17 top tips plus some pro tweaks from Joe Barnes.
Here are a bunch of great tips that really will help your first attempt at an enduro go as well as possible. Good luck and have fun!
Your body is in your hands (as it were) but here’s some hints to help your day go well…
1. Be ruthless with what you take
If done sensibly, a rider on a cheap bike with a well-thought-out backpack can be lighter than the overladen rider on a bling carbon bike. Tip out your regular ride backpack and re-pack it with an eye on essentials. You’ll be surprised what junk you’ve been carrying around in there for the past 18 months.
2. But don’t forget
Spare brake pads. A packed lunch of some sort is also a wise thing to take, as is some hydration tablets that you can drop into fresh water mid-race.
3. Underdress but take a hefty jacket
During an enduro you’ll be riding and working harder than your usual Sunday casual ride. Don’t wear too many layers or thick layers. You’ll sweat to death. BUT don’t take a lightweight jacket. The only times you’ll want to be wearing a jacket is during rest stops and in the queues for the stages. So take a jacket for that, not purely for riding in.
4. Lube your bits
It really is amazingly easy to do a quick lube job on your suspension. Ditto your dropper post. No special tools required. Some appropriate suspension fluid is the only thing you should track down. You’ll be amazed – and possibly a bit ashamed – of how lovely your parts feel after you’ve made them moist again.
5. Griptape your cockpit controls
A bit of adhesive-backed sandpaper on your shifter levers and your dropper remote may feel a bit wannabe and OTT but it really does help you operate your controls better when the racing red mist descends.
6. New grips
Treat yourself to some new grips. Try some softer and/or larger grips and you’ll be impressed by the reduction in arm pump and hand-clench.
7. Wear eyewear
This is not (just) to keep mud out of your eyes. It’s more to do with preventing your eyes from watering during race stages. Not having your eyeballs being buffeted by wind will result in clearer vision, calmer riding and faster times.
8. Contemplate CO2
Depending on the type of puncture and if it’s during a timed stage or not, you may regret not packing a CO2 cannister or two. They can help re-inflate tubeless tyres that would otherwise shrug off the puffs of a mini-pump. And if you’re unlucky enough to puncture during a timed stage a CO2 cannister will save you vital seconds.
9. Rear tyre choice
Basically you want a tyre that rolls fast but doesn’t puncture very easily. There aren’t that many of these sort of tyres around but a few brands do have some good options. The Schwalbe Rock Razor is a classic. Maxxis do the Minion SS now. And the Specialized Slaughter is something of a cult bargain. Just make sure you get the versions with the stronger sidewalls.
10. Wear a watch
It’s all too easy to lose track of time before and during an enduro race. This can cause rushing and panic at the start. It can also cause you to miss your allocated start time on the timed stages. Don’t rely on your phone. You won’t look at it often enough. And if you try to keep your phone in your shorts pocket you’ll either crash on it (pain and £££) or it’ll bounce out somewhere never to be seen again (£££).
11. Go to registration ASAP
Get to the venue as early as possible and head straight to the sign-on tent. Take your bike with you if you’re worried about someone nabbing it, but don’t do any in depth bike fettling or clothes dressing etc. Get all the time-sucking registration stuff done first. This will make the rest of the race prepping much more relaxed.
12. Find out about feed stops and water
This way you can plot how much water storage you need to take. You might not need to load up with a full three litres of water (AKA 3kg of weight) from the get-go. Similarly, you don’t want to assume there’ll be plentiful refuelling points and just head out with a single water bottle for a full day in the saddle.
13. Relax but focus
Easier said than done. Try not to try too hard or ride beyond your limit. It rarely works. It usually results in crashing or an injury. And it’s better to save a spring for the finishing straight as opposed to blowing it all out from the start gate and overshooting and messing up the first corner.
14. Ride slow
Eh? The name of the game is to go as fast as possible isn’t it? Well, yes but the name of the game is to spend the shortest amount of time on the racing stages. A common racing mistake is to go full pelt at everything only to then have to brake hard, over-correct and regain your speed back up. Rinse and repeat. Tiring. Hard sprinting into hard braking is not going to be as fast overall as simply staying smooth and consistent. Ride at 90% for 100% of the time. If you must, save your redline sprinting for the finishing sections of stages.
15. Look (further) ahead
No, further than that even. Don’t micro-manage the zone immediately in front of your front tyre. Pointless. Look ahead, choose broader brush strokes to your lines and trust your bike.
16. Don’t look at the obstacle
A classic error that we all still do from time to time; staring at the tree/rut/rock/cliff instead of focusing on the line avoiding it. You inevitably ride where you look, so only look at the points you want to pass over.
17. Don’t trackstand if you can’t trackstand
At the start gate of timed stages you’ll see some riders balancing on their bike with both feet on the pedals (trackstanding). This is all well and good if you can do it consistently really well. It doesn’t really save you any time or offer you any significant advantage though. Quite often it goes wrong and leads to tumbles or traction-spitting errors. Better to err on the safe side and just wait at the start gate with one foot on the ground.
Watch: Enduro skills for trail riders
What would Joe Barnes do?
Joe Barnes, tweaker of controls and measurer of power gives you his enduro preparation tips…
Customise your controls
A neatly hacksawed and buffed clamp under the right side of the bars catches our eye first.
“That’s a prototype I made up myself recently,” Joe says. “You can’t fit a lockout remote under the handlebar on the right-hand side, where I want it, so I just made one.”
The remote you see is an old Reverb dropper post lever, adapted to take the RockShox lockout remote. “I chopped up an old Avid Elixr brake clamp to fit the lockout on the right, under the bar, so the Reverb dropper post can stay on the left,” Joe explains. “A bit of sandpaper stuck to the button means your finger doesn’t slip. It’s just a lot easier to reach.”
Even if you’re not as hacksaw happy as Joe, simply try flipping your Reverb remote onto the left and under your bars; that way it’s easier to reach, less vulnerable in a crash and unlikely to get scuffed if you turn your bike upside down.
Get a grip
Joe’s running Ergon GA1 Evo grips, which Ergon has developed to follow the shape your hand makes as you wrap it around the bar. The new GA1 Evo is made from a softer rubber with more damping, Ergon says, to help with rough trails that have plenty of feedback. Try a range of grip manufacturers and different diameters — a big day in the saddle and you’ll be thankful for any help your grips can give you.
Watch our pro bike check with Joe Barnes
Considering Joe’s laid-back approach to life, it was surprising to catch sight of a set of SRAM Quarq power-measuring cranks in place.
“Every training ride I do is based on watts,” Joe says. “Power meters are great for training as they tell you how much effort you’re putting in, and thereby work out how to perform best.”
But what if you’re not that into training and don’t want to splash out £600? It’s really useful to have some idea of how much effort you’re putting in on a timed stage or a transition, so you don’t blow up too early. The easiest way is with a heart rate monitor. Garmin, Cateye, Sigma and Polar all make good options.
Practice makes you faster, and that practice has to happen in all weathers. Just look at Joe’s 8 Wild Terns film. One of the toughest things about enduro racing is you don’t have a choice about when you ride, so if it’s raining you’re going to get wet and the trails are going to get slippery.
You need to be prepared, so ride when the weather is at its worst once in a while, to get familiar with that feeling of pedalling with sodden shoes so you can cope on race day. It’s not just wet conditions either, but anything that makes riding less than ideal — when it’s very hot, maybe.