|You made a good case of why you would be happy with the 26-inch-wheel format, so I'd advise that you stick with what you love. Riders who are passionate about their bikes tend to ride faster than those who buy trends to achieve the same end. The only reason to consider switching up to 27.5-inch wheels is to ensure that your new bike will fetch the highest resale value when the time comes to get a new ride. That said, even if it were a 27.5-inch bike, gravity-oriented hardtails like your Dartmoor Primal are a niche market, and as such, would be a tough sell on the used bike market anyway. Your happiness is assured if you plan on keeping your Dartmoor for a while. Hardtails are not complex machines, so with a minimal investment in spares, you should be able to coax it along for many years of enjoyable shredding. - RC|
Dartmoor Hornet and Primal hardtails are members of the We Don't Need Rear Suspension for Gravity Club. - Kuba Konwent photo
|I'd recommend working on improving your bike handling skills before anything else. Being fast is one thing, but being able to confidently ride technical trails, sometimes without seeing them first, is a skill you'll need to possess in order to succeed at enduro racing. Luckily, the best way to accomplish this is to ride your bike as much as possible on a wide variety of terrain. Now, you don't want to go charging willy-nilly off every jump you can find and hope for the best - there are easier (and safer) ways to improve your riding skills. If you can afford it, I'd highly recommend taking a lesson or attending a mountain bike skills camp. An instructor will be able to offer tips and techniques that would be difficult to figure out on your own, likely saving you from a bunch of scrapes, bruises, and frustration.|
Lessons can be expensive, so if that's out of the question I'd try to find more advanced riders who are willing to take you under their wings with the patience to let you tag along with them on rides. Seeing another rider successfully hit a jump you'd been afraid of, or navigate safely through a menacing rock garden will help make it easier to visualize yourself doing the same thing. Visiting your local pump track or a skills center to practice, practice, practice will also be a big help, but make sure that you're having plenty of fun at the same time - after all, that's the whole point of bike riding.
Most skills parks have a beginner line of tabletop jumps - start by rolling up and over them, paying attention to how your bike's position changes underneath you. Eventually you'll feel comfortable enough to get a little bit of air, and before too long those tabletop jumps will feel less awkward and intimidating. I'm not going to go into step by step details on how to jump, since that's something best learned in real life, but remember to take your time, stay relaxed, and don't worry if you don't figure it all out right away. Oh, and make sure your seat is lowered - it'll make jumping much, much less awkward than if it's fully extended in XC race mode.
When that first enduro race arrives, you'll probably have pre-race jitters and a stomach full of butterflies, but hopefully you'll have gained a little more confidence in your riding skills. There may still be jumps that you ride around, or techy bits that you end up walking down, but treat it as a learning experience, and by the end of the race you'll know what aspects of your riding could use a little more improvement. - Mike Kazimer
Not all enduro races have man-made jumps, but being comfortable with a little air time is certainly one of the keys to success.
|Weight will be your primary concern. You only should take the essentials, but unfortunately those can gather weight and bulk quickly (tube, pump, water, tools, food, medical equipment.) I like to get plenty of stuff on my bike and in my pockets, even if I am taking a bag, which I mainly do for back protection reasons. I try to shove stuff onto the bike for two reasons: First, to get the weight lower down and off my person, a day's racing is hard enough without carrying the weight of a baby camel on my back. The second reason is to make life easier and more organized. If everything and the kitchen sink is in your bag, it will be on and off more than your thumb on the Reverb lever, and your stress levels will be rising when trying to find a tubeless patch under a load of junk when you're already late for a stage.|
A few of my favorites include: a water bottle on the bike, which alone, will get 750 grams onto the frame. I fix a tube under the seat or tape it to a frame nook, ideally with a tire lever or gas cartridge wrapped inside, so I have them when I unravel the tube. I put some Gaffer/duct tape around my pump or water bottle, and some dates (Gels, if you fancy them) in my pocket, so they're easy to munch on the climbs.
So, what then do you put in your bag? Normally, more food and water, depending on the event. Tubeless patches, a mech-hangar, a spare gear cable, and zip ties are all good options too, and some races require you to carry a foil blanket and a First Aid kit. Tool wise, a good multi and any specific tools for your bike are a must. Some racers take it to the extremes. For example: Jared Graves at the EWS in Finale Ligure last year, when all he had to do was finish the day, carried a spare tire, tubes, derailleur, rotor and god knows what else to cover any eventuality. Whereas, some riders take nothing and hope for the best. At your stage, it really depends on how important the race is to you. If you're within spitting distance of the rainbow stripes, take it all, If you're out for a fun weekend with friends, you can ride a lot lighter. - Paul Aston
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