Enduro racing has sure taken mountain biking by storm in the last couple of years. While the concept seems cool, I have to admit to being pretty grumpy about the whole thing. We've all heard the line that goes something like, "Enduro: it's what we used to call mountain biking."
Right?! Pedal uphill at a pace that is comfortable for you, then bomb the downhills at a pace that is fun for you. But I think what has made me (and many others) grumpy about it is all the additional enduro-themed crap that has accompanied it. It's become its own brand and theme.
Last year during the Trans-Sylvania Epic enduro stage, I never felt like I got into a good rhythm or felt super comfortable or happy with any of my runs. (Which certainly didn't serve to make me any sweeter on the whole enduro concept either).
This year, I can't deny... I had So_Much_Fun on today's enduro stage. Admittedly, both years I have shown up with a knife to a gun-fight. I'm riding a Cannondale hardtail for the race and a fantastic little race bike it is, but, being a hardtail, it's kind of-not an enduro bike. That said, the bike is miniscule (I'm 4'11") and fits me like a glove, which isn't easy being so freakishly short. A well-fitting bike goes a long way and I am super comfy on it, it screams around corners because the wheelbase is so short and I'm happy to have 100mm of travel up front without the front end being jacked up like a chopper.
Though enduro may have become a total cliché, today was super fun. As Popo (Team Rare Diseases cross country and cyclo-cross racer Carolyn Popovic) said, "I could get used to this."
Yeah, cruise the climbs in chill mode, hang with friends, even *gasp* talk to new people and make friends. Though I can't speak for the downhill scene, cross country races aren't exactly the mellowest, friendliest places. We often have our race faces on far too heavy to really meet new people. In my experience, the new friends you make at cross country races are someone who you really battle with during the race and you have this shared bonding experience so then you introduce (and sometimes feel compelled to hug it out) when the race is over.
In enduro, half the fun is getting to meet new people as you cruise up the climbs. And maybe that's where the actual enduro experience is different than just cruising up the mountain and bombing the descents. When you go out for a mountain bike ride with your friends and do that, yes, you get to spend some quality time with your friends and ride bikes the way we love.
But in an enduro race, the organization that's been put in place sets you up with an enormous crew of people you probably don't know and you get to share the experience with them. Since we all know mountain bikers are the best kind of bikers, that's pretty good odds that you'll get to make some pretty cool new friends and rip some sick trail, brah! Pin it!
Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) is heading back to central Pennsylvania for the 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. Follow Kaufmann's adventures in her blog here as she contends for the overall GC win during the seven-day races in the State College, Pennsylvania area.
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