Enduro. Call it a phase, call it a style of riding, or just call it mountain biking! Of recent times, the specific style of enduro riding has swept through the cycling industry quicker than Crossfit through a gym. Despite the increased attention, many riders still confuse the term 'enduro' with 'endurance' and for good reason.
Many moons ago, mountain bike events would be advertised as "Melbourne MTB Enduro" in reference to the race being an endurance event. Fast forward a few years, and you now have "Melbourne MTB Enduro" followed by 'full face helmet is compulsory'. Let's break it down really simply before mixing the two together and tell you why it's going to make you a faster rider.
Endurance: Riding in MTB events that span from 50km to 150km in length, or any reasonable distance. The course involves climbs. It also involves descents. It's a very long Cross Country MTB ride. It could also describe the many relay lap format races like your typical 12 or 24hr race.
Enduro: Riding in MTB events that consist of several stages. You might have 6 stages all of which are downhill in some form, although may contain some sections of short uphill! Once you complete your timed ride down the designated track, (2-10km in length, or thereabouts), you must then ride to the next stage start - usually within a specific period of time. Think of it as a car rally, as it has the same format.
Enduro is another example of the ongoing development and mutation of mountain biking as a sport. There are so many ways to enjoy riding a bike off-road and new formats are constantly appearing. We think that enduro is not only a heap of fun, but also it is a great forum for stretching into new levels of confidence and bike handling skills that you would probably never pick up riding the regular cross country course.
MIXING IT UP
The benefit in mixing your riding styles is that you'll develop skills specific to each style. You can then transfer these skills to your chosen discipline; in this instance cross country riding. More and more riders are now broadening their training methods to include other styles of riding. A good example is Australian rider Jared Graves - a member of the Yeti Professional Enduro team. Graves is focused purely on winning the World Enduro Series, but still takes the time to include cross country riding in his training regime. You can do the same, but the other way around.
If you're a cross country whippet, consider doing some more descending styles of riding, such as downhill or enduro... You'll no doubt find some low key events in your area to give it a crack for the first time!
Not only will you meet a whole new crowd of riders, but you'll also pick up a bunch of skills you might not be privy to when you ride with your cross country pals. All the skills you learn in enduro riding can be transferred to cross country riding, making you better at descending with a much greater arsenal of technical bike handling skills. Check it out!
UNIVERSAL BIKE HANDLING SKILLS
Number one skill you'll learn to master - cornering! Enduro riding generally allows you to have a lower centre of gravity on the bike, and a lower seat to match. This means you will now be able to effectively learn the best methods for cornering. This will be useful on the cross country trails to gain those extra free seconds you're after! Enduro riding offers a much more aggressive cornering style with more upper body involvement than you probably currently use while riding.
Seeing as the whole concept of enduro is to go downhill fast you'll also learn to brake effectively. You can't help but push your self-imposed limits on the bike, especially when you're watching everyone else do things faster than you can...Learn to control your braking, as well as the urge to brake unnecessarily. As a starting point, try braking later in your approach to a corner, making it feel like you just managed to slow down in time before entering the turn. This will mean you'll have to be more controlled in the application of your brakes which is a skill on its own!
TIP: Be aware of when you brake for no reason. Countless riders touch the brakes just to feel a bit safer. It does nothing for your riding, or your safety. If you need to brake, then brake properly. If you don't need to brake, then hands off the brakes!
There's intentionally leaving the ground, and then there's the unexpected donkey kick from your bike. Both send you skywards but you generally only enjoy one of them! Learning to be comfortable with small jumps and drops will do incredible things for your riding. A rider who fears leaving the ground will be faced with several scary moments on the trail - if you are one of these riders you'll relate to the feeling of sheer terror even when you're only inches from the ground!
Relax when you anticipate a small jump, and allow the bike to follow its own path into the jump, through the air and back to the ground. Ask a friend to teach you how to jump properly and you'll soon learn it's super easy and fun enough to be illegal.
The best training tool you could have is a riding buddy. Get one, and go riding together! Watch them try something, and then give it a go yourself. After all, the best way to learn is through playing!
These are just a few skills directly related to your cross country riding - but the biggest benefit you'll receive from riding in other styles is confidence. The confidence to ride faster, knowing you are in control. The confidence to ride obstacles you've never seen before with the certainty you have the skills to negotiate the obstacle safely.
Now you have the confidence to go play!