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>Ho Ho, we do an enduro...badly (...we try an enduro for novices)

A couple of years ago we bought a DRZ400S with the intention of taking to the fields. Sadly about three days after buying it the foot and mouth crisis broke and we were left using it for commuting to work. Anyway, I got sick of puttering around on the DRZ, its not the most exciting road bike, so I thought I'd get rid of it - but then I felt that I hadn't been fair to it and that I should at least give it a crack off-road. Any right minded person would have joined the TRF and taken in a few green lanes...sadly I don't posses that level of common sense.

Flicking through Trials and Motocross News I saw an event called "slow Pete", an enduro event for Novices, run by the Cotswold Enduro club at Hope under Dinmore - about 20 miles away from where I live. I gave them, a call and said "is this the sort of event for a complete novice on a trail bike..." they said yes, so I paid my £28 and signed up, all I needed now was to get the bike ready....

Bike Prep:
Now, I've never done an Enduro before (in fact I've only ever seen one) so I flicked through a few mags and websites to see what I needed to do. Our esteemed editor gave the benefit of his considerable experience and said "its all in the tires". So I figured, fit some new tires and take off all the road bits and hey, ho here we go. First problem, which tires. Reading around the consensus seemed to be that Pirelli MT21's were the best on/off road compromise. Did I forget to mention that I don't have a van so I'd have to ride the bike to the event? OK, so after many phone calls to the local tire emporiums I began to realise that this wasn't meant to be - nobody had a pair that fitted, some guy 40 miles in one direction had a rear tire and another guy 30 miles in the opposite direction had a front, apparently there is a world shortage of MT21's. Why not get them mail order? To be honest I just didn't want to fit them myself (the honest truth was that I left it far too late). OK, so what to do - I know I'll leave the current tires on, it hasn't rained for two weeks so I'll be OK right? No, the current Bridgestone Trailwings had covered 2000 miles and were virtually square.
Fitting the tires:
OK so I've got myself a set of (allegedly) road legal enduro tires (Michelin CompIII) so now all I need to do is fit them. The DRZ doesn't have a centre stand so you need to get a stand and get the bike on to it (not that easy as it isn't that light. We used a rear stand (like the ones you use on road bikes) to get the back end up and remove the rear wheel then lifted it onto a box stand to get the front out. The next step after removing the wheel is to get the old tire off. The level of difficulty here depends on how long the tire has been on. First you need to break the "bead", i.e. the tire sticks to the rim and the longer its been on, the harder this is to break.

Within an hour we'd fitted them both (if you ignore the 20 minutes it took us to fit and remove the rear having put the tire on facing the wrong direction).

Lowering the DRZ:
Having sorted the tires we moved on to lowering the suspension. Now, there are several ways of doing this (e.g. reducing the pre-load) but the only way to get significant change is to change the linkage in the rear suspension.

So that was it, fit the wheels and we were ready to go. A brief blast down the road and the poor road characteristics of the compIII's was confirmed - but we only needed to get to the event on them, the enduro was all off road...

Race Day

Not having ridden an enduro before you tend to take all the stuff on your entry form seriously. So we turned up before 9:30am to sign on and get through scrutineering. The ride to the course was OK, but the tires weren't really up to hammering along A roads - any surface imperfections had them squirming all over the place. Anyway, scrutineering went OK - "you rode it here, it must be OK" and at least there was a burger van. So, now to just sit and watch the quads go off and contemplate why I decided to do this. A few guys wandered by and asked if I was doing the event on "that" bike. Much concern was expressed that this would break and had I gone 1 down one on the front and two up on the back (talking about gearing, something I hadn't considered - dohhh!). Anyway, the course looked dry and not too mental. It started in a field, went along a stream bed and then up a hill into the woods - five miles in all I was told. I didn't believe this as the wood only looked about 1/2 a mile long. As I later found out you can fit a lot of trail in a little wood...

OK, so I watched the quads go off, pretty impressive seeing 20 quads all pile into a hairpin turn. Some of the quads were very loud - a bit unnecessary really. I then walked a little bit of the course (I'm not fit enough to walk the entire five miles) and it seemed OK, bit of a slippy bank coming out of the stream but nothing too bad. So I went back to the bike and gaffer taped the tank and vulnerable plastics, put on the race numbers I had bought and had a chicken sarny while I waited for my pit crew to turn up with his lawnmower's supply of petrol...

The format of the event was simple, no time cards or special test, just see how many laps you can do in 2 and a half hours...little did I realise that I'd struggle to make 1 lap...

This pattern repeats itself until I get the hang of slipping the clutch constantly on the climbs. Suffer the indignity of falling off twice in front of a Marshall, who kindly tells me that the rider in front is a 15 year old girl...but I have to thank him for helping me pick up the bike, cheers. We have time for a chat as the bike won't start. Religiously following the Suzuki instructions not to touch the throttle when starting doesn't work - it's not until I open it half a turn that the motor fires again. A couple more falls and we are in to the woods.

Now I know how the course gets to be five miles, its tight and twisty through the trees - again the gearing really isn't helping. As I progress through the trees the course gets gradually tighter and then I realise how slow I must be going as the leading riders start to pass me, Christ I'm not even half way round. Eventually get to a bit of a descent and stop at the top. Its only the laughing of all the kids watching that persuades me I'd better get down to the bottom before they wet themselves. The Suzuki is great going down hill, the lowering link makes it easy to get your weight back. More wood, more trees, fall off a couple of times trying to let faster (i.e. everybody) riders get past. There's a strong smell of burning coming from the clutch. Finally I get out of the trees and make it back to the pits.

I am exhausted. I stop for a fag and a drink and contemplate why I did this. I'm reluctant to go for another lap as the clutch is smelling strongly and slipping a bit and I have to ride the thing home. I'm tired and figure I'll make more mistakes. Having had another fag (should indicate my fitness level) I decide to at least ride the stream again and see how it goes. Having got through the stream I spot the editor chuckling at the side of the stream. He doesn't look impressed so I decide that maybe I should call it a day, he reckons he could run quicker round the course and I had to agree with him. I have had a great time (surprisingly) and decide to quit while I'm ahead...OK so one and a bit laps is pretty pathetic, but if you're on the heaviest bike, with the worst gearing , with the least training and preparation then I guess you can't expect too much. It's a bit like entering the London Marathon and doing no training.

About the DRZ 400 S
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Ok, so the total costs are pretty high but everything but the Entry fee and numbers will last for more than a single race, so on the whole we felt it was good value for the amount of time you get to compete.