Enduros › Riding your first enduro

This article is courtesy of Chuck Marler, Hughes Network Systems and is posted with his permission.

So you have decided to ride an Enduro event and you want to know how to go about it. Once you have decided to ride an Enduro, there are a few of questions you will ask yourself.

What is an enduro and how is it different from a hare scramble?

Lets assume for a moment that you realize the difference between motocross and supercross type racing and the “woods and trails and rocks and sand and mud” type racing.

Big air, lots of spectators at every turn vs. disappearing down a wooded trail and popping out some number of hours later on the other side of camp in “less than pristine” condition.

Enduros and Hare scrambles fall into the latter category and that is about as close as you can get to labeling them.

The thing that makes an enduro interesting and sets it apart from other dirt racing events is the timekeeping itself. A rider is tasked with riding a set mile per average over varying terrain and given penalty points based on his being late or early to secret checkpoints along the course. Checkpoint crews know exactly the minute, and sometimes the second, each rider is expected to arrive, and they write it on a score card that is taped to the front fender of each rider.

The rider at the end of the race with the least amount of points wins.

With that being said, every rider who finishes is a winner in my opinion.

Enduro races usually take a little longer to ride and cover more ground miles than a hare scramble race. They require the rider be able to tell whether he is riding at the posted speed limit at any given time on the course. This “timekeeping” is “the big deal”. Also, in Enduro events, all the riders start one minute apart, 4 or 5 riders at a time, so they are spread out on the trail a little bit.

Since you are all racing against a schedule, the passing in the woods is a little more respectful, since the guys in your class could be spread anywhere out along the course, and you could be on the same row as A and B riders.

In an easy perfect race, if all the riders were “on time” no one would have a reason to pass anyone else. Also, in these longer events, the race organizers have the ability to give the racers rest periods by using mileage resets and free time.

Hare Scramble races start like a motocross with everyone in an individual class starting at once, and all the different classes starting one minute apart.

Everyone rides loops around a trail for usually 2 hours then finish.

The guy who does the most loops wins, and you are riding as fast as you can the entire time.

Enduros and Hare Scrambles are both a lot of fun, but Enduro racing adds the additional exciting element of having a good hard day of racing and riding with your friends, with some cranial exercises to add to it.

Do I really want to invest a lot of money in timekeeping equipment?

No. Who wants to invest money? You have already bought a dirt bike and plopped down the equivalent of a nice vacation to Disneyland for it. But you do have to invest a little bit to do timekeeping. It does not have to be much, and I will outline the cheapest options. Luckily for you, Florida is home to the famous Alligator Enduro so you can lump all the family activities together on that next vacation trip.

Timekeeping for free

You can get by with no timekeeping equipment for your first enduro if you want.

Arrange to get on a row with a rider who has timekeeping equipment. Assuming that you are starting this cold, and you are much faster than your buddy who talked you into this and you don’t want him keeping time for you anyway.

So you don’t actually have to do timekeeping for your FIRST race, just key off of a rider who is at least as fast as you in the woods, and is an experienced timekeeper. So to do this…..

Locate “Your Man” the elusive class A rider.

At the signup, the riders, their Row and Position number assigned, and their CLASS, is listed on the signup sheet, so tell the signup folks this is your first enduro and you would like a row with a seasoned rider on it.

More than likely they will assign you a late row so you do not get into the way too much and put you on a row with someone who is an A or B rider who can do your timekeeping for you.

Look over their shoulder and pick out the position number of this guy on your row (A,B,C,D or E) so you can tell who you are looking for at the starting line. You will be assigned a ROW number, which is the number of minutes past the race start keytime (normally 8:00 a.m.) that your row will leave the starting line.

At the starting line, memorize everything about how your guy looks from the back and DO NOT PASS HIM ALL DAY. It is that simple.

More than likely, you will only see him a few times during the race, if you are lucky, where the event organizers are giving the riders a breather at a gas stop, a reset, a free time, or in a slow section, and you manage to catch up huffing and puffing wondering how late you are, and where he is.

In lieu of irritating a another rider though, it is probably a good idea if you at least give a little thought to making some attempt at keeping time for yourself, just in case this guy gets a case of the jitters and does not make it to the starting line tomorrow morning, so read on.

Timekeeping for cheap

For your first race, you can invest very little money in timekeeping equipment. To do timekeeping on the cheap for your first race you will need an ODOMETER, a WATCH (or two), and a ROLLCHART showing a list of the possible secret checkpoints.

The watch and odometer give you the ability to tell what mileage you are at on the trail, and how much time has elapsed since you started the race.

The rollchart lists the mileage and key time (minute) of all the possible checkpoints along the trail.

The odometer

You can use the mechanical odometer that comes standard on most motorcycles or you can buy an electronic odometer that has a magnetic pickup you attach to your front wheel.

The odometer needs to able to show both miles, and tenths of miles, and be capable of being advanced to a new mileage during the event (to accommodate mileage resets).

A cheap magnetic bicycle odometer runs about twelve to fifty (12-50) dollars depending on the quality, features and size. Most enduro riders use odometers designed for enduros. They provide the rider with the ability to enter in the mileage resets in advance of the event, which prevents them having to watch carefully for the mileage reset markers on the trail and manually entering the new mileage marker into their odometer.

These enduro odometers can be pretty pricey, but well worth the money when you begin to believe you are a competitive racer and a fair timekeeper. I bought one, since I wanted to do my own timekeeping. I wanted to do it right and just spend the money once. It cost me 160 bucks!

There are always enduro riders upgrading their timekeeping equipment, so you can scout around the signup and ask around the camp to see if anyone has a used odometer they will part with.

The clock

You will need a watch or a clock showing both minutes and seconds mounted to your crossbar (waterproof preferably). Borrow a cheap plastic sports watch from your brother before you scarf the really accurate “Citizen” from your Dad, take my advice on that one. That is the 5 dollar solution.

Now take this cheap watch and wrap it around your crossbar pad and duct tape the pad to the crossbar so it does not spin on you.

That’s cheap, but it might be a little blurry at 24 miles an hour over bumps.

The next step up in investment is another 12 dollars for a small box with a clear see through cover that is durable enough to mount to your handlebars.

(An old rollchart holder with the roll chart reels pulled out works great).

Get two of the Pep Boys big digit LCD clocks mounted with velcro inside of that old rollchart holder for 5 dollars each.

Set both at your row keytime, and push the button to display the time in hours and minutes on one and seconds on the other. Two clocks gives you a backup in case one fails. Take your ROW NUMBER and subtract that number of minutes from the current time which is posted by the hosting club at the enduro and set your clocks to that time. The club keytime is the master clock and it is usually on display at signup the morning of the event, so this is one of the things you need to have time to do the morning before your race starts.

While you are shopping your odometer options, you will find the same manufacturer of enduro odometers makes rugged, heavy duty, large display enduro clocks exactly for you.

The rollchart holder

You will need a roll chart holder which will hold a length of adding machine tape sized paper which you can roll up on a takeup reel and look through the window to check your mileage against your clock during the event to make sure you are on time.

You can get a rollchart holder at any dirt bike shop. They are cheap too. About ten to fifteen (10-15) dollars depending on who makes it.

Some have rubber around the edges to help keep your rollchart dry, but duct tape works just as well for the economy model.

They are simple to use. Just tape the rollchart together at the race so it is one continuous length of paper and tape the bottom end of the rollchart to the bottom reel and roll it up onto the bottom reel. Tape the top of your rollchart to the take-up real and seal up the cover so it does not leak.

As you roll down the trail, you can watch your mileage on your odometer, roll up your roll chart, and match up a mileage, and check the clock against the rollchart to see if you are on time.

You will find at most AMA enduros, a person sitting at the sign-up table selling pre-made roll charts for the event.

Now to put this simple timekeeping system to work. Put the roll chart in your chart holder, and make sure you can read it properly. Find the key time clock that club has provided (it is usually near sign-up) and set your clock so that when your minute comes up, your clock will come up to :00.

For example, say your starting ROW number is 43. Set your clock 43 minutes behind the current key time. This will ensure during the morning excitement of the day of the event, your personal race will start at 8:00 a.m. (or whatever keytime the host club has established) on YOUR clock, and your rollchart will match your clock no matter what row you are on. Genuine enduro clocks are nothing but timers anyhow, so when you start them they automatically start at zero. Set your odometer to 00.0 on the starting line, and you are ready to go.

I have been racing for 10 years now, and I still use a programmable odometer, a couple of big display LCD clocks mounted in an old rollchart holder and a rollchart for the extent of my timekeeping equipment.

I keep a wristwatch handy since those clocks take a beating on my handlebars.

The computers

Some people think you have to buy a computer to race enduros. This is not the case. We already have pretty good organic computers installed in our helmets.

A rollchart, a clock and an odometer, and eyes not too blurry from crashes and mud and dust suffice, as very good data input devices.

Many Enduro riders buy electronic computers as backup and enhancements so they can concentrate a little more on the trail. Some get to this point sooner than others.

One of my friends leapfrogged me in this process. I talked him into racing enduros “just once”. He looked at my setup and said “Well, if I spend just a few dollars more than you spent for your rollchart holder, rollcharts, clocks, and fancy odometer, I can get an “all in one” computer”. Which he did, and has been tickled with ever since. I hate him. He is faster than me too.

If you already have decided that enduro racing is the greatest thing since mommas apple pie, you can spend more money now to get the “all in one” computer. You can do it later once you are hooked, but you really do not have to.

A lot of riders DO upgrade their equipment to make the setup easier to manage and more reliable. The “all in one computer” does all the computing and mileage time comparison for you and you can still continue using the rollchart/odometer/clock system as a backup, should one timekeeping system fail.

These “all in ones” are small computers mounted to the handlebars that have a single display for the rider to reference during the race.

The racer enters all the course information, mileage advances, speed average changes, free times, gas stops, etc. into the computer prior to starting the event.

A single button push on the computer during the event can switch the display from a simple “go slower, go faster, on time” display to a speedometer, an odometer, distance to the next possible checkpoint and other features.

The features of a computer depend on the manufacturer of the computer and there are several.

Some brands of these enduro computers are PACEMAKERICO racing and the budget but very capable units WATCHDOG and Panoram .

Before you invest in a computer, talk to seasoned enduro riders and ride a race or two before you decide which one to buy and invest big money.

This kind of investment is not really necessary for the first time rider, but it does help when you want to spend less time looking at your timekeeping equipment and advance into the more competitive classes of enduros.

How do I go about entering an event and getting ready to race?

JOIN the American Motorcyclist Association – You must be a full AMA member in good standing to compete in any type of AMA amateur competition. If you are not already a current AMA member, you may join at the track on the day of an event or call Membership Services Department at (800) AMA-JOIN. Keep your receipt and take it with you to future events, as it will serve as your proof of membership until you receive your permanent AMA card. You might have to join the local racing chapter or district organization that is sponsoring the enduro event also. You can do this at the event signup.

Read the rules so you at least know what the other riders are talking about. The rules are not complicated, and are designed so that the race organizers can give riders a rest during the event, and test the riders endurance in the special test sections.

Read the “Enduro Basics”, for all the rules you need to know for your first enduro here.

If you want to know ALL the specifics the AMA requires sanctioned races to conform to, read the AMA rules section regarding enduro rules in the AMA motorcyclist magazine.

Every year, the AMA publishes the current rules in the magazine “American Motorcyclist” which you will receive for free once you become a member of the AMA.

The 1999 AMA rulebook is published in the March 1999 issue of “American Motorcyclist”. Extra copies are available for $2.00 by writing to the “American Motorcyclist Back Issues” 13515 Yarmouth Road, Pickerington, OH 43147.

You can click here to go to the online AMA rule books section where you can download a copy of the current AMA racing rules in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format.

PREPARE your bike and your body for the event. Make sure your protective gear provides adequate protection for a challenging trail ride and will protect your body such that you can get up after a crash and continue down the trail.

A DOT approved helmet is an absolute MUST. You cannot compete in an enduro without one of these.

Good motocross boots, face protection and good goggles for eye protection, good gloves, a chest protector ,knee and shin guards, and a kidney belt are also imperative if you want to minimize the amount of groaning you will be doing at the end of the event.

If you have relatives in Egypt of the dromedary family, you will not need water, but if you think you might get a little thirsty in 3 to 5 hours of hard riding, Strap a plastic water bottle to the back of your chest protector with tie wraps or on your fanny pack belt so you have some water on the trail. Fasten a length of 3/8 inch tubing to the bottle and run it up to your mouth.

All of these equipment preparations are minimums really.

If you want to plan ahead for every possibility, there is obviously no substitute for years of experience, so talk to other seasoned racers at the events. They will give you such widely different opinions and reasons, usually consisting of wildly entertaining trail horror stories, that you really have to decide for yourself whether or not you need roll-offs or tear offs for your goggles, knee braces, neck support braces, 2 spare watches, and a fanny pack the size of a suitcase.

Your trusty metal steed needs to be exactly that. Check your brakes and clutch for wear, lubricate all your cables and levers well, and make sure your timekeeping equipment is reasonably waterproof. Enduro event organizers cannot predict the weather and so they usually route you through any water they can find so you get some sort of bath and do not offend too many sensitive noses coming in off the trail. Make sure you have lever guards installed on your bike (Bark Busters) and if you can tolerate it, cut your handlebars down so they are about 30″ wide. There are typically a couple of tight sections at enduros.

Make sure you have plenty of gas along with you in two containers, one for the main gas stop and one to put out at any gas available stops along the course. Most event organizers will make gas available stops for you along the course, but you lose time stopping to gas up at other than a normal gas stop. Some riders, who are worried about it, buy after market manufactured gas tanks of larger capacity than the stock gas tanks for their motorcycles.

Buy a fanny pack, even a small cheap one will do and put some common tools and a spark plug in it for your first race. If you are like me, you will redesign your fanny pack contents every race and ask yourself questions like “Is a spare tube worth not having room for a power bar and juicy fruit gum”.

PICK AN EVENT to ride. If you are looking for an easy race to “cut your teeth on” You can look for the word “EASY” on the race description but do not let that fool you.

Some course marshals (the gentlemen who lay out the enduro course) are grizzled old seasoned riders who enjoy hanging around the scoring table and are known to mutter the phrase “Why do you think they are called Endurance races?”

Typical enduros consist of a route through wooded areas over trails, dirt roads and some paved roads. Because some public roads are used, riders must be licensed and their machines must be legal for highway use. Some are “closed course” events and all you need is a spark arrestor on your bike to race. Some use public roads so your bike has to pass a technical inspection to ensure it meets the requirements of a street legal motorcycle. Do not let that discourage you, since this is the most fun you will ever have on a motorcycle and well worth the effort.

PLAN on being ready to start the race the moment you wake up on the day of the event. Enduro Races usually start the first riders onto the course at 8:00 a.m.

Go ahead and have your bike prepped, your roll chart and/or computer equipment programmed, your score card taped to your fender, and your bike all gassed up and lubed, goggles cleaned, etc…the night before your ride.

Eat a good healthy dinner the night before the race, and load up with pastas and other sources of carbohydrates for several days before the race. Get plenty of sleep two days before the event, since the night before any race, the butterflies in your stomach and last minute jitters usually keep you awake a little.

Most racers go out the day before the event to the race site to prep, and most camp. It is a real pleasure to be able to do a little bench racing and see old friends and make new ones the night before you all hit the trails. In the morning when you wake up, grab a good breakfast if your butterflies will let you, and get dressed to race early! Go get key-time and set your watches or clocks for the row you are riding and signed up for, put your gas on the gas truck if there is one, and get to the starting line a few minutes early so you can see how everyone lines up.

The event organizers usually have a riders meeting the morning of the event to warn riders of potential hazards on the course, show them where the starting line is, and provide any last minute information and changes about the event.

HAVE FUN at your first enduro, and just try to finish. Whether you burn a few checks, or almost hour out with a flat or no brakes, you will be tickled pink with yourself to be able to say “YUP” When you are talking to the other racers and they ask “Did you finish?”. It’s always a fun ride no matter how you slice it, and more a test of yourself, than a race against another rider.