What Is Enduro Mountain Biking? A Beginner’s Guide To Enduro Racing

Experienced mountain biker Robbie Ferri walks you through the basics of Enduro MTB racing

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

A thrilling blend of technical descents, challenging climbs, and adrenaline-fueled competition, enduro mountain biking has emerged as one of the most popular disciplines in mountain biking.

Enduro mountain biking is a multi-stage racing format that combines elements of downhill and cross-country riding. Enduro races feature specific timed segments, but riders are untimed while they ride between the transition segments in between.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll delve into the heart-pounding world of enduro racing, unraveling its unique format, equipment requirements, and essential skills needed to conquer the trails.

Get ready to discover the foundations that define this dynamic and rewarding discipline.

An enduro mountain bike racer takes off from a jump in Wales.
© Dan Griffiths/Red Bull Content Pool

What Is Enduro Mountain Biking?

Enduro mountain biking is a unique format of off-road racing.

In an enduro race, you go through multiple timed sections, and in between each section, you travel to the next timed section at your own pace.

The timed sections tend to be primarily downhill, with the climbs usually completed as untimed transition sections.

An enduro race can last a day or multiple days. Riders can go through up to around six timed segments a day, and the rider with the fastest overall time through all the timed sections put together is the winner.

Enduro offers a mix of the best mountain biking has to offer. It has the technicality of downhill racing and the speed and elevation you would expect from XC (cross country) riding

When it comes to enduro riding, if you want to win races, you must be fit and have a lot of excellent technical skills when it comes to off-road riding. Also, having lots of confidence when it comes to big drops and rock gardens goes a long way. 

A Community Like No Other

One thing that has really helped the popularity of enduro racing is the community around it. With the way the racing is structured, you have cyclists going all out on the timed sections and then pacing on the non-timed sections.

Not only is this amazing for the athletes, but it also makes a great watch as you get the option to watch the action or see the riders in between. It’s an amazing experience not just for the competitors but also for the spectators.

What Does An Enduro Mountain Bike Look Like?

An enduro mountain bike rider charges through a forest.
© Nacho Trueba/Red Bull Content Pool

An enduro mountain bike has a very challenging job. It has to be rugged and fast, and it also needs the ability to go on very rough off-road terrain.

Enduro mountain bikes share many common traits with downhill mountain bikes in their geometry and design features, but with a crucial difference: enduro bikes need to perform well riding uphill, as well as down.

This is primarily reflected in the bike’s weight. Downhill mountain bikes are very heavy, as you’re expected to spend minimal time climbing on them. Enduro bikes are considerably lighter so you don’t burn too much energy climbing during transitions.

However, they’re still heavier than other MTB styles such as XC mountain bikes, because the uphill sections generally aren’t timed. Therefore, while remaining lightweight is important, it’s not an absolutely key priority.

Here’s what you can typically expect from an enduro bike compared to a typical mountain bike.

Full Suspension

Enduro bikes will generally be full suspension. This means you will have not just front suspension forks but also a rear shock. You will often see riders on suspension travel anywhere from 140 mm to 180 mm.

Many manufacturers struggle to find the balance between component weight and ability. Enduro bikes need to be light, strong, and aerodynamic and must also be very capable of pushing riding to extremes.

Components To Improve Control

Enduro bikes often come with wider handlebars, a shorter stem, and wider tires to help grip and control the tough descents. Another great addition is a dropper post, so the rider can get low and ensure they can maneuver their weight around the bike.

You will find enduro bikes generally are often set up in quite an aggressive position. Aerodynamics and the ability to control a course are top priorities. Unfortunately, comfort isn’t high on this list. With timed sections being so short, every tenth of a second counts.

Off-Road Capable Gearing

On enduro bikes, you are going to the right gearing to get up and down hills quickly. You will find low-range gearing, and also, the rear derailleur will have a clutch mech to ensure the chain doesn’t jump off over bumps.

The biggest manufacturers in gearing for Enduro are Shimano and SRAM, both well known for making incredible off-road components that perform. My favorite is the Shimano XTR, an incredible groupset designed exactly for events like Enduro.

Large Disc Brakes 

You will also find Enduro bikes to have large disc brakes. We’re not talking 160 mm or 180 mm but 200 mm to 220 mm. Alongside this, instead of 2 piston calipers, you have 4 piston calipers for extra power and less chance of brake fade. 

You would be surprised at the amount of braking power that is needed in Enduro. Having the ability to stop quickly and reliably is important not just for safety but for performance, too. Like racing a car on a track, the brakes save you a lot of time.

What Safety Gear Is Required For Enduro Racing?

An enduro rider demonstrates the gear needed for enduro mountain bike racing.
© Nacho Trueba/Red Bull Content Pool

Safety should always be your number one concern, no matter what cycling you are doing. When it comes to Enduro MTB, it is fast, it’s technical, and when racing, you will be pushing the limits. Here’s what safety gear I recommend. 

Full Face Helmet

Although many races let you race in a half-lid, the bigger races will only let you use a full-face helmet to ensure your protection. Although it might be heavier, it will protect you much better than a half-lid and stop mud from flying around your face.


You will see most enduro cyclists wearing big goggles that look like they are going skiing. Well, these are very important for enduro riding. Not only do they protect your eyes from branches, but they also help you see in poor conditions.

Knee And Elbow Pads

When riding Enduro, there’s a strong chance you might take a tumble at some point. It’s good practice to wear knee and elbow pads to ensure you have as much protection as possible, and if you do fall, it’s generally much less damage.


Gloves are really important when it comes to cycling. They protect your hands and provide you with the extra grip you need when on technical trails. I highly recommend some good, thick gloves to help your enduro journey.

Enduro MTB riders during a race transition stage.
© Dan Griffiths/Red Bull Content Pool

Enduro Races To Watch

There’s a very large enduro racing calendar throughout the year. This is more of a year-round sport than road cycling or time trailing. If you want to experience Enduro racing from the sidelines, here are some races you will want to watch if you are asking what is Enduro mountain biking.

UCI World Mountain Bike Series

The UCI World Mountain Bike Series is an incredible watch. The standard is incredibly high, and a fight for the win is ferocious. You will see the pros at these races there to take not just the glory but also a cash prize. 

In the 20204 calendar, you have some amazing races, such as the Bielsko-Biala in the Beskidy Mountains of Poland, Bellwald-Valais in the Swiss Alps, and many more.

Enduro races are an amazing spectacle in person, and should definitely be experienced if you have the opportunity.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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