Beginner’s guide to enduro racing | Everything you need to know to get started

What it's all about and why you might want to give it a go

Yeti SB165 enduro mountain bike

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.

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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.

Drag your heels on the climbs and it won't matter how rapid you are on the downhills
Drag your heels on the climbs and it won’t matter how rapid you are on the downhills.
Andy McCandlish

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?

The finish line is in sight – time for the banter to begin!
The finish line is in sight – time for the banter to begin!
Andy McCandlish

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?

Trek Slash 8, enduro bike of the year
We crowned the Trek Slash 8 as our Enduro Bike of the Year for 2021.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

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.

Male cyclist in red shorts riding the Trek Slash 8 full suspension mountain bike
Enduro bikes are designed to be fully capable downhill, while still being comfortable to pedal uphill.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

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.

RockShox Super Deluxe Thru Shaft rear shock on the Trek Slash 8 full suspension mountain bike
Enduro bikes typically have around 140mm to 170mm of travel.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

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?

Alex decided to go 'full enduro' with goggles and an open face lid
We’d recommend goggles for enduro riding.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

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.

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 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.

RoundLocationDate
Round oneTrentino23 June 2021
Round twoTrentino25 June 2021
Round three La Thuile08 July 2021
Round four Loudenvielle02 September 2021
Round fiveCrans-Montana11 September 2021
Round six Finale18 September 2021
Round sevenTweed Valley02 October 2021

Enduro World Series qualifiers

EventLocationDate
Victorian Enduro Tour Falls Creek (AUS)Falls Creek, VIC06 February 2021
Intense Cycles Capital Kamikaze (AUS)Mt Stromlo, Canberra21 February 2021
Enduro Fest - Maydena Bike Park (AUS)Maydena, Tasmania06 March 2021
Emersons 3 Peaks Enduro (NZ)Dunedin13 March 2021
Tennessee National (USA)Oliver Springs, Tennessee14 March 2021
WA Gravity Enduro 2021 - Dwellingup (AUS)Dwellingup27 March 2021
Aorere Enduro with Specialised (NZ)Maitai Valley, Nelson02 April 2021
Fox Superflow sealed by Stan's (AUS)Awaba MTB Park, NSW24 April 2021
Israel Enduro Series - Misgav (ISR)Misgav08 May 2021
The Epic Hope PMBA Enduro - Graythwaite (UK)Graythwaite29 May 2021
Enduro Race Klinovec (CZE)Klinovec, Trail Park Klinovec12 June 2021
North American Enduro Cup (USA)Kellogg13 June 2021
Colombia Enduro Cup Round 2Manizales19 June 2021
Puro Pirineo Enduro Race (ESP)Castejon de Sos (Huesca)26 June 2021
CES China Peak Enduro (USA)Lakeshore, California26 June 2021
Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup #3 (IRE)Ravensdale, Co Louth03 June 2021
Enduro Series - MTB enduro french cup Peugeot cycles #2 Risoul (FRA)Risoul03 June 2021
Are Enduro (SWE)Are08 June 2021
CES Mt Shasta Enduro (USA)Mt Shasta, California10 June 2021
Black Hole Enduro (AUT)Petzen/Jamnica16 June 2021
2021 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championship (USA)Winter Park, CO17 June 2021
Rock The Besso trace par SB bike (SUI)Zinal17 June 2021
Levi Midnight Enduro (FIN)Levi22 July 2021
Enduro Akureyri 2021 (ICE)Akureyri and Húsavík24 June 2021
Marin Wildside Enduro Bromont (CAN)Bromont, Quebec25 June 2021
Slovak Enduro Cup #4 (SVK)Myto pod Dumbierom08 June 2021
Shimano Queensland Enduro Series Round 4 Mt JoyceMt Joyce08 June 2021
Hope PMBA Enduro - Llangollen (UK)Llangollen14 June 2021
Enduro Series - MTB enduro french cup Peugeot Cycles #3 Thollon les MemisesThollon les Memises21 August 2021
Maxxis ESC Enduro Series at Arrowhead, NH (USA)Claremont, NH22 August 2021
Enduro Trails (POL)Bielsko-Biala27 August 2021
Epic Taxco 2021 (MEX)Taxco, Guerrero28 August 2021
Bikefest 2021 - CTM Enduro Race (SVK)Kalnica28 August 2021
Gravity Enduro Ireland Round 4 (IRE)Wicklow04 September 2021
Nesbyen Enduro (NOR)Nesbyen05 September 2021
Enduro Western Cape (RSA)Cape Town05 September 2021
Enduro Grand Raid Godefroy (BEL)Bouillon11 September 2021
Enduro Race Spicak (CZE)Spicak11 September 2021
MAXXIS ESC Enduro Series Box Showdown at Sugarloaf (USA)Carrabassett Valley, ME12 September 2021
Krasnaya Polyana Enduro (RUS)Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana Resort18 September 2021
Shimano Queensland Enduro Series Round 5 - Toowoomba (AUS)Toowoomba19 September 2021
Marin Wildside Enduro Mont Lac-Vert (CAN)Hebertville, Quebec19 September 2021
Enduro Series Willingen German Championships (GER)Willingen, Upland25 September 2021
Slovak Enduro Cup #5 (SVK)Branisko26 June 2021
Maxxis ESC Enduro Series at Jiminy Peak, MA (USA)Hancock, MA26 June 2021
CES Ashland Mountain Challenge (USA)Ashland, Oregon02 October 2021
CANCELLED Grand Himalayan Enduro (NEP)Nagarot Hills, KTM Valley09 October 2021
Metal Enduro (ROM)Resita09 October 2021
TRAILWORKS Swiss Enduro Series Lötschental powered by SUBARULötschental09 October 2021
Enduro Series Riva (ITA)Riva Del Garda17 October 2021
The Phoenix Enduro (NZ)Christchurch23 October 2021
LoboEnduro2021 (MEX)Mexico City06 November 2021
D.E.S. 2021 Round 4Constanza, La Vega27 November 2021

Local events

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.

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Otherwise, seek out a local event and have a go!