Endurance mountain bike competitions
If you want to stretch your abilities beyond a leisure ride, but perhaps without the intensity of racing, then off road endurance events could be your solution. Essentially they are long rides, sometimes involving orienteering skills. We look at how to get started...

Endurance mountain bike competitions

Endurance (or 'enduro') events are long races, some involving orienteering skills, lasting anything from about 2.5 to 3 hours on a Trailquest, to 12 hours (over two days) in the Polaris Challenge, to a continuous 24 hours for the solo class in the Red Bull Mountain Mayhem! Other major UK endurance events include the Schwinn 100 (km), Karrimor Enduro 6 (hours).

Most participants enter for the riding and social aspect

Those at the head of the field are racing 'eyeballs out' hour after hour. But most participants enter for the riding and social aspect. The Schwinn 100, for example, covers 100km of great riding in mid-Wales. It is a long single loop which takes you into the middle of nowhere and back again with great views.

The Karrimor Enduro 6 and the Red Bull sponsored Mountain Mayhem (a 24 hour race open to teams and solo riders) both use one long lap, covered repeatedly. Solid teamwork is needed to ensure success and enjoyment. It's not unknown for resting riders to oversleep or miss the swap-over time, forcing their team-mates to ride extra distance - especially at night-time (which does not endear them to the rider!)

For 24 hour team events there are four key components to concentrate on:
  • A good team of riders with a hefty base of long-term, sustained low-level riding for sufficient endurance.
  • Two or three 'willing and able' helpers to support the riders.
  • Good lights (at least for the night of the 24 hour event).
  • A distinct lack of self-preservation.
Mountain bike orienteering

The Polaris Challenge and Trailquest events are large-scale orienteering events on mountain bikes, and although they differ greatly in their duration, the two have a great deal of similarity: both use maps to locate a series of checkpoints with different score values, and a pre-set time limit. The rider (or pair of riders in the case of the Polaris Challenge) who tot up the highest score within the time period, wins. Points are lost for being late back to the finish!

The Polaris Challenge is a two-day event (7hrs on Day 1, 5hrs on Day 2) and riders have to carry a tent, sleeping bags, food and survival gear. This can be shared between them, but it is key to keep the weight of luggage to a minimum. Invariably the top contenders have the lightest loads - about 7kg. (Just to maintain the social aspect, the organiser usually arranges a beer-drop at the overnight campsite too!)
There are regular events all over the country, they are friendly and sociable events, so they are a great way to get started in endurance riding

Unlike most racing however, in endurance events everyone is in their own little event, and most participate to enjoy good mountain biking in new areas; make their own choices and set their own agenda (even diving into a pub or café at lunchtime if they feel so inclined!) Trailquests are usually three hour or five hour events. You can choose your own start time, and ride individually or in a pair. All you need is a map, waterproof pen and a compulsory few items like a whistle and small First Aid kit. Oh, and of course, a bike and helmet!

There are regular events all over the country, they are friendly and sociable events, so they are a great way to get started in endurance riding and build your navigation skills - or just to do something different. If you need something to motivate your training or a purpose to your Sunday rides, then get going on an endurance event. Do remember though, there is only one winner - forget them - everyone else should be there to have fun!


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