Enduro is the race discipline that’s taken the world of mountain biking by storm. It combines the technical aspects of downhill MTB, the endurance aspects of cross-country, the social elements of riding with your mates and the thrill of competition, then rolls it out into various stunning locations across the country and around the world.
One woman who knows all about it is the legendary mountain biker and multi-Enduro World Champion Tracy Moseley. She’s raced in Scotland, France, Chile and Canada to name a few, and if anyone knows how best to prepare for an enduro race, it’s her.
Tracy tells us: “Enduro is the discipline where you need a good amount of all the core mountain biking skills. It combines so many elements throughout a race weekend: you need the endurance to ride the practice and whole day of racing, technical ability to be able to ride the stages, and strength and power to race the stages fast!"
Enduro racing is challenging and exciting, and it’s drawing in more and more women. If you are planning on racing this year, then you can make sure you are in top shape through effective training.
What skills do you need for Enduro racing?
As Tracy says, the keys skills can be broken down into endurance fitness, strength, explosive power and technical ability. It's a good idea to work on all of these regularly, with a particular focus on endurance.
If you are keen to make the most of your first race and give it all you've got, it’s really worth getting some time with a coach or personal trainer. They will evaluate your needs, areas of weakness, and time available for training and develop a program that covers all these elements, tailored to suit you.
“For me, getting in some long rides to build up your endurance is key. At the same time, you can still be working on some skills and some strength work."
Enduro races cover large distances and last whole days, and in some cases several days. You’ll need to be physically very fit to do this. Getting in plenty of base miles on a regular basis is critical, and for this, it’s worth hopping on your road bike or turbo trainer to get your body used to pedalling for several hours at a time as well as regular MTB rides. Look to be doing rides of two or three hours ideally four times a week. You should also aim to do one long mountain bike ride of four to six hours.
Learning to pace yourself is also a key skill. On some longer rides, try to avoid stopping for long periods of time, and keep a steady speed on climbs. You are aiming to find a speed you can sustain for several hours that still leaves you enough energy to manage technical sections.
Being able to put the power down on the timed sections, combined with technical skill, will mean the difference between being first and being at the back.
Sprint drills are great for this. Pick a section of track that isn’t too technical, such as flat single track or a fire-road climb, and go flat out as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Then rest for one minute, and repeat a further two to four times. This can be a little awkward on some MTB rides, so you might want to do this on your road bike too.
There are also various dynamic routines and exercises you can do in the gym that will help, like the dreaded burpees, and kettlebell workouts.
Pushing yourself up long climbs, and riding in control over technical descents requires a lot of body strength, so you should look to build up a good base of muscle strength. Don’t just focus on your legs either, your core is important for balance and control, your arms will need to be strong to minimise arm-pump and fatigue. Building these muscles will also help you avoid injury.
Aim to do around 1 or 2 strength focused sessions each week. These can be in the gym, but there are plenty of moves you can do at home, such as the plank, press-ups, bent-over-rows, reverse lunges and squats. Warm up gently for about 10-15 minutes, then spend around 40 - 60 minutes working on your upper and lower body, legs, arms and core. If you are new to strength work build it up gradually.
Enduro races are by their very nature diverse; it’s one of the pleasures of racing that you get to ride a variety of terrain. Therefore you need to practice until you are comfortable riding on everything from muddy, rooty wood sections to loose, rocky scree and everything in between. Ride as many different locations as possible, and try to ride natural terrain as well as trail centres and bike parks. Don’t let the weather stop you either - put on your waterproofs and get used to riding in different conditions.
For some Enduro races, you’ll be riding the trail blind, so learning to read the trail ahead and anticipate what’s coming is key. This will mean you won’t often ride at a flat-out pace, and with practice, you’ll find a compromise speed that’s competitive but means you don’t keep crashing and losing time.
Finding flow is also something that will come with practice. By pumping the terrain, weighting and un-weighting into dips and bumps, you can generate momentum without expending energy through pedalling which might just give you the edge in a race. Local pump tracks or BMX tracks are brilliant for getting the hang of this skill.
It’s also worth practising riding technical sections when tired. A good drill for this is to find a short circular section with a climb and descent. Go hard up the climb, then straight into the descent, and keep repeating!
Tracy’s Tips for keeping on top of your Enduro Race Training
1. Spend some time planning the races you want to do, and setting yourself some goals along the way to keep the motivation high.
2. Work on any rehab you need to for any injuries you have sustained previously
3. Eat well and try and stick to a good routine of eating
4. Make sure your bikes are set up correctly to make the whole process of getting out easier and more enjoyable.
5. Get stuck in and get the work done!
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