You may be faced with the same problem thousands of off-road riders around the world are faced with at one time or another: An “only bike”. Don’t know what an “only bike” is? Well, because of the cost of bikes and how they take over your life in the best way, many people will “only be able to afford or have one bike”, your ‘only bike’. With an ‘only bike’ situation comes a tough decision, should you get an enduro or a trail motorbike? Because an enduro bike ticks so many boxes that riders want, there’s only one box left to tick: Are enduro bikes good for trail riding?
Enduro motorbikes are engineered and built to handle trails and trail riding well. Because enduro bikes share many features with trail bikes they often give the best of both worlds. The center of gravity, size, and specific modifications of your enduro will determine its performance on a trail ride.
If you are asking if an enduro bike is good for trail riding because you have to make the tough ‘only bike’ decision, or if you want to know if your enduro will smash it on the next trail ride, you’re in the right place. To find out about the modifications made to enduros to make them great at trail riding, the difference between enduros and other off-road motorbikes, and all the info in-between, read this comprehensive guide.
What Is An Enduro Motorbike?
While enduro motorcycles share many of the same features as motocross bikes and trail bikes, they are a separate type of bike all on their own. These specialized bikes are built, designed, and modified to handle long-distance, endurance racing conditions. These races are off-road, cross-country trails with many obstacles and challenges. Most enduro races are between 150km and 250km. Because large sections of these races are on off-road trails, enduros are built and engineered to be strong, hard-wearing, and good for trail riding.
Because enduro motorcycle races are so demanding on the bike and rider, an enduro motorcycle is specialized in its design to handle the hard terrain and rigors of this kind of race. An enduro bike will typically have the deep suspension of a motocross bike to handle tough trails, a larger fuel tank to accommodate the longer distance of the race, and other engineered components to maximize the strength and durability of the bike. Enduros are the hard-wearing workhorses of motorsport!
Enduros come in two basic types: those combined with required features to make it road legal and those that are strictly endurance racing bikes that don’t have these features as standard. Think of the needs of a professional enduro racer, like someone competing in the Dakar Rally, and the needs of an enduro enthusiast who does trail rides and occasional races just for the sheer fun of it. Because of the growing demand for the second type, many manufacturers now produce models with road-legal features as factory standard while other models require modifications to make them road legal.
Because many enduro races these days have sections that take place on public roads the road-legal features are often a necessity. While enduros are clearly built for the off-road and they really come into their own on a trail, for many riders the ability to ride the bike to the event or trail without having to use a bike trailer is a big bonus.
In general, an enduro motorbike is classified as a single-cylinder two-stroke bike between 125cc and 300cc, or four-stroke between 250cc and 650cc. Most enduro bikes have two-stroke engines, but there are growing numbers of four-stroke options available, both have their pros and cons.
In competition and championship racing enduro motorcycles are split into three classes:
- Enduro 1: Two-stroke motorbikes between 100cc–125cc or four-stroke motorbikes between 175cc–250cc,
- Enduro 2: Two-stroke motorbikes between 175cc–250cc or four-stroke motorbikes between 290cc–450cc, and
- Enduro 3: Two-stroke motorbikes between 290cc–500cc or four-stroke motorbikes between 475cc–650cc
The Difference Between An Enduro And Other Off-road Bikes
Enduro bikes and motocross bikes share many similarities and those who don’t know the difference may even confuse the two. Both enduros and motocross bikes are racing bikes, built for off-road use, share a similar chassis/engine design, and even share many components.
Both motocross bikes and enduro bikes are used to race, but there are a few big differences between an enduro bike when compared to a motocross bike:
- A wider transmission ratio on the enduro,
- Softer suspension compared to motocross bikes,
- Enduros have more flywheel weight for better low-end torque,
- Enduros usually come standard with lights, and
- A bigger gas tank on the enduro to increase their range in long races.
Motocross bikes are usually ridden short distances and are designed to be as light and fast as possible. Enduro bikes are raced over long distances and are built for power, maneuverability, and speed. Compared to motocross bikes, enduros are great for trail riding and eating up the miles.
What sets an enduro motorcycle apart from other types of motorbikes is the terrain they are best suited for. An enduro needs to navigate trails, usually in between trees or brush in off-road competitions. Because of this, their handlebars are usually narrower, giving riders that little extra space to move in and out of trees that can be a deathly tight fit. This gives the enduro an advantage over other off-road bikes because it can handle trail riding in forested areas at speed. The addition of handguards for the brake and clutch levers also means extra protection against crashing branches when racing through the brush.
The biggest, and usually most obvious difference between an enduro bike and other off-road bikes is the addition of all the tech to make them street legal. Other off-road bikes are often stripped down for simplicity, handling and speed, but because an enduro needs extra gauges, mufflers, etc. they are often more high tech than their trail bike or motocross cousins. When trail riding, the extras can come in handy, but the bike itself is a trail riding machine.
We can make a list of all the technical differences between an enduro and other off-road bikes until we’re out of breath, but the one thing riders themselves say again and again is the biggest difference between an enduro and other off-road bikes is that intangible ‘feel’ and handling of the enduro. Because the dimensions and power to weight ratios are different on an enduro compared to any of its cousins, the sweet spot of an enduro will be different from other off-road bikes too. And when you find that sweet spot on your enduro when you’re out on a trail ride, it will take your breath away in a completely different way too.
Can Enduros Go Off-Trail?
Enduro motorcycles are the great bridge between off-road and street bikes. Some say that because of this they end up failing in both areas, but others maintain that an enduro bike gives you the best of off-road and street riding rolled into one great experience.
While the focus of an enduro race is the off-road trails to test the skill of the rider and durability of the bike, many of these races do include a section on roads. Whether this is because the race organizers need to link two trails together or because there wasn’t enough trail in the area to make up the distance requirements, roads have become a regular feature in enduro races. Because of this, some manufacturers such as Husaberg, Husqvarna, and others build their enduro bikes for both trail riding and street use, but it’s not the case with every manufacturer.
Many riders will also choose a bike that can handle trail riding easily while still being legal on the road sections. Riders themselves say this dual function is a good thing because in many cases the bike can be ridden to the event and back again or used as a city commute bike or just to take out on the weekends when the feeling of open roads and freedom is needed. Having the best of both worlds means an enduro opens up possibilities where a pure off-road bike or a pure street bike doesn’t!
What Size Enduro Motorbike Should I Get?
Size matters, in more ways than one and there are a few factors to take into consideration when choosing the right enduro for you!
The main factors to consider are the following:
- Your riding experience level. Because it takes time and practice to master an enduro bike and an enduro trail, especially on trail rides where obstacles are dangerous, beginners are often advised to go for an enduro motorcycle of between 250cc-350cc. Learning how to control the power on a smaller bike and then progressing to a larger one is the best way to get the most out of the enduro experience. If you really must go for a bigger bike, then look to something like the Honda CRF line which is known to be stable and reliable.
- Your weight and height. When it comes to throwing a bike around a trail with you on top, it is best to know the bike can handle and respond well to someone of your weight and height. The more weight the bike must haul, the bigger the engine will need to be. The taller the rider, the more the center of gravity is affected, and a taller bike may be necessary.
- The intended use of your enduro. Are you planning to participate in regular enduro races, or do you want to occasionally go on a trail ride with friends? How technical will the races or rides be? Will you use your enduro to get to and from races and trails or will you put it on a trailer to get it there? These questions and others will help you get a grip on the right enduro for you. Chat to sales agents, friends with enduro bikes, or log on to enduro chat rooms and ask around. Knowing what you will put your enduro through will go a long way to helping decide which is best for you.
The best way to know which enduro is best for you is to try a few out. If you know someone who has an enduro, ask (nicely) for a test ride. Go to a bike dealership and sit on a few to get a feel for weight and size. Test ride the ones that feel like a good fit. No two models are the same and the only way to know which works for you will be to try it out.
Tips For Enduro Bike Owners
Half the joy of owning an enduro motorcycle is what happens in the garage. The other half is obviously what happens on the trail, but good maintenance should never be neglected and if you want to fully enjoy your enduro, keep as safe on the trail as possible, and extend its lifespan, make sure you have a good motorcycle maintenance schedule in place.
Follow these tips to keep your enduro in good shape:
- Wash your enduro bike after every ride. Not only does this keep it looking great, but also gives you a chance to inspect it thoroughly after each ride and keep corrosion and rust at bay. Check for things like loose bolts, damaged skid plates, tire pressure, etc. Where possible, store the bike in a garage or at the very least under a protective sheet.
- Dirt and air filters are not friends. Always make sure your air filter is clean and soaked with sufficient oil to keep your enduro motorcycle engine running smoothly. Pull them out and clean them thoroughly.
- Check, clean, and service your bike’s carburetor regularly.
- Clean and lubricate the throttle and clutch cables of your bike regularly. Such a simple part can mean the difference between winning and losing as well as life and death!
- Never ride any bike with a dry chain or sprockets. Greased chains and sprockets not only keep these parts functioning smoothly but also help keep dirt from damaging them by trapping them on the outside. Cleaning your chain and sprockets after every ride means removing that dirt so it doesn’t become a problem on the next ride.
- Change the oil regularly. Irregular oil changes can cause the engine of a bike to knock and many other problems. Fresh oil and the lifespan of your enduro go hand in hand.
- If you are unable to ride in the winter months, never leave your enduro standing with used oil in the case during these months.
- Check all the wiring end electricals. Loose wires, faulty batteries, and faulty electric components can be dangerous. Check regularly that everything is in order.
- Check and regularly change your enduro motorcycle coolant and ensure it’s in good condition.
How Did Enduro Bikes Come About?
It may surprise you that enduro motorcycles have been around for over 100 years! In 1913 a six-day international trail race was held in Carlisle, England, the first of its kind. Specialist bikes were used in this race that could handle the terrain and speed. Later the name of the race was changed to the International Six Day Enduro. Enduro riders today share a long and proud history with everyone who has taken up the sport since.
Enduro racing became increasingly popular in the 1920s, race organizers would often map out courses on dirt roads. The distance began to increase with modern courses being between 75 to 150 miles long interspersed with checkpoints at strategic areas throughout the race and the courses started to go off dirt roads and into forests. The bikes have undergone several key changes in that time, but the idea of a trail racing, endurance bike has captivated riders and manufacturers ever since.
Owning and riding an enduro motorcycle can be one of the most rewarding things in the world. They are a unique type of motorbike with an excitement factor all of their own. Not a street bike and not as bare-bones as a motocross bike, these motorbikes are truly a riding experience that come into their own on a trail ride. Designed to be able to handle well on endurance trail rides, these motorbikes are bigger and can run for longer than motocross or other off-road bikes, but they also pack a punch in terms of maneuverability, speed, and fun. Especially if an enduro bike is going to be your “only bike” because they handle well on trail rides and on the road, they are a great choice for anyone. Happy riding!