I love the growing popularity of enduro racing, which may sound strange coming from someone who does not race. In fact, I’m skeptical of most mountain bike racing as I think it has evolved into categories that drive specialization, more than innovation, for the majority of mountain bicyclists. Only a small number of bikes sold per year are super-light race whips, primed for the World Cup DH series, or meant to be backflipped off monster gaps; but since these types of competitions drive R&D the majority of bikes are left with trickle-down technology.
Enduro racing is changing that. Finally, there is a race format that mimics “real” mountain biking. You earn your turns, and while you’re moving diligently up the hill it’s not about throttling yourself so you have no legs left at the top. Because once you’re there it’s time to drop it like it’s hot. Long, bomber descents through a variety of terrain, where a combination of skills and fitness let you get the most out of your ride.
The bike industry has responded in force, and while the marketing hype around “enduro” products is already tiresome I’ll put up with it because the gear is awesome: dropper posts; long-travel, lightweight forks; and full-protection pads and helmets that don’t need to be shed as soon as the trail turns uphill.
So while I’m not a racer I don’t roll my eyes at the enduro scene as the realm of professional athletes and mid-life-crisers. Instead, I smile with glee at the direction the sport is heading: back to trail.
Chris Bernhardt is IMBA’s Director of Field Programs. When he’s not drowning in emails, he likes to endlessly rewatch 26 ain’t dead and place too much value on his Strava rankings.