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Seems pretty lazy/full h o m o to only time the downhill sections, goes right in line with fat fucks and overbuilt bikes.
If you want to be timed on the uphill and downhill, there's this thing called "cross country" that might interest you ;)

I'd say that, over here at least, 'enduro' is probably a lot more in line with how most people ride. The uphill stuff is the shit you have to deal with to do the actual fun stuff. Enduro racing matches that. Some of them do have timed stage starts so you are effectively timed on the uphills/liaisons, but it's more that you have to complete it within a certain time rather than having a fast time up it.

It's fun seeing people create some straw men to knock down here, but that's along the same lines as me saying that people who prefer single speed hardtails are just pussies who create arbitrary restrictions on their bikes to give them an excuse to be slower on trails than faster riders on long travel full sus bikes. That's clearly not the case, and in much the same way if you ride other places/with other people you'll find that there are plenty of people who rip on enduro bikes rather than just being tubby rich people wobbling their way around blue trails. The majority of people out there don't have great bike handling skills simply because they haven't spent much time honing them in like trials riders have, so it's sort of to be expected that as a result a lot of them will struggle if things start getting tricky.

One of the local groups I ride with here has people who race/raced EWS, or won their categories in the national enduro champs, and it's insane how fast they can go. Even on relatively basic sections of trail they can just squeeze more speed out of them (or more realistically lose less of it). Longer travel certainly helps by taking the worst of the hits, but there's a lot of intricacies in their technique hidden away in how they operate that allow them to go that fast. It's the same as trials - you could jump on Carthy's bike and you won't suddenly be upping to front head height shit, and similarly if I jumped on an EWS pro's bike I wouldn't be able to hit the steep, tech stuff they hit at anywhere approaching the speed they hit it at.

Just on that video of the EWS you posted, the Tweed Valley isn't really a great example of a typical EWS. The stages they focussed on in that video are pretty niche (to the extent that most riders were cutting their bars down way narrower than normal because of how tight and awkward those trails are). Those particular trails are very well established trails in Scotland (which pre-date "enduro") which is why they're so worn in.

Anyway, all that stuff aside, as I chatted to you about on Instagram dropper posts will benefit almost every bike they go on. Some roadie even fitted one to help him win a stage on a pro tour race with more emphasis on the descents. If it even adds to something as low on the 'technical' side of things as road riding then for off road stuff it makes even more sense.

29ers are a lot better now than they used to be, and feel a lot more fun than some older ones did. Tyre width/casing/compound will play a big role in that, so if you fit some heavier duty tyres it'll feel more planted and stable at the expense of being more agile and playful. I prefer 27.5 personally, but again that's probably more a function of the trails I typically ride. The hills in my part of the world tend to be steep and there's more of a focus on tech stuff on them, and 29ers just feel a bit weird to me for that kind of thing. As before though, those enduro racers that I ride with make their bigger 29er bikes rip around them so it's clearly not the wheel size that's making the difference.

If you're specifically looking for a hardtail bike there's a decent range of bikes out there that should suit you, from more XC-orientated bikes from brands like Canyon to more 'hardcore hardtails' like ones from Ragley, the Kona Honzo LSD, to an extent the Commencal Meta HT AM (which I had, and enjoyed riding a lot) and more. It's also worth bearing in mind that a lot of frames now use a ZS44/ZS56 headset setup, and it's easy enough to get anglesets to suit those that can affect the head angle +/-2° or so. It means you could slacken out the front end of an XC-orientated bike if you wanted to make it more capable on descents, or vice versa on a slacked out hardtail if you wanted to make it a bit more playful on flatter trails. FWIW, I slacked my Meta out by 2° and on the steep stuff here it made a huge difference. It meant the front end was a bit more vague on steeper climbs, but the benefits on the fun stuff outweighed the negatives on the tedious stuff for me.

Slightly contrary to what some others are saying here, I wouldn't worry about the standard groupset stuff toooo much. It's easy enough to switch stuff out further down the line. My Meta came with some basic SRAM stuff (I can't remember way) on a Shimano spline freehub (not SRAM XD or Shimano Microspline), and over time I upgraded the different bits of it as and when I needed to. On the whole cheaper modern stuff is still going to feel better than worn older stuff so it'll probably still feel like an upgrade, but if it's 12spd you will find you'll need to spend more time faffing with it to keep it shifting perfectly. There are always second hand deals out there (the setup I have now is largely second hand) that you can keep an eye out for and upgrade as and when they pop up, or even just pick up a mix-and-match drive train setup to suit your budget. There also some wild cards like the Microshift Advent X stuff that seems to work really well (at the cost of being somewhat heavy), but be really cheap.
 

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I don't know if this is a fair assessment of all or some of what's popular in the UK since I can only see it via videos, and I know within the US, trail design varies regionally due to both land availability and geology, but if a person travels enough within the US, there's a variety of riding styles and bikes that tracks what works locally.
Outside of bike parks and trail centres, almost all the media you'll see of people riding in the UK are riding on "unauthorised trails". As an example, the area I live in is on the bottom edge of what's known as "The Valleys", and as you'd expect it means there's a lot of prime hillside to be digging in. This area also has a lot of forestry managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) who are effectively the stewards of the outdoors in Wales. Within a 20-30min ride from my front door I could get to 7-8 different spots (I believe the fashionable term is "zones"?), all created and and maintained by different groups, none of which has authorisation to be there. These vary from rut tracks through to bike park style runs that are arguably better than the actual bike parks near me. In the rest of the UK it does vary a lot simply because the geology of the UK is very different from one area to the next - we have short, steep, tight, tech rooty trails for the most part here, whereas if you went to the Lake District it's bigger mountains with longer trails that are all fairly rocky. There's everything in-between.

There is definitely tension between different user groups, but I think most long-lasting trails tend to be built with those in mind, and typically won't feature high speed crossing of walking paths, will usually be a bit more tucked away and so on. NRW only really seem to step in when people build actual wooden features on trails, which was something that became a lot more common in lockdown. I think there's generally an acceptance from NRW and their equivalent body in England to generally turn a blind eye to trails, but if things start getting obviously constructed/built then they step in as I think the concern about liability if someone fucks themselves on a shonky pallet ladder bridge goes up. I believe Scotland has a different setup as they have a totally different setup as far as land usage goes to the rest of Great Britain. Scotland has what's called the "Right to Roam" which means:
"Landowners are under an obligation to ensure that the public are able to exercise their right to roam over the land that they own and are prohibited from obstructing or discouraging others from exercising their right to access. They must use and manage their land in a responsible way, having regard to the rights of the public."

I think for that reason there tends to be more of a push for legal or authorised trails up there - it seems that way from down here, anyway, as they have more trail associations and more trail advocacy going on up there compared to down here. In my local area, felling work by NRW has threatened a lot of spots so a few of the local digging groups have become more 'official' to work with NRW and the logging companies to try and carry out works in a way that minimises damage to the trail networks. Tourism is still a pretty big thing down here, and they actively use mountain biking as an advertising tool, so I think it's in their interests to not totally fuck the trails. They even legalised an unauthorised trail network about 20mins from me that came to light when the main digger there crashed and died while riding them. Everyone thought they'd shut them down, but they ended up coming to an agreement with the dig group there and made it into an 'official' spot. It's in this video from about the mid-point onward when it gets a bit more bike parky. The trails before that are all unauthorised ones.


As for riding wet trails, that's just the reality here. We get rain on average just over 1 in every 3 days throughout the year, so if we waited for the trails to dry out we'd probably get about one 3 week window to ride per year. It means that more maintenance is required and overall there will be more erosion, but that's just the way it is. It's the same way footpaths and walking tracks tend to be a bit more manicured in most places here than I've found elsewhere on my travels, simply because use + shit weather = more work required.
 
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