All About Gravity Enduro
Enduro racing is touted as the next big thing, but what is it and what sort of gear do you need to get involved?
For Aussie mountain bikers, the term ‘enduro’ used to describe a longer than average XC race—like a multi-lap, team eight or 12 hour event. In Europe however, enduro is a form of downhill racing. We are slowly pulling inline with the European nomenclature and to avoid confusion in the meantime, it’s probably best if we call it ‘gravity enduro’.
Gravity enduro racing started in France around 10 years ago. Over there the event format is something like a motorcar rally with timed ‘special stages’ that are interlinked by untimed transition or liaison sections. There may be four or five special stages spread throughout a 30 or 40km trail loop. Originally you’d have to race blind with no practice runs allowed but this is changing—at most events riders now get to practise the trails beforehand. While your race time is based on the special stages, there’s usually a modest time limit on the in-between bits to keep you on your toes. Of course the timed bits are predominantly downhill—that’s what makes it ‘gravity’ enduro.
As a comparatively new discipline in Australia, there are no hard and fast guidelines to for gravity enduro. Some events will shuttle you to the top of the hill but the timed descent will have a small amount of climbing in it, which sets it apart from a proper downhill event. In other cases you’ll need to pedal to the top of the hill and there may be two or three different timed descents. While the details vary, you’ll generally get a few timed runs (often on a range of tracks), and there’s also a good deal of time spent pedalling along casually with mates on the transitional stages. In practice it’s similar to a social ride but with the added excitement of racing the descents against the clock. Practice is usually allowed and this adds to the riding that you’ll get in throughout the event—don’t overdo the pre-riding as you’ll be stuffed for your timed runs!
Gravity enduro courses tend to be less intimidating than a full-on downhill track. This combined with the climbing means that a specialist DH bike would be impractical and too much like hard work on the pedalling bits. Likewise, a featherweight XC hardtail would be a disadvantage on the timed descents. So what is the ideal bike for a gravity enduro? Well your typical 120-160mm trail or all-mountain dually should be spot on. It’s the sort of bike that many average mountain bikers will already own—another reason why these events are so appealing.
With less intimidating courses, these events accommodate a broad range of abilities—they aren’t just for the young or highly skilled. A mid-travel dually may be ideal but you can ride any trail-worthy MTB in gravity enduro. To give you an idea of the crowd these events attract, here’s a cross-section of the bikes that we saw at the final round of the Rocky Trail Rollercoaster event in Stromlo, ACT.
Norco – Andrew Alger
Andrew normally rides downhill and bought the Sight Killer B with the aim of doing some regular trail riding—he wanted to improve his fitness and add to his all-round skillset. He’s tweaked the bike by fitting a short 50mm stem (like his DH bike), a dropper post and mounting a lower chain guide via the ISCG mounts. All up the Sight weighs 15kg as pictured and it’s a great example of the style of bike that’s ideal for most Aussie gravity enduro events.
Scott – Rod Clark
In full gravity enduro guise, Rod’s 120mm travel 26-inch Scott Spark is… well it’s the same as his regular trail riding setup. His only small tweak was to run the rear shock a little softer than usual. This is his one and only MTB and it sees action in everything from XC marathon races through to events like this one. With his regular Shimano XT triple drivechain and semi-worn-out Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres, the alloy Spark tips the scales at 12.2kg.
Deubel – Sebastian Deubel
Now here’s a bike that’s seen plenty of gravity enduro action. Sebastian is a regular at these events and he actually designs these Aussie made bikes. The interchangeable shock mount and drop-outs allow him to customise the geometry and suspension travel to suit the trails. At Stromlo he was running 152mm travel with a 66-degree head angle, 16mm of bottom bracket drop (that’s approximately 325mm BB height) and short 420mm chainstays. He also opted for skinny 2.0 tyres believing them to be faster on the relatively groomed Canberran trails. These pizza cutters combined with a simple single ring setup kept the total weight down to 14kg.
Giant – Cosi Hofman
Young Cosi does it all; road racing, downhill, cross-country, gravity enduro—he’s even into dirt jumping. As a Canberra local he knows the Stromlo trails and chose to ride his 11.7kg XTC Composite 29er hardtail. He normally runs a wide bar for extra control and the only change he made for this event was to increase his tyre pressure a little to avoid pinch flat punctures.
Pivot – Chris Herron
While this looks like a typical XC setup, Chris did tinker with his Mach 429c for this gravity enduro event. The Fox dropper post is a regular fixture but he normally runs a 110mm long stem with a negative 17-degree drop to get a stretched out position for marathon and XC racing. For the Rollercoaster he went with a short 70mm stem and rolled the sweep up a little to gain some extra handlebar height. With Enve carbon XC wheels this bling looking 29er came in at 12.2kg.
Avanti – Scott Badman
Scott travelled from the Hunter Valley with his unique Avanti Torrent. This bike offers 135mm of rear travel but up front you’ll find a 200mm travel Marzocchi Bomber 888 downhill fork—now that’s some travel! Why such a big fork? Well Scott likes the robustness and steering accuracy, plus the travel can be adjusted between 160 and 200mm. He will change the travel to suit the riding; full travel for DH or gravity enduro or 160mm for regular trail rides. With its monster fork the Torrent weighed in at 16.5kg.
Transition – Chris Collier
It only takes a glance to figure that this isn’t your regular sort of hardtail. The Transition TransAM is a 26-inch all-mountain hardtail that’s designed to work with a long travel fork. Chris runs a 160mm travel Fox Float 36 and the whole package weighed in at 14.8kg. While he also owns a 160mm travel Transition Covert dually, he chose to ride the hardtail in the Rollercoaster as he feels that it’s more fun. This bike also sees action at 24-hour events and even at the odd DH race—that’s one versatile bike!