"I hate racing, it's just a bunch of overly competitive clowns all vying for glory in something that no one really cares about"....
Well yes, but so is Strava!
I often hear the above quote to the ring of something similar to that. Always excuses from people as to why they don't want to race and rightly so, I guess? These same people who don't want to race are often the ones who get overly protective of segments on strava. They will take a no holes barred approach to trying to win the bullshit digital gold medal yet put them in a real life, racing situation and the shoes are on a different foot. Is racing really that bad? maybe it's not how you're racing but what you're racing?
Being a continuously evolving worldwide sport, the race styles are also following suit. XC as we knew it is now starting to dwindle in the lower graded regional scenes and amazingly, the heavy hitting, massive hucking DH scene is also reducing in worldwide numbers from a lower grade perspective. UCI world cup numbers are still at a solid level yet, where it really counts, the numbers are definitely on the slippery slope of change. I must admit that I once loved XC races but my mind has been swayed heavily away from them after a series of small trip ups. (primarily my physique haha).
Enter the game of Enduro MTB racing which is rapidly taking the stronghold on lower tiered, regional and international racing. Most people should know by now what it is but for those of you who don't, it's effectively rallying on a bike. Riders are timed cumulatively on a series of pre determined stages which are generally gravity oriented over various grades with untimed, but crucial liaison stages between. The higher profile the event, the higher graded the trails as a rule of thumb.
Why does this make it more appealing to lower tiered riders?
- It's social. How good is turning up to a race when all ya mates are there then being able to ride with them while solving the worlds problems en route through the liaison stages? It's not like ya talk with them while your descending anyway right? It's practically any normal days riding but added motivation to actually go out.
- The only pressure is from yourself! Not the guy behind you on the climb pressing you to move over and pass who is clearly half your size and twice your fitness pedigree and has already passed you 4 times. Lets face it, each time you drop into your favorite, we'll say Segment (eye roll emoji here) you often ride to the conditions maximum and self belief anyway right? So what makes this any different? You've ridden to the top with ya mates like any normal ride, you've talked smack for ten minutes to catch ya breath and are about to do the same at the bottom....
The people are cooler! How often have you been at a weekend warrior aimed XC event, seen a national hero and tried to approach them but gotten as far as a few meters away and decided that maybe I'll just turn around with me run-o-the mill bike and not bother.... Was it the overly tight lycra showing the true pedigree of their, umm athleticism or was it their radiating arrogance?
Now morph yourself to an enduro event deep in the Whakarewarewa forrest in Rotorua. A friendly "Hey Bro, how's your day going?" from the bushes sings out as he returns back to his GT after taking a road side slash greets you. After 10 minutes of pedaling and chatting with this international hero ends, you are left feeling inspired and ready to enter the next stage with not a grimace after the punishing climb you just completed.
It's an easy way to get a free tour through other riding areas at a subtly slower, more relaxed pace. (the liaison stages I'm referring to here). latch on to a friendly local and learn all about who, what and how this new experience came about.
Learn. Yeap, learn! learn more about yourself, learn more about geography, learn more about limits, learn more about what is genuinely worth worrying about.
Beer and sausage rolls are approved after race snacks. Everyone loves good beer and overly fatty, carby indulgent food plus, you've earnt it! Who wants a protein shake and a shitty health bar?
The attire rocks! Yeap, you dont get frowned upon wearing baggy shorts, long sleeves, ginormous goggles, long peaked un-aerodynamic helmets and the bikes are cooler by modern ability.
Motivation! Yeap, this is my biggest and best benefit to entering any form of race for that matter. It simply motivates me. Motivates me to train, motivates me to try something different, motivates me to meet new people and most of all, motivates me off the couch!
I could go on for ever about the benefits in general of any type of racing but for me, Enduro has been a way that as I've aged, I've managed to remain in a scene that I really do suck at but have achieved 200% enjoyment levels from. Even when the weather has been the worst conditions I've ever ridden in the people I've been privy to ride with have made for an unforgettable experience.
Don't get me wrong, it's not for everyone and I understand that! You may enjoy other forms of racing. But my point is, if you're afraid of racing due to pressure, lack of skills and fitness but are willing to try something new then give Enduro a go and don't be afraid to leap beyond your perceptions of what you thought....