Fast singletrack, great location, camaraderie and bags of fun. The Mini Enduro in the Forest of Dean delivered the action and atmosphere of Enduro racing in an accessible format.
Enduro is a word that’s being thrown around with increasing frequency this year, whether it’s referencing the new Enduro World Series, or the Enduro bikes, helmets, and kit that’s been developed specifically for that style of racing. But what exactly is it?
Enduro is, in my opinion, the best thing for mountain biking since the invention of the first women’s specific saddle (1992, I believe). Enduro, like a women’s specific saddle, will make you ride better, fill you with confidence and possibly change your life!
Essentially, it’s the riding you do with your mates in your local woods every weekend – just timed, and with a few spectators thrown in.
The Enduro race format
The race consists of a planned route, usually between 10 and 30 miles long, with timed stages along the way; three to six depending on the length of the race. It’s how quickly you complete these timed stages that determines your result.
Most races have a similar format; you’ll get a race start time and then a list of stage start times. Riders head off from the start gate one by one, at their allotted time. Once you’ve set off, you have to ride the route to the first timed stage.
On reaching the stage at the stage start time you’ve been given, you ride down it as fast as you can. These stages are predominantly downhill and singletrack. (See, like in the woods at the weekend!)
At the end of the stage you then pedal off to the next stage. The connecting parts of the route won’t be timed as such but you will need to get there before your next stage start time, so it’s kind of like having a maximum time to reach the next stage by.
The final stage is usually the end of the race; all you’ve got to do after this is get a cuppa and check your times. All your stage times are added together to give a total figure which determines your placing; lowest figure wins!
Now when I say downhill and singletrack, I don’t mean it’s all terrifyingly steep, gnarly, rocky DH tracks. I mean it is literally going down a hill! (Whoop whoop, less pedaling!)
The enduro races I have done, both this year and last, have been on good fun tracks where everything is rollable, i.e. you don’t have to jump or drop off anything. Some bits can be quite technical but there is nothing to stop you getting off and walking down bits you are unsure of.
Remember; you’ve got that track to yourself whilst you race down it. There is up to minute between each rider and it doesn’t matter if you get overtaken.
Everyone at an enduro is so good-natured and supportive of everyone else, you’ll probably just get a shout of encouragement as they go past!
The Mini Enduro
So, on to the event itself. The One Industries Mini Enduro at the Forest of Dean was held over a 10 mile route, with three time stages.
This was my first race back after injury; I broke my leg racing in the Megavalanche in July this year, and I haven’t been in the race environment for a while so I was feeling a bit jittery. I got there on Saturday as the stages were already open for practice, which gave me a chance to ride a whole loop, session the tricky stuff and work out line choices in advance.
The stages had a right mixed bag of features, from steep drop-ins, off camber (extremely muddy!) sections, rooty corners and fast singletrack.
Saturday practice was a complete quagmire! Luckily it dried up pretty well with strong winds overnight and we had a beautiful sunny day to race. There was more free practice time on Sunday morning, with racing started about midday.
I had also changed my tyres to mud tyres with big spikes on, and this was definitely a good plan. Anybody on anything other than these would have struggled in the mud! The organisers had also given us all a sticker with our stage times on them, which was a nice touch, and I stuck this straight on my top tube so I could see them while riding.
At the top of my first stage I was pretty nervous, and I made a couple of silly errors. I knew that I would have to up my game to be competitive.
Stage two went much better; I rode more smoothly and gave myself credit for getting round a tree on a high line, which helped me relax. A nice clean run! Stage three also went well apart from a slip on a root, which sent me spinning towards a tree in the wrong direction. This cost me some time but other than that it was another smooth run.
Altogether, my times meant I finished second behind Liz Parr who put in three clean runs. A spot of post-race analysis for me concluded that without silly nerves at the start, and by trying not being so tense, I can be more competitive for the win.
All in all it was a great day; I was pleased with how I felt fitness wise after three months off the bike in the summer, and I’m looking forward to improving next time.
The Mini Enduro was a really well organised race with a great atmosphere. All of us girls were grouped together to race so we got a chance to chat on the pedal between stages, and see how everyone got on. It was great to meet like-minded women.
There were nine women entered and they ranged from well-practiced racers like Liz to 59yr old Ros who was giving enduro a go for the first time – how cool is that!
On speaking to Chris, the Mini Enduro organiser, I found out there’s a growing following of women taking part in these events. He also runs the Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean, for example, and 20 women regularly compete there each time.
If you fancy giving Mini DH a go, then included in the entry fee for that race (and only for the women) is a track walk on the Saturday with a female pro rider. In the past, both Tracey Mosely and Katy Curd have helped with this!
The next Mini DH is on the 1st December 2013 and with that extra coaching on top, there’s no reason not to give it a go!
As for me, I’m going to get in another enduro (Dudes of Hazzard, Spirit of Enduro in Scotland) this year and then start getting the miles in ready for the Gorrick Brass Monkeys winter XC series. And of course I’ll be doing the Mini DH!
Lastly I’d just like to thank Rich at ‘Ride’ in Poole for the support.