Last year, the Ol’ Crank entered an enduro. Let’s just say he sucked at it – and that was despite the best efforts of one of the world’s fastest enduro riders, Jared Graves.
The Crank interviewed Jared in the lead-up to the event on the north coast of NSW for Outdoor magazine; in light of the champ’s switch to the Specialized team after a decade on Yeti, here’s a transcript of the interview.
Jared Graves – My first enduro race was a small race in La Molina in Spain in 2012. I wasn’t enjoying the DH world cups that season, and was struggling a bit for motivation. We did this enduro on an off weekend, for fun/training. and I just really enjoyed the day a ton. I’ve always been good at riding terrain blind, and then riding blind but racing was way more fun than I ever thought it would be.
It makes you pay so much attention to what you’re doing, and when you hit a section over your head and scare yourself a bit, but get away with it, its the best feeling ever! As long as you commit and try to ride out of all sketchy situations it usually works out. I had a massive grin on my face all weekend, plus you get about 10x more time on your bike than at at DH race…. Didn’t hurt that I won the race either. From that day I knew thats what I wanted to do in the future.
Ol’ Crank -What’s the best piece of set-up advice you can give a rookie enduro rider that won’t cost them anything?
JG – Make sure everything on your bike is working the best it can, long days can be hard on the bike, and if everything isn’t working 100% to begin with it’s only going to make things worse and take the fun out of your day.
OC – What’s the smartest way an enduro rider can spend money on their bike? Budget is $500, they’ve got a $3k dually that’s a year old.
JG – Absolute necessities are….
– Tubeless setup in the wheels, pretty much all tyres and rims these days are made for tubeless setups, so there’s no excuse. but if your wheels are older you can always do the old ghetto/split tube tubeless (google it if you’re unsure what it is) it works just as well as proper tubeless setups. I ran it for the entire 2013 race season on non tubeless tyres and non tubeless rims, and had zero flats and zero issues. Tubes are such a bad idea, I have no idea why some people continue to use them over tubeless.
– dropper post; in my opinion the best invention for MTB since disc brakes.
– single ring front setup. Being able to spin a super easy double front chainring up the climbs between stages will save your legs a bit, but that wont do you any good when your chain falls off 5 times every timed stage. Also use a narrow wide chainring and an upper chainguide. Narrow wide chainrings are awesome, but not fool proof. And for the sake of a 50gram upper guide why wouldn’t you just put one on?
– if some money left over, and you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, a full bike service at the LBS to get everything working as it should.
OC – Got one secret pro-level tip that you’re happy to share?
JG – Don’t overlook small details, no matter how minimal they seem. Every little bit of extra speed counts. Make sure your equipment is 100% dialled, no compromise!
OC – So, for my/a reader’s first race, how important is practice?
JG – Well of course its very important, but you need to find your practice vs fatigue balance, which can take a fair few races of trial and error. You need to be fresh on race day, but sometimes you race better if you ride more in practice and know the trail better, rather than being fresh and not knowing where you’re going and have no confidence to push.
On the flip side, you don’t want know all the stages really well from riding it multiple times but be so tired you ride like crap on race day. Its all about the happy medium! Thats where good training comes in, be fitter so you can ride/practice more and not get as tired.
OC – Is strategy and planning a big part of an enduro race day?
JG – Oh it’s massive; for me it’s almost the biggest part, being prepared and knowing how you want to take each stage. There are so many aspects to being prepared that it’s honestly pretty overwhelming.
From studying maps, so you know exactly where you are at all times out of course, to studying Gopro footage after practice runs, always having food/drink, planning your practice time efficiently, knowing the liaison stages (more map study) theres so many things the top guys do that most people wouldn’t even consider.
OC – What’s the biggest mistake I can make (besides crashing) on race day?
JG – Easy! Ninety per cent of people don’t take enough food and drink. always take 50 per cent more than you think you’ll need. Running out of food and energy and being dehydrated is EASILY the best way to completely kill fun times on the bike.
OC – More safety gear or less?
JG – course-dependent/weather-dependent/race format-dependent, it’s very variable.
OC – Enduro is an insanely competitive sport at your level. How did the prep for 2015 go?
JG – I had a big break after Finale, haven’t had one for years, so my training has started much later this season. Even though I won the overall and 2014 was a successful year, the whole XC racing to get as fit as possible thing kind of felt like a massive backfire. I felt like a deisel for the first half of the season and couldnt go hard on short stages, I lost a lot of punch. It took me until mid season to get that back.
So my preparation this year is much more enduro specific, and like I said, starting training a lot later to be 100 per cent just in time for round 1. last year I felt ready to race in February and the first race wasn’t until the end of April; having to try and maintain the best form I could then for 7.5 months became a big mental and physical challenge!
OC – Did your mindset change with that #1 plate on the bike?
JG – I felt more relaxed if anything. In 2014 I had a strong sense of “I must win or I suck” and I don’t ride my best when I feel like that, but when I had the number one plate I felt more relaxed and hopefully that shows in my riding. That’s usually when I ride my best.
That said, when I line up for stage 1 in Rotorua in March, that relaxed feeling could change very quickly!. (OC – this interview was done only days before Jared crashed heavily on a trail near his house in Toowoomba, separating both his shoulders and forcing him out of the first two rounds of 2015).
OC – You were vocal in 2014 about how course design was heading. Will anything change?
JG – We’ll see. I just think they need to emphasize keeping the riding fun, just good fun trails that leave you with a smile no matter how the race went. It was good that they tried some new things last year, but I felt the racing was better and definitely more enjoyable in 2013. 2013 was more of a balance of skill and fitness, more of a test of a true all round rider. 2014 had much more of a skills emphasis and you could get away with not being quite as fit. We raced some stuff that was gnarlier than anything I’ve ridden at any DH world cup.
RELATED: Graves debuts for Specialized – on the road