Do an en­duro and sur­vive...

If you love week­end green lan­ing, why not take one step fur­ther and en­ter an off-road event?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Content -

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

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