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I didn't want a mountain bike

Saskia Hoppe | Published on 5/8/2023

You may know me from other stories and adventures including I said no to Cyclocross, Unbound 2022 and First racing After COVID shutdown. For those that do, you may notice a theme. I’m an easy mark. A little bit of enthusiasm and my ‘no, that sounds like a terrible idea’ turns into ‘ok, let’s do it!’... For my next ‘thing that my wallet says I shouldn’t do’, I’ve ended up with a mountain bike and doing an enduro.

First up, what is an enduro? It’s a really neat race style where there are timed segments, in this case between 2 and 8 or so minutes long. Getting between segments is not timed so you can take it easy, hang out with friends, chat, eat and be merry. And those timed segments? Typically downhill.

How did I end up here you ask? Downhill fast on a mountain bike is fun but a terrible idea if you don’t have a mountain bike (it can, however, be done on a gravel bike as we saw at Fire Mountain Enduro, but I digress) and some experience of going downhill is helpful. The answer to how I got here goes back about a year. The off road Sorella race team ladies were talking about a cross country mountain bike race (less technical, fast, more miles) and that I should do it with them. I laughed, said I would but I don’t have a suitable bike. I had a 26” wheel hardtail (no rear suspension) with adorable gearing because I hacked the gears at the time. Would not be fast and not particularly safe in my hands. I thought I was safe. I had an out but could at least pretend to be game. But then… Hannah Stacey piped up that I could borrow one of her bikes. $*#&. Now I’m stuck. I’ve lost my excuse!

Reluctantly I met her a few weeks later to take the bike for a spin to get used to the bike and remind myself how to ride a mountain bike. This bike was much bigger than my hardtail (26” vs 29” wheels is MASSIVE), had a dropper post and so. many. gears! Hannah was lovely taking me around, giving me hints and tips (I needed them, I hadn’t used a dropper post before and the last time I rode my mountain bike had been literal years earlier). By the end of the lap I was so annoyed that I’d had so much fun (I know, I know, that doesn’t sound right, but I knew what was coming). Hannah was happy for me to borrow her bike for a few weeks and for the race.

Turns out I had accidentally double booked myself so I couldn’t do the race… but the seed was planted. And quickly sprouted leading to a trip to the bike shop and a new mountain bike… I didn’t know anything about mountain bikes and let my trusty bike shop advise me, which led me to getting a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo, which has lots and lots and lots of suspension, making it great for going down - which, for those that have ridden gravel with me, know is my absolute favorite thing to do!

This is where Darcy Grimes comes in. She realizes what bike I have and that I like downhill, and therefore suggests an enduro race. “Fire Mountain Enduro is a baby enduro!” she says. I roll my eyes, sigh, and eventually say yes (if you don’t know Darcy, she is a ball of adorkable energy that is really hard to say no to!). She and her hubby kindly offered to host my hubby and I for the weekend as they’re a lot closer, making the entire weekend even more enticing. Plus, $70 for 2 days of racing, plus food plus a t-shirt is really a great deal!

How did the weekend go? Day 1 the ground was still a little damp from the rain. Not insanely wet, but wet enough for two wipeouts. Check out the video below to see the action! Other than a bit of scrape and bruise, I’m fine. It was difficult trying to go hard when the conditions were damp and I had never ridden these trails before. Darcy did a great job highlighting things to look out for and giving us an idea of how long they were to help with pacing which made a huge difference. Day 2 was much drier and two of the runs were the same as the day before (improved my time on both despite being a little hesitant on the one that I had wiped out twice on the day before). All in all, a great weekend!

Despite having a wonderful weekend (big big thank you to Darcy and hubby for facilitating this great adventure!) I’m not fully convinced I’ll do another enduro soon. The thing I enjoy about mountain biking is just plain simple fun. No pressure, no expectations; just roll and enjoy the roller coaster ride down the hill. I missed riding behind someone experienced on the way down as I’m still really learning and getting better and for me the best way to do that is to follow a good wheel. Bombing down those trails there were no wheels to follow and I realized that I really missed that. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the trails I wouldn’t have missed that as much. Until I get talked into the next race, I’m going to stick to just enjoying the learning process and getting better at going downhill fast without the pressure of racing!