The sport of mountain biking has come a long way. From American mtb pioneers building their own bicycle frames to tackle mountain trails to big company mtb giants possessing the latest bicycle materials and technologies today. From simple welded steel frames to aircraft grade aluminum and titanium, to composite materials like carbon fiber. The design, materials and the whole purpose of the sport have changed throughout the years and the sport of mountain biking has spread like wildfire around the world. It is so popular that almost every country with a good mountain trail or off-road track has adapted mountain biking as a sport with particular cultural significances. Competitions are held everywhere, be it amateur or professional races. With its popularity, mountain biking has produced many great and legendary athletes that are respected in the competition world. Mountain biking has also proved to be one of the most exciting, fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping spectator sports today.
What Is Enduro?
Mountain biking is generally known for cross-country races, dirt jumps and downhill races. Many mountain bikers are being fussy about enduro and some of them say that it’s just a passing fad, but is it? As mountain biking has progressed, the disciplines have become faster and more extreme, requiring specialist equipment and specialist riders. Riders who are happy to do some climbs or are just seeking an adrenaline rush going down a hill practice another kind of biking: Enduro. Enduro involves doing trails and jumps with whatever bike you happen to have, and focuses on the fun and technique of riding.
Although enduro mountain biking was introduced by the French in 2003, the popularity of the sport has only just been gaining traction recently. The format of enduro is based on car rallies and motorbike enduro. Enduro can be described as a mountain bike race in which there are more timed downhill sections than untimed uphill and cross country sections. The aim is to test the rider’s technical bike handling skills while testing endurance on climbing courses.
How Is It Done?
Enduro-style riding is different from cross-country racing or downhill. XC races give more emphasis on cardiovascular fitness and endurance and less focus on technical riding. Pure downhill on the other hand is more focused on timed, fast, downhill courses with no climbing and contain little pedaling at all. It can be said that enduro favors riders with skill across multiple disciplines.
Enduro racing involves a series of specially timed stages and the racer that has the fastest total time after each stage wins. A minimum of 4 special stages is required for each event with a minimum of 3 different courses to be used. The final results will be calculated by getting the total time on all stages for each rider. The French Tribe Enduro races are known to have over 10 timed stages, the Italian Superenduro Pro has over 5 timed stages as does the UK’s Gravity Enduro. The top boys, the inbetweens and the amateurs will be racing on the same track. There’s no elite categories or any crazy pro lines on the racks. Everyone has the same playing field. It’s a race that everyone can enjoy riding.
The Enduro Difference
When most people hear of enduro, they think of mountain bike endurance races. However there are some specifications to be aware of; if timed stages are not mostly downhill, it’s not enduro; if a race includes skill sections or many climbing stages, it’s not enduro. Some long distance cross-country races might call themselves enduro, however, if there are no timed stages, it’s not enduro. Knowing the difference is a big deal because you don’t want to register for a 100km race with a 30lbs enduro race bike with dual ply tires and 160mm of suspension.
Enduro is a new form of mountain bike racing and there’s still some confusion about its format. Race organizers should describe their races clearly so riders can avoid any confusion.
Now that we have established what enduro is, we have to know what specific bike or bike parts you need when building your rig. Mountain bikes have changed a lot since last year. The 27.5” or 650b wheels is one of the largest changes, followed by the 1x system specifically the XX1, 11 speed from SRAM. Aside from these points, the overall bike setup is the biggest indicator of what an enduro bike is and most manufacturers are embracing the changes and applying them to their enduro-specific bikes.
One of the main factors to consider when buying an enduro bike is your budget; you can buy an already built bike that can tackle trails and upgrade some parts later, or you can build your own enduro bike from the ground up. Buy the parts that you can afford and build it up piece by piece. The whole point is to have fun while you ride, not to have the most expensive bike on the trail. If your bike does not look like others you might see in magazines, don’t let it put you off.
Below are a few suggestions to consider when building your enduro bike:
1. The Frame
We can say that this is a personal choice because they’re so many to choose from. The general rule is to go for the best and most durable frame your money can afford. The frame should at least have 150mm of travel and a fairly good slack or open head angle. Carbon frames are stiffer and lighter, but go for a recognized or trusted brand for the safety of your warranty. Aluminum is cheaper than carbon and is preferred by more riders. Before you buy a frame, try it first. Serious bike shops have available demo bikes for you to test. Choose the right frame size for your height, but some of the top guys will get the biggest frames to be faster. If you want to corner fast, choose a frame with a short chainstay, if you want to have more confidence and comfort going downhill, a longer chainstay is best. But again, frames are personal choices and each bike will ride differently, so better to have a test ride before buying.
2. The Suspension
The suspension will depend on the frame and wheels. The availability of 26 and 27.5 inch wheels are readily available, which is good news for enduro riders. For most riders they opt to have a 36mm fork with a 20mm axle for control and strength. 34mm forks with 15mm axles may still flex for serious racing, but it will still be solid for trail riding. The Enduro bike usually has 160mm of front and rear travel. Suspensions with 150-170mm travel are preferred by enduro riders. Air-sprung suspension with good damping are the preferred choices.
3. The Wheelset
Most people still go 26” wheels because they are faster and changing direction is quick on the technical trails, but the top boys and serious racers are converting to 27.5 as their wheel of choice. They say that 650bs are perfect for enduro because it can roll over ruts and rocks just like 29rs and has the quick responsiveness of 26s. For rims, Enve offers good composite rims but if you can’t afford these sets, a Mavic Crossmax SX or Nuke Proof Generators are very good choices.
4. The Tyres
Tyres are a personal choice, but most riders will recommend a 2.35” tyre with more grip and aggressive threads. Rear tyres should be faster rolling tyres with the same size. Tubeless is a good option because it is one of the best way to avoid punctures and will have a slight lower rolling mass.
5. The Drivetrain
For enduro riders, there is only one sensible drivetrain setup – 1×10. You can choose the what type of drive train depending on the gears you require for climbing or how you attack the hills. 11-36 cassettes will give a wide range of gears. A chain guide and bash guards are essential. If you go for a 2×10, consider a 36T with a 24T front and 11-36 T on the back with a mid cage cage RD. SRAM and Shimano offer 1x and 2x Groupsets.
This will ultimately come down to personal choice, but here are some tips. You can start with a 780 mm bar which can be cut to your preferred length. A 45-50mm stem is standard. A short stem and wide handlebar will give excellent control and good positioning on the bike without losing control. A stem over 50mm are for XC bikes, not enduro. For grips, choose a brand that gives comfort and gear bar feel.
Good brakes are essential because you use this most often. You can start with a Shimano SLX or Zee brakes, which are good value for money and offer excellent stopping power and consistency when braking. 160mm rotors are good, but some go for 200mm rotors. Again, it’s a personal choice. Dropper post is a must because enduro trails are mostly downhills with a few uphills. There is no point of stopping to adjust your seat post manually when going downhill when you can just push the remote lever of a dropper post and attack the trails.
Choose pedals that will allow you to eject easily when you need to and gives you a stable base when pushing uphill. Flat pedals for DMR vaults, Shimano XT or XTR.
A full face helmet is a must for anyone who wants to push the limits, otherwise a good trail helmet can do the job. Full fingered gloves, elbow pads, knee pads and loose protective clothing are best. Lycra is for cross country racers.
Now you have a general idea what enduro is. Go out, ride hard and have fun!