Hopefully this is the last week of #Bracelyfe! I’m touching wood/cloth that its the final dash to being cleared by the docs this coming week, getting de-braced and commencing the next phase of the Road to Recovery II. I’ve obviously had plenty of time to sit around and think about all the things that I’ve missed, or will enjoy partaking in (hopefully) upon return to normal Dirty Business.
King among that list? The ENDURO World Series! Yes, 2015 has been the year of going as ENDURO as fuck and somehow I ended up doing 3 of 8 rounds, something that wasn’t even on the radar this time a year ago. I’ve talked before about doing an EWS round after Rotorua and the back to back mission in Europe, but given its another munted off season, I felt the need to purge myself of some more heavily biased opinions on why the EWS is fucking golden.
Whilst I’ve only done 3 EWS events, which hardly makes me an expert, I am fuelled by an awkward and unrequited amount of passion towards ‘racing’ EWS rounds and the whole set up & scene. Is love too strong an emotion to bestow upon a sports event?
I would suggest not, and to elaborate on why I have an ENDURO stiffy that can’t be explained away by pleats on your pants, here are some of the top reasons it gets the frothing going. Brace yourself, its gonna get gushy.
Reason 1 – Locations x 3
Yes, Location, Location, Location… Usually hearing that makes you want to slap the Real Estate agent saying it to you as they smile with that “I’m about to massively finger you with another ridiculous property transaction in a hyper inflated market” look on their face, but in this instance I’m talking about this:
Yes, my personal favourite reason for loving the EWS is the places they choose to go to and in doing so, give us as riders the best excuses for jamming our shit into an Evoc bike case and heading there as well.
Not only do they hunt out awesome locations, but they then lay on one seriously golden method for getting to experience the best trails and views those zones have to offer. Whilst its cool being able to do a round in your home country, its not until you get the chance to travel for an away game to an EWS round that you really start to get what its all about.
Would I have ever got to experience the Zona Zero goodness or know where Finale Ligura was without the EWS? Probably not. Would I be gagging to go to Chile and Argentina for the first two rounds in 2016 if my World Series pimps hadn’t hooked that shit up? Hell no.
If you had the luxury/privilege of being able to do 8 rounds in a year, not only would it be a rad way to travel, but the variety of riding you’d get to experience would blow your mind all through your ENDURO specific helmet. Yes, the variety of terrain and settings is a massive tick for EWS in the ‘Following the EWS vs Working in the Matrix‘ comparison list.
Reason 2 – The people
And no, not just talking about the abundance of PRO stalking to be had here, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of that available if that’s your thing (#askingforafriend), but I’m talking about these GC units here as an example:
Yes, assuming you like to Mountain Bike the way most of us have been doing so since last century, turning up at an EWS round will see you immersed in people who love it just like you do. Yes, its rammed with good cunts.
Whilst you may not get to bond with people the same way you do on say Trans Provence, #Bromance, you do start to get some familiar faces and hooks up going, especially in the case of back to back rounds. Yes, rad cunts who love it and are as happy as you are to talk shit about riding, trails, bikes, travel antics, beer and the opposite sex in between slaying sweet trails. Better yet, become part of the Point Break tribe and do all 8 rounds…
The only downside is you may be surrounded by people who can do things on a bike you hadn’t considered possible (speaking from personal experience), so brace yourself for some shrivel factor as well. The food chain is very much in effect once you’re out on the race stages!
Reason 3 – What it’s doing to bikes
And no, I’m not just talking about marketing here… Yes, its easy for companies to stick the word ENDURO on everything and push it out to us like the junkies we are, and yes, there has been a bit of that going on, but there have also been some upsides worming their way onto the steed between your legs.
Yes, bikes were getting better gradually any way, that’s just how the industry works, but it feels like ENDURO has really given things a rocket up the starfish in the last few years. I can still recall imitating Spanky, who like the trend setter he is, happily rode a Foes Weasel around like it was an XC bike. With 6 inches of travel (basically a DH bike back in the day) and as low tech as it got, it still felt awesome to grind up a hill and then kill it heading down.
Back then, a bike like the new Bronson 2 would have not only been a mere wet and muddy dream, but we wouldn’t have been able to even conceptualise it in 1999… Wait, you mean the seat post is going to go up and down?! Holy fuck Brah! Give my mind a facial now:
If you take a walk around the pits at an EWS round you will quickly get the confirmation that companies have gone balls deep on this as well, its not a casual fling… They can sniff out that this is now the new mass market for MTB and trust me, there’s nothing companies love more than a big, fat, juicy, dirty mass market segment.
DH is too niche/epic, XC as well (plus, no one gives a fuck), so expect more love to come ENDURO’s (that’s French for Trail riding) way. Bikes are going to continue to get radder and we will continue to reap the benefits. Having your steed show cased at the EWS will definitely be driving some designers and companies on, as are the demands the EWS PRO’s are putting on the bikes. If you build it, they will shred it.
Its not just bikes though, no longer do we need to suffer through the first world problems of having to make either XC Bandit gear or full DH shred equipment work for the style of riding that most people have a passion for. Suddenly ‘Trail’ riding gear has had a US Postal like dose of improvement, with everything you can strap or click to your body getting massive upgrades. Pass me my ENDURO specific gloves and a box of tissues ASAP.
Reason 4 – Its the pinnacle
Everything about an EWS weekend makes you realise that you’re at the pointy end of ENDURO fever, especially when you sift through the pits on race weekend. There are awesome homegrown events (E.g. 2W Enduro) and some other epic monuments (Trans Provence, Andes Pacifico), but from a race series perspective there is nothing else out there like the EWS.
Personally I just love it, hopefully without doing so in a creepy ‘pass me that bunny‘ kind of way. The vibe, the set up, the trails, the racing, the PROness… So many components that makes it quite an intoxicating scene to be around. Its not just me though, you can sniff out that all the full timers involved feel the same way and are soaking up being part of the traveling circus.
No matter what sport you’re into, nothing can compare to getting amongst the biggest events on the calendar. Downhillers should visit a World Cup round, Roadies should follow a Grand Tour, XC Bandits… er, whatever. The buzz of being able to see your beloved sport executed by the best proponents and protagonists in the world is definitely a life experience.
Reason 5 – The back story
Ok, so I’m an absolute sucker for a success story, excuse me if I get a but emotional, but especially if it involves people sticking to their convictions, having a vision, achieving it and best of all – Ignoring cuntery while they do so.
In theory, the ENDURO World Series should have that most scorned of acronyms in front of it: U.C.I. No, not the Unparalleled Cunt Institute, but they have given it a pretty good go in the last few decades. Instead of taking a lead on what is now the most popular form of Mountain Bike racing on the planet, the UCI chose to focus on more important issues, like where to bury all that Lance hush money in the backyard, or how to fuck up road cycling a bit more, or some new weird form of XC racing after double tapping 4 Cross in the head, or how to punish DH teams that didn’t dress with Nazi like precision… The list goes on, but suffice to say, they didn’t manage to make it to the train station when the ENDURO express of radness left the platform.
And so, thank fuck for Chris Ball and the rest of the EMBA board (Fred Glo, Enrico Guala and Darren Kinnaird) who had the balls (no pun intended) to not only go it alone to see their vision become a reality, but then work tirelessly over the last 3 years to make it a crazy success, turning it into something that I’m sure has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
And this is perhaps the coolest part – These guys could see what could be done and had the passion and vision to then make it happen. They haven’t made it weird or complicated, they have done what so many people fail to do: They’ve done simple, well. Yes, I am sure that behind the scene’s its an absolute fucking mission and if you’re at an EWS event, you’ll catch glimpses of Chris and Kate (among many of the team) working non-stop allllll weekend. Even though they’re flat out, they’re still nice and more than happy to stop for a rap, even when a hairy wannabe journalist
stalker comes and parks up in the media room in Spain to stare at people who are actually working, yes, this was close to midnight:
A massive thanks to Chris Ball, the entire EWS team, the EMBA Board and all the individual round organisers for putting on such an awesome series, its a huge amount of work and Mountain Biking is better as a sport thanks to their efforts.
Reason 6 – Its accessible
I remember standing at the bottom of the Meribel World Cup DH course last year and watching qualifying. The bottom section was horrifically fast, with a 30-40m jump at the bottom depending on how big you wanted to send it. Of course, the point of qualifying is to nail a spot in the top 80 to advance to finals on Sunday.
I watched as rider after rider came down, absolutely pinned and probably twice as fast as I would be able to manage on my DH bike and each time I would think “Fuck, that cunt is pinned!” Much to my shock, rider after rider crossed the line to display results on the big screen of “102nd” or “98th” or a painful “134th”. It was hard to fathom… These were the guys that weren’t getting through? Holy fuck!
Whilst I would never be able to line up to even attempt qualifying for a World Cup DH round (slight issue of my ball sac size and now neck being incompatible with the road gap jumps), or a XC round for that matter, getting amongst an EWS round and being able to bank that life experience is absolutely within your Fox coated grasp. Sure, as Non-PRO’s you get to look at the lower end of the results sheet and then spend 3 or 4 beers marvelling with your crew how much faster the PRO’s are on stage 3, but at least you’re part of the show.
However, it’s all change for 2016, with a new lottery based system for entry into rounds (for non-PRO’s) replacing first cum first serve. No idea yet how this will play out for planning trips and being able to hit rounds with your mates. Its going to be interesting to see how it rolls, especially in the case of back to back rounds where it really only makes a trip viable for us non-PRO’s to do both. Watch this space…
So if my crazy ravings aren’t enough to convince you that loving the EWS is a worthy exercise and not quite as weird as I make it sound, head over to the ENDURO as fuck World Series site or Pinkbike and check out the newly published Season review video. Then, get frothing, planning, training and packing for 2016!