Does Enduro Have an Attitude Problem?

Recently, I stumbled upon this article, and it simultaneously irritated me and resonated with me at the same time. If you haven’t read it, it’s basically a rant about endurbros and people who shuttle trails and skid corners and partake in other heathen-ish mountain bike behavior. The conclusion: we, as mountain bikers, are failing to educate newer riders about trail etiquette and ya know, being decent human beings. Subtext: ENDURO IS RUINING EVERYTHING.

The reason that this article irritated me is that the tone is dripping with “back in my day we had to walk uphill both ways to school” (only the mountain bike version of this is “back in my day we had to pedal everywhere and going downhill wasn’t even fun because our seats were rammed up our butts and we were better for it”) and honestly this is never a terribly constructive argument. Things change. Mountain biking has changed a lot, mainly for the better. (HELLO, DROPPER POSTS). E-bikes are coming. Enduro is not going away. Sorry, but I’m not that sorry.

Yet, this article resonated with me because HE’S NOT EXACTLY WRONG NOW, IS HE? All you have to do is scroll down to the comment section to see people mouthing off about how “everyone rides for the flow of the descent” and therefore shouldn’t have to yield for climbing riders. Never mind that some of us (enduro racers included!!) occasionally like to try to clean techy climbs and don’t appreciate being run off the trail by entitled broskis (usually riding 6-inch Yetis on intermediate trails) while we’re at it. And all you have to do is go to an enduro race and listen to “that guy” (there is always that guy) moaning about a new piece of tape that didn’t exist in practice but was put up in the race precisely to prevent him from taking a “creative” line. Creative usually meaning NOT ON THE TRAIL AT ALL.

And oooooo-weeee the amount of complaining when an enduro stage involves more than 10 seconds of pedaling, or there isn’t an aid station at the top of every transition climb…Well, it’s not exactly impressive. If mountain biking’s older generations have gotten the idea that enduro racers are a bunch of delicate flowers who need to be shuttled for anything longer than a three minute climb and just want to “blow up turns ferda boiiiis” well, we can’t exactly blame them, can we?

I took 10 pedal strokes this entire weekend! Photo: JJ Squires

Here’s the thing — the rise in popularity of enduro racing and enduro style bikes has undoubtedly been a net positive. More trails, more people riding, more people with a vested interest in protecting mountain bike access. That doesn’t mean enduro doesn’t have its problems. (For what it’s worth, I think e-bikes will be a net positive for mountain biking as well. Which doesn’t mean there won’t be problems with e-bike use…But let’s save that discussion for another day.)

The major problem that I see is an incredible attitude of entitlement and “cooler than thou”ness among enduro racers and enduro style riders. Before the internet jumps down my throat, #notallenduroracers, obviously. But it is, I think, an attitude propagated by an industry that sells bikes using “bro-dom” as currency, and also by the type of content that many pro athletes use to promote themselves (myself undoubtedly included on occasion).

Here are a few examples:

We feel entitled to ride and race trails that are, by any reasonable definition, unsustainable, and we feel entitled to do so without giving adequate thanks to the people who built these trails and clean up after us.

We feel entitled to go mach forty down public access bi-directional trails because that’s what our bikes are capable of doing. And then we have the nerve of excusing it by saying trails should be directional (see comment section on the original post #facepalm).

We feel entitled to wreck corners just for the sake of a cool dust-plosion photo because Instagram, because #lightbro #dustbae

We feel entitled to shuttles during practice, even though this sometimes means hundreds of vehicles driving the same dirt roads, dusting other riders, and generally causing huge wad-ups for locals (I have seen this go down during EWS practice days and it’s not pretty).

We feel entitled to aid stations every 10 feet because somewhere along the line it became uncool to wear a pack or carry our own tools or generally just be on top of our own shit.

We feel entitled to make fun of people wearing lycra, while also totally un-ironically wearing fanny packs.

We feel entitled to be dismissive of other peoples’ skill sets (ahem, climbing or fitness in general) because we huck bigger jumps (or something?).

Obviously not everyone who rides a six inch bike is an endurbro who spends their weekends mowing down hikers and shotgunning beers at the trailhead. And there’s certainly more than a little entitlement to be found among people who think they deserve to have the trail all to themselves, in the name of silence and solace. But I’m an enduro racer, so this is my personal hill to die on, and I’m saying this — PEOPLE, WE CAN DO BETTER.

Let’s spend more time acknowledging and thanking the builders who make and fix the trails we race on. Hell, let’s spend more time building and maintaining trails.

Let’s cut the bitching about course tape and just stay on the trail. You don’t need tape on both sides of the trail to figure out how to stay on it. Trust me, you really don’t.

As athletes, when photographers ask us to take questionable lines or explode corners, let’s question that. You can look cool and be on the trail at the same time — I promise you it’s possible.

Let’s make climbing cool again. We don’t all have to ride lightweight bikes and wear lycra (or fanny packs…), but let’s give credit where credit is due. Going uphill fast is badass.

Let’s be honest about the content we post on the internet — often I post POV from race runs which are on public trails that are temporarily closed for a race. It would in no way be responsible to ride at that speed if the trail were open to the public. Let’s start being up front about that.

Let’s knock it off with the cool kid posturing and be more supportive of beginners.

Let’s remember that we’re all mountain bikers and consequently, none of us are all that cool, anyway. So, be nice. Be friendly. Remember that other people exist and have a right to enjoy their time on the trail, too (whether they are going slower or faster than you).

And finally, because this is apparently somehow still a point of contention, let’s slow the f*ck down for oncoming riders/hikers/horses/whatever. This is safer, smarter and just plain nicer. And it’s not that hard to do.

Still have questions about trail etiquette? This is a good resource.

[Note: This is response to this piece in Adventure Journal by Mike Curiak. While I poke a bit of fun, at the end of the day I suspect Mike and I would agree on a lot and I’d be happy to meet him for a ride and a discussion — I’m sure he’d pedal my legs off.]

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

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18 thoughts on “Does Enduro Have an Attitude Problem?

  1. Another great article Syd. And after watching the videos of Mackey ride – even when going for a PR – he stopped, helped people with directions and was safe around other riders and hikers. Lots of respect for you both. Keep being more awesome and we will keep watching.

  2. Thanks Syd. I’m going through this same battle on our local exploding trail systems. The sense of entitlement is off the charts and and making my job leading our local SORBA chapter taxing. I’m at my wits’ end with many of the MTB bros. BTW, I’m one of those old guys. I started riding and racing in the early 90’s.

    • Jerry! Thanks for keeping the SORBA trails awesome! I’ve ridden several areas within SORBA and they’re fantastic.
      We’ve all had bad experiences with entitled riders on the trail, enough to remind us to be kind, lend a hand, and “be more awesome”. Also, thanks for defending the spandex climbers Syd. ;)

  3. Well written Syd. I see it all of the time, and sadly am probably one of those guys every once in a while! While I may occasionaly scoff at someones lycra I do serve on the board of my local trail association (Wood River Bike Coaliton) and schedule and head up our work days.
    Aside from seeing rad pics of dusty berms IG is a great way for people to see how important it is to contribute to trails. Sierra Buttes Stewardship is killing it right now with their work. Hopefully people will see how well that works and what it nets for their community and will join and help their local community. Instead of splintering as different riding factions we need to build a bridge together because like it or not e-bikes are going to make things very difficult for everyone soon.

    • I agree completely. And yes, I get the Sierra Buttes Stewardship newsletter and I’m super impressed with what they’ve been able to accomplish. Psyched to get back to the Downieville Classic this year for the first time in awhile :)

  4. Good read, I think you’re right but maybe it’s not as bad here in the UK. I often go back to the root of “enduro” or as I like to call it, “mountain biking”. It’s essentially pedalling uphill and ragging Downhill hopefully not chasing the all elusive STRAVAAAAAA! And being respectful to other trail users. If people want to shuttle and blow berms and the like, there’s a crazy new discipline called “Downhill”. End of rant!

    • Thanks for the comment, Neil. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the Uk and I agree with your assessment. I think thats probably because you guys have so many amazing trail centers and MTB specific trails. And so many of the more difficult MTB trails I rode in the Uk were bike specific simply by virtue of being so damn steep that nobody could walk up them anyway, ahah! We run into issues in the US (especially the Southwest) because some of our best descents are on public land and are popular with all sorts of users. And they aren’t very steep which means they are VERY fast. So it’s a recipe for conflict, unfortunately. :(

  5. I LOVED THIS ARTICLE. I think there’s a few things in there worth highlighting.

    -“dustplosion”
    -fanny packs and not being on top of your own shit
    -entitlement

    I work at a resort in somewhere USA. The resort just spent quite a bit on a new trail for beginners but it’s by one of the raddest trail building companies in the world, so it’s really a fun trail for everyone. But, as expected, the bros were shredding down our beginner trail at lightning speeds on opening day making things intimidating for newer riders. Now one thought I have is yes, the trail is super rad. You can go fast on it. So why not? But the other thought I had was that there has to be a way to ride a trail in a way that is fast but not dominating and scary for the new kids.

    And then after the pros shredded on the beginner trails they went out and attempted some of the double blacks on the mountain which are chundery AF. I was doing bike patrol that day and all of the pros and experts wanted us to rake the chunder. So the next morning, I went up the mountain and we only really cleaned up one spot with my coworker who’s quite a good rider. We left it gnarly, and picked up a few sticks and a few baby heads but we left it gnarly.

    One of the boys that rides Rampage was complaining because it was too “rough and rugged” up there. But I think it’s super bizarre to think that a trail is no fun unless it’s perfectly groomed. Granted, there were a few too many rocks up there, and we took those out, but we left it nasty and rugged for now. This dude said that there was nothing there for the pros to ride, and I thought about the gnarliest stuff up there and wanted to say “can you even ride it Bro?”

    So… that’s something I’ve noticed. A brattysense of entitlement that pros should be first in line for all the new stuff and it mus be perfectly groomed 40 foot tables otherwise wah, wah, wah.

    And then there’s the fanny packs. Like dude. If you’re wearing nothing but knee pads, a half shell, and a fanny pack down the chunder no wonder you’re scared. And no, you can’t have my water.

  6. Totally agree with this article! Great read!
    I come from a few year’s Hiatus of Mountain Biking; to give an idea,i left the year the dropping post came into view. I was doing mostly XC and loved it. nowadays it seems everyone is back at the “all downhill” thing. Now called Enduro… i suppose.

    I love me some technical climbs as much as i like berms and stuff. Unfortunately, there is no good video content of climbs. POV cameras simply do not offer a good perspective on the climbs; they are slow and we can’t really see the depth/height/angular challenge. So “Flow” is the next best thing.

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  8. Just want to say as I spend a lot of time on trails either running or hiking the majority of the bikers have been the most polite, friendly people. They have notified me when they are coming up from behind me and letting me know how many are coming with their group. I have appreciated their courtesy. Caroline aged 68.

  9. Well writen and timely article. I can only hope that those who need to read it actually read.

    It peeved me to hear my wife relate a story from last weekend where she was hiking in the woods a local state park, ironically going for that stress relieving “forest bath” when a crew of 10+ “mountainbikers” flew past her at warp speed. Not one gave her warning, not one slowed down, not one let her know there were more coming, not one apologized for terrorizing her. She said, “had I happened to been on the other side of the trail they would have run right into me.”

    I know the type. And, they do no favors to the acceptance of our sport. Respect, people, respect!

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