Fully Engaged – The New Wave of Stage Enduro / DH Events

From Dirt Issue 111 – May 2011

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Various.

There is a revealing hive of activity amongst the universal collective – the everyday riders that are similar in ways and thoughts to the lads that hacked around the hills north of the Golden Gate in the mid 80’s.

The mountainbiker has almost become re–invented – the mindset? Non–competitive up to the point where the ground tilts away. The equipment? One bike for all occasions. The look? Characterized by designer and hand–me–downs is similar to the places they ride – a mixed bag of well groomed and ragged threads over rock, root, the odd banked up turn. The ordinary rider has cut loose, working a multitude of lines interlinked by a selection of climbs, and always a race to the bottom. The modern off–roader has simplified a cluttered pursuit. Normal stuff really.

Liberated of the preconceptions of what the XC or downhillers are up to (hanging about in queues, standing in cattle trucks, facing uncomfortable silence in the back of a transit van or a life of toil) ‘the mountainbiker’, having fully re–emerged from the undergrowth, now faces questions around interpretation of a new wave of competitive events. Gravity–enduro–all–mountain competition is going places, so far it has avoided any form of standardization.

With divergence in markets and a certain disconnect in DH and XC disciplines, it is the sport of enduro (or whatever name you put on it) that many feel is closest to the essence of riding; that mix of cross country and downhill. Becoming fully engaged in a total ride is buzzing once again.

It’s nothing new. Well not outside this island at least. Events such as the Downieville Classic and the Megavalanche have been core events in both the USA and France for some time. Everyone knows about the latter, but as for Downieville, even as far away as fifteen years ago Bike magazine asked the question “Is this the toughest downhill in the World?” of the classic descent off Packer Saddle in the Gold Rush area east of San Francisco. Fitting then that last season it was the French and Americans that battled for the Enduro Des Nations title.

There remains that question of interpretation though. Whatever your understanding of the subject, the places, the equipment, the fashion or the friends you ride with, it’s all about riding the bike you would ride all the time anyway. One bike, one sport. If downhill is a personal battle with often a very public conclusion…in a field north of somewhere suitably remote (the finish of this year’s first national was so out in the sticks all the locals buggered off half a century ago), could it be that enduro is the sport that takes the off–road bicycle off the hill and into the town – literally? It’s more than location, a mix is always good, but the French and Italians have certainly not been shy about bringing mountainbiking in from the periphery. A certain lucidity exists between gravity–enduro–all mountain riders and organisers. Enduro is very much on the move>>

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