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MY UNUSUAL HOBBY THAT URGES ME TO EXPLORE THE WORLD ON TWO WHEELS. ABOUT THE ENDURO EXPERIENCE OFF AND ON THE RACETRACK.
Extreme enduro – what’s it all about?
Some say it’s man versus machine, others would describe it as one of the toughest challenges on your body and your abilities. But most of all, it’s extremely technical endurance riding on a motorbike that pushes your body and mind to the limit. Different to motocross, riding enduro means riding on natural, often unpredictable and rough terrain. Obstacles are mostly not manmade and are different every time – from huge logs and deep ravines to rock fields or even waist deep river crossings, extreme enduro riders tackle tracks that sometimes seem impossible even to walk on. But why would you voluntarily take on such a torment?
The mother of extreme enduro
It all started about fifty years ago in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the highest country in the world, where a race called “The Roof of Africa” came to life: A three-day endurance event that includes stages of 150 to 200 kilometres of gruelling terrain in an amazingly beautiful and remote landscape, where tracks reach elevations of up to 3000 metres above sea level. The passion for this sport spread like a virus, and the number of extreme enduro races has risen steadily since.
My addiction to enduro took off back in 2009, when I started working as a track marshal for RedBull Romaniacs, a five-day rally that takes place in Sibiu in the heart of Transylvania, Romania. For the event, the old city centre of Sibiu is converted into an action-loaded playground for hundreds of adrenalin addicts, and a sense of ubiquitous excitement floats in the air. It’s this special kind of adventure spirit combined with the sound and smell of a two stroke engine that I first fell in love with.
As soon as the race starts, you inevitably engage in an almost endless flow of stories of exhausted hobby riders who just experienced the most excruciating fun in their lives, and you become friends with top world class riders who are happy to share your bottle of cold water at the end of a long punishing day. Even as a spectator or supporter, you are bound to keep up with the riders and follow them on some of these amazing trails.
Enduro races do not happen on randomly chosen paths. Each day’s ride is a carefully mapped out and planned event. A well chosen team of professional track managers meticulously choose and mark up to 1200 kilometres of track in advance. These trails may lead you far away from civilisation: past breathtaking ridges, through dark, misty forests into seriously steep canyons, or shoot you onto epic mountain peaks. Exploring nature’s hidden corners on two wheels is an extremely thrilling way to get around.
From the sea to the sky
A race known as “the most enjoyable extreme enduro” is the RedBull Sea to Sky. In the fall of each year, approximately 300 competitors from across Europe, New Zealand and Australia gather at the scenic seaside of the Turkish Riviera to take on the challenge of conquering the 2365 metre high peak of Mt. Tahtali. The three-day battle starts right on the beach, where sunburnt tourists wait eagerly for the sound of revving engines and watch the race kick off. In enduro, it’s not always about being the fastest on the track. It’s also about saving your energy to the very last moment and possessing the technical skills to smoothly ride your bike across obstacles rather than lifting and pushing your 100+ kilo machine all the way through.
The 2015 edition of Sea to Sky brought some big surprises: Kirsten Landman, a young South African rider, left her mark on history by becoming the first female rider to ever reach the gold finish on top of Mt. Tahtali. In this male dominated sport, such splendid achievements are what motivate enthusiastic hobby riders like myself to keep on doing what we love most: to race extreme enduro and travel around the world on a bike.