Hacking Enduro :: Choosing the Right Equipment

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Hi, I’m Syd and I have a confession: I’m not at all qualified to be writing this post. I’ve only done two enduro races and I barely finished the second one. Probably when you think enduro, you think fast and (here comes the second confession), I’m not even fast. However, this year I have a goal — to hack enduro.

What do I mean by hacking enduro? Well, despite all the fuss about enduro, there aren’t many women doing it — I got second in the race I barely finished because there were only two of us. Personally, I don’t think enduro is that complicated and I think more women should be doing it. More women like me, who are slightly out of shape and more than slightly sketchy bike handlers (goodness knows there are enough men who fit that description racing too;)). So, this year, I’m going to figure out enduro and I’m going to take you with me.

The first step to hacking enduro is buying the right equipment. Yes, that’s right, you get to buy stuff before you have to ride down any cliffs. I know, that made my day, too.

THE BIKE

Here’s the thing about enduro–while you could probably survive an enduro race on just about any bike, it’s not going to be fun unless you have a certain amount of suspension. While the ideal amount of suspension seems to be a bit of a mystery, it’s probably somewhere between 130 and 160mm and it’s definitely more than 100mm. I know this, because I tried to do an enduro race on a 100mm cross country bike and (oh man, another confession) I cried.

This year, I’m doing things a little differently. I invested in a proper enduro steed — a Pivot Cycles Mach 6 Carbon. This bike, I am assured, can do anything. Of course, that doesn’t mean the rider is up to the task, but I’ve already noticed a HUGE difference in how comfortable I feel descending. It’s also light– at 28lbs it is lighter than my hunky old XC bike and with the 650b wheels it climbs better too. I have never owned a bike like this and the possibilities seem endless. Of course, I get the feeling that the bike is a little disappointed to be stuck with a brake-clenching dweeb like me, but hey, what can I do?

GBL_bikeHere’s what your enduro bike should have:

130mm – 160 mm of suspension, front and rear — My bike has 150mm because, after last year, I’m not skimping. However, there is pedaling in enduro, so more is not always better. You want to make sure your bike is light enough to pedal well and that the suspension isn’t too squishy on the climbs.

Dropper post — having a dropper post is one of the small things that has had a huge effect on my descending ability. I hadn’t really thought about it before I got one, but now I couldn’t live without it.

Wide bars — Another small change that had a huge impact. Don’t ask me why. It probably has something to do with physics. But it works, I swear. I currently have 740 mm bars so I’m pretty screwed whenever there are trees on both sides of the trail, but otherwise it’s great.

Hydraulic disc brakes — While enduro is all about going fast, stopping is important, too. Arguably even more important in my opinion. I have Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors and, since I use them constantly, I can assure you that they work very well.

Wide tires — To be totally honest, I have never been able to tell the difference with tires. As long as they’re inflated, you’re good to go, right? However, I’ve been told that having a wide tire (2.2ish), is critical for cornering. Of course, this probably applies more to people who actually carry some speed through corners, but it can’t hurt.

CLOTHING

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Enduro has a bit of a dress code. While you’re welcome to show up to an enduro race in spandex (you’re a woman racing enduro, you can get away with ANYTHING), there is actually a practical reason for wearing baggies and an urban or downhill jersey. It boils down to this: the more flesh covered, the less flesh lost. Plus, baggies make you feel badass and when you’re careening down a mountain at blistering speeds of 15mph, feeling badass is helpful.
THE HELMET(S)

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You only get one head, so helmets are important. Most enduro racers have both a full-face helmet and an open face helmet (not just a cross country helmet–you want to make sure you have a helmet that covers the BACK of your head, too, like the POC Trabec). Deciding which to wear is always tricky–it requires a rather clinical examination of the race course. How likely am I to crash and bust open my face on this trail? Or, how hot will my head get in the pedal-y sections? And which of these is more important to me at this given moment? I haven’t quite figured out how to master this assessment yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

It’s also, or so I have heard, crucially important to match your gloves to your helmet. As you would expect with a male-dominated sport, enduro is pretty appearance-oriented.

ELBOW PADS, KNEE PADS AND SPINE PROTECTORS, OH MY

Body armor makes you feel immortal. I haven’t decided whether or not this is a good thing, but it sure is fun. I currently only use elbow and knee pads as these tend to be the body parts I land on. However, if I ever start going fast, I’ll probably invest in a spine protector. It also is totally worth it to spend the money to get pads that actually fit you. Borrowing your boyfriend’s, I learned, will result in them dangling around your wrists and ankles and doing no good whatsoever when you go tumbling down a mountain. Pads come in a variety of weights–personally, I like the relatively light weight ones, without hard armoring, like the POC VPD pads shown in the picture. Your typical DH pads will have solid plastic shin and knee guards that are great when you crash, but afford you the mobility of an astronaut. On the other end of the spectrum, G-form makes some super-duper lightweight body armor that would be great for training rides, but I think I would want more protection in a race.

THE PACK

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Here’s the thing with enduro–sometimes you have to ride up the hills. The good news is you can go as pokily as you wish, but regardless, you don’t want to be wearing your pads and full-face pm the way up. You’ll want to invest in a pack that can fit all of these items. Oh and also, by the way, unless you have way better riding-with-one-hand-while-going-straight-down-hill skills than me, you won’t be able to drink out of a water bottle while doing an enduro race, so a hydration pack is a necessity. I use the Osprey Packs Rev 6, which is awesome for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it has a magnet to keep the hose from flopping around, which I’m pretty sure is the most brilliant invention since the toaster.

So, you have the bike and all the other accessories — now what? Well, I’m still figuring that out. Hacking Enduro, Part 2, will probably focus on cornering, as that seems to be where I lose the most of my speed. Stay tuned!

By Syd Schulz – Rotorua, New Zealand – Enduro extraordinaire, traveler, writer, lover of life. She blogs at Nomadically Inclined.

Follow Syd on all her adventures! Twitter: @itsinmysuitcase Instagram: @sydgschulz