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The State of Enduro Racing: Is It The Next Big Thing?

August 14th, 2012

The beauty of Enduro racing can be found on the transition stages with friends: riding along and enjoying the day.

I should preface this piece by stating that I am not an experienced Enduro racer, but rather one that has participated in several races, and likes the idea of a race that is like a ride with friends, but against the clock in the fun sections. The burgeoning excitement over this new style of racing is contagious, but I am unsure of whether to completely jump on the bandwagon of those claiming it’s the next big thing. Is it the next big thing? Can it dethrone the juggernauts that are DH racing and XC?

At a local level, I think it has potential to rise above the popularity of traditional DH or XC events. Enduro racing is what your average rider aspires to. The Enduro race is a more attainable goal—a rider does not need an overly specialized bike, just the one they bought last year from the bike shop that said “this is the one ride you can use for almost every situation”.

Herein lies the major barrier for Enduro’s popularity or acceptance in the North American bike industry. It is perceived as attainable for the weekend warriors. The races are down to earth, grassroots affairs that are generally great two-to-three day experiences, even with basic fitness and bike handling abilities. DH and XC’s large stature and influence in the bike industry relies on creating heroes, athletes that rise above what is thought possible by mere mortals, on race courses deemed impossible by that same “regular” group of people. Heroes are where the bike industry is putting their dollars, whether it R&D, sponsorship or advertising budgets. Can Enduro crack into this generally accepted mold of a marketing program in the mountain bike industry?

I think the bike industry needs to embrace this style of racing for what it is: a great time in the mountains with like-minded people, topped off with some good ol’ fashioned racing against the clock on mountain bike trails. There’s no need to re-invent Enduro as some sort of replacement or competition against DH or XC races, but rather seize the opportunity celebrate the unique niche Enduro racing can comfortably reside in.

Race promoters: don’t have slightly longer DH races or really short XC races, just go all out! Host multi-day, multi-stage Enduro races a la a gravity-fed BC Bike Race. There is a reason the Trans Provence race sold out in seconds this year. People want more of that! Make the weekend races worth everyone’s time. Don’t host a two-day, three-stage race where the cumulative times are 20 to 30 minutes. Have five to six stages a day. Chip timing these days is pretty amazing. You can run a multi-stage race with minimal staffing, just the pre-race preparation and set up.

Once the numbers of racers are there, the industry will have no choice but to follow. The demand for all-mountain (or whatever the current catchphrase is) bikes is already there, dictating the general direction of bike manufacturing. The events will follow, and the industry’s marketing focus (and dollars) will do the same. Kudos to those that have the foresight to get involved at the ground floor.

The Enduro groundswell has been happening in Europe for the last two to three years, and now it’s on the North American scene to catch up, and add a little of our own style to the mix. I have a hard time imagining Enduro rising to the same prominence of World Cup racing, primarily because of the mountainbike hero and industry marketing fixation factors, but I think there is a lot of room for growth.  I know I can’t speak for everyone, but isn’t it all about getting out and racing your friends around on some sweet bike trails?

Joe Schwartz hails from British Columbia, where he has spent much of his life exploring the mountains, both on his mountain bike and skis. He is a certified guide, bike coach, sponsored MTB athlete and is a marketing student at BCIT.

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