Do an enduro and survive...
If you love weekend green laning, why not take one step further and enter an off-road event?
When I entered my first enduro it seemed, as they say, a good idea at the time. This morning, however, as I unload my borrowed Husqvarna from my borrowed van at Weedon MX track in preparation for my first ever offroad race, I’m unsure. Massively.
I’ve ridden bikes for over 25 years but never competed off-road. Like many in recent years I’ve developed a love of adventure and off-road riding – but only at a casual level, with no pressure and me learning (and messing up) in private.
But we all know someone who does enduro, don’t we? And they say everyone should try it… So here I am in my odd-feeling kit, not even sure what an enduro actually is.
Luckily, the Trail Bike Enduro Club (TBEC), which organises the Weedon event, couldn’t be more welcoming. Scrutineering simply involves wheeling the bike to a tent for the quickest of once-overs while fellow riders are friendly and help quell the sense of intimidation you get in any new environment.
Another nice touch: bikes aren’t allowed to be started before the race, meaning they have to be pushed around the paddock. And without the noisy generators, giant motorhomes or race trucks that dominate even club paddocks at Oulton and Cadwell, the quiet, grassy calm feels more like a festival than a race. I could get used to this.
The track is five miles long and marked out. The first 15 riders start at 10.30am, the next 15 at 10.31 an so on. I’m in row seven, which means a 10.37 start. The idea is to ride for two hours and complete as many laps as possible, logged after each lap using a small transponder fitted to my wrist. After a short lunch stop we ride for another two hours in the opposite direction. There’s a special pit area to refuel, drink or even take a rest.
Before a road race I’m usually pumped full of adrenalin, but this is very different. My enduro riding mate has warned it would be a long, hard race – not a sprint – so I needed to keep calm and not go ballistic from the word ‘go’. As I edge towards the start I feel my heart rate increasing but as we set off there’s none of the pushing and shoving I was expecting and I soon fall to the back of the group to get accustomed to the bike and the course. I’ve not had a chance to walk the track so am treating every turn and crest with caution.
O ‘My hands are burning, my shoulders are in agony and I might be last – but I’m loving it’
‘I’m having an incredible afternoon’
Within a few minutes my group have disappeared – and the first riders of row eight are catching me up fast… I can hear them coming.
I move off-line and they start coming past with the odd roost of mud fired at my goggles. Some shout thanks or acknowledge my evasion with a leg wave.
Thirty-two minutes later I finish my first lap. It feels like I’ve been riding for hours but I’m glad I’ve taken a steady approach. I’m sweaty and hot but have plenty in reserve and now have a rough idea of the track and pace. My next lap is a more respectable 18 minutes, lap three is 17 and now I’m even starting to catch a few riders.
Each lap I get faster and more confident. I’m trying different lines and execute my first overtake, meaning I’m now not last! After two hours I’ve completed six laps, which isn’t bad, but my shoulders and arms are feeling the effort.
During lunch I refill my Camelbak, eat three Mars bars and drink as much as I can. Mate and mechanic for the day, Dave Hewson, tops up the fuel as we’re called back up to the line and we’re off, in the opposite direction.
After three hours I’m exhausted. My riding is lazy and I’m sitting on the Husky like a bag of spuds. Then the front tucks and I’m on my arse. A competitor stops to ask if I’m OK. I give a thumbs up and plough on.
With 15 minutes left Dave shouts ‘Last lap!’ My hands are hurting, my shoulders have given up and the 105kg Husqvarna feels like a 250kg sports-tourer.
But there’s also the realisation I’m having an incredible Sunday afternoon. A sense of pure motorcycling pleasure has washed over my knackered body and I cross the line bang-on four hours, my last 14-minute lap 16 minutes better than my first. I’m elated – but I couldn’t do another lap.
BY ADAM CHILD MCN Senior Road Tester and fledgling off-roader
After the first session, the second did it in reverse Riding with others is all part of the fun Finished! And Chad couldn’t face another lap