Enduro Riding: It’s like a machine control day on mud
An old article from 2011 but still very true and was a wonderful training ground for me. These days the SEEC is struggling for venues so a few years back I started cutting back on riding the same old events and now cherry pick events I want to do to save my bike and 52 year old knees from unnecessary slog ! But riding technical special stages as part of Clubman B class does allow you to be on the same track and in the same race as the top Enduro riders as part of the national BEC series (being passed by Graham Jarvis etc etc).
Having got the skills and endurance from doing those races also led to a fabulous 10 years of riding holiday, trips overseas with mates formed riding with the TRF, and competing in Enduros. Each year we do a couple of 3/4 days hard Enduro away trips in Romania/Spain/Greece etc. and have the skills to tackle some fabulous terrain. Often off-road companies in Europe keep you to twin track routes, as most riders are not capable of riding the goat tracks, so having your own bike in the UK and competing does mean you up-skill and can get better access.
As the article says, beware doing off-road stuff as it's likely to leave you no time for road riding!
Since joining LAM in 2005 and getting the green badge in early 2006 I pledged to keep practising and one of the disciplines I most enjoyed was off road motorcycling. In the first few years I followed Ewan and Charlie and did the BMW course in Wales and also did an Ady Smith day. These were great fun but after coming back from a long weekend riding Enduro trails in Umbria with Swedish Mikael (a fellow LAM full member and keen off roader) I decided to bite the bullet and get green-laning.
Just like getting the green badge ….you can have all the training or mentoring you want .. if you are not in the saddle putting in the miles … you are not really learning. Practice, practice, practice was how I passed the IAM test …and in the case of an off road bike … if you are not picking up the bike after sliding out of some rut … you are not learning !
I bit the bullet and got myself a DRZ (after missing out on Dr Dave's TTR250) … and joined the Surrey TRF.
The Surrey TRF are the LAM equivalent of off-roading as we go in sensible groups through Surrey/Hampshire, use the drop off method and are courteous road and trail users. There isn't a formal qualification to pick up but the harder lanes are only accessible if you know how to ride them and this is all the incentive needed to push yourself to get the necessary skills. Unlike LAM you just can't go into tea rooms covered in mud but we crisscross the same Surrey cycleways that you'd know and love and often start from Newlands Corner or Rykas.
My first Enduro experience was doing some marshalling around their 10mile Enduro track through Hampshire's forested hills. The marshals’ job was to see that no-one was cutting corners and to help fallers get up some of the sharp hill climbs. You also had a chance to ride the course with a fluorescent bib but it’s imperative not to "get in the bloody way" !! Best bit was collecting the orange markers and tape at the end of the event to put the forest like we found it (ish).
Riding the green lanes and doing the marshalling wetted my appetite for some competition and so I entered a few events on the DRZ, but given I was a beginner and not as fit/young as most of the field …it was incredibly hard going. The DRZ is just too heavy to be picking it up all the time and has 90's suspension, so to do the Enduro events justice I paid up, went orange and bought Andy Smiths ex demo KTM 300 two stroke …just like you would have ridden if you did his course. Getting the bike was one thing but you have to get fit to ride one of these bikes and improving my fitness and stamina has been a real plus out of the whole experience.
Racing at my level starts as a Sportsman (beginner) where you get 3 hours to do as many laps as you can (Hare & Hounds) or a timecard event with set times to complete your 3 laps in with a special stage or two to determine the winner (Enduro).
Hare and Hound is generally a shorter course (4-5 mile) and has less rules and formalities but the expert riders tend to lap you a few times, which takes a bit of getting used to!
Enduro is a bit more formal, with a timecard that gives you a start time and set times with which you have to get round your remaining laps. These events tended to be longer laps (8-10 miles) and so you get hassled by the experts much less and I have seen deer and enjoyed the forests at times on the longer events. Timed special stages within the lap are also used to further differentiate those riders who make every lap on time and have no penalties.
My first event was a Hare and Hound at the tank barracks at Tidworth on Salisbury Plain and the chalk was tough going due to heavy rain. After an hour I managed to drown the bike and got towed back to the pits. After some tinkering I was back out and this time a bit more circumspect about the slit trenches and water filled holes the tanks had left !!
This season I have gone up to Clubman B which means shorter lap times and more laps …and it’s been pretty hard going but it’s really satisfying to complete the allotted laps even if I am behind on my times. To my mind I am racing against myself and am part of the "got to go to work on Monday" club so always try to remain pretty comfortable and within my own limits.
So in summary all my LAM skills come to the fore when I am racing at an Enduro:-
Observation - vital for trees/ruts/woops up ahead.
Safety - got to go to work on Monday. Let faster riders through if necessary.
Route/forward planning - pick a line through the trees and forward planning are crucial.
Machine control day - how to pick up your bike when you lose the front and come off ( 3-5 times a race in my case)
Iron butt (book run) - the ability to ride solidly with small breaks in a 4 hour period over hard terrain … takes me to back to Wookie’s book run ably led by Strommer a few years back.
The only downside to doing this off road work means I am missing out on the LAM rides but those lessons learned allied to the off road skills really helps commuting into London on a wet Elephant and Castle roundabout. Best of all, should I ever decide to ride to Mongolia on a GS I should be able to do the riding part more easily than Ewan did if I carry on as I am !
The Enduro events are free to come along and watch; the dates of the series I ride in are posted here.