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  1. #1
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    future of enduro

    pure speculation

    The tragic death of Will Olson has been heard by many facets of the cycling community and non-cyclists alike.
    Looking forward, this has sparked a lot of new attention on the enduro style. I imagine that traffic on the EWS website spiked as a result. This will probably make enduro more popular.

    Any more speculations on how this will affect the future of enduro mtb racing?

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    Dale Earnhart died racing in Nascar, it didn't make more people interested in Nascar.

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    I did not know about Dale Earnhart and would say I don't know much about Nascar, but after a few minutes of reading about him, I will quote wikipedia, "The effect that Earnhardt's death had on motorsports and the media frenzy that followedónot only in the United States, but all over the worldówere both massive."

    I simply was stating one effect that I speculated and wonder what other effects people foresee, if any at all. But comparing it to Dale Earnhart, someone I knew nothing about 15 minutes ago, seems to be a little contradictory with your statement. It seems like a bad example. He was also a bit of a star and was famous. It also got every single seat belt in Nascar changed... I would actually suspect that for a moment Nascar was receiving more attention. There's also the Ayrton Senna incident which happened before Earnhart.

    Unfortunately, I really would not be surprised if EWS received higher traffic on their website as a result. More people are probably learning about the EWS and Crested Butte. Not everyone that has heard about this tragic event knew about Crested Butte or the EWS.

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    My guess is that organizers (and insurers) start raising the bar on safety, both in terms of gear requirements and emergency planning. Courses are getting harder and riders are getting faster, and my sense is that the safety side hasn't kept up.

    I'd be surprised if the incident leads to a spike in race turnouts. At least here in the east I think the awareness level is pretty low.

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    Given that this is a risky sport, there are only so many things you can do to keep riders safe. Even if it was required to bundle up closer to MX standards, you'd still get people injuring themselves because what they are doing is inherently dangerous. The riders do (or at least should) accept that they are riding with a certain amount of risk and getting away with it every time they go out on their bike. We all do to varying degrees.

    In this case, I think that EWS has done everything it can within reason to keep riders safe. They had the emergency personnel on stand by for the event and responded to a backwoods emergency within 30min which, while it is a long time, is pretty darn good considering where they were.

    As to whether a rider death makes a sport more popular? I highly doubt it. It is already a popular and fast-growing segment of the MTB world and is not showing any signs of stopping any time soon. The media coverage from this unfortunate loss will really only put the EWS name on the front pages for a little while longer than it usually is.

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    No more blind race runs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swissam View Post
    No more blind race runs?
    I'd make a guess that blind runs are safer for the simple reason that you'd be running at a slower pace. They also level the field so that locals don't have as much of a home field advantage...and I say that as someone who rides all the trails that are likely to be used in our local races for months beforehand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridemtb47 View Post
    Given that this is a risky sport, there are only so many things you can do to keep riders safe. Even if it was required to bundle up closer to MX standards, you'd still get people injuring themselves because what they are doing is inherently dangerous. The riders do (or at least should) accept that they are riding with a certain amount of risk and getting away with it every time they go out on their bike. We all do to varying degrees.

    In this case, I think that EWS has done everything it can within reason to keep riders safe. They had the emergency personnel on stand by for the event and responded to a backwoods emergency within 30min which, while it is a long time, is pretty darn good considering where they were.

    As to whether a rider death makes a sport more popular? I highly doubt it. It is already a popular and fast-growing segment of the MTB world and is not showing any signs of stopping any time soon. The media coverage from this unfortunate loss will really only put the EWS name on the front pages for a little while longer than it usually is.
    EWS clarified that they had medics onsite within 5 minutes. There was one on a moto at the end of the Stage who rode up the trail immediately after being notified.

    Deaths in WC DH have not really affected that sport at all. While unfortunate, it is a high risk activity. In addition I think this is more specific to the style of racing in Colorado. There was also a major issue at EWS Winter Park last year when one of the girls went off into the trees at speed. It is the combination of fairly smooth trails with high speed corners in tree sections. There are no glancing blows when you hit a tree, it is simply what ever speed you are going to zero instantly. My buddy crashed in practice at Winter Park and it was pretty ugly. He walked away, but had to skip the race and was off the bike for a few weeks after. In the GoPro video you can see him literally bounce off the tree after getting off line.

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    I don't think you can compare Will Olson's tragedy to what was going on in motorsports up through the 80's (or Dale Earnhart, where his death could have been prevented with properly tightened seatbelts). Back then F1 drivers had a 20% chance of dying in any given season. They didn't stop races for anything and the safety staff wasn't always trained to do their job (see: David Purley take the fire extinguisher from the marshals on a live track to try and save Roger Williamson while the other drivers kept going). EWS stopped the race immediately and everyone was on point. Unfortunately (from what I hear) Will impacted in just the wrong way and there wasn't much more that could have been done. And with all the "fail" videos its obvious that bike crashes are much more survivable than a racecar that uses your feet as a crash structure.

    Anyway I think EWS has a good thing going and I hope that riders dying isn't what makes it more popular. A bigger audience tuning in to see blood isn't a good thing.

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    At the race this past weekend (New Mexico Enduro Cup), they simply 'requested' that riders choose to wear full-face helmets & also said the they wouldn't be penalized for removing them during transfers. They didn't bother anyone that chose to wear half-lids, but asked that they keep those on during the transfers.

    I can see some races (especially lift access) heading towards full faces required...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sprocketjockey9 View Post
    At the race this past weekend (New Mexico Enduro Cup), they simply 'requested' that riders choose to wear full-face helmets & also said the they wouldn't be penalized for removing them during transfers. They didn't bother anyone that chose to wear half-lids, but asked that they keep those on during the transfers.

    I can see some races (especially lift access) heading towards full faces required...
    What? A helmet should be required at all times on the course, timed or transfer stage. That's one step forward, two steps back.

  12. #12
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    I wonder if you'll start seeing more riders wearing chest protectors and neck /Leatt braces?

    I have no idea if either of those would've helped in Will Olson's case but tragedies like this tend to make us all a little more aware of our own mortality.
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    I've never competed in biking, but I would assume all high-risk/high-speed sports would take as many precautions as necessary without dampening the athletes' performances. I may not be a salty member of the MTBR, but I wouldn't be against having more mandatory safety gear during large sponsored events, let alone any event. I would compare it to Motocross, but I'm not well-versed in their safety protocol either.

    I watched NASCAR here & there around the time of Earnhardt's crash, but have never followed a Mountain Biking athlete/event. I had no idea how big of a community this was until last month, but NASCAR definitely has more visibility.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprocketjockey9 View Post
    At the race this past weekend (New Mexico Enduro Cup), they simply 'requested' that riders choose to wear full-face helmets & also said the they wouldn't be penalized for removing them during transfers. They didn't bother anyone that chose to wear half-lids, but asked that they keep those on during the transfers.

    I can see some races (especially lift access) heading towards full faces required...
    I actually like this idea. Depending on what the transfer stages are like and if its all just climbing with low speeds I bet overall it improves safety with more people being willing to bring a full face if they don't have to either wear it for the transfers or bring a second helmet.

    On my local trails you see the majority of riders ditch their regular helmets for the climb up. The speeds are basically as slow as you can ride and on a fire road so most accept the risk to try to keep a bit cooler.

  15. #15
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    There was a good discussion of this on TGR. The big question for a lot of events or series is in the direction they develop. We're starting to see some events put a focus on the physical effort required, while others are focussing on staging fun events. The CB enduro had 8K of climbing when it was first announced. They dialed it back to 5K after a friend of mine decided that didn't sound like fun.

    I'm an organizer of the Montana Enduro Series, and while we want to see legitimate competition for those podium spots, the reality is that most racers come out to have fun. That's our focus. I'm as excited by solid numbers of women and junior racers as by Cat 1. More excited, honestly.

    If I'm riding recreationally with a full-face I generally strap it to my back and climb bare-headed, but I think that's a bad move for an organized and insured event. USAC rules require a helmet to be worn and secured whenever you're on a bike through the course of the event. Even if we cut the USAC cord and go with a different insurer, we won't change that.

    Beyond that, I'm not sure how much more safety gear I'd want to require. We still feel strongly about enduro being the accessible race format, and that's our biggest demographic.

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    Leave that wide-open high speed stuff to the downhillers. Enduro needs to be more technical! More tech = slower speeds = less serious injuries (in general).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terp View Post
    Back then F1 drivers had a 20% chance of dying in any given season.
    That's a little bit more than absurd...only four F1 drivers died in the entire decade of the 1980s....so only a 2.5% chance that they would have even a single fatality in a season among all drivers, putting the risk for an individual driver at well less than a 1/10 of a percent chance of dying during an individual season.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockdude14 View Post
    I actually like this idea. Depending on what the transfer stages are like and if its all just climbing with low speeds I bet overall it improves safety with more people being willing to bring a full face if they don't have to either wear it for the transfers or bring a second helmet.

    On my local trails you see the majority of riders ditch their regular helmets for the climb up. The speeds are basically as slow as you can ride and on a fire road so most accept the risk to try to keep a bit cooler.
    Yeah the majority of the climbing in this event was fairly low speed riding or even a few hike a bike sections. Day 1 had some light trail, but nothing that was at any speed. Day 2 at the ski resort, the main climb was a long fire road slog & it was 80+ degrees so everyone was ditching helmets even if they would have asked you to keep them on

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprocketjockey9 View Post
    Yeah the majority of the climbing in this event was fairly low speed riding or even a few hike a bike sections. Day 1 had some light trail, but nothing that was at any speed. Day 2 at the ski resort, the main climb was a long fire road slog & it was 80+ degrees so everyone was ditching helmets even if they would have asked you to keep them on
    They would keep then on if the rules existed and were enforced.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by the-one1 View Post
    Dale Earnhart died racing in Nascar, it didn't make more people interested in Nascar.
    It did however, result in changes to the rules of NASCAR.

    Speaking of which, as Enduro gets progressively more specialist I can see it's safety standards moving closer to downhill and slalom/Four Cross. Here in Euroland full face helmets are already mandatory in the national series of the UK, France and Italy (the big ones). I can see more light/vented 'enduro specific' full face lids coming out to encourage their use as well.

    The long term success of Enduro hinges on it being able to attract large numbers of riders of a wide spread of abilities, so I don't expect events to get particularly crazy(er) over the coming years. There is a limit to what Mr Average weekend racer is willing/able to ride, full face helmet or not.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprocketjockey9 View Post
    Yeah the majority of the climbing in this event was fairly low speed riding or even a few hike a bike sections.
    The worst cycling accident I've seen (that didn't involve a car) was a rider going 5mph on a flat farm path, he managed to f##k himself up so badly he needed an air ambulance. Nothing hit him, he just lapsed concentration and fell over like a plonker, at 5mph, on a flat path. We'd been riding in the hills all day without a problem.

    Going slowly is no guarantee against luck suddenly turning against you, helmets should be worn even on transfers.

  22. #22
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    The EWS made a fundamental change this season. They gave the riders an option of FF or regular helmets. Last year it was FF only and you saw lots of riders having them perched up while riding or hanging from the hbars.

    Jerome Clementz even talked about how he crashed on Stage 2 at CB and was thankful that he always wears a FF while racing.

    I can't say if this would have saved anyone's life or not. But "we" the riders have requested harder courses so that brings more personal responsibility to what to wear
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    Quote Originally Posted by yetirich View Post
    The EWS made a fundamental change this season. They gave the riders an option of FF or regular helmets. Last year it was FF only and you saw lots of riders having them perched up while riding or hanging from the hbars.

    Jerome Clementz even talked about how he crashed on Stage 2 at CB and was thankful that he always wears a FF while racing.

    I can't say if this would have saved anyone's life or not. But "we" the riders have requested harder courses so that brings more personal responsibility to what to wear
    The helmet regulations are actually up to the local organizers. Last year in Scotland EWS did allow half lids.

    There are races in the US that already require FF such as the Kamikaze games last year in Mammoth.

  24. #24
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    In climbing and whitewater river rafter/kayaker communities, we typically discuss the details of a death very openly as a means of managing the risks we take. For instance, the American Alpine Club puts out the American Alpine Journal which has a journal on Accidents in North American Mountaineering which discusses plenty of tragedies and the different types of errors that led to varying degrees of accidents. From a young couple of climbers freezing a few pitches from the top of El Cap to a broken leg when someone took off a directional draw on a roof on a top rope climb.
    I'm curious if we will get more details. The most I have read on this accident is that he perhaps clipped a pedal, whatever happened he was off his bike and experienced blunt force trauma to the chest. I have my Wilderness First Responder cert and am currently enrolled in an EMT-Basic course so from my perspective, it helps to know details of accidents to put together scenarios in the field where you deal with similar types of trauma specific to the sport. I wonder, did his heart stop instantly or was he unable to breathe from collapsed/severely punctured lungs?

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    A hard enough impact to the chest can tear the heart.

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    true, but as of now the details seem to go as far as saying severe blunt chest trauma which could be a number of different things.

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    I can't find the article now, but I read that they thought he clipped a pedal and then his body slammed into a tree.

    I get what ehigh is saying, when I was a kayaker I read Charlie Walbridge religiously. But I don't think there are any big lessons to be learned in this instance. "Don't accidentally clip a pedal when you're going fast, especially if you're near a tree" isn't very useful riding advice, right? It doesn't seem like the organizers or course designers did anything wrong, and it doesn't seem like the rider's safety-gear choices made any difference.

    No lessons here, just an awful fluke.

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    I understand that turnout would be super low if every racer were required to take a WFR, EMT, or WEMT course but I do wonder if there could have been anything done besides what most people learn (or retain) in a basic CPR class in those first few moments that could have changed things. As of yet, it's all speculation.

    edit:
    In the case of Portal Trail in Moab, Utah the advice of "don't clip that rock after the 'dismount now! three riders have died here riders just like you'" is invaluable. Everything is unique. If there is a bunch of fast, flowy, smooth (practically groomed) dirt through aspens followed by a surprise rock garden with a fast corner with a bunch of aspens, a warning isn't exactly worthless. However, that's not exactly what I'm talking about. I'm wondering if there was any chance of doing anything differently in those first few moments that would have made the difference.

  29. #29
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    I think the Internet is the only reason anyone outside of the mtb community even heard about this. Given the fleeting attention span of people most probably don't recall reading about it already.

    When I raced mx a guy who I only met because he was next to me on the starting gate went down on a long set of steps. He fell in such a way that the foam at the neck of his chest protector came off and the plastic cut his jugular. There was a small write up in the newspaper, but no one outside of the local mx community gave it any thought.

    I don't say this to diminish Will's life in any way, but the mtb community is small and the ones who will remember him most and remain affected by this are those who were closest to him. You can only make sports with inherent risk so safe. At some level we all know the risks, and that danger is probably part of what we enjoy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ehigh View Post
    In climbing and whitewater river rafter/kayaker communities, we typically discuss the details of a death very openly as a means of managing the risks we take. For instance, the American Alpine Club puts out the American Alpine Journal which has a journal on Accidents in North American Mountaineering which discusses plenty of tragedies and the different types of errors that led to varying degrees of accidents. From a young couple of climbers freezing a few pitches from the top of El Cap to a broken leg when someone took off a directional draw on a roof on a top rope climb.
    I'm curious if we will get more details. The most I have read on this accident is that he perhaps clipped a pedal, whatever happened he was off his bike and experienced blunt force trauma to the chest. I have my Wilderness First Responder cert and am currently enrolled in an EMT-Basic course so from my perspective, it helps to know details of accidents to put together scenarios in the field where you deal with similar types of trauma specific to the sport. I wonder, did his heart stop instantly or was he unable to breathe from collapsed/severely punctured lungs?
    This would be awesome. I am a huge fan of the AAC Accidents in NA Mountaineering books. Perhaps something any of the national MTB ass'ns could take on. Here's the link for anyone curious what kinds of information these guys track and publish. https://www.americanalpineclub.org/p/anam


    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBike View Post
    ..I don't think there are any big lessons to be learned in this instance. "Don't accidentally clip a pedal when you're going fast, especially if you're near a tree" isn't very useful riding advice, right? It doesn't seem like the organizers or course designers did anything wrong, and it doesn't seem like the rider's safety-gear choices made any difference.

    No lessons here, just an awful fluke.
    Ya, I mean there are always going to be one-off incidents you can't do anything about. But just some rambling thoughts are:

    1. I don't know the course. Was this tree a problem tree or a high risk impact tree? Perhaps we can start padding trees a'la WC downhill races?
    2. What did he clip his pedal on? Was it a stump that should have been taken out because it was particularly high risk? Or at least flagged/marked?
    3. If it was a chest impact, was it broad (e.g. lots of surface area) or was it a pointed impact? Could a hard chest protector help? Or if a broad impact, perhaps even a shirt similar to the TLD UPL 7855 (https://www.troyleedesigns.com/products/51000320) might help? Lots of unknowns, did he die right away? Would another 5 minutes of labored breathing been enough for EMS to reach him?


    Tons of unknowns IMO. And certainly too many for me to say "it sucks but it happens and we can't do anything better."

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    Quote Originally Posted by sherwin24 View Post
    I think the Internet is the only reason anyone outside of the mtb community even heard about this. Given the fleeting attention span of people most probably don't recall reading about it already.
    For those of us that were there or knew people there, it takes a while to forget the feeling when you wanted to check in with so-and-so to make sure it wasn't them. I know a number of people who were there who updated their social media status asking for people to check in with them. We might not remember as long as family and immediate friends, but with sports like this the degrees of separation are very narrow.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lithified View Post
    This would be awesome. I am a huge fan of the AAC Accidents in NA Mountaineering books. Perhaps something any of the national MTB ass'ns could take on. Here's the link for anyone curious what kinds of information these guys track and publish. https://www.americanalpineclub.org/p/anam




    Ya, I mean there are always going to be one-off incidents you can't do anything about. But just some rambling thoughts are:

    1. I don't know the course. Was this tree a problem tree or a high risk impact tree? Perhaps we can start padding trees a'la WC downhill races?
    2. What did he clip his pedal on? Was it a stump that should have been taken out because it was particularly high risk? Or at least flagged/marked?
    3. If it was a chest impact, was it broad (e.g. lots of surface area) or was it a pointed impact? Could a hard chest protector help? Or if a broad impact, perhaps even a shirt similar to the TLD UPL 7855 (https://www.troyleedesigns.com/products/51000320) might help? Lots of unknowns, did he die right away? Would another 5 minutes of labored breathing been enough for EMS to reach him?


    Tons of unknowns IMO. And certainly too many for me to say "it sucks but it happens and we can't do anything better."
    I think that USA Cycling could have some benefit in recording this sort of information. Currently, I don't know where I'd find any info on something like rates or types of Sudden Death Syndrome across different cycling competitions - information that could be available if recorded. Though it's hard to say that's what caused his death. Currently, the report is still chest trauma.

    Accidents in NA Mountaineering print outs used to be all over a friend's bathroom. What a way to wake up in the morning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by richde View Post
    I'd make a guess that blind runs are safer for the simple reason that you'd be running at a slower pace. They also level the field so that locals don't have as much of a home field advantage...and I say that as someone who rides all the trails that are likely to be used in our local races for months beforehand.
    Personally, I would much prefer blind runs. As it stands now, I have a hard time affording the extra couple of days off work/at a venue in order to get in practice runs on course. Coming from an endurance racing background, where you can show up the night before and it not be a large disadvantage, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea.

    Purely my personal opinion, but I can't be the only one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea138 View Post
    Personally, I would much prefer blind runs. As it stands now, I have a hard time affording the extra couple of days off work/at a venue in order to get in practice runs on course. Coming from an endurance racing background, where you can show up the night before and it not be a large disadvantage, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea.

    Purely my personal opinion, but I can't be the only one.
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    I might be wrong with this but actually I think more safety equipment is the exact wrong solution. Sorry for the baiting headline but hear me out.

    Look at American Football for example. Nowadays players wear huge pads and helmets, feel invincible and destroy their bodies and minds with concussions. Back when it was leather helmets and no pads, not such a huge problem. Similar argument made about seatbelts: The Hidden Danger of Seat Belts - TIME

    Risk compensation is the key term here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation

    When I put on my full face and full pads, I definitely feel more protected and take more risks than without. Especially feels the case with a full face where you feel head is completely enclosed. Anyway the point is that people are pushing things faster and harder partly because of the safety equipment. It's possible that banning neck braces and full faces would lead to less speed, but less risks from riders. Would it be less fun? Maybe, I'm not sure.

    On a related note it does seem to be that enduro racing is moving towards downhill and less away from all mountain. Seems like more chairlifts and less pedaling, more coil shocks and heavy bikes that just go fast downhill. Which is fine if that's what the sport is going to be, but if we're taking a minute to say "woah, lets not get out of control with the speed/danger" one way to keep things in check is to actually limit safety equipment and design courses accordingly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skelldify View Post
    Leave that wide-open high speed stuff to the downhillers. Enduro needs to be more technical! More tech = slower speeds = less serious injuries (in general).
    Leave chairlift access to them too. Enduro should exist on the downhill sections of XC/All mountain trails. Period.

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    I emailed IMBA about recording "Accidents in North American Mountain Biking" and "International Accidents in Mountain Biking" and it has been forwarded around and I'm awaiting another response.

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