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  1. #1
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    Beginner Enduro questions

    Hello! I'd like to race enduro next year, and I am full of questions. Since it's the off-season I figured y'all might have time to answer them for me...

    So, some background: I used to race XC, but I was never particularly good at it, generally bottom quarter of the race in Sport (is that even still a thing?) when I was racing back in the early 2000s. I was definitely mediocre but I *loved* the experience of going to races and seeing the same faces and hanging out after, shattered and full of stories. I'm basically looking for that experience with Enduro and tbh Enduro seems about a thousand times more fun than XC.

    On to the questions:

    I live in Colorado and it seems like Big Mountain Enduro is the series to do here. Would the Santa Fe race in May be a good first race, or will it be too competitive for a beginner to have fun? I'd be racing the Masters 40+ category. Are there lower-key races in the state or close to it you'd recommend instead?

    I'm not a very fast climber. I'm getting back in shape but even when I'm in good-shape-for-me I'm at the back of the pack on a climb of any length. How much time is there for the transitions? Is not being able to make the start of the next stage a possibility for slow climbers? (obviously this depends on what I mean by "slow", but I am definitely the big dude who gets dropped on climbs on most group rides)

    Lastly, and honestly this is the one that makes me most nervous: how do you handle getting passed by faster riders? I worry a lot about messing up someone else's line or slowing a potential podium finisher (especially in a Masters category where I'd be, weirdly, in the same category as ex-pros). Is that a big deal? Are people generally pretty chill?

    Thanks for any input! I'm super psyched to try this out.

  2. #2
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    I've only done one decent enduro race, and a few DH and Super D races recently - I think I can answer some of your questions though, since I've asked them too!

    Re climbs on the transition stages, the time you get on transitions will depend on the specific enduro race. Most I have heard about don't have a critical time requirement so imo it's a good strategy to set off early in the pack, and aim to finish your day at the end of the pack by taking your time on the climbs. I spent a fair chunk of my recent 2 day race pushing my bike up the hills on transitions. That let me avoid cramp and I felt quite fresh at the beginning of each descent. I only know of one person who didn't make the cut for the climbs in that race. It was the climb up to the 2nd stage (of 5 for that day) and he was nearly dead with a good 500m elevation left. The sweeper sent straight to the 3rd stage so he still rode for the day, but got a headstart on the others and a DNF for stage 2.

    Re passing, I'm proficient at descending and wasn't overtaken during my race, but did need to pass quite a few riders on the descents since I was generally starting toward the end of the pack. You just call out "Rider!" with plenty of warning, and hopefully they hear you and quickly find a safe spot to move aside. One guy refused to move and I had to find a creative line around him, but that's racing. No one is going to get angry at you.

    It sounds like you're in it for the right reasons - having fun and good yarns! Good luck

  3. #3
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    Santa Fe was my first Enduro race last year. If you are decent at climbing at elevation you should be fine. Most of the people I saw just set it to their lowest gear and spin to the top at a rate just below hard breathing. I got passed probably every stage going down by one person. It is plenty of fun and beer to be drank, hit the gym and ride as much as you can go into it open minded and have fun.

  4. #4
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    I really wouldn't do Santa Fe as your first enduro. As far as enduros go, it's one of the most brutal. 2017 certainly wasn't as brutal as 2016 where almost half the amateur class dropped out, but it's still pretty challenging. I would steer clear of BME altogether if you can. BMEs tend to be more challenging than many enduros. There also aren't a lot of beginner racers that show up to those events. The Enduro Cup race in Moab might be a good starting point.

  5. #5
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    I entered a local Enduro Race, that's actually an EWS qualifier!!

    Unfortunately in my exuberance, I failed to check my calendar i.e. w/ her-in-doors... We're at a Wedding on race day :grrr:

    Talked a mate into doing it & he's continuing on with it (good on him).

    Did a one day lead in event though where you got to race a few of the stages.

    Man was I phark'd!!

    By the last stage I was just hanging onto the bike & letting it go where it wanted to o_0

    Definitely be giving them/it a crack again next year.

    Thing I learnt from my one dayer... pace yourself on the climbs.

    If there's no real cut off times on the Transitions, go as slow as you like & save your legs for the stuff that matters.

    My $0.02

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  6. #6
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    All great advise....
    I am the same point as moishe but in Ca were the multi venue CES is held. I have Tri's and lots of running races under my belt, but never a DH or Enduro race and so I have a lot more questions. It looks to be great fun, but most of my mates say not for them and so it will be solo for me.

    I search/wish for a few more does and dont's in the advise column. Each course is obviously different so not perfect common answer, but here are a few of my questions:
    1. What gear to carry, water, food and helmet only?
    2. What gear to leave in a gear bag or not and where to leave it?
    3. Spare parts and gear help...what else to bring or is it too late (tire, chain, pump, axle, etc)?
    4. How does the start actually work, say in Stage 1? Do you just get in line when you arrive and roll the gate or do they somehow coordinate starts? What about the cut offs...do you really have to keep track or does moving with masses keep you in relative time safety?
    5. What about the race? Is it a kick the pants hammer fest, top to bottom, peddle till you medal type of effort? Do you focus on where you can peddle more than anything else? What do you focus on?
    6. What was the biggest surprise in your first event? What did you do wrong? What did you do right?
    7. What is a classic rookie mistake?
    8. Is it the flats or the steeps that make the most difference in time?
    9. At the finish gate, do you have any time to chill for a second or should you immediately march on to the next stage?

    The biggest holdback for me is the typical extra day needed for checkin. I am about 2hrs from Sea Otter, CES El Toro, Mammoth Bar and Northstar (a little more), but since the requirement is to check in the night before, it is another 1/2 day off work to participate. I like camping and all, but not with a few thousand other folks in a flat dirt lot and the hotel process is kinda sucky as wll just to check into the race.

    Anyway, assuming my body holds up, I plan to do at least 3 of the CES events this year.

  7. #7
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    I'm in Colorado and do a lot of racing as well. They're not "sanctioned" by any governing body so rules and categories are specific to each series. The main races you will find are:

    Big Mountain Enduro
    Scott Enduro Cup
    Revolution Enduro Series (Formerly Rocky mountain enduro series)

    That's in order from largest to smallest with Revolution only being in it's second season. There's also a number of one-off races- Trestle (Winter Park) usually does one, Golden Giddyup, Moab Ho-down, etc. you just have to keep an eye out for them. 40+ masters will probably be the least competitive out of all the classes but there's still some guys that are blazing fast. Climbs are never timed, I've never seen anyone dropped involuntarily for not making a climb. Some are worse then others. Moab Scott Enduro cup is held at klondike bluffs and is generally more XC-ish. Last years race was 24ish miles and 2500' of climbing I believe. I think the hardest rated trail is a blue/black. It's also a one day event.

    As far as passing people- there's usually a 30 second to 1 minute interval but passes do happen. The passing rider usually calls out "rider up" and *usually* the rider being passed immediately moves over. I've never had an encounter where a rider wouldn't move over, but sometimes it does make it hard to be competitive. I think this is more of a problem in amateur because there's a lot of sandbaggers. If you look at results you'll see the top finisher in amateur usually would have podiumed expert as well and would be top half in pro. I think you'll find the atmosphere at an Enduro race to be much more laid back and fun then XC events. I'll be racing the entire BME, Revolution, and a few Scott Cup races this year, hope to see you out there!

    Classic rookie mistake is to not pedal. On your timed runs, if you can pedal... you should be!
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  8. #8
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    All great advise....
    I am the same point as moishe but in Ca were the multi venue CES is held. I have Tri's and lots of running races under my belt, but never a DH or Enduro race and so I have a lot more questions. It looks to be great fun, but most of my mates say not for them and so it will be solo for me.

    I search/wish for a few more does and dont's in the advise column. Each course is obviously different so not perfect common answer, but here are a few of my questions:
    1. What gear to carry, water, food and helmet only?

    Race dependent. I try to carry as little as possible, definitely not wearing a backpack. Usually a waterbottle on the bike or in a bib and a plug kit in my pocket ready to go. If your mechanical on a timed stage takes more then 20 seconds your race is basically over if you're trying to be competitive. Climbs are much different.

    2. What gear to leave in a gear bag or not and where to leave it?

    Race dependent, there's an aid station after every descent or you're at the base of the mountain if at a resort. Enduro races are not the time to carry the kitchen sink, bare minimums.


    3. Spare parts and gear help...what else to bring or is it too late (tire, chain, pump, axle, etc)?


    I'll usually have an extra tire, derailleur cable, etc. at the base.


    4. How does the start actually work, say in Stage 1? Do you just get in line when you arrive and roll the gate or do they somehow coordinate starts? What about the cut offs...do you really have to keep track or does moving with masses keep you in relative time safety?


    Again they're all different. I've done races where you can start your transfer (the climb) whenever you want as long as you get to the start gate at your assigned time. Most races categories usually start together and then you run in an assigned order at the top so there is some waiting. The key here is to stay loose. When I'm 5 minutes or so from being up I'll usually do some sprints if I've been sitting awhile.


    5. What about the race? Is it a kick the pants hammer fest, top to bottom, peddle till you medal type of effort? Do you focus on where you can peddle more than anything else? What do you focus on?

    Yes. If you want to be competitive you should have a strong endurance base but remember to focus on sprint training. Top athletes are going all out for up to 15 minutes at a time.

    6. What was the biggest surprise in your first event? What did you do wrong? What did you do right?

    Lots of sandbaggers, and I didn't pedal nearly enough.


    7. What is a classic rookie mistake?

    PEDAL!

    8. Is it the flats or the steeps that make the most difference in time?

    Really depends on the race venue. Some of the gnarlier venues have ride arounds that cost you a time penalty. If you want to be competitive pre-riding the course (multiple times) is a necessity. Racing a course blind and trying to win is nearly impossible unless you're sandbagging.

    9. At the finish gate, do you have any time to chill for a second or should you immediately march on to the next stage?

    You definitely have time. After the first stage things seem to break down a bit and you end up where ever. If you're a fast climber sometimes it's better to take it easy, I had a buddy a few years ago get stuck in the pro category as a slower amateur cause he was a XC guy. Ended up getting passed 3-4 times in each stage. Not very much fun for anyone.

    The biggest holdback for me is the typical extra day needed for checkin. I am about 2hrs from Sea Otter, CES El Toro, Mammoth Bar and Northstar (a little more), but since the requirement is to check in the night before, it is another 1/2 day off work to participate. I like camping and all, but not with a few thousand other folks in a flat dirt lot and the hotel process is kinda sucky as wll just to check into the race.

    Don't forget pre-riding. Unless you're just out there to have fun

    Anyway, assuming my body holds up, I plan to do at least 3 of the CES events this year.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tommybees View Post
    I search/wish for a few more does and dont's in the advise column. Each course is obviously different so not perfect common answer, but here are a few of my questions:
    1. What gear to carry, water, food and helmet only?
    I took helmet, pads and gloves (rules say mandatory). In my hydration pack I had electrolyte sachets for the whole day, sports bars, trail mix, a banana, lollies. Also a small bike pump and multi tool. I didn't think I would eat as much food as I did.

    2. What gear to leave in a gear bag or not and where to leave it?
    In my car back at base I had extra food and a spare tyre.

    3. Spare parts and gear help...what else to bring or is it too late (tire, chain, pump, axle, etc)?
    I didn't bring anything outside of what I mentioned above. Some people go with a inner tube fitted to their frame. I would have too but it slipped my mind.

    4. How does the start actually work, say in Stage 1? Do you just get in line when you arrive and roll the gate or do they somehow coordinate starts? What about the cut offs...do you really have to keep track or does moving with masses keep you in relative time safety?
    They will likely announce on the day how things will roll out. For my event there was a shuttled first stage, we were in numbered groups for the shuttles and learned which time we would be going up earlier in the week. First we registered/signed in and received a timing chip for the day, then there was an announcement before each shuttle and a roll call. Very well organised. The cut offs weren't strictly enforced. I spent some time riding with the sweeper as he's a friend.

    5. What about the race? Is it a kick the pants hammer fest, top to bottom, peddle till you medal type of effort? Do you focus on where you can peddle more than anything else? What do you focus on?
    I'm only good pointing down a hill so saved my energy for that. I gave it 100% and crashed on the first few stages. Went back to about 80% and had no more crashes after that. Managed some 7th place finishes in my category at the lower effort, so focusing on consistency and smoothness is definitely a good riding objective over such a long distance. Seasoned racers have the mental fortitude to attack all day. I don't!


    6. What was the biggest surprise in your first event? What did you do wrong? What did you do right?
    The biggest surprise was how many people I met and became friends with. Especially the case toward the end of the pack as we were all comfortable having yarns and pushing up the transition hills. The few guys I spoke to who placed higher up were extremely focused and didn't seem too interested in having a laugh.

    7. What is a classic rookie mistake?
    Not riding the stages ahead of time (if possible), not doing enough long ride training, ignoring nutrition (especially replacing salts!), pushing too hard too early (guilty of that myself).

    8. Is it the flats or the steeps that make the most difference in time?
    I got my best results on steeper more technical stages. Where there was a lot of pedalling to be done, I slipped back compared to fitter riders. If I was fitter I could have done better again.

    9. At the finish gate, do you have any time to chill for a second or should you immediately march on to the next stage?
    There is always time to recover! End of stages will have people doing bike repairs, bandaging up, refilling water bottles, excitedly retelling their race or sprawled out in the sun trying to muster energy for the next transition.

    I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much fun and how easy going some of these races can be. If you're not trying to podium, it's really just a great couple of days on the bike on stages that have been expertly prepped for a race, with likeminded people. It's super fun.

  10. #10
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    Wow - you guys rock, thanks for all the excellent and well thought out details. Your notes should become a sticky!
    Definitely got my heart rate up just reading this. I might even print this out as a race day prep. Step 1 though is to sign up and that I will do.
    BTW - the reason the 2 ish hours distances from home are great is that I can day trip a pre-ride on prior weekend or two. I think only Sea Otter has a closed area that the course runs thru, while the others ( I think) are all on common trails or otherwise accessible slopes.

    Cheers and thanks again!

  11. #11
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    This is awesome info ó thanks so much!!! I definitely need to spend the winter on sprints/intervals and training myself to PEDAL on the downhills. Canít wait for the season to start.


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  12. #12
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    I did my first enduro here in the southeast back in Sept, 40+ masters. There were some really fast guys in this class, ex pro DH racers. I had no illusions of winning, but I did want to be competitive. I was mid pack and humbled. Like was mentioned above if you want to be competitive you have to pedal. I didn't pre-ride and it cost me one place at least due to being caught out by a couple of sharp turns. Remember to unlock your suspension after the transfer.

    I also needed more big rides prior to the race. Total distance was 27 miles and 4700' of climbing which is a good bit for north GA.

  13. #13
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    Glad I found this post! I too am coming over from CAT 2 (Sport) XC racing last season and a riding buddy suggested I look into enduro. I starting doing some You Tube searches for local races here in Oregon and was totally stoked at what I found since a lot of them run on trails I already ride. Bought an "enduroish" bike and looking forward to next season. Keep the insight and advice coming!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-roken View Post
    I did my first enduro here in the southeast back in Sept, 40+ masters. There were some really fast guys in this class, ex pro DH racers. I had no illusions of winning, but I did want to be competitive. I was mid pack and humbled. Like was mentioned above if you want to be competitive you have to pedal. I didn't pre-ride and it cost me one place at least due to being caught out by a couple of sharp turns. Remember to unlock your suspension after the transfer.

    I also needed more big rides prior to the race. Total distance was 27 miles and 4700' of climbing which is a good bit for north GA.
    Thank you for this information! About how long were you on the bike, and how much food and water did you take? Thanks again.

  15. #15
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    Roughly 9 to 3 with about 30 to 40 minutes of resting. I had 3 liters of h2o and there was 1 sag station that was passed 2 times. For food I had too much. 3 or 4 cliff bars and some trail mix and bananas. I didn't want to bonk.

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  16. #16
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    I decided that i want to try and do an enduro for the first time this year and guess what i signed up for? The final round of the BME in Snowmass...smh. That series wss all i could find and for whatever reason I didn't think of looking on the forums for races. Anyway im an average joe rider. Pretty much suck at it but trail riding is fun. I've been hitting the gym doing all that stuff to the best of my abilities but i am worried about my technical skills quite a bit. I live in omaha nebraska and we dont have shit that will prepare me for what i will be facing. Im looking to book a few skills clinics before hand to hopefully get me up to speed. Say a prayer for me guys.

  17. #17
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    I also signed up for my first ever enduro. Keystone. I am not totally new to riding keystone but after watching the videos from last year's event... wow. Hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew.

    Moishe -I also live on the front range (Parker) and I am super curious about your plan for training. I am hitting the gym and working on high intensity and intervals but I fear my bike handling skillz will be lacking.
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  18. #18
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    This is helpful. I just raced my first enduro on Saturday in Moab. Scott Enduro Cup. Signed up for the whole series. It was a perfect intro to the format. I knew going into it that I'm pretty slow. My goal was to finish and not be last. I ride a lot so I knew the finishing goal would be easy. The not being last goal I was pretty confident too. I finished 60 out of 64 finishers, and my best stage was 59. I felt strong the whole time, but I think more than anything my bike handling skills suck. I got passed almost twice on the first stage. Did not get passed on the second stage. Got passed on the third stage. Perhaps my next goal will be to not get passed. I was pedaling hard but not hammering. My best stage was the least pedaly and the one that beat me up the most. Some of my favorite parts of the day were in the transitions. Overall it was a great experience. There was nothing technically that was out of my price range which was kind of disappointing. A little higher pucker factor would have kept it interesting. I'm look forward to the next race, 2 days in Angel Fire.

    The passing etiquette was new to me. In xc racing the passer has to earn the pass. In enduro the passee should give the passer opportunity to pass. It is not a rule, but it is accepted etiquette. I do have mixed feelings about this but will get over it for sure.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by roaringfork View Post
    The passing etiquette was new to me. In xc racing the passer has to earn the pass. In enduro the passee should give the passer opportunity to pass. It is not a rule, but it is accepted etiquette. I do have mixed feelings about this but will get over it for sure.
    IMO if a rider catches you then they have earned the pass. There is no need to hold up a faster rider out of pride.

    I haven't done any races yet but I'm planning to this year. I trained all winter doing intervals, long rides, yoga, and lifting heavy weights. Now I'm just waiting on the Oregon Enduro series to get a race or two organized in my area.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by piersurf View Post
    IMO if a rider catches you then they have earned the pass. There is no need to hold up a faster rider out of pride.
    It's about trying to get down the course as fast as possible not about pride. However, I do agree that if they catch you they earn the pass.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by piersurf View Post
    IMO if a rider catches you then they have earned the pass. There is no need to hold up a faster rider out of pride.
    Absolutely. I don't know what intervals you guys use over there, but we run 30 second intervals minimum, up to a minute at some events. If a rider has managed to make up 30 seconds on you, let them pass ASAP.

    It's actually dangerous for both riders to try riding so close together.

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    Good job!

    Good questions! I took a stab at a few.

    7. What is a classic rookie mistake?
    Pedaling too hard out of the gate and blowing up and riding too hard on the transitions!

    8. Is it the flats or the steeps that make the most difference in time?
    It depends on your strengths and weaknesses. The faster the track is, the harder it will be to make up time by smashing it out on the pedals. The longer it is the more important it will be to pace. Lots of ways to answer this depending on the track.

    9. At the finish gate, do you have any time to chill for a second or should you immediately march on to the next stage?
    I usually recommend stopping and having a bit to eat/drink before the next transition. This means you'll have time to digest while pedaling [easy], which will reduce that pesky insulin response (versus if you ate right before the start of a stage.

    I often write about these kinds of things on my site, but haven't thought of many of those questions. Anyway, here's one I wrote about being fit for enduro
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