Enduro (NOR)||Nesbyen||11 June 2022|
|North American Enduro Cup (USA)||Kellogg, ID||11 June 2022|
|Swiss Enduro Series Flims Laax (SUI)||Flims Laax||12 June 2022|
|Eastern States Cup Sugarloaf (USA)||Sugarloaf, ME||26 June 2022|
|Plovdiv Enduro (BUL)||Rodophe Plovdiv||03 July 2022|
|Enduro Greek Series Rockatreellity (GRE)||Arachova||08 July 2022|
|Fox Superflow Rockhampton (AUS)||Rockhampton, QLD||09 July 2022|
|HFA Hjolreidafelag Akureyrar Enduro (ISL)||Akureyri||15 July 2022|
|Irish Enduro National Championships (IRL)||Leinster||16 July 2022|
|Hungarian National Championships (HUN)||Kazincbarcika||16 July 2022|
|Marin Wildside Enduro (CAN)||Mont Lac-Vert, QC||17 July 2022|
|Levi Midnight Enduro (FIN)||Kittila||21 July 2022|
|Enduro Series Venezuela Vargas (VEN)||Vargas||23 July 2022|
|SloEnduro Kope Koroska (SLO)||Kope Koroska||23 July 2022|
|USAC National Championships (USA)||Winter Park, CO||23 July 2022|
|Scottish Enduro Series Tweed Valley (GBR)||Tweed Valley||23 July 2022|
|Iranian National Championships (IRI)||Tehran||23 July 2022|
|Romanian National Championships (ROM)||Azuga Prahova||07 August 2022|
|KitzAlps Enduro Race (AUT)||Oberndorf in Tirol||27 August 2022|
|Enduro Trails (POL)||Bielsko-Biala||27 August 2022|
|California Enduro Series Northstar (USA)||Northstar, CA||27 August 2022|
|Swiss Enduro Series Airolo (SUI)||Airolo||28 August 2022|
|Swedish National Championships (SWE)||Ostersund||28 August 2022|
|Coupe de France Peisey-Vallandry (FRA)||Peisey-Vallandry||03 September 2022|
|Campionato Italiano Enduro (ITA)||Castel Del Rio||03 September 2022|
|Czech Enduro Series Spicak (CZE)||Spicak||09 September 2022|
|Mpumalanga Enduro Trailworx Nelspruit (RSA)||Nelspruit||17 September 2022|
|Slovak National Cup Malino Brdo (SVK)||Malino Brdo||25 September 2022|
|Campeonato Nacional Enduro (POR)||Castelo de Vide||15 October 2022|
|Enduro La Adrada (ESP)||La Adrada||16 October 2022|
|Gravity Enduro National Championships (AUS)||Red Hill, VIC||22 October 2022|
|Phoenix Enduro (NZL)||Christchurch||29 October 2022|
|Croatian National Championship (CRO)||Dugi Rat Perun||29 October 2022|
|Coupe de France Ile Rousse (FRA)||Ile Rousse Corsica||30 October 2022|
|Dominican Enduro Series Constanza (DOM)||Constanza, La Vega||19 November 2022|
|TBC ENS Enduro National Series (JPN)||TBC||31 December 2022|
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 terms and conditions.
Otherwise, seek out a local event and have a go.