The Newbie Guide to Enduros
Origins of Enduro Racing
Nearly a century ago, a youthful group of
quantum engineers became distracted
after a long evening struggling with
theories on radioactive decay. Particle
physics had lost its luster, and the
scientists were ready to tackle another
Why were the engineers
consistently slower in off-road motorcycle
competitions than their non-scientific
With the advent of the motor
carriage and its cousin, the motor-driven
cycle, many in this group of laboratory
technicians had found themselves
dirt-modifying Harley Davidsons and
entering cross-country races along the
Eastern Seaboard. Their results were less
than impressive.

After several hours of heated arguments
as to the root cause of these unsatisfactory
performances, a consensus emerged. At
approximately 3:53 a.m. on the morning of
May 21, 1919, the engineers presented a
unified theory:
The rules are stacked
against us
. Therefore, we must change the

This led to a spirited debate well into the
early hours, which produced the outline of
what would eventually become the rules for
what we now know as Enduro racing. The
original notes of that evening,
here, are as important to enduro racing
history as are the "13 Rules for Basket
Ball" transcribed by James Naismith in 1891. We are fortunate that such an important document was preserved by the
engineers and their descendants.

So, ok...I really don't have any idea how or why enduro racing came to be, and I chose to perform no research
whatsoever on its history. But I figure the enduro concept had to have come from people much smarter than me.
Whenever I've attempted to explain how these races work to newbies or non-racing friends and family, I might as well
have summarized Stephen Hawking's theories on cosmology - the reactions are the same.  This joyfully confusing form
of racing has been around for decades, which is about as long as it's taken me to nearly understand the rules and

The Basics
Ignorance aside, here is a general overview of my complete knowledge of timekeeping enduro racing:

  1. The races are long.
  2. A concept called "timekeeping" plays a large role in who wins.
  3. There are many ways to eliminate yourself from trophy contention without crashing, breaking things, or getting
    stuck in the mud.

The object of the game is to maintain an average speed. Riding faster or slower than the average speed generates
penalties. Every so often, speed averages are checked and penalties assessed to those who fail to maintain the
average. Oddly, the penalties are greater for riding too fast than too slow. That is mostly designed to prevent riders
from speeding through the course during periods when the race organizers would like everyone to take a break.

So how does one know if he is maintaining the proper speed average? This is where enduro rules come into play, and
there are a lot of them. The first rule is that the race starts at a designated "key time", which is usually sometime in the
morning and almost always at the top of the hour. Each minute, from that point on, riders leave the starting line in small
groups, each departing in the order of the "minute" they've been assigned. A rider's minute is also referred to as a
"row". The rows are usually made up of 4 or 5 riders who will see a lot of each other throughout the day.

Most enduro courses are set up with enough trails to keep riders occupied for the better part of a day. For those
accustomed to racing hare scrambles or other forms of closed-course off-road events, the intensity of a dead-engine
start within a long row of competitors will be replaced with the mental challenge of knowing the clock is your primary
rival. The riding varies among sprinting, cruising, and resting. Wherever an enduro is staged, the competitors will see
just about every type of terrain the region has to offer.

Route Sheet
Upon registration, the organizing club provides each rider with a route sheet. This very important piece of paper
identifies the initial speed average and any changes to that average throughout the course. The route sheet provides
information about certain points of interest on the course, such as important turns, refueling stops, and the finish line. In
addition, the route sheet identifies special "catch-up" features called a Resets. These resets are significant, because
they allow riders to get back on schedule if they're riding slower than the required speed average. And much of the
time, the average enduro racer will struggle to remain on schedule.

One of the most common enduro speed averages is 24 mph, for reasons that have as much to do with the math used in
measuring average speed, as with the difficulty in maintaining such a speed inside the woods. Most trails are filled with
enough trees and rocks and other obstacles to prevent even the fastest riders from maintaining 24 mph. The race
organizers know it's unlikely that any riders can stay on such an aggressive time schedule, so resets are inserted at
various points in the course to give riders a chance to get back on time.  The resets have the effect of instantly
"teleporting" riders to a place further down the trail. Sounds magical, but it's really not. The reset is simply a point on the
route sheet that instructs riders to advance their odometers forward by a certain number of miles. In other words, the
race promoters say, "When you arrive at mile marker X, pretend you're really at mile marker X + Y." That effectively
moves you forward on the course, without taking any time to do it. Therefore, your average speed increases, and
Presto! You're back on time...that is, if you weren't already so far behind that the reset still did not get you caught up.

Route sheets may also contain special instructions, warnings, or general information of interest to riders. Below is an
example of a route sheet from the Akeley West enduro in the great state of Minnesota, hosted by the
Motorcycle Club.
my watch, locate the nearest minute on the roll chart and see what my odometer was supposed to indicate. If my
odometer read lower than the number on the roll chart, I was going too slow and needed to speed up. If my odometer
read higher than what the roll chart indicated, I was going too fast and needed to slow down. I formatted the
spreadsheet so I could cut out the columns to a width that would fit into a roll chart holder. I then taped the strips
together so that I had one long, narrow, continuous roll of paper that could be fed into the roll chart holder.
your watch and odometer. For example, the Leadbelt Enduro roll chart indicates that you're supposed to see 40.4 miles
on your odometer at precisely 10:01. In practice, it's just about impossible to read the watch and the roll chart unless
you're at a complete stop. The bike just bounces too much. A better option is a digital clock
like this, with larger
numbers. These can be bought cheaply at Walmart or any auto parts store, and a strip or two of clear packaging tape
makes them somewhat water resistant. I taped two digital clocks to my handlebars (a second one for backup), which
helped greatly in seeing the time, but I still couldn't read the mileage on the roll chart while I was riding - not that it really
mattered, because when the time mattered most, I was usually behind schedule and had no other option than to ride as
fast as I could.

In a 24 mph average speed, riders should be traveling 0.4 miles every minute. Enduro clubs often choose 24 mph
because it's a tough speed to maintain in the woods and the math is easier. Every 15 seconds equates to one-tenth of
a mile. Riding one mile at 24 mph takes 2.5 minutes. Other common speed averages are 18 mph (0.3 miles per minute)
and 30 mph (a half mile per minute), for the same mathematical reasons. In very tight, technical trails, enduro clubs will
sometimes use a lower 18 mph average. A 30 mph average might be seen in wider, more open trails.

If you're really good with quick math, you might be able to calculate these numbers in your head instantly and not need
a roll chart. I believe it was either Malcolm Smith or Dick Burleson who once said in an interview that he could do the
math in his head, which gave him an advantage. Then enduro computers came along and leveled the playing field.
From experience, I can honestly say that anyone who has the ability to mentally calculate where he should be on the
course at any given time during the race, all the while dodging trees and ruts and rocks, is more of a man than I am.
And based on what Mssrs. Smith and Burleson accomplished in enduro racing back in the day, on motorcycles far
inferior to what I ride now, those two were certainly smarter guys than I'll ever be.

For most of us, we need some help with the math and the roll chart serves this purpose. The challenge is being able to
read the odometer, advance the roll chart holder to the correct spot in the roll chart, read the time on the watch, find the
corresponding time on the roll chart, and then figure out if you're on schedule. All of this has to be done while trying to
avoid trail obstacles of all shapes and sizes. It's basically impossible. But that's ok, because most mortal men can't
maintain a 24 mph average inside the woods. Once a woods section begins, you're mainly just riding as fast as you can.
The roll chart ends up being used more as a gauge for when to enter (or not enter) the woods after a reset.

The reason for this is that enduro clubs can be tricky with the route sheets. An enduro, by its nature, is really just a
series of tests. These tests are made up of tough sections where it's very difficult to maintain the required speed
average. The club challenges each rider in these sections, then places checkpoints near the ends of the sections to
see how close the riders came to the speed average. At that point, most (if not all) the riders will be behind schedule, so
the real contest is to ride those sections faster than everyone else, be less late, and thus be penalized to a lesser
degree. A reset is usually placed just after the checkpoint at the end of the test, giving most riders a time cushion in
which to rest and/or get back on schedule.

Temptation comes with these resets, however. A rider who finds himself well ahead of schedule has two choices: 1)
continue riding through the course ahead of schedule; or 2) rest until enough time passes to get back on schedule. An
example of this temptation comes often in Midwest enduros, which typically include roads linking up the various test
sections. These transfer roads often come at the end of test sections, so riders may travel several miles through the
woods, get scored at a check, and then come out to a road. The check might be followed by a reset, which is designed
for riders to get back on schedule so they don't feel the need to race at Warp Factor 9 over public roads. Most riders
will cruise down the roads to the start of the next woods section, where they'll probably arrive ahead of schedule and
wait patiently. Others will take a risk and enter the woods early, not knowing if the next checkpoint is placed just outside
of view or several miles down the trail. Clubs often locate these checks a short distance inside the woods to keep riders
honest. After all, showing up early to most checkpoints comes with severe penalties. The roll chart tells you when it's
safe to enter the woods.

A typical enduro includes 4 types of checkpoints:

  1. Start Control: This is a designated starting or release point. Most timekeeper enduros will have just one of these
    at the beginning of the race. "Qualifier" or "Restart" format enduros will have several, because those events are a
    series of special tests where you're "released" at various points to complete the tests. You can show up early at a
    Start Control without penalty. Start Control checks are marked with a banner containing the letters "ST".
  2. Secret Check: This is, as the name implies, a check that is "secret", meaning you won't know where it's located
    (although once you get proficient at interpreting route sheets, you can probably guess). These checkpoints are
    marked with a banner that looks like this. Secret checks are timed to the minute. There are limitations on where
    these checks can be located.
  3. Emergency Check: This is a check that is secret, and is timed to the second. Emergency checks are tiebreakers
    for when riders' scores at Secret checks are identical. An Emergency check is marked with a banner like this.
    There are limitations on where these checks can be located.
  4. Observation Check: As its name suggests, an Observation check is designed to observe whether you're staying
    on the course or not. Also referred to as "OB" checks, these can be located anywhere on the course. OB checks
    are marked with a banner that looks like this.

Here is where it's very helpful to read and understand the
AMA enduro rule book, for there are specific instances where
these checks can and can't be used. For example, a timed check (i.e. #2 and #3 above) has to be placed on an even
tenth of a mile. Following a Start Control or timed check, the next timed checkpoint has to be at least 3 miles further
down the trail. Timed checks can't be located within 2 miles before or 3 miles after a designated gas stop.

Then there's the "Known Control" concept, which is a point on the course that is identified on the route sheet and known
to all. Known Controls are timed checkpoints, but only if you're late in arriving, or more than 15 minutes early. Also,
Known Controls can't be Emergency checks, so they are basically Secret Checks without penalties for early arrival
(unless you're more than 15 minutes early). The finish line is supposed to always be a Known Control, but there is an
exception to that listed in the rule book. Are you confused yet? Don't worry, you won't be alone. At an enduro near
Roselawn, Indiana in 2010, I was well ahead of schedule near the finish line, which I knew to be a Known Control.
Problem was, I didn't know if I could keep riding towards the finish line (visible a quarter-mile across an open field) or if I
would be penalized for arriving early - and neither did about 20 other riders parked around me. It was April and I was
cold, wet, and in need of a warm, dry pickup truck. So there I sat needlessly for 10 minutes, freezing my ass when I
could have been comfortable inside my truck.
What we have here is a 24 mph average speed for the 2010 event. Various
mileage points are listed, most referring to the locations of specific places where
riders will need to pay attention. Some enduros use public roads to transfer
between woods sections, and the route sheets will typically list the mileage points
at turns, intersections, stop signs, railroad crossings, etc.

The Akeley West organizers helpfully included the corresponding times at which
riders should arrive at the various mileage points. The first identified point of
interest comes at mile marker 3.11, which is marked as a right turn. What's so
special about a right turn at mile 3.11, you ask? Wouldn't there already have been
a few right turns before that? Well, the fact that this particular turn is worth
mentioning probably means there is something different going on here. If I were to
guess, I would say that somewhere before mile marker 3.11, the course followed
some sort of road or wide trail, and at that point the arrows marking the course
would point to either a right turn on a public road, or a right turn into an opening in
the woods. It's probably a spot where you'll be riding at a fast pace and might miss
the turn if you're not looking ahead. If riders are maintaining the 24 mph speed
average, they would arrive at this turn 7 minutes and 47 seconds after the start.
Here, the race organizers may have stapled a card to a road sign or fence post to
indicate the official mileage at that point.

It never hurts to study the route sheet carefully, but honestly, I rarely pay much
attention to location of turns. If I stay attentive to the arrows, I'll know where to go.
If there's a particularly dangerous point in the course, such as a busy highway
crossing, the race promoters will probably point this out at the rider's meeting
before the race (something all riders should attend, all the time).

Absent on this route sheet is mile marker 2.90, which often shows up as a mileage
check. This is a reference to an enduro rule that prohibits timed checkpoints (or in
the enduro vernacular, "checks") within 3 miles of a previous checkpoint. The
beginning of the race, by definition, is a "start control", which is a checkpoint
subject to the 3-mile rule. Therefore, if you've entered the Akeley West enduro
and think you can ride faster than 24 mph for those first 3 miles, you're free to do
so without penalty because nobody will be there to check your speed average.

At 2.90 miles into the race, the race promoters usually staple a card to a tree with
"2.90" printed on it. This gives riders a chance to compare their odometers to the
2.90 mile marker and make any adjustments. If the course has been fairly wide
open up to that point and riders are moving along faster than 24 mph, then the
2.90 mile marker is a chance to take a breather. Anyone arriving at this point
earlier than 7 minutes and 15 seconds from the start would be wise to slow down
or take a short breather (do the math...takes 15 seconds to travel one-tenth of a
mile when you're riding 24 mph).

Odometer adjustments are a common necessity throughout an enduro, for a
couple of reasons. The club member who rode the trails and generated the route
sheet may have a different type of odometer than yours. If you use an electronic
odometer, yours may be calibrated slightly differently than the one used to lay out
the mileage. What may seem like small, inconsequential differences can add up to
meaningful variations as the trail passes by mile after mile, so it's important to
compare and adjust your odometer reading to the official mileage markers posted
throughout the course.

The first reset in the Akeley West Enduro occurrs at mile marker 4.60. At that
point, riders are instructed to advance their odometers forward to 8.54 miles. Just
like that, everyone moves forward 3.94 miles without having to do anything. It's
possible that many riders will be a little late to arrive at the 4.60 mile marker, so
the reset gives everyone a chance to get back on time. Resets might also allow
some time to rest. For example, if you arrived at the 4.60 mile marker 15 minutes
into the race, then after resetting your odometer you'd now be ahead of schedule.
The reset effectively moves you ahead to mile marker 8.54, which you're not
scheduled to arrive at until 21 minutes and 21 seconds into the race. So you
would have over 6 minutes before you needed to start moving again.

We'll get into more details about what the rest of the route sheet numbers mean
later, but first let's show what you would do with this information if your intention
was to keep time the old-school way: Roll chart, odometer and a watch.

Keeping Time
In order to encourage prospective enduro racers to get in the game and go
racing, experienced enduro folks will often gently encourage these riders by
saying things like "Don't worry, all you need is a watch and an odometer" or "Just
find someone on your row with an enduro computer and stay behind him." These
well-meaning individuals aren't really painting the full picture of timekeeping. While
a watch and an odometer are certainly basic requirements, unless you are
excellent at quickly calculating math problems, you'll also need a roll chart and a
roll chart holder. A roll chart is made up of a long series of mileage points and the
corresponding times on the clock in which you would need to arrive at those
mileage points in order to maintain the average speed.

Here is an example of a roll chart (click on the photo for an enlarged view):
Editor's note: the following discussion focuses on the art of "timekeeping" enduros, and by that I mean
old-school cross country racing against the clock - the kind that requires maintaining an average speed over
the length of the course. While there are other types of enduros with different rules (i.e. Brand-X, ISDE
qualifiers, etc), below is my take on traditional timekeeping enduros.

If you are new to or inexperienced in racing enduros, it may help to review the official  
American Motorcyclist
Association rules of enduro racing before reading the rest of this page. Also, check out this awesome video by
Mike Pohl. Enjoy!
The roll chart in the pictures came from the 2005 Leadbelt
Enduro at Park Hills, Missouri. The Missouri Mudders club
was nice enough to provide a route sheet in advance of
the race so I could put together my roll chart ahead of
time. Some clubs don't do this, and I would be stuck
bringing a generic roll chart to the race and then modifying
it to suit the route sheet.  It takes time, which is usually at a
premium on the morning of the race. The Leadbelt
contained a number of speed average changes as noted
in the roll chart. The Akeley West enduro did not contain
any speed average changes. Its entire route was run at 24

Using the Leadbelt Enduro route sheet, I set up the
spreadsheet to calculate exactly where I should be on the
course at the top of each minute. Their route sheet
assumed that I would set my clock or watch to read 8:00
(the Leadbelt keytime) when I began racing. Therefore,
when my clock said 10:03 a.m. , I should have been at mile
marker 41.2. If my odometer read less than 41.2 at 10:03, I
was running behind.

The Akeley West route sheet assumed a stopwatch would
be used to keep time. When the race started, the times
corresponding to the various points on the route sheet
would be the elapsed time since the start.

The roll chart holder mounts to the handlebars and has
two knobs; one to advance forward and one to advance
backward. In theory, throughout the race you're regularly
scanning the roll chart to see how well it matches up with
Most of this
information may
actually be
Typical enduro checkpoints. Expect to see at least 3 people manning the checks. One person calls out the time
or arrival; one or two people write down the times on the riders' score cards; and one person records the times
on a backup sheet in case there are discrepancies with the score cards, or a rider loses his or her score card.
The object of the enduro game is to be the least penalized rider. Penalties are assessed in the form of points added to
a rider's score when early or late to timed checkpoints. But of course, it wouldn't be an enduro without including
kinds of points - one for Secret Checks and another for Emergency Checks. Secret Checks are timed to the minute,
while Emerency Checks are timed to the second. Show up two minutes late to a Secret Check and you'll have 2 points
added to your score. Show up two minutes late to an Emergency Check and you'll have those same two points added to
your score, plus an allotment of Emergency points that are based on the number of seconds you're late. A rider's final
score is usually expressed in terms of how many points were "dropped" at timed checkpoints. The Emergency points are
used for tiebreaker purposes. For now, let's start with the scoring procedure for Secret Checks.

It's a Secret!
So we already know that for each minute you're late to a Secret Check, one point is added to what I call the "regular"
score (i.e. the cumulative total number of points assessed at the timed checks). You're also penalized for showing up
early to a Secret Check - s
everely penalized. The first minute you're early, 2 points are added to your score. Each
additional minute early adds another
5 points to your score. If you were to show up to a checkpoint, say, 10 minutes
47 points will be added to your score.  Since the lowest score wins enduros, if you ride "hot" (i.e. ahead of
schedule) and "burn" a check by 10 minutes, no trophy for're pretty much out of contention and trail riding
from there on.

This is why it's not uncommon to see riders loitering in various locations on the trail, usually after a reset. Using a typical
Midwest enduro as an example, you might come out of the woods after a reset and travel down pavement for a couple
miles. You may come upon a group of riders hanging out along a grass ditch next to arrows pointing into a wooded
Why, you ask, are these guys resting? It's because the reset and the road section put them ahead of schedule
and they don't want to risk entering the woods early. The size of the potential penalties is what makes the riders pause.
Even showing up a few seconds early can cost a rider points that are difficult to make up later in the race.

We got an Emergency!
An Emergency Check is scored somewhat similarly to a Secret Check, in that the same points are added to your
"regular" score for each minute you're early or late arriving at the check. The "Emergency" part of the score is a bit
different. The correct way to show up to an Emergency Check is to arrive exactly 30 seconds into your minute. For
instance, if an Emergency Check is located 30.0 miles into a 24-mph enduro, you want to show up at that check exactly
75 minutes and 30 seconds after you left the starting line. Do that and no Emergency points will be added to your score.
For every second you arrive after 75.5 minutes, an Emergency point is added to your score.

In a tiebreaker situation, where two riders finish with the same number of "regular" points, the Emergency points are
added up. It's pretty rare that any two riders would finish with identical Emergency points, so this works well to break
ties. Clubs will often set up Emergency checkpoints at the end of particularly challenging and/or long sections, where
there can be larger variations in arrival times. That way the Emergency points will serve their purpose and separate the
riders who tied in "regular" points.

Checkpoint Arrival
To really understand how points are assessed, you must know how your assigned row relates to Keytime. If you are, for
example, on row 15 and Keytime is 10:00 a.m., then your race will start at 10:15 a.m. However, looking back on the
Akeley enduro route sheet, you'll see that it shows the mileage times as if you are the first row to leave. In this case the
Norsemen used elapsed time to indicate the various mileage points, so you could simply bring a wristwatch with a
stopwatch function and start it up when the check crew told you to leave. You don't want to do me. It's very
difficult to push small buttons with gloves on. Also, the movement of the motorcycle might cause the watch to bump up
against something (especially if you strap it around the handlebars) and change the mode of operation so you're
looking at the timer or the clock or something you don't want to see. Worse yet, you could manage to accidentally reset
the stopwatch, or do like I did once and get so caught up in the excitement of the start that you forget to turn on the

Most riders simply adjust the time on their watch so that regardless of row number, it will read 10:00 (or whatever the
keytime) when it's time to leave the starting line.  This is done by setting your watch
behind the official keytime clock by
the same amount of minutes as your row number. In other words, subtract your row number from the time shown on the
keytime clock and set your watch to that. For example, if you've been assigned row 15 and the keytime clock reads
9:35, your watch should be set to 9:20. That way, when 10:00 rolls around on your watch, your race begins.

The crews manning the starting line and the timed checkpoints all carry synchronized clocks. These clocks are adjusted
to the master keytime clock and set up so that when a rider is scheduled to arrive at a checkpoint (or depart, in the case
of a Start Control), his row number will be visible on flip cards. Typically you'll see one guy or gal in charge of flip cards
that are numbered sequentially. At the starting line, these will be mounted on some sort of stand or post and made
visible to all. Each time the keytime clock turns over to a new minute, the flip-card person flips over the next card. When
it's time for the race to begin, the card-flipper turns the cards over to "01" and the first row leaves. If you're on row 15,
you start when the "15" card is flipped over, which should also (hopefully) be the same instant your clock reads 10:00
(assuming 10:00 keytime).

This makes a little more sense when you look at how checkpoints are set up throughout the course. For example, let's
say the Keytime is 10:00 a.m. and the average speed is 24 mph. The first checkpoint, located 10.0 miles into the race,
is a Secret Check (i.e. timed to the minute). Therefore, if you're on time, you should arrive at that checkpoint 25 minutes
after you started the race (i.e. 10:25:00). The check crew will set up the same type of flip cards as you saw at the
starting line, and these cards will show "01" when the first row is scheduled to arrive at the 10.0 mile marker. This makes
it easy for riders to know where they stand, just by looking at the flip cards as they pull into the check (that is, if the
check crew is nice enough to make the flip cards visible as riders arrive - which they don't have to do). If you're on row
15 and the flip card shows "15", then you're on time. If the flip card reads less than 15, you're early; 16 or higher and
you're late.

A rider on row 15 is hoping to see "15" on the flip cards every time he arrives at a timed checkpoint. Using the previous
example with a check at 10.0 miles, the rider's clock can read 10:25:59 and he will still be considered on time. This
allows, basically, a one-minute window of opportunity. You don't always have to show up exactly at the top of your
minute to avoid penalties at Secret Checks, but this should be your goal. That way, you effectively have almost a
"spare" minute to work with at the next check. For example, if you made it to the 10.0-mile check right on schedule at
10:25:00 and the next checkpoint is at 20.0 miles, your keytime-adjusted clock can read 10:50:59 at check #2 and
you're still on time.  There's only 25 minutes between the two checks (10.0 miles @ 2.5 minutes per mile), but by
showing up exactly on time at check #1, you gave yourself 25:59 to make it to check #2 without being assessed any

Enduro Computers
Just about every time I pull up to the starting line of an enduro, there's a guy on my row with no timekeeping equipment
who says, "I've only done a couple of these...there's a guy on my row with a computer, so I'm just going to make sure I
stay behind him."  If aggressive trail rides are your thing and you want to come out and help support the club, I got no
problem with that. But if you come to an enduro with any intention of being competitive, then I got some other words for
you: Try, at least, to figure it out. Don't rely 100% on other riders. Bring a watch, buy a roll chart holder, and attempt to
be your own timekeeper.

A common mistake in enduro racing is to immediately buy an enduro computer and think it's all good. You might
convince yourself,
Now all I have to do is enter the information from the route sheet...problem solved, let's go racing!
After about 10 years of keeping time the old fashioned way, before I finally switched to a
Watchdog enduro computer, I
can say that I learned lots more about the mechanics of timekeeping than I would have if I'd bought a computer right
away. There's a simple reason for this: the computer is only as good as the guy who programmed it. Believe me, I've
screwed up the programming more than once. What saved me was a general sense of understanding about what's
going on, that you'll never get if all you know about enduros is how to enter information into a computer.

When I was first learning to use the Watchdog, I didn't realize that it defaults to a 24 mph speed average. There's no
reason to tell the computer that the average speed is 24 mph at mile 0.00. In fact, if you do, the thing won't work right.
The odometer will stick firmly to 0.00 until the first speed change. If that happens, what should you do? Maybe you get
lucky and there's a faster guy on your row with a computer. Or, maybe you've got a watch on your wrist that's on
adjusted time for your row. And you've got a copy of the route sheet loaded into a roll chart holder. Maybe there are
mileage markers posted every so often for reference. If you're able to process this available information and know what
to do with it, you still might not win the race, but at least maybe you'll feel like your day wasn't just a trail ride.  

When I decided to step up to an enduro computer in 2007, the Watchdog caught my eye because of it's lack of frills.
After my years of racing enduros and keeping time the old fashioned way, I knew what I needed most. Mainly, I wanted
to know 1) Am I on time or not; 2) How much ahead or behind am I; and 3) How does my odometer compare to posted
mile markers? The other, usually more expensive, enduro computers had a lot of gee-whiz features that I just didn't see
the need for. One of the fancier models will beep at every mileage point where a check is possible. Did I really need to
pay more so I could hear a beep every tenth of a mile? Through experience, I knew what I needed and the Watchdog
has served its purpose well. In fact, it has a lot of features that I never touch.

If you do decide to go the computer route, do your research, scour the off-road discussion forums, and talk to your
computer-equipped friends. Everyone's got opinions.
General Tips and Suggestions
If you're more accustomed to hare scrambles and other "fastest-guy-wins" races, the most obvious difference in riding
enduros is the preparation time. Race flyers will usually describe the general requirements for entry, which may include
a spark arrestor, working headlight and taillight, a muffler quiet enough to pass a sound test, and a motorcycle license
plate. If you don't typically ride your dirt bike with lights or a spark arrestor or whatever else is required by the enduro
promoter, then you'll have to spend a little more time in advance to make your motorcycle enduro-ready.

Bike Preparation
Most promoters are fairly liberal in enforcement of the bike requirements set out in the race fliers. One early morning I
walked my bike over to a sound test crew, where a club member took one look at my stock KTM exhaust and said "Don't
bother starting it up. You'll wake up the campers and I'm not concerned with the KTM's." If lights are required, some
clubs don't seem to care if they actually function, while others want to see them lit up before you're allowed to sign up.
The clubs hosting events that use public roads are usually more interested in the
appearance of street legality. But it
depends on the race, so check beforehand. At an enduro
a few years ago, I did not bother to inquire and had to go
all-out MacGuyver on my KX250, in order to produce a working taillight.

The license plate issue always generates many questions and debate, since most dirt bikes aren't sold as legal for road
How, you ask, does one comply with a license plate requirement for a motorcycle that cannot be street-titled? A
common way around this is borrowing a plate from a street legal motorcycle, which of course isn't legal, but in 16 years
of racing enduros, there was exactly one race where law enforcement stopped riders and checked registrations. Luckily
for me, I had already houred out and was on my way home about the time the police arrived (that was the final year for
the enduro). The bottom line is, no club is going to do a full-on DOT inspection of your motorcycle. If you are required to
appear street legal in order to race, the burden is left to you to actually
be street legal if you're ever questioned. Obey
the rules of the road and avoid riding like a jack wagon on pavement, and you'll probably be just fine.

Old Skool Timekeeping Preparation
Many clubs post route sheets online before the race, which is a lot easier for keeping time the old fashioned way. In my
old-school days, if there was no route sheet available before the race, I'd bring a couple of generic 18 and 24 mph roll
charts (two speeds, just in case) and then modify them the morning of the race for resets and such. It was a bit
time-consuming, and I always wondered if this was how all racers did it back in the pre-computer days. Every once in
awhile a club would sell roll charts at the race, which I always considered the best $5 ever spent.

The days of the mechanical odometer seem to be behind us, so most likely your dirt bike came with either an electronic
odo or none at all. Electronic add-on odometers are available, but only a few give you the ability to easily adjust mileage
for resets and to match up with posted mileage. The
TrailTech Vector appears to do this (when paired with a remote
switch), and there may be others as well.

Race Registration
Enduro clubs and promoters are pretty good at explaining the requirements of the enduro in advance, especially in the
Internet age. Advance registration options are becoming more and more common, which is helpful if you have a
particular row on which you'd prefer to ride. Beginning enduro racers should generally choose later rows, so as not to
get in the way of riders competing for series points, trophies and bragging rights. Some clubs don't allow row requests,
instead having riders pull random row numbers out of a box.

At sign-up, riders are given some sort of stick-on number to indicate his or her row on the front of the bike. These are
usually made up of 3 digits. Two of the digits are the row number, and the third digit identifies who you are on the row.
For instance, a rider assigned 225 means he is on the 25th row and is rider #2 on that row. Sometimes letters are
paired with row number, such as "24B", which indicates that you are on row 24 and you were the second rider assigned
to that row. The race organizers usually assign at least 4 riders to a row.

Trail Etiquette
A common mistake of beginning enduro riders is to think they're racing against everyone. If another rider approaches
from behind, there may be a temptation to try to keep up, rather than immediately let the faster rider pass. Fact is,
you're racing against the clock, not the other rider. If a rider catches up from a row or two behind you, then that rider is
clearly faster and the best alternative is to let the rider pass as soon as you can pull over safely.

Most enduro riders are very polite in letting faster riders pass, more so than just about any other form of racing. I will
admit, there have been a few occasions when I tried to push myself to keep ahead of a faster rider, but that usually only
invited unnecessary mistakes. These are long races where speed doesn't always win out, so your best bet is to move
over. Who might learn something. At the 2010 Leadbelt Enduro, Shane Watts was on the row behind me,
so in every test section I had the pleasure of observing his riding style and line selection for a minute or two, until he
disappeared out of sight.

Who Leads?
So your row is assembled at the starting line and the seconds are counting down to your minute. Three other guys are
lined up beside you. When the clock says go, do you blast off like a shotgun start or cruise behind the other riders? If
you're a newbie, you may want to hang back a bit. If some of the riders on your row are clearly slower than you, they'll
move over when you're ready to pass. I usually introduce myself to the other riders on my row and find out what classes
they are entered in. Anyone who's most likely faster than you, let'em go first in the woods.

In Conclusion....
Growing up in a non-racing family, Dirt Rider magazine's descriptions of enduros fostered an interest in racing those
events from an early age. When I first tried an enduro at Goshen, Indiana in 1995, I had no idea what I was doing. I just
rode. I got stuck in a huge mud hole. I was way over-dressed for a November race and sweating like it was July. I did half
the race, called it a day, and vowed to be more prepared next time. I was hooked.

I've not found a better way to spend a day riding a dirt bike. The clubs who organize these events are miracle workers,
especially those who must obtain permission from private land owners. If you've never ridden an enduro and are still
reading this, I hope you'll give it a try. Just don't try explaining it to someone who doesn't ride dirt bikes.
Here's the Watchdog on my
old Gas Gas 300EC. The best
way to mount these devices is
to buy those fancy aluminum
cases. The brackets that came
with the computer work ok,
although I did have to modify
them a bit when using a
Scotts steering damper on
other bikes. The remote
control thingy works pretty
well and would be even better
if they'd used metric bolts on
the clamp.
Route Sheet Revisited
Let's take a look back to the Akeley West enduro route sheet. Now that you're possibly less confused about
timekeeping enduros, you might have noticed that the route sheet contains more than just mileage points and expected
times of arrival. There is actually a host of useful information, some which is obvious and some that isn't.

Gas Stops
The Akeley route sheet indicates that the race is 107.6 miles long. But that's not actually the miles your motorcycle
would have traveled on that day. After accounting for resets, the course was 63.91 "ground" miles. Most dirt bikes don't
have the fuel capacity to travel such a long distance without refueling. Therefore, the race organizers provide for gas
stops. Sometimes the course is routed back to the staging area so riders can refuel where they set up for the race;
other times a gas stop is placed out on the course. In those cases, one of the items you may receive upon registration
is some sort of sticker to identify your gas jug. If the gas stop is in a remote area of the course, the club will usually have
a flatbed utility trailer available for riders to drop fuel containers. The trailer will show up with your fuel wherever the gas
stop is indicated on the route sheet.

Enduro organizers, in their quest to keep riders guessing, often distinguish between gas
stop and gas available on the
route sheet. Checkpoint placement is influenced by the location of gas stops, but not the location of places where gas is
available. So that means, unlike a gas stop, you might encounter a checkpoint less than 2 miles before or less than 3
miles after a "Gas available" location on the route sheet. The Akeley route sheet does not indicate the types of gas
locations, although it could probably be assumed that "Optional gas" means the same as "Gas Available". Hopefully the
Norsemen clarified this at the rider's meeting before the race.

The Akeley route sheet contains a pair of restarts after the refueling stops. Presumably, these are Start Control
checkpoints, same as the beginning of the race. Riders can show up early and wait their turn to be released at the
stated time on the route sheet. The length of the resets prior to the restarts (each approximately 30 minutes worth of
"catch-up" time) would have provided most riders ample time to refuel, correct any minor bike-related problems, and

Checkpoint Placement - Let's Try to Guess!
Although I did not attend the Akeley West enduro, it appears to be somewhat of a hybrid between a traditional
timekeeper enduro and the "time-trial" types seen in the AMA National Enduro series and international events. Because
there are resets between the restarts, I would expect to see more than one timed checkpoint in between each restart.
The reason? Resets are usually dead giveaways for checkpoints. The race organizers know most riders will be running
behind schedule through these sections, so they document how slow the riders made it through and then graciously
provide an opportunity to get back on time.

While it's not possible to know the exact placement of a suspected checkpoint, the guessing game is what fosters the
mental challenge of timekeeper enduros. The race organizers use various tricks to get around some of the rules, such
as the one that prohibits checkpoints from being located within 3 miles of the previous timed checkpoint. For example, if
the first timed checkpoint in the Akeley West enduro was at mile marker 4.50, you could ride down the trail only a couple
tenths of a mile and encounter the next check. Why? Because even though you only rode a short distance, once you hit
the 4.60 mile marker, the reset instantly advances everyone to mile 8.54. According to the route sheet, you are now well
past the minimum 3-mile gap between checkpoints.

So my interpretation of the Akeley route sheet goes something like this:

  • Timed checkpoint around 4.50 miles, which the faster riders may show up on time for.
  • Timed checkpoint within a mile or so of 8.54 miles, to keep riders from riding ahead of schedule after the first
  • Timed checkpoint around 22.0 miles. This is a fairly long section, which would be a good opportunity to separate
    the men from the boys. Might be an Emergency Check.
  • Timed checkpoint around 50.0 miles.
  • Timed checkpoint just after the 3rd reset, to keep riders honest.
  • Timed checkpoint just before the reset at 70.45 miles.
  • Timed checkpoint just before the final reset.

There could possibly be another checkpoint between the final reset and mile 104.6, because the finish is a Known
Control and no timed checkpoints can be placed within 3 miles of that. But  since there is 6.8 miles between the final
reset and the finish, it's more likely that the final checkpoint will be at the finish. The 2010 Roselawn, Indiana enduro
that I referred to earlier had a final section with similar mileage, where the finish line was a Known Control. However, the
final miles were just a transfer section on public roads. When the finish line became visible, I was well ahead of schedule
and didn't know what to do. If I'd written this article a year ago, maybe I would have.
Some of the most
interesting terrain
I've ever ridden has
come in enduro
races. This
"waterfall" section
of the Leadbelt
Enduro (Park Hills,
Missouri) is a
highlight of the
race each year.
The only time this
area is open to
riding is for the
This article on enduro racing showed up in MotoKids magazine in 2006. The pictures came from the 2006
Leadbelt Enduro, which was (and probably still is) the toughest race I've ever finished. That's me jumping off a
ledge in the waterfall section. This version of the Leadbelt not only had rain and flooding, but also hail! Click on
the pages to view larger versions.
Back when I first started racing
enduros, this is how I prepared for
timekeeping. Using an Excel
spreadsheet, I entered one line for
every minute of the race, along
with a corresponding mile marker
for each minute. The idea was to
have this available during the race
so I could glance at the time on