For the last few years Super D races have been the darlings of the mountain bike world. Super Ds, which feature both cross-country and downhill segments, are relatively short and staged on mellow enough terrain that they attract a broad spectrum of riders—cross-country and downhill racers dig them, as do the casual all-mountain riders. The popular races often attract riders who’ve previously never considered entering a bike race.
So how is it that European-inspired enduro racing is threatening to dethrone the beloved Super D?
Lots of reasons, as it turns out.
But first lets be clear about what an enduro is. Enduros involve multiple timed stages on terrain that trends downhill. They’re like a bunch of mini Super Ds crammed into one or more days and vary in length from a couple of minutes to just under an hour. Like rally car racers, enduro racers are often responsible for getting themselves to the start of the next stage. Often this means pedaling, sometimes uphill, but it’s not a timed or scored aspect of the race.
“Enduro is mountain bike racing for people that don't want to forgo dessert [like cross-country racers] or ride a motorcycle without a motor off of a cliff [like downhill racers],” Carl Decker explained. The local shredder recently repeated his 2011 success at the Downieville Classic, one of the most prestigious enduros in the country, by again taking first in the two-day event. “The perfect bike for this costs $9,000 and is good for nothing/everything,” Decker added, referring to the specialized gear associated with the sport.
The opportunity to race several times throughout the day and dedicate the whole day to riding, racing, and hanging out with your buddies, is enduro racings biggest draw, said Devon Lyons, the executive director of the Oregon Enduro Series.
“The multiple stages offer multiple chances to do well,” Lyons said. “I think that’s really appealing to people.”
Downieville is not only one of the most competitive enduros in the U.S. it’s also one of the most popular. The Megavalanche, staged on France’s Alpe d’Huez, is perhaps the most daunting and prestigious enduro race in the world. This summer Bend’s Adam Craig raced it for the first time and called the event the “undisputed king of endurance downhill racing.” He finished a respectable 17th. Just last weekend Craig, Decker and a handful of other Bendites were in B.C. contesting Crankworkx, another multi-day enduro event that has continued to gain traction in recent years.
Because of the topography in Europe, explained Lyons, most enduros are big mountain events similar to the Megavalanche. The remote backcountry nature adds to the epic-ness and appeal of the races. In America bike access in such places is often limited, so Lyons and other race directors must work with what they’ve got.
“It’s a challenge for us, we don’t have these huge mountains and ancient trails,” Lyons said. “Over there it’s a real treat to ride these high alpine trails that don’t get ridden. We’re stuck on manicured trails.”
It would seem that forcing enduro events onto terrain that might be better suited for longer and more fitness-oriented Super D races is a mistake, but participation in the Oregon Enduro Series suggests otherwise.
“We’ve seen the growth; people really enjoy this new format,” said Lyons, whose first two races of the year were at capacity with 350 racers. Lyons did highlight one downside to enduros: logistics and timing can be a nightmare, but that’s more of a challenge for promoters than it is for participants. That aside, Lyons expects the sport to continue to grow, both in the Northwest and nationwide.
If you’re enduro-curious, you can check out the next race in the series, which will be held outside Sisters on August 26. Lyons expects the first Sisters stage to take racers at least 15 minutes, making the stage more Super D-esque. So if that’s your thing, get out there and get to it. The five-race series wraps up with two days of racing at Mt. Hood and Sandy Ridge on September 8 and 9.
And on a more somber note
Two cyclists were hit by cars in Central Oregon last week in two separate incidents. In both cases, the driver of the car was reportedly at fault, an unfortunate reality in a town that likes to lay claims to the title of “Bike Town U.S.A.”
Both cyclists involved are competitive road racers in Bend and are now nursing their wounds while trying to secure new bikes after their old rides were totaled in the collisions.
This isn't an attack on drivers. Rather it's an appeal to drivers to be more aware and
less distracted when piloting their motor vehicles. Cyclists should observe the rules of the road, as the two injured riders were doing, and always ride DEFENSIVELY. Heads up out there y’all.
Photos taken by Cory Tepper.