If you believe the hype, it would seem that suddenly everyone is an enduro racer, donning goggles and half shell helmets and sprinting through the woods searching for the elusive spirit of enduro. Race-specific products are being churned out by every company trying to cash in on the latest mountain biking fad. But has there truly been an increase in the number of riders who are donning a number plate and rolling up to the starting line? Or are all of these products being marketed at a contingent that doesn't exist, at least not in the massive numbers the marketing departments would have you believe?
Mountain bike racing is cyclical by nature, the size of the trucks in the pits growing and shrinking in direct correlation to the ebb and flow of the industry's financial state. The cycle also depends on what form of racing is popular at the moment; cross country had its fluorescent-lycra clad heyday in the 1990s, and downhill racing had its growth spurt next, fueled by the general public's appetite for anything 'extreme.' 24 hour racing fits somewhere on the timeline as well, although the luster of that format seems to have dimmed a bit now that riders have realized you can only ride in circles for so many hours before your brain starts to melt. And now we have enduro, a format that has been popular in Europe for years, but only recently made the jump across the Atlantic to North America. It's new, a little bit different, appealing to a wide range of riders, and best of all, it lets companies come up with fresh buzzwords to hawk their wares.
Why does racing garner so much attention in the mountain bike media? Well, for bike and component manufacturers it's a way to prove the worthiness of their product in front of thousands of fans. A win at a World Cup or an Enduro World Series event is a huge boost for any company, giving them an air of credibility that a two page glossy spread in a magazine could never provide. When a fan walks into their local bike shop, there's a good chance that the results of a certain brand on the race circuit will influence their buying decision in some way, even if they never plan on doing anything more than racing to the nearest pub at the end of a ride.
But back to the question at hand, and the topic of this week's poll. How often do you race, if at all? Are there really enough racers out there to gobble up this latest crop of race oriented products? Although racing gets plenty of coverage, it's not for everybody. It takes a certain level of dedication to shell out money for an expensive entry fee, wake up at an ungodly hour to get to the venue on time, and eventually end up at the starting line, nervously anticipating a bout of suffering in the quest for Cat 3 glory (or a t-shirt). It's much easier to sit at home with a cold beverage and furiously type and tweet your views on why racer X is better than racer Y, or to pontificate on the merits of a certain head angle to chainstay length ratio. Or you can turn a blind eye to the whole racing scene all together - there's certainly nothing wrong with completely ignoring racing, and you're not any less of a mountain biker if the name Steve Smith doesn't make you start drooling and yelling about chainsaws and mustaches.