Monday, January 25, 2016

Season's Recap

When you're going through an enduro, keep going. 

I did it, folks--I survived the NETRA enduro season! I even won the women's class (by virtue of being the only person in it, 90% of the time). It was, however, a pretty painful experience and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone whose basic bike handling skills (log crossings, wheelies, 180 turn-arounds, hill climbing, rock gardens, etc.) aren't rock solid. I don't know what I expected, being a new rider signing up for 80+ mile races in the hardest single track New England has to offer, but I got more than I bargained for and won't be doing that again until I magically grow 10 inches and gain 40 pounds of muscle mass--or, you know, actually learn to ride my damn bike.

The calm before the storm. I'm the short one.

New Ride...

Anyway, the less said about all that, the better. Now for some good news: I got a new bike! After an all-night wrenching session and an early-morning drive to Canada, my boyfriend and I traded my 2011 KTM 250 XC toward a gently used 2012 KTM 200 XC-W. The new bike is some 10lbs lighter, has an inch lower seat height, and is hopefully less inclined to launch me into the stratosphere with any minor misjudgment in throttle application.

A new era has dawned!

New Race!

Upon this noble steed, I plan to contest the J Day Sprint Enduro Series, whose last round I visited in 2015. The format consists of a few different "special tests" which each rider must complete a certain number of times within a set time period. This one had a woods loop (wide-open, hills, ruts), a field track (there was a tabletop jump in there, too), and an extreme section (logs, rocks, concrete tubes, tight trees, etc). The time limit to complete each test three times was generous, making for a fun, relaxed atmosphere, but the format also provides enough seat time and variety to feel like it was worth the entry fee and three-hour commute. I think it will be a good opportunity for me to hone some of the skills needed for traditional enduros in a lower-consequence environment (getting stuck in a field 100 yards from the truck is one thing, getting stuck in the deep woods half-way across Connecticut is another). I also hope to get to a couple NETRA hare scrambles and one or two of the less technically demanding enduros.

At the J Day River Rush Sprint Enduro. I finished unspectacularly--but I finished!

Look Ma, no Motor!

I spent most of 2015 complaining about enduros and riding a bicycle. After the incredibly demoralizing struggle of starting a new endurance sport and kind of sucking at it, I found going back to my roots really refreshing.

Fly, Barbie, FLY!

I spent most of my childhood free time plonking around in the woods on a bicycle. Most people seem to get more cautious as they get older, but so far I've been progressing in the opposite direction-- probably thanks to the dirt bike, which has got me accustomed to higher speeds and higher...heights. When I got air on my 2000 Specialized Rockhopper in middle school, it was almost always an accident.

SO HAPPY! Rad bike photos by my amateur action sports photographer friend Dave Kinney. 

There is such a thing as enduro racing in MTB, too: it is also an all-day event with many different sections, but has a significant advantage to beginners in that, if you get to something unrideable, you can just pick the bike up and walk over it. The entire internet says it requires a 5000+ dollar full suspension bike with enduro-specific frame geometry, shifters, spoke nipples, seat rails, body fat calipers, espresso grinder, etc., but I plan on entering at least one on Barbie, my 600-dollar 29er hardtail, just to prove them wrong. Wish me luck.