Enduro, enduro, enduro. It’s everywhere. Like a dayglo goggle-wearing plague the word is plastered all over the world of mountain bikes at the mo.
And this hype comes with good reason. Not since the 1990s heyday of mountain biking has there been a movement that has got ordinary riders motivated – and entering events – like enduro has.
What is enduro?
Technically it’s a race format. But as is the way with these things, “enduro” has come to be a term to describe a certain type or emphasis of biking. It’s a tribal thang. It’s a label. It’s arguably ended up just replacing the “all mountain” label that we had for few years. Anyhoo, enduro has lit some sort of blue touch paper and here we are.
Enduro race courses are a number a timed stages linked up by neutral (un-timed) linking sections. Think of it as like rally car racing but on mountain bikes.
The riding can vary but the timed sections are generally at the more technical end of the Trail riding spectrum, with some tough enduro stages bordering on Downhill. The timed stages have minimal, often no, climbing involved and are focussed on being fast over technical terrain. A good level of fitness as well as all-round bike-handling are required. Enduro is like ‘Trail’ riding but on steroids.
If you want to enter an enduro race then here are a few suggested things that you may wish to try out on your mountain bike.
Once you’ve tried one you’ll not want to be without one again. Dropper posts are seatposts that can be lowered and raised on-the-fly usually via a handlebar mounted switch. Lowering your saddle for descents makes things much easier. You can move around the bike more. The bike can move around you more.
You can keep your centre of gravity – and tipping point – much lower, which makes for better descending and cornering. And when the tricky stuff is over, simply press a switch and the saddle returns to full height for maximum pedalling efficiency and comfort.
Dropper posts make your riding faster, more flowing and more fun. They ain’t cheap but they are worth their weight in gold.
Product pick: The most popular dropper post is the RockShox Reverb. The connoisseur’s choice of post is arguably the Thomson Elite Dropper Post – a super reliable and fabulously engineered bit of kit.
Much like with dropper posts, those who’ve tried wide handlebars rarely switch back to what they had before. Running wide handlebars widens your stance, improving balance and control.
Cornering is where most people experience the greatest improvement. Even novice riders begin to carve through corners as opposed to stiffly notching their way around them. Wide bars subtly lower your centre of gravity too – always a good thing for effective bike handling.
Product pick: Splash the cash on a pair of 750mm wide Easton Havoc Carbon Riser Bars or go for a classic pair of 785mm wide aluminium Race Face Atlas Riser Bars (this is an old post and the linked content no longer exists) (aluminium bars are easy to trim down if you find 785mm a bit too broad for your shoulders).
If you’ve gone wide with your bars then you may need to trim your stem length to pull things back in a bit (wider bars effectively extend your cockpit reach a bit).
If you’ve got really wide bars then you should try fitting the shortest stem you can find – stems start from 35mm lengths.
Otherwise something in the region of 50-60mm will suit most rider’s wide-barred setups. With this newly wider-but-further-back cockpit setup you’ll be amazed at what sort of terrain you can get down.
You’ll be going faster than ever before, down wilder trails than you’ve attempted before.
So it makes sense to exercise a bit of caution and protect some extremities.
Banging your knee hurts. Broken knees can be extremely problematic. Pad up!
You can also buy elbow pads but we think they’re not really required and they aren’t anywhere near as comfortable or stay-in-place as knee pads. But if you do have concerns about your elbows then by all means get some elbow pads if it’s going ot make you ride more confidently.
Product pick: POC Joint VPD Air knee pads (this is an old post and the linked content no longer exists) are a very popular choice.
Increased coverage helmet
Speaking of protection. You may wish to switch to a helmet with increased levels of protection. Enduro style helmets cover a bit more of the back of your head.
They’re still designed with lightness and ventilation in mind, so they shouldn’t cause you to overheat.
Enduro specific helmets also have a groove channel for the secure location of goggle straps (see below).
Now we’re into the realm of looking the part and making a statement. Nothing says “temporary wear” more than a pair of goggles.
The idea is to only wear them during certain sections (descents, basically) and the rest of time they’re either kept in your backpack or even on your helmet.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some riders swear by the protection and levels of focus/concentration afforded by strapping on a pair of goggles.
Product pick: Smith Optics Fuel V2 Sweat-X M Mountain goggles (this is an old post and the linked content no longer exists) are a suitably garish pair of enduro-goggs.
Banish punctures from your riding by making the move to tubeless.
No more inner tubes to pierce or pinch. Small cuts self-heal by a sealant held within the tyre chamber.
Going tubeless has been something of a controversial topic in the past – when the systems weren’t as polished or as effective as they are now – but these days it’s become more and more the norm and unremarked upon.
Going tubeless requires a bit of initial setting up but all in all the effort and time saved in the lack of subsequent punctures is well worth it.
Product pick: custom spec your own tubeless wheelset. Read all about how to go tubeless in our previous blog.
Ditch a chainring or two and just run one chainring up front (known as a “1x” system). Why? Weight saving – one less chainring, no more front mech, cabling or shifter. Better chain retention (no more slapping or dropping chains).
If you’re running one chainring then make sure it’s a thick-thin chainring where the teeth are alternately thick or thin, this is the feature that holds on to the chain effectively.
Because you’re removing a bunch of gears when you ditch a chainring you should contemplate extending the range of your gears at the back. Various companies make extra large sprockets that go on to your rear cassette, expanding the top end gear range. Here’s how to do it.
Clutch rear mech
If your bike is less than a couple of years old then chances are you may already have one these.
If it hasn’t, get one. A rear mech with an increased level of spring tension in it.
This tension keeps the chain from dancing/bouncing around over rough ground which, in turn, means no more dropped chains.
Only available for 10 or 11 speed drivetrains.
Platform clipless pedals
Enduro riders may play – sorry, train – with flat pedals but when it come to the serious business of racing then it’s clipped-in all the way. Enduro races may be based on predominantly descending stages the clocks still reward hard pedalling.
Brilliant descenders who don’t/can’t pedal hard will put in slower times than average downhillers who can pedal like billy-o. And pedalling is always more powerful and efficient when you’re clipped in.
You don’t want to be using minimalist pedals, you need a bit more security, support and protection. Get a pair of clipless pedals that have some sort of platform body around them.