If you were to ask 100 mountain bikers to define Enduro mountain bike racing, you would get 100 different answers.

This is because enduro, as a sport, is still more of a concept than a discipline, and at its core is essentially a mountain bike stage race that requires riders to use trail bikes for all parts of the course.

In the recent manifestation of enduro, a mountain bike rider would be expected to race up hills, going for it on the downhills, and crank through some cross-country trails throughout the day to achieve an overall best time.

When you combine all of these elements into a half-dozen stages, you get the endurance challenge of an emerging sport that attempts to see which rider is truly all-mountain.

It plays on the playground concept of, “Oh yeah? Bet’cha can’t do both downhill AND uphill.” In which the only mature response would be, “Can too!”

Unfortunately for promoters and race designers, racing enduro seems to be an easier concept to grasp than creating courses for it.

Many are asking what guidelines have been establish or rules are in place for what can and cannot be enduro.

How many stages is enough?

How many stages is too much?

Does it always have to include downhill sections?

Ultimately, the problem most course designers have with this sport, is how do you design a course that meshes well with what the mountain bike community at large believes should be in it.

This has been the struggle with most enduro course designers for some time, since determining what is cool to have within an enduro course can be the subject of intense debate.

You see, the word enduro — as seen by the current mountain bike industry — is the marketing word-of-the-day, just like 4G. Mobile technologists know that 4G is not even close to the speed 4G was suppose to be when NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology – first put out the standard. It should have been 10-times as fast as it is now.

But marketing needed something better than 3G but before 5G.

Ta-da! The marketing label 4G was born, at a tenth of the speed it was really suppose to be. But, hey! It’s faster than 3G, right?

Another good example is nutritional supplements, mainly those note evaluated by the FDA. If you don’t know, most nutritional supplements are really just expensive pee. Have a read of your bottle next time and decide if consuming crushed dandelions is going to make you stronger.

Enduro is going through the same marketing pains.

As the modern enduro mountain bike event continues to evolve, you can expect other mountain-bike-ish disciplines to come and go during constant commercial experimentation.

Because when it comes right down to the truth about what is and is not enduro, the final version (or versions) of the sport will be decided by those riders who enjoy racing it.

The free market — like the promoters behind the Oregon Enduro Series — now control which mountain bike disciplines get TV coverage, full-page ads, and ten-thousand articles about what defines what.

Heavy duty gravity riding is awesome and dangerous, which means more spectators coming to see the amazing riding skills of a few, and the tree slamming face plants of the rest.

The chance to see a major accident makes enduro formats like Oregon Enduro sell lots of tickets.

And why shouldn’t it?

If a promoter’s special format sells bib numbers, and riders like it, expect to see more of it.

If it did not sell, then you would expect it to change, or simply disappear from the national spotlight.

But wait a minute! Isn’t adventure racing enduro too?

I don’t know, is it?

You could argue that adventure racing both is and is not enduro.

You might say that not everything in adventure racing is done on a mountain bike. But once upon a time, adventure racing used to be called endurance racing.

Just like in every sport, if you asked the newly anointed mountain bike purest (e.g. cross-country riders) if gravity riding is mountain biking, they might have a very strong opinion about how it is not true mountain biking.

Likewise, if you where to ask freestyle riders if 12-hour marathon racing was mountain biking, they might not agree with you either.

Hence the issue with labeling everything in mountain biking with the enduro label may make it sound cool, but it is still has no official definition.

Need more proof?

The next time your buddy with the 27.5-inch mountain bike made for downhilling — complete with gravity seat drops — tells you that enduro is only a series of downhill and uphill events, point him to a little race called the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

This race combines a series of cross-country, ground-pounding, gut-punching endurance rides over five days.

Do typical enduro riders ride at night?

Not a chance.

However, these riders in Australia do! Day and night rides are a normal occurrences at the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro, with a party every night as a palette cleanser for the next day’s events.

The six — YES, SIX — 30-mile plus rides, are only diverted by one quick, uphill event.

What? No downhill events?

Sure there are downhills, but they’re mixed in-between miles of cross-country outback.

But is it enduro?

You’re darn right it is!

Once upon a time, this premier Australian mountain biking event was the only enduro there was, long before all the marketers took over the word.

As you can see by the Australian example, the creation of any enduro course can realistically be anything you want it to be.

You can equally copy the current trends found at the Enduro World Tour, Sea Outer Classic, or Crankworxs events. Or be your own trendsetter and create your own version of the sport.

Your version might not be the what riders think enduro should be. But since most mountain bike riders only know what is because some magazine told them, you can take just about anything into a mountain bike stage race.

If you made stage #1 a cross-country course, stage #2 a short-track course, stage #3 a Super-D course, and finished it up with an uphill race for stage #4, you could call an enduro, market it as enduro, and it would be an enduro.

This is the fundamental draw that enduro has on mountain bikers: mountain bike disciplines that conflict with each other (e.g. Uphill, Downhill, Cross-Country, whatever), converted into a chain of stages (i.e. micro races), and sold as an endurance challenge in one macro event.

That’s it!

That’s the secret.

If you do just that — no matter the terrain, no matter the disciplines — then you have the makings of a blueprint to an enduro mountain bike course!


Because NOBODY else knows what enduro is suppose to be either!

BTW — This blog post? Totally Enduro!

Posted by Kyle Bondo

Kyle started Reckoneer with the simple mission of helping those who want to become race directors and learn the mechanics of outdoor recreation engineering. Kyle demystifies outdoor racing with over 20 years of endurance and outdoor industry business knowledge. Combined with his top-rated podcast Merchants of Dirt, dozens of articles, lessons, and infographics, Kyle has made Reckoneer the premier educator in outdoor event management. Build better races today!