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Enduro: the Roots of a Growing Sport

9. February 2015 — TeamSpirit
TeamSpirit

What's all the buzz about Enduro mountain biking? What is the difference between cross-country mountainbiking, enduro and downhill?

Is the claim “I’m an enduro mountain biker” just another way for people to stand out from the rest of the mountain biking crowd? With the re-launch of the BMC Factory Trailcrew this year and the increasing exposure of the sport, we took to answering some the most common questions related to this fast-growing mountain biking discipline.

Born in France with Laissez Faire

Enduro has its roots in France where Fred Glo, a keen mountain biker, decided to organize a race in Vall d’Allos in the year 2003 to suit his friends’ riding style: riding together up the hill and racing each other down. The format, based on motorbike Enduro, quickly became popular in France which certainly explains the quality of the French field on today’s scene. Because of its Alpine origins the uphills were first made with uplifts but as Enduro developed and established itself in less steep regions, riders started riding up to the start of the next stage. This is exactly when Enduro became that perfect compromise between downhill and cross-country.

The spirit: something we can all Relate To

Not as crazy as downhill and not as much suffering as cross country

In a few words, Enduro is basically what we, average mountain bikers, do over the weekend. Can we fly down the hill at 70kph? Can we ride up as fast as Julien Absalon? Definitely not… So Enduro is the perfect mix for us: not as crazy as downhill and not as much suffering as cross country. Whatever their level, “having fun on the bike” is what the BMC Factory Racing leader François Bailly-Maître and all Enduro addicts ride for. With such a motto, no wonder the format has gained huge popularity within the bike community and started to become very interesting for the bike industry.

The format: a difficult definition

Even the specialists – riders and organizers – struggle when asked for a definition of Enduro. In fact, the rulebook varies from one event to the other. It is therefore impossible to draw up of rules that are true for all events.

At our own risks, we have tried to compile a few anyway:

  • One or two day events
  • Five to eight hours on the saddle per day
  • Downhills only are timed. The final classification is made of the addition of all times
  • Set times for transitions between stages (on the bike or by lift)
  • No mechanical assistance. Riders must carry their own spare parts and tools.

The Equipment: one bike does it all

The biggest challenge for bicycle manufacturers lies in the development of bikes that meet the needs of Enduro riders. Innovation is key in combatting the weight Vs performance issue. On any mountain bike, suspension systems, wheels and tyres add substantial weight to what would be a very light frame.

In downhill mountain biking the weight of the bike is less of an issue as they are rarely ridden uphill and the performance of suspension systems outweigh the importance of weight. In cross-country mountainbiking, where the terrain is not as extreme yet the speed needs to be – the weight of the bike and optimized suspension systems are of paramount importance in producing world-class performances. Enduro mountainbiking is somewhere in the middle. Bikes need to be light enough to be ridden comfortably and quickly uphill, yet provide the performance on the trails akin to an all-mountain or even downhill bike!

All mountain bikes available in bike shops are perfect for racing, even at high level

To meet the demand of enduro riders, various bicycle brands have developed bikes which make it comfortable to ride uphill quickly yet perform excellently on the downhill. As a consequence, all mountain bikes available in bike shops are perfect for racing, even at high level. If a rider wants to race enduro he can do it with his every-day bike. Owning one bike is enough!

The BMC Trailfox was designed with this particularity in mind. It combines the 29’’ wheels’ performance with a unique geometry that makes it easier to clear obstacles and tight turns and to pedal with efficiency.

The skills: what does it take?

For François Bailly-Maître “versatility, downhill riding skills and commitment as well as fitness”. According to Lorraine Truong, newcomer in the BMC Factory Trailcrew, “you have to trust yourself and your instinct”. In fact, most enduro events are raced blind which means riders don’t have a chance to check the trail beforehand.

The Style: Lycra is out, Baggies are in

To ride and race enduro, you need a bunch of specific clothes and accessories: loose long sleeve jersey and baggy shorts, full face helmet, googles, protections, backpack. Lycra is definitely a material that enduro riders do not want to hear about!

New era: Enduro World Series

In October 2012, the Enduro World Series (EWS) was created by Chris Ball, ex DHI World Cup racer and UCI Gravity Technical Delegate. With some established organisers he put together the best races to globally develop and progress the discipline of enduro for the riders, the sport and the industry. In 2013, the first edition of the series took place and saw no less 17 ex-world champions participating. Coming from downhill, cross-country and even cyclo-cross, they all wanted to be part of it.

In 2015, the EWS is made of eight rounds happening on three continents. Open to pros and amateurs, all events are sold out in a few minutes proving how popular the format is nowadays.

Where does the Future lie for Enduro?

Seeing how much it developed in the last three years, it is very difficult to predict where Enduro will be in a few years but all agree that it will become more professional. As proof, the first official continental Championships are happening this year under the belt of the UEC (Union Européenne de Cyclisme) which can let us think that the format might be recognized by the UCI at some point. That would mean a more defined rulebook (so far each race has its own rulebook) and the possibility to race for the convoyed World Champion rainbow jersey.

But opinions are mixed about the possible integration of Enduro by the UCI. François Bailly-Maître is afraid it could compromise the spirit that currently enlivens the discipline. On the other hand, he agrees that “as soon as a sport is recognized by a governing body there is a better awareness and appreciation for it”. Lorraine Truong also believes that “having clear rules is crucial. It will help us to explain what Enduro is and get more support”. She also appreciates the work currently being done by the governing body to offer better equity in this particular cycling discipline and is convinced that female participation will benefit from it.

 

Check where the team is racing in 2015.

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