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The Enduring Draw of Enduro Races

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Abstract


There are many stereotypes associated with motocross and endurance motorcycle racing which have led to terms like “adrenaline junkie” or “maniac” to describe fine tuned athletes who participate in the sport. It is a common misconception to believe that these athletes are simply ignorant or do not weigh the risks of participating in this sport, but this essay is an explanation of how untrue this generalization is. Many riders who participate in the sport, mainly at an amateur level, do not assess the risk involved in the sport, and this is why I have chosen to analyze this risk/reward mentality that virtually every rider utilizes before taking on a race. Why are dirt bike riders drawn to compete in races that may leave them exhausted and injured like some of the more common endurance races like the Erzburg Rodeo and the Romaniacs races?

The main reason dirt bike racers decide to participate in these types of races is because they feel either very confident in their riding abilities or they do not properly assess the risk involved in these races. Such races include the Romaniacs endurance race which in the Carpathian mountains and the Erzburg Rodeo endurance race held in the mining quarries of Austria. This research covers this process of over confidence seen in endurance style racing, the skills needed to participate in these races, and the reasons riders push past their individual limits.

A closer look at this ongoing issue in the sport reveals that the main reason many riders are becoming injured in races is because their motivations for entering the race are flawed. More riders enter these races than finish the races due to exhaustion and injury. Many riders neglect the fact that almost all the riders that finish these races are professionals and take on seemingly impossible odds.
(308 Words)




Dirt bike riding has a long history starting with a man named Soichiro Honda, who started a dirt bike shop in Los Angeles, California in 1959. The idea was not well received because the typical motorbike riders were outlaws and street riders. Any vehicle on two wheels was cheaper that a car, and therefore a motorcycle became status symbol, but not a positive one. Honda had to devise a plan that would make dirt bikes appear to have the thrill of a motorcycle but without the image carried with one. He needed the dirt bike to give a new image to the style of transportation because dirt bikes themselves are meant for different activities than traditional motorcycles. There was no plan to bring any type of motorcycle off road. Bikes finally became popular thanks to some smart advertising by Honda. He depicted grown men in suits on Honda motorcycles with their girlfriend on the backs having a good time. This altered people's perceptions of motorcycle riders, giving Honda bikes a clean, fun, and exciting image. This type of advertising sparked a sudden demand for such bikes which were sold to all ages and used more for transportation rather than racing. Racing began to catch on after actor Steve McQueen starred in the World War II action movie The Great Escape in which he performed many motorcycle stunts, emphasizing his passion for motorcycle racing outside of his acting career. This movie brought racing into the minds of Americans, and from then on, racing dirt bikes has become a popular sport. Everything affiliated with dirt bikes roots back to Soichiro Honda in Los Angeles, California. To this day, Honda motorcycles are one of the leading dirt bike and motorcycle manufacturers with multiple racing teams. As with any motor sport, dirt bike racing became very dangerous very quickly as riders began to push the limits of what was possible on a dirt bike. This sparked the key problem with dirt bike racing today, over confidence and a lack of understanding of the risk involved when racing a dirt bike.

Dirt bike riding has many risks, and when first introduced, were exciting and gave people a new perspective on transportation. Eventually, this mode of transportation became a means of entertainment and competition among fellow riders. This transformation is what sparked the dangers that are often downplayed in the sport of dirt bike riding, specifically the most challenging type of racing, endurance racing. As the shape, weight, and performance of these motor bikes grew more accommodating to off road performance; riders became more competitive, reckless, and aggressive. Along with these growing characteristics associated with the evolving form of dirt bikes came increased danger. There was then a neglect to the imposed restrictions on who should ride the bikes and what precautions they should take. Until recently, there were no laws in place that were strictly enforced regarding dirt bike riding, yet riders continue to neglect the precautions and put themselves at risk for injury.

Many dirt bike riders have become prone to a very dangerous competitive type of racing that has been categorized as the most difficult types of racing called endurance or "enduro" racing. An enduro race is a dirt bike race that is typically held in a woods or a rough landscape, and lasts several hours. Riders are faced with many difficult obstacles that will test their skill on a bike like rock cliffs, steep hill climbs, and long distance trail riding. Many are then led to the question as to why these competitors are willing to endure the brutal punishment of these types of races, and are willing to accept that they may be seriously injured if they compete. The answer is this: the pride, challenge, self-confidence, exercise, risk/reward, and passion for riding all fuel a riders ambition to take on such difficult races. Many would agree that none of these reasons are worth destroying one's health over, with the sole exception of passion. I as a rider, tend to agree, and so do many other riders who ride out of a simple passion for the sport.

Many riders enter the dirt bike riding "arena" with an inaccurate perception of the physical challenges that any rider faces when engaged in the sport. When it comes to an endurance or "enduro" style race, these challenges become twice as difficult, and are very intimidating to a prospective rider. The truth is, a rider must first become very familiar with riding a dirt bike and experience many forms of racing before he or she decides to take on an enduro race. The main reason being that enduro races incorporate all styles of riding, and one must have experience in many fields of riding, including hill climbs, trail riding, motocross, supercross, supermoto, and rock climbing. To become experienced in all of these categories, one must exercise both mental and physical endurance through each category of riding. The most important aspect of an enduro race is the preliminary physical and mental training. This includes grueling schedules and requires much determination.

These schedules include very early morning wake up calls, long runs in the hottest part of the day, and diets that seem minuscule compared to a typical meal. Composed by Scott Herrick, a triathlon and Ironman race trainer, a typical schedule used for the training for a popular enduro race, The Ironman, is shown here:


(Herrick)
Although this type of preparation seems excessive, it is very much needed because an enduro race can last up to six or seven hours, and some run for days on end. Training, however, does not include a routine one can follow just by going to the gym and cutting back on calories. Enduro racing should be prefaced with years of dirt bike riding experience. That is why training also includes very repetitive routines on the bike such as constant trail riding that include massive up hills, ruts, and rocks to overcome. This repetition also fulfills a very important gap that can only be filled with experience. Much of an enduro race consists of problem solving. Problem solving of both overcoming obstacles and physical exhaustion are essential to completing a race. Endurance racing is very much a cooperative sport between the rider and his dirt bike. The reason enduro racing is so challenging is because the rider is not only depending on his physical ability to overcome an obstacle, but the bike as well. It is almost impossible to complete a race without having to solve a problem. In an enduro race, a rider is on the bike longer, which increases the chances of mechanical failure. This also increases the number of obstacles and the amount of time on the bike may result in over heating. A rider must be able to quickly determine a mechanical problem and know if he has the skill to fix it or leave it and quit the race. An endurance racer must know his bike inside and out, and be able to determine problems and fix them quickly. A rider must also be able to judge an obstacle in a split second, and determine exactly how to overcome it. Any hesitation could result in a major accident. This is why a rider must seriously weigh the decision of entering an enduro race.

A very common reason for a rider to enter a competition is a sense to prove him or her self to fellow riders, giving the rider a higher self-esteem, pride, and sense of belonging. When a rider becomes exhausted but continues to perform at a higher caliber of performance than his skill level, it will often result in a very severe accident. When a rider becomes exhausted, he is not able to perform well enough to ride safely and is at a higher risk of fault. Because the reward is so high, a rider is inclined to take such a risk. The ability to simply enter such a challenging sport without the proper background, will only hinder the rider from accomplishing anything, and may result in him injuring himself. This way of thinking is backwards; a rider must first become skilled and accomplish a difficult task in the sport, and then gain self-confidence.

There also seems to be a certain pride in ones pain. Because the majority of enduro riders are men, there seems to be a certain pride in a rider’s pain. If he enters a race unprepared and crashes, but can endure through the pain, he may still gain support from fellow riders if was able to perform as well as them in the race prior to the crash. This is a rare phenomenon seen in the sport almost exclusively at an amateur level. The idea seems to be a popular theme in the sport, yet few realize that this pain should be endured through preparation, not from a poor performance which is a result of poor preparation. In other words, a rider should be prepared before entering a race, and not risk a crash due to unprepared ness.

A sense of belonging to a higher skill level in the sport is very prevalent in the sport. This is emphasized when a rider is enrolling in a category for a race and decides to qualify for a higher skill level than is appropriate, and as a result, suffers in placing. He will suffer because he will not be prepared, and will lose positions quickly or not be equipped to finish the race. The impression conveyed when a rider is able to tell another that he is in the pro class rather than the intermediate class is something every rider wants to have, but it comes with its risks. This attitude is reflected in the entry at the Romaniacs enduro race in Romania. All riders are given two options to choose from in skill level: pro or chicken (“Nitro Circus: Red Bull Romania, Romaniacs”)

There are many steps involved in safely maneuvering a dirt bike that help to represent the skill level that an enduro rider must acquire to safely compete in a race. These techniques and skills must become second nature to every enduro rider, and are difficult to acquire. These skills include the ability to approach a steep hill and being able to climb it without hesitation or fault. Any wavering in determination or commitment while overcoming a steep hill will result in failure. These skills are so crucial that they are a part of Global Enduro Training, which includes in its schooling, training to teach a rider how to corner, where to look, how to control the clutch, how to ascend and descend hills, and many more skills (Global Enduro Training). As one trains, he learns how to make important decisions based on priorities. Priorities play a huge role in trail riding. If a rider sees a downed rider on an obstacle, he or she has the option to pass by and not offer assistance, or stop and help the rider back to the start if the injury is severe enough. Every judgment call must also be made with certainty and without hesitation, if not; the rider may injure himself by not stopping safely. The only way for a rider to become familiar with these techniques is through repetition of exercises. According to online professional... Dirt-Bike.us, "unless the rider is experienced, he or she should keep their eyes on the terrain ahead and should avoid these obstacles" ("...rocks, logs, boulders, and roots...") (Dirt-Bike).

The risk/reward aspect of riding plays the largest role in a rider’s decision of whether or not to take on an obstacle, challenge, or race. This includes the thought process that every rider uses when riding. It determines whether or not the rider should perform an action by weighing the risk of the action with what the rider will gain by accomplishing it. If the risk is low enough or the reward is high enough, a rider will usually take on the obstacle. This thought process is used when a rider is determining if he or she will attempt a jump that is larger than the rider is used to, when a rider is deciding which line to take while on a trail, and when deciding which turn lane to use, by weighing speed with risk. This thought process is especially important in one of the most dangerous parts of racing, passing another rider. The dilemmas a rider faces include whether or not the pass is worth the position gained, is the pass safe enough, and will I be seen as unfair to other riders and officials. The most hazardous time a risk/reward decision is used is when the decision pertains to other riders. This is so dangerous because the riders weighing of the risk is heavier, when around fellow riders. In other words, a rider sees not taking the risk of overcoming an obstacle to impress fellow riders as a risk, and therefore is blinded by the true risk of the obstacle. This is proven by the Bruce Schneier, author of many psychological books and security specialist, as he assesses conventional wisdom about people and risk perception, when stating in his chart that people tend to downplay risk that is "familiar" and "well understood" (“The Psychology of Security”). This means that if a rider is familiar with a certain risk that is involved with overcoming an obstacle, he or she will tend to down play it to peers, and will most likely end up attempting the obstacle. When the risk is downplayed, even if a rider is "familiar" with the risk, he still may not be prepared to overcome the risk, and therefore the obstacle. The risk is multiplied when riding with others in that there will be less space on a track and more chance for a collision in the event of a crash. This makes racing so much more dangerous than simple trail riding.

While many riders enter a race for passion and with much preparation, the majority of riders begin to ride for the wrong reasons, without weighing the consequences, or take on too difficult a skill level than should be attempted. This result is many riders decision to enter a race without the correct perception of the obstacle ahead. This problem sparks from the purchase of a dirt bike. When a rider buys a dirt bike he is given the bike regardless of his knowledge of how to control the machine. This gives many riders a sense of false self confidence because the dealer assumes the buyer knows how to ride. The problem is not neglect of the risk, it is the focus on reward combined with lack of proper direction and focus of unprepared riders entering too difficult of races. In order to correct this ever growing problem in the sport, riders must begin to realize their own limits and place pride and competition aside, and place safety first.

























Works Cited

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"Global Enduro Training." Trail and Offroad. Web.

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Herrick, Scott. "Beginner Full Ironman Training Program." BeginnerTriathlete.com - Triathlon
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"History of Dirt Bikes." Motocross Review Your Complete MX Review Source. 2010. Web. 20 Nov.
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Schneier, Bruce. "The Psychology of Security." Schneier on Security.

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"Steve McQueen Biography." Starpulse.com Your Entertainment Destination. 2010. Web. 20 Nov.
2010. <http://www.starpulse.com/Actors/McQueen,_Steve/Biography/>.





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