So, yesterday I gave a rather long winded and old school rant to set the scene for todays post. What am I talking about? Roll on Part Deux:
Well, if you’ve been anywhere near a Mountain Bike Magazine, website, race, shop or rider then you will know that 2013 has very much been the year of the ENDURO format taking mountain biking by storm. Yes, I respect that Enduro has been around for a couple of years now, but 2013 was absolutely the year that its really exploded thanks to a proper World Series, a whole lot of on-line video and most importantly: A massive push from the bike industry. So for todays rant, I shall divide this into two parts:
1. The hero’s
There are two groups here, first race organisers and secondly, riders. Lets start with race organisers. Why are these guys hero’s? Well, its a mission to organise, run and fund races in cycling. Its not a huge money spinner (unless you’re the Tour de France) and for MTB events there is a shit load of work to do on trails and making sure you have a decent set up.
So, when someone decides to run a new world series format all over the world, the hat needs to be tipped to them in a massive way:
So, what IS Enduro? Well, its a race format where you are racing your mountain bike, but are only timed on the downhill sections of the course. You don’t really get to practice the course much, if at all (like in Trans Provence) and its mainly on natural trails. You still have to ride the parts/climbs in-between, but its not timed usually, so you can chill. Uh huh, could have REALLY done with this set up in 1998 right?! I was SO up for it! Alas I’m as entrepreneurial as a volleyball with a face painted on it, so Dirty Enduro didn’t take the market by storm back then.
How popular are Enduro races? Well… There is one in NZ next year, Feb or so that has around 200 spots going that I was keen to enter, no worries I thought, you can enter most events on the day even in NZ. It sold out… in 4 minutes. Fuck… What?! Yeah, it DID happen… I was all primed to hit the on-line entry, went for a piss, came back and sent a few inane Whatsapp messages and next thing I know, BOOM… Sold out. WTF. Goes to the point that its a VERY popular format. Hell yes it is, why wouldn’t it be? After all, its basically bringing all us burnt out 90’s mountain bikers back to racing! Not only do we get to party like its 1998, but we can do so with our rad mates… To prove the theme, a word on the other heroes here, the riders!
This shredzilla beast is Jamie Nicoll, a kiwi of course and until recently the only privateer on the world series that regularly finished in the top 10:
He’s a legend for rocking a Santa Cruz Nomad and because he was the ultimate 90’s terminator. I remember him smashing us to pieces in Junior category races, where he would usually finish 10 minutes ahead of the field, you knew if Jamie was on the start line everyone was racing for 2nd place. After an absence from the scene he is now back killing it on the world stage and just got sponsored by Santa Cruz, the ultimate 90’s hero come back! Respect it. Another weapon, this man:
Not content with dominating 4 Cross and riding a trail bike to the podium in the World DH Champs (what?!), Jared Graves has been ripping up Enduro races this year and its awesome to watch. This is the other great thing about the EWS, we the fans get to see a LOT more PRO level mountain biking action… COOL.
2. The Villains
Some may think that its harsh to call the bike industry the villains here, but we need a bad guy and for the most part they fit the bill. But, its an interesting question, is the industry the chicken or the egg? Are they driving the extremely contagious and fast spreading Enduro Spending Fever (ESF), or simply responding to consumer demand? Yes, there is some epic ESF going down… You can see its symptoms easily enough, it usually starts with replacing perfectly functional and operational kit/bike/parts because it doesn’t have the word ‘Enduro’ on it.
At times, you could be forgiven for thinking the bike industry has been following a Global Domination business plan cooked up by evil consultants (You know the type, some are even Dirty)… First they hit us with 29inch wheels, which we just HAD to have for XC racing, a concept that has even taken over my brain (Damn you wonderful Cannondale Scalpel Ultimate) to the point where I repeat it to others like a droid “Roger roger, you need a 29er for XC”, but with Enduro they have been given the perfect trojan horse to slip in their next Sith lord: The 27.5inch wheeled bike:
Yes, this bastard child has been looking for parents for a while now and this year it became apparent that if you wanted to ride or race ‘Enduro’, that OMG, you SO had to have a 27.5in wheeled bike. What makes this even more conflicting for me than choosing between Mayfair and Penthouse is that the charge has been led by my beloved Santa Cruz, who make arguably the most sought after and sexy model going right now, the Bronson:
These things have been disappearing faster than a blood bag in a Lear jet, the power of marketing, the fact its actually a good bike (in Rob we trust) and of course, prolific spread of a powerful strain of ESF. But, that’s not all… it doesn’t end with a new Enduro bike! Everyone is in on this newest cycling gold rush, here’s a sample of what NEW kit you need if you are to REALLY be considered an Enduro rider/racer:
- Riding kit
- Riding pack
I could go on and on, but that covers most bases… Yes, like a teenage girl, you need to ditch all your shit, embrace ESF and upgrade ASAP to make sure the word ENDURO is on everything. My award for “Best end to end stitch up” goes to Mavic (I do love those Frenchies, they’re going hard on feeding ESF though) – Not only is everything branded Enduro, but its all the same colour:
I don’t need any of this gear… I scoff at the Enduro fever, but I clearly need to be admitted for treatment as I own the top, want the wheels and even replaced my perfectly functional MTB helmet with one that was, you guessed it, an Enduro model. Whilst I am able to manage my ESF on a day to day basis, I fear for some of my homeboys who are losing the battle and need help NOW before ESF takes them over completely!
So – what does this all mean?! What is the point of this rant? Well, I think that its as simple as applauding a ‘new’ race format that means Mountain Bike racing is once again accessible for a whole range of riders who have probably stayed away from racing over the last 10 years or so as XC racing got selective and hardcore and DH racing got plain fucking scary for most of us. It provides the perfect platform to grab your old school 90’s riding buddies and head out to shred together, so that’s a massive positive – just don’t forget that you spent a whole decade riding this way well before you had a whole lot of new products with the word ‘Enduro’ rammed into your grill. Its also always more important to invest in riding experiences with your crew than the latest yellow top that you don’t need (FYI – I got the white version).
I’m the first one to encourage someone to buy a new bike or gear, but beware the affliction of ESF, it can take hold quickly and has the ability to be even more debilitating than another famous fever – Rapha Spending Fever… (if anyone has a cure, please advise ASAP) You have been warned!