My First Mini Enduro
18 October 2018 | By billy1979
This is my experience of my first(ish) Mini Enduro that took place at the Forest of Dean last weekend. Hopefully, by end of reading about my experiences, it will hopefully inspire you to enter your first mountain bike enduro event.
So I’ve not been riding very long just over a year and a half but I am hooked as we all are. I ride an entry-level hardtail with the Shimano XT 1x11 groupset and ride my local trails 1-2 times a week, maybe more if the wife allows. At the end of last year, I caught the tail end of the Southern Enduro in Minehead. I stood near the end with my sons and we watched all these riders fly down and I knew from that moment on I have got to do this, this looks amazing!
My fitness isn’t at its best by any means, I struggle to get up the climbs but my speed coming down the trails is getting better as my skill and confidence improves. So by the time the next Southern Enduro came round I thought I have got to give it a go. I noticed they had a lite category just, a simple 4 stages that you can ride with your mates with absolutely no pressure especially made for people like myself who have never entered a race but fancy having a go. I talked a mate of mine (Mike - a noob like me) to enter with me. We entered and I absolutely loved every moment of it and had a right laugh, made some friends and the wife and kids got to see me ride (although they missed me flying down the end line…typical). Even though the Southern Enduro was my official first enduro they were my local trails, it was 2 minutes away from my house so I didn’t really get the full experience.
Which brings me to this past weekend 13th + 14th October 2018. My friend (Carl – the man who got me into mountain biking and now forever skint due to a serious case of MTB Addiction) and I entered the Haibike Mini Enduro at the Forest of Dean. It was a place I have never been, trails I had never ridden and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Granted I did the Southern Enduro in the summer but remember that was a lite category, that was more like our typical ride out with trails I knew like the back of my hand just with more people. With the Haibike Mini Enduro I entered the masters' category so there was no hiding behind my lack of experience. I was in with the big lads and I’ve got to be honest I was nervous as hell even though I had 2 months to prepare for it.
I set out to ride 2-3 times a week to get my base fitness up which seemed to have worked a bit but I needed to work on mileage. I need to put some serious miles in which I underestimated the importance of. I ran once a week and I was going to the gym 1-2 times a week so I was building my strength and fitness up a fair bit but I was not prepared enough really. Work-life would get in the way which meant some days I couldn't get out or couldn’t get to the gym as I’d planned, so although I did some training I didn’t do nearly half as much as I would have liked.
The Saturday came and storm Callum had hit the UK hard but the race was still on. We set off for Forest of Dean early in the morning all excited to ride some off-piste trails and get the necessary practice we needed. When we arrived on Saturday we parked up at the trail centre, got our gear ready and set off to practice the stages. If/when you do book your first event, I would definitely advise you do the practice day if it’s possible just to get some tips from other riders, pick your lines, walk the track (if you can) and see what features you have to deal with.
We did the first loop which we took pretty slowly allowing us to stop in places to work view some line options and watch other riders. It was all pretty chilled and was definitely beneficial. The hardest part of the stages were the transitions and they were absolutely brutal but the fitter guys and E-bikers were riding up them with the majority of riders pushing up. Time was ticking on and we managed to get a couple more stages done before it got dark and we packed up and set off for the hotel. There was camping available but due to the weather being rubbish we didn’t fancy waking up soaking wet then having to race tired grumpy and damp so booked the nearest hotel.
Race day came and a fresh set of nerves set in. We went for breakfast then checked out of the hotel and got our heads in the game or sort of. The rain was torrential and it wasn’t easing up, 9 am - 12 am was last practice session and we were not looking forward to going out in the rain.
We registered at HQ, got our number boards, transponders and start times and took the obligatory selfie with the bike pics before setting off to practice. I was very nervous and was all over the shop to start with, my front wheel washing out several times I spent more time on my back than on my bike! The heavy rain had washed all the mud away and the trails were running fast I was starting to get up to speed. Practice from the previous day was paying off and I felt good for the race. Confidence was building with a couple of small hiccups trying to perfect that damn high line on stage 3. The practice session came to an end and we then had to wait 2 hours till our race started. We huddled around by the coffee truck as it was still raining trying to keep out of the rain and keep warm.
Carl's race was half hour before mine so we set off for stage 1 to try and warm up, I was gutted we couldn’t ride together but it’s a race at the end of the day. I got chatting to a couple of other lads while my start time approached, luckily as the weather was rubbish the marshals weren’t too strict on start times so we all managed to start a bit earlier than expected.
In all honesty, I did absolutely terrible during the race. The rain had now stopped and with all the traffic going through the stages throughout practice the mud had made it impossible to pedal at all in places. The conditions were like nothing I have ever ridden in before and my fitness was not up to scratch to cope with the conditions. Stage 1 was the only stage I got down clean, the other stages I had to pick up my bike and run because I couldn’t pedal through the mess and on the 4th stage my front wheel locked up due to too much mud between my mudguard and tyre and it sent me flying into a tree on my favourite stage….typical.
Would I have changed anything? I would have liked the option to switch to some mud tyres and should have removed the mudguard. With conditions like that, you are always going to wish you had trained harder but overall the whole weekend was genuinely an absolute blast. I achieved something I never thought I could have before. I completed a tough event that many riders actually pulled out of. Even when other riders are overtaking me (which is quite disheartening), I've learnt some invaluable skills that I wouldn’t have learnt if I was just out on my local trails
I pushed myself hard and I can be proud of that. My disappointing result has only given me more of a drive to push myself harder, to become a better rider. Realistically I won’t be winning any races anytime soon but this is the first and second race of many more races to come.