Cedric Ravanel is here to defend his winning streak from last year in the masters men category; (photo/Enduro World Series)

Enduro Mountain Bike Racing: Understanding the Sport and Watching the Action

The 2022 Enduro World Series kicked off this weekend in Scotland’s Tweed Valley, where elite racers rocketed through dense forests at speeds that would terrify most.

Even though enduro racing remains relatively new to cycling, it’s now considered one of the most challenging events in competitive mountain biking. So, what is enduro racing, and how do these races differ from other cycling competitions?

Loris Revelli on the flat out singletrack
Loris Revelli on the flat out singletrack; (photo/Enduro World Series)

What Is Enduro Racing?

Inspired by the motorcycle enduro races that came first, enduro cycling began in France around 2003 and rapidly became one of the most popular forms of mountain biking. At its core, enduro racing is defined by timed downhill sections and untimed uphills. While racers must reach the next stage within a time limit, their time uphill (the “transfer”) doesn’t count in the final tally.

The races almost always involve several stages during the race day and often in diverse locales. The Enduro World Series (EWS), for example, involves seven rounds stretching from British Columbia to New Zealand to the high Andes, among other exotic trails.

The winner is the rider with the fastest combined time of all stages. In the early days of enduro racing, cyclists were often ferried uphill by skylift or vehicle until biking through the uphill sections became de rigueur at many events. As a result, enduro racing requires a broader skill set than most mountain biking competitions, with greater emphasis on a balance between technique, stamina, and physicality.

Punctures are a possibility in enduro racing
Punctures are a possibility; (photo/Enduro World Series)

The number of stages often varies, with three stages often used as the minimum for cyclists getting started with enduro. However, in the most elite competitions, the number of stages increases quickly.

The Tribe enduro races in France originally had more than 10 stages, while the Italian Superenduro had four to five, and the U.K.’s Gravity Enduro has more than five.

Enduro also offers lower barriers to entry. It doesn’t require the super-expensive kit — or extreme courage — of pure downhill racing or the high-end aerobic fitness necessary for cross-country racing. Anyone in decent shape with a trail bike can enjoy enduro, which is as much about just completing the challenge as the racing.

What Is the Enduro World Series?

The EWS has become the largest and most popular enduro race since its first competition in 2014. The event includes winners for each of the eight rounds and an overall winner at the end of the year.

The series’ popularity can be partly attributed to the gorgeous natural beauty of the diverse countries and the consistently high-quality video wrap-ups, like the one below.

It’s also inclusive of the larger cycling community. While qualifying for the EWS requires placement in the upper end of local enduro races, there are other options for those uninterested in facing off against some of the world’s best cyclists.

Non-elite cyclists can participate in other EWS events, like the EWS 100 and EWS 80. These races allow nonqualifying riders to race on 100% or 80% of the course in a separate event.

How to Watch

Thanks to the stellar photography of the EWS, spectators can closely watch the events from the safety of their couch through either the EWS website or its YouTube channel.

Live feeds from the race are available, and the 20-minute highlight reels capturing footage of the winners — usually published by the end of the day — have become mandatory viewing for the sport’s biggest fans.

The above video showcases the first of this year’s rounds, with riders traversing 42.5 km on Sunday, spread across five stages and with 1,800 m of climbing.

It concluded with the triumph of Scottish local Ella Conolly (Cannondale Enduro) taking first place in the women’s category with a time of 23:14.42, and the USA’s Richie Rude (Yeti/Fox Factory Team) winning first place for men with a time of 17:35.12.

Stay tuned for Round Two of EWS on June 18-19, when riders will race through hand-cut singletrack in the forests of Austria and Slovenia.

Just a couple of corners in the Enduro World Series
Just a couple of corners; (photo/Enduro World Series)
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Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, which he uses as a home base for adventures throughout the Americas. When he's not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he's hanging out with his dog Campana.