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 enduro racing a go

Orbea Fox Enduro Racing Team

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.

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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.

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 per cent or 80 per cent of the course.

What’s so good about enduro racing?

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, with cross-country bikes becoming more capable as a result).

However, anyone with a decent trail bike or downcountry 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.

What type of bike do I need for enduro racing?

The Nukeproof Giga 297 came out tops in our 2022 Enduro Bike of the Year test.
Steve Behr / Our Media

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.

Enduro bikes are designed to thrive downhill, while still offering enough to ride uphill comfortably.
Steve Behr / Our 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 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.

Most enduro bikes have around 140mm to 170mm of travel, although the Nukeproof Giga has up to 180mm.
Russell Burton / Our 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 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?

We’d recommend goggles for enduro riding.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

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.

Some race organisers mandate the use of full-face helmets.
Kike Abelleira / Orbea

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.

RoundEventDateLocation
1EWS Tweed Valley04 June 2022Innerleithen, GBR
2EWS Petzen Jamnica18 June 2022Petzen Jamnica, SLO
3EWS Val Di Fassa Trentino25 June 2022 Canazei, ITA
4EWS Whistler06 August 2022 Whistler, CAN
5EWS Burke13 August 2022Burke Vermont, USA
6EWS Sugar Loaf20 August 2022 Sugarloaf Maine, USA
7EWS Crans-Montana17 September 2022 Crans-Montana, SUI
8EWS Loudenvielle24 September 2022Loudenvielle, FRA

Enduro World Series qualifiers

More than 50 Enduro World Series qualifying races are held through the year.

EventLocationDate
Emerson's 3 Peaks Enduro (NZL)Dunedin11 March 2022
Oman Enduro Championship (OMA)Muscat12 March 2022
Tennessee National Windrock (USA)Oak Ridge, TN13 March 2022
Maydena Enduro Jam (AUS)Maydena, TAS25 March 2022
WA Gravity Enduro (AUS)Dwellingup, WA26 March 2022
Montenbaik Enduro Series Farellones (CHI)Parques de Farellones02 April 2022
Copa Colombia de Enduro (COL)Manizales15 April 2022
Israeli Enduro Series (ISR)Misgav19 April 2022
Triveneto Enduro MTB Series Aviano (ITA)Aviano Pordenone24 April 2022
Scottish Enduro Series Nevis Range (GBR)Fort William24 April 2022
Enduro X (CZE)Susice01 May 2022
Championnats de France d'Enduro VTT (FRA)Accous07 May 2022
OneUp Squamish Enduro (CAN)Squamish, BC07 May 2022
Enduro de Ambleve (BEL)Aywaille07 May 2022
Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rostrevor (GBR)Rostrevor15 May 2022
Willingen Bike Festival (GER)Willingen21 May 2022
Avimil Enduro Series Heredia (CRC)Heredia29 May 2022
Montenbaik Enduro Series Illapel (CHI)Illapel04 June 2022
Naturland Enduro Race (AND)Naturland Sant Julia De Loria11 June 2022
Giant 2W Rotorua (NZL)Rotorua11 June 2022
Epic Enduro Series Oaxaca (MEX)Oaxaca11 June 2022
Puro Pirineo Enduro Race (ESP)Castejon de Sos (Huesca)11 June 2022
Nesbyen Enduro (NOR)Nesbyen11 June 2022
North American Enduro Cup (USA)Kellogg, ID11 June 2022
Swiss Enduro Series Flims Laax (SUI)Flims Laax12 June 2022
Eastern States Cup Sugarloaf (USA)Sugarloaf, ME26 June 2022
Plovdiv Enduro (BUL)Rodophe Plovdiv03 July 2022
Enduro Greek Series Rockatreellity (GRE)Arachova08 July 2022
Fox Superflow Rockhampton (AUS)Rockhampton, QLD09 July 2022
HFA Hjolreidafelag Akureyrar Enduro (ISL)Akureyri15 July 2022
Irish Enduro National Championships (IRL)Leinster16 July 2022
Hungarian National Championships (HUN)Kazincbarcika16 July 2022
Marin Wildside Enduro (CAN)Mont Lac-Vert, QC17 July 2022
Levi Midnight Enduro (FIN)Kittila21 July 2022
Enduro Series Venezuela Vargas (VEN)Vargas23 July 2022
SloEnduro Kope Koroska (SLO)Kope Koroska23 July 2022
USAC National Championships (USA)Winter Park, CO23 July 2022
Scottish Enduro Series Tweed Valley (GBR)Tweed Valley23 July 2022
Iranian National Championships (IRI)Tehran23 July 2022
Romanian National Championships (ROM)Azuga Prahova07 August 2022
KitzAlps Enduro Race (AUT)Oberndorf in Tirol27 August 2022
Enduro Trails (POL)Bielsko-Biala27 August 2022
California Enduro Series Northstar (USA)Northstar, CA27 August 2022
Swiss Enduro Series Airolo (SUI)Airolo28 August 2022
Swedish National Championships (SWE)Ostersund28 August 2022
Coupe de France Peisey-Vallandry (FRA)Peisey-Vallandry03 September 2022
Campionato Italiano Enduro (ITA)Castel Del Rio03 September 2022
Czech Enduro Series Spicak (CZE)Spicak09 September 2022
Mpumalanga Enduro Trailworx Nelspruit (RSA)Nelspruit17 September 2022
Slovak National Cup Malino Brdo (SVK)Malino Brdo25 September 2022
Campeonato Nacional Enduro (POR)Castelo de Vide15 October 2022
Enduro La Adrada (ESP)La Adrada16 October 2022
Gravity Enduro National Championships (AUS)Red Hill, VIC22 October 2022
Phoenix Enduro (NZL)Christchurch29 October 2022
Croatian National Championship (CRO)Dugi Rat Perun29 October 2022
Coupe de France Ile Rousse (FRA)Ile Rousse Corsica30 October 2022
Dominican Enduro Series Constanza (DOM)Constanza, La Vega19 November 2022
TBC ENS Enduro National Series (JPN)TBC31 December 2022

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 terms and conditions.

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