So remember those complicated rules for where a check can and cannot be? Well, in practice, it’s very simple to keep track of. You’ll buy a rollchart at the race, like the one Javarilla has documented for us below.
On the rollchart are printed all the possible checks in the race, calculated by checking time against speed according to the rules of the race. Also printed on the chart are the other relevant information to keep track of- resets, speed changes, any course splits, and whatever else you might need to know.
This gives you an easy way to keep time- look at the minutes on your clock (set to keytime minus your row number), look at the mileage on your odometer, and compare them both with the rollchart. Now you know whether you are on schedule or ahead or behind.
For example, from the chart above, if your mileage is 17.5 and your clock reads xx:10:00, get on the gas and don’t check the rollchart again until you go through a check or a reset. You are late. If, on the other hand, your mileage reads 17.7 and your clock reads xx:9:30, you’re right on schedule.
On the right margin, you’ll notice a little number that indicates the speed average at that point in the race. You’ll notice that where the average is 30mph, possible checkpoints occur only twice per mile, while when the speed average is 12mph, they occur 5 times.
In the middle of the picture, you see a reset from 16.6 to 17.2. This will also be posted on a tree alongside the course. What it means to you is three free minutes, or possibly, that you’re now 3 minutes less late. If you get there on time (clock reading before xx:07), adjust the odo, take a whiz, whatever. If you get there late and you don’t have a computer that automagically advances the mileage for you according to the program you entered before the race, keep track in your head of the need to add 6/10ths of a mile to the odo the next time you stop.
So here’s how this works out in practice.
The enduro breaks down into two parts, and you don’t know which is which ahead of time. One part can be called “transfer”, implying that if you are organized enough with time keeping, you can zero the checks. The other part can be called “special test”, in which case a good score results from being fast. I can’t help you there.
Obviously, the faster you are, the more timekeeping you have to do. C-Novices often experience an enduro as one long special test, while AA riders zero checks that cost me lots of points. There’s a class for everyone.
The trick is knowing special apart from transfer. There are some clues that you can use from the sheet, but I never have much luck trying to predict the race very well and then keep track of it. Obviously, if the speed average for a section is 60mph, it’s a special test. Likewise, if it’s 8 or 10 mph, it’s probably transfer. But it’s hard to know ahead and even harder to keep track of it. So I never worry about it. Instead, gauge it by your progress on course compared to the roll chart. The biggest advantage to a computer is that you never spend 30 seconds figuring out that you are late… for actual timekeeping when the pace is manageable, a watch is almost preferable.
The game is this: the trail you are riding will not allow a consistent speed. The enduro organizer is trying to fake you out, by giving you easy, fast stuff and hiding a check where you’ll be hot, or take points from you by putting a high speed average on a tight section.
You can twist the situation to your advantage by keeping track of possible checks (listed on the roll chart) and riding as hot as possible everywhere there is no chance of a check. That way, you have the most flexibility for dealing with changing trail speed. You just have to slow down and burn off time at those “wickets” along the way where they might be hiding a check. Make sense?
Let’s start a pretend race and go through the eventualities.
On the start line, assuming there was no reset in the first 3 miles in the rollchart, you know that you have 3 miles before the first check can come. This is called “three for free”… don’t worry about time just yet. Get comfortable on the bike, don’t stress about going fast, but don’t waste any time. For me, arm pump is a big issue in the first third of the race, and if I’m going to do well, I have to concentrate on relaxing and loosening up more than on going fast. Try to ride for 2.5 miles without looking at your odo or clock… just ride the pace that’s right for you. People will pass you, you’ll pass people, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
When you’re convinced you must have ridden at least 2 miles, glance at your odo, clock, and rollchart. Eventually, you’ll learn to look down very quickly, memorize a picture of what is there, and then analyze it once you’re already reading the trail again. Because there are no possibles in this 3 miles, you’re going to have to interpolate from what time and mileage the first possible is compared to your current position. So, for example, the first possible is at 3.2 miles at 9 minutes, and you glance down to see 2.7 miles and 7:30, you know you’ve got 90 seconds to go .5 of a mile, which is a 20 mph average. Stay in it.
Often, the first section is one where you’ll be able to keep the time, so the trick is not to burn the check. Here’s where the game starts. You know there could be a check at 3.2 miles, and let’s say you are running 50 seconds hot (ahead of the pace). Stop at 3.15 miles, let the clock run down until you’re just ahead of the desired pace (take the time you want to be at 3.2, subtract the time it will take you to get there, and subtract say 10 seconds as a buffer), and then proceed. If there isn’t a check at 3.2, and the next possible is 3.5, pin it up to mile 3.45 and then look at time again.
By riding from possible to possible in this way, just a little bit hot, you are managing risk. You are taking the risk that the organizer will catch you (but if you are only 10 seconds or so hot, that’s hard to do) in exchange for the benefit of making sure you can be where you need to be when you need to be there.
Typically, what happens in these situations is that the enduro organizer will put a big open field in, trying to tempt you to get ahead of time, then hide a check right at the edge of the woods. Or, they’ll have you ahead of time through fields, and then make the last 4 tenths into the check very tight and slow, so that you were hot for most of the mileage but still wound up late. You can beat this game by riding possibles aggressively.
Another trick, albeit risky, is to get within a tenth of a possible, shut your motor off, and listen for revving engines. With all the loud 4-strokes that race these days, you can frequently locate checks by sound… if you don’t hear anything, then maybe you’ll decide it’s worth the risk to proceed very hot, in hopes of staying ahead to the next possible.
My rule to try to ride about 10 seconds hot into possibles, because I know that I can burn off 10 seconds in the time between when I see a check and when I enter it, almost no matter what. You have to keep moving forward, you can’t stop or put a foot down, but if you’ve got reasonable bike control, you can burn 10 seconds in the 20 feet you’re almost sure to have without a problem. This gives me, in effect, a 70 second buffer for zeroing the check- I can get there 59 seconds into my minute and still get a zero.
So let’s say you ride your possibles right, and zero the check. As soon as they write your number down on your score card, get on the throttle. Assuming no resets, you’ve got 3 miles before they can throw a check at you, and you want to be as far ahead as possible at 2.9 miles (or, if it turns out that the pace is too fast and it’s a special, you wanted to be going fast anyway). Memorize the mileage where the next check could be (at least 3 miles from what the odo reads in the check), and get going.
So the game continues through the day… Often, you wind up with 15-20 minute breaks where you can eat or adjust your gear or the bike, and just as often, you get behind early in the day and ride everything as a special. Enjoy whatever the day throws your way- it’s all an adventure. And it’s a big smile when you guess the organizer’s nefarious scheme correctly and beat it, and an even bigger one when you finish the day and feel good about your ride.
The number one biggest lesson I’ve learned from timekeeping is not to trust others to do it for you. Group think, where all the mental fish start swimming in the same direction in a shallow pool, is as often wrong as right- the last enduro I ran, people were taking risk all over the place, by waiting at resets where there were no possibles for a while beyond.
A few final words on enduro etiquette. There are two major areas where this turns into an issue- the first is passing, and the second is bottlenecks.
Passing: if someone catches you on the trail, they already put at least a minute into you. Trying to “hold them off” is stupid, risky for you both, and costing them time. Get the hell out of their way, and maybe you can catch a ride from them for a while. But if someone is revving their engine behind you, or even if you just see them coming, find a place you feel safe giving them room to pass ASAP and do so.
Bottlenecks: this is a tough situation. On one hand, it’s a race and you don’t owe anyone anything other than their own safety. On the other hand, you’re racing only yourself, and if you cheat by going around, you’re cheating only yourself. Here’s what I do: I ride as fast and clean as I can. If I can’t get through a bottleneck without someone else moving, I help them out. Let your conscious be your guide.
Enduros are a hell of a lot of fun, if you approach them with the right attitude. You’ve got to let go of direct competition with others, and race only yourself. You’ll have unbelievable highs as you get to ride some great trail without worrying about traffic or getting lost or gas or anything else, and you’ll have some huge lows as you sit next to your broken bike in the bottom of a mud pit.
I’m not all that competitive by nature, but enduros have turned out to be one of my favorite things in the world. If you are proud of your ride in a race, you’ll have a smile that can’t be erased for some time.
Go do it.