A couple weeks ago when I bought the WR250F I was eager to enter my first enduro. I had been waiting until I had something lighter than my DRZ400S and figured this would be the perfect bike. At the last MVTR meeting I had asked one of our experienced enduro guys Alan “Tuck” Tucker what a good enduro for a first time rider would be. “Not the mudslinger” he said. “Those guys are a bunch of sadistic bastards”. Evidently the club that organizes this event in the past has always tried to make sure this was the hardest enduro in the area. They have had years where 10% of fewer of the riders had finished the race.
When I saw Tuck at sign up and reminded him of our conversation he just chuckled and said “and yet here we both are”.
I had been reading the nedirtbikes.com forum and they had said that the course would be much easier than in previous years. The weather has been very dry and they modified the course for “C” riders to bypass the most difficult bit. So, I figured I would give it a go.
I lined up at the start around 9:05, they start 1 row each minute so that gave me 10 minutes before my row 15 would go. I told the guys on my row that I was going to just let them go ahead at the start so I wouldn’t be in their way and lined up a little behind them.
One thing I have always noticed is it takes me a few miles to get into a rhythm when trail riding. I just have not been doing it long enough to just jump onto the bike and go right into difficult trails. This course didn’t give an opportunity for that. Other than the short stretch at the start the first 1/2 mile or so was all very steeply uphill. There were some level bits along the climb and I figured I could at least get to the next plataeu. I quickly picked up the bike and hit the gas to get some momentum but I only made it up about 3/4 of the way to the plataeu before I lost traction and dropped again. I dropped the bike several times up the rest of the climb and each time I waited for a few more riders to get past. By the time I was to the top I was already 5 minutes down and had used up a lot of energy.
I was amazed at how I just could not keep the target speed on any of this trail. There were some easy bits where I am sure the other riders were making up massive time on but I needed those just to rest and rode slowly there as well. Around 3 miles in the first trail section came to an end and the route went down some gravel roads for a few miles. This was a welcome sight and with a target speed of 24mph I was able to ride a little over 30 and make up some time.
At least I thought I would make up time, going uphill on the road I noticed the engine was racing due to the clutch slipping horribly. I had not noticed this on the trail just thinking I was loosing traction (which was part of the problem also). In my rush to get the bike ready and street legal over the past couple of weeks I had only had it out for one quick shake down ride. Turns out that the clutch cable was a little too tight, not a big deal until it got hot from overuse but it was slipping horribly now. The good thing is this can be adjusted easily without any tools but I fear some damage was already done at this point.
The first check point was at the end of this road section at about the 10 mile mark. I had been nearly 20 minutes down when I got off the trail but managed to bring that down to 17 at the check. For a few miles into this section I was certainly slower than the target of 18MPH but wasn’t loosing time as badly as before. Over time however the rocks were just pounding me through the suspension and tiring me out. I was going slower and slower as the miles went by. I started to fall behind schedule even worse until somewhere near mile 19 according to my computer I was officially 1 hour behind. I had hoped that there would be an easy bit that would allow me to get back on time but about 1/2 mile later I came to the check. I had lost another 2 minutes by this point.
I was officially done as far as the race went. I chatted with the guys at the check and they said I was free to keep riding if I wanted or they could give me directions to get back to the start via the road. Since at this point there was no pressure and it was still early in the day I wanted to keep going.
The rest of the ride I had periods of regaining my strength and riding well as well as periods where I would just loose it and fumble through bits of trail. Trail riding is all about momentum. If you can keep some momentum it is amazing what you can go through, once you loose it you have a very hard time regaining it, especially when you get tired. I dropped the bike I don’t know how many times but all of them were at slow speed. Being only the second trail ride on this bike I just don’t have the feel for it yet and that affects my confidence, which in turn makes me think too much and focus on the hard parts.
Finally I got to the 3rd check point, or at least to where the 3rd check would have been if it were still open. A couple of guys from the host club were there just to check on the slow riders until the sweepers came through. After a minute or so we heard bikes coming up from behind, it was the sweepers. I was glad I had stayed ahead of them, there is a bit of pride in not getting caught by the sweep riders. From here to the route took the public roads to the gas stop which was back at the start/finsh area which marked the 1/2 way point of the race. There was another 30 mile loop but not for me, I was done.
In retrospect I don’t know that I would use the word “fun” but I am very happy I attempted this. Several people at the start kind of chuckled when I said it was my first enduro as if to say “this guys is going to get eaten alive” and they were right. After the ride several people said yes this was an easy course….for Mudslinger. It is still harder than a lot of the other enduros. While I certainly don’t have the ability to finish a ride like that right now I can certainly imagine getting to that point. I need a lot more practice. I also need to soften up the suspension on the bike, it was just pounding me too much over those rocks. As always getting in better shape will help as well.
So, how did I do overall? If I wanted to brag I could say I was 3rd in my class, which is technically true. In the “C Veteran” (novice riders age 30 to 39) I was 3rd but only because there were 3 riders. In the overall “C” class I was 21st out of 26 which makes me feel a little better. Of those riders behind me only 2 had times listed at the first check, one was 1 minute behind me, the other was 2 minutes. So, I wasn’t the only guy getting stuck.
Once my body recoveres (very sore still) I plan on getting out to the local trails and start getting more comfortable on this bike. It will be interesting to see what the next enduro is like.