Joined: Aug 2005
Location: Harrisville, Utah
Most people following this thread have some knowledge of the ISDE, but we’ve got a lot of friends and family, or people who are avid motorcyclists and interested in this story, but don’t know much about the ISDE. Therefore, I wanted to provide sort of an “ISDE for Dummies” summary for those who may want a little more context of what is really involved. Here are some highlights:
• The ISDE is the longest running off-road motorcycling event in the world. It is considered the pinnacle of off-road enduro racing. This year in Germany will be the 87th running of the ISDE.
• ISDE stands for International Six Days Enduro. This is an International motorcycling event and is just like the Olympics. Multiple countries (30-40) are represented and at the end of the event, racers are awarded medals (Gold/Silver/Bronze) for their finish. There are usually over 450+ racers.
• Racers race for six straight days and in Germany they will average between 150-180 miles per day (some days even longer).
• Just finishing the ISDE (often referred to as “Six Days”), is a huge accomplishment. It is truly an endurance event and is a test for both the rider and the bike to finish 6 grueling days without one or the other failing.
• One of the very unique things is that once the event starts, only the rider can perform any maintenance on his/her bike. If anybody (even a spectator with good intentions) provides any type of outside assistance, the racer will be disqualified. Nobody else can even touch the bike. There are some very minor exceptions that include a pit crew being able to fill gas, and other liquids such as antifreeze, oil, or brake fluid. However, they can only pour those liquids. For example, a mechanic can pour in brake fluid, but they can’t assist in bleeding the brakes. They can pour in oil, but they can’t remove the filler cap or remove the drain plug. Those functions must be performed by the rider.
• The rider has a 15 minute work period at the end of each day of racing to perform maintenance on the bike. During this time, they change tires, oil, brake pads, air filters, etc. They have to impound their bike in a secure area each night before those 15 minutes expire. If they exceed those 15 minutes they incur a penalty against their overall score.
• Bikes remain locked and inaccessible to rider and pit crew until 10 minutes before the riders scheduled depart time each morning. The rider can perform any last minute bike maintenance during those 10 minutes but they cannot start their bike. The bike can’t be started until the rider’s start time arrives.
• The ISDE is a time trials event which means that although they are out there racing against everyone else, they are really racing the clock. They leave at a specific time each day. They have a prescribed amount of time to arrive at their next location (called a “Time Check”). If they arrive early, they wait until their arrival time is up, and then they go through the Time Check. If they arrive late, then they are penalized (60 points for every minute they are late). If the rider leaves and arrives to each time check on time, then their score is essentially “zero” (which is what you want). It takes a great deal of skill to ride the necessary pace between the checkpoints and avoid arriving late. It’s not a trail ride. For the average rider, the pace between checks would be equivalent to their full race pace.
• Between the time check points are what is known as “Special Tests”. This is the real magic of the ISDE. These are sections of the course that are in different type of terrain. They could be a grass track on the side of a hill, a natural terrain motocross track, a sandy beach, or a slippery and root-infested trail through the trees.
• The objective of the Special Test is to ride as fast as possible from the Start to the Finish, just like a sprint. The rider receives a score for the amount of time it takes them to complete the special test. The score is represented as a number (i.e. 360) which is indicative of the total number of seconds it takes them to complete the test (a score of 360 would be 6 minutes). The lower the score the better (lower score equals faster time).
The rider usually competes in about 6-8 special tests each day. Their cumulative special test scores, combined with any other penalty points (for arriving late to a time check), result in an overall score for the day.
The goal of the racer is to “zero their checks” (arrive to each on time), and ride as fast as possible in the special tests and receive the lowest score for the day.
• One of the best analogies is to think of running a marathon every day for 6 straight days, but in the middle of that marathon, being stopped 6-8 times, and required to run a 400-800 yard sprint, and then resume running your marathon.
• If a rider arrives late to a time check, they incur a penalty (points added to their score) for every minute they are late. A rider cannot makeup time, so their time schedule resets. For example, if a rider was to be at Time Check 2 at 10:10 a.m. and they arrived at 10:20 they are 10 minutes late. If they were then originally scheduled to be at Time Check 3 at 11:40 a.m., they would need to adjust their schedule forward and plan to arrive at Time Check 3 at 11:50 a.m.
• The combined cumulative total of “minutes late” cannot exceed 60 minutes. If they do, the rider is out of competition. This is known as “hour’ing out”.
• The main division of riders is broken up by displacement (engine size). Classes are:
o 100cc-125cc 2 stroke or 175cc-250cc 4 stroke (also known as E1 or C1)
o 175cc-250cc 2 stroke or 290cc-450cc 4stroke (also known as E2 or C2)
o 290cc-500cc 2 stroke or 475cc-650cc 4 stroke (also known as E3 or C3)
o There is also a Senior Team (any size machine) and Women’s Team (any size machine)
• Bigger motor doesn’t necessarily equate to better rider or faster rider. Last year’s overall winner was in the E1 class. The Trophy Team has the world’s fastest riders represented in all the classes.
• The U.S. team has 31 riders this year. All 31 riders are official U.S. Team Members. There are 6 of those riders that make up the World Trophy Team. There are 4 of the riders that are part of the Junior Trophy Team (riders under the age of 23). There are 3 women that make up the Women’s Trophy Team. The rest of the riders are organized in groups of 3 and are part of what is known as the club teams representing the U.S. All riders compete for both individual and team honors.
• Qualifying to be a member of the U.S. ISDE team requires riders to participate in at least one regional qualifier (there are usually only 2, sometimes 3 qualifiers each year) and finish in the top 2 of their respective class.
• There are many unique requirements for both bike and rider equipment. Special tires, exhaust sound restrictions, functional lights, etc., are all part of an ISDE bike. Some parts of the bike are marked with special paint during initial inspection before the event starts and these parts (i.e. engine cases, wheel hubs), cannot be swapped out during the event. This contributes to the unique preparation and strategy of an event like this where both rider and bike must last for 6 straight days in some of the world’s toughest terrain.
• Because the ISDE is an International event, the expenses involved in getting bike and rider to the event are considerable. The greatest majority of the cost of the event is the sole responsibility of the rider and/or their individual sponsors. Despite the considerable expense, competing in the ISDE is a “labor of love” for many, and a fulfillment of a life-long dream.
Thanks to all who helped support Josh in his effort to represent Team USA in Italy at the ISDE in 2013 and Germany in 2012.