World’s highest endurance race ultimate test for mountain bike riders

June 5, 2018

A rider races through a section of the 2017 YakRu Enduro (Source: YakRu)

The world’s highest enduro race has riders focused on way more than just that whole elevation thing. But since this is the YakRu Enduro, let’s, ahem …. start at the top.

The YakRu, in Nepal, is truly a wonder. It not only reaches heights of 14,200 feet over rugged trails cut through the Annapurna Range, the spectacular panoramic views of the Himalayas test mountain bike riders as much as awe them. Over three racing days, riders cover almost 25 miles of riding, and are challenged on 8 to 10 timed stages.

Speed, it’s got. The timed stages comprise over 90 percent downhill/descending features, and, at the race’s conclusion, two days of untimed group “celebration” rides see competitors descend 50 miles and drop 9,800 feet over two days.

“The inspiration for coming over was – what an adventure,” rider Tim Parsons, from the UK via Singapore, stated on the YakRu official website. “The riding is completely different. Up in the high mountains, exploring culture as well at the same time, and just coming out here and having a good time. It’s been absolutely fantastic. Incredible trails.”

Manang Valley in the Annapurna Range, home to the YakRu Enduro and some of the world’s tallest mountains. (Source: Wikipedia)

The next adventure takes place between September 29 and October 10, 2018, and the thrill of it all gets shared by only a select few. The very ruggedness and remoteness so appealing for mountain bikers the world over forces, for logistical reasons, race organizers to cap the field at 40 riders.

And we’re talking 40 very seasoned riders. Novices need not apply – for their own good.

Ability to ride technical and rugged descents are a must, race officials say, and endurance and stamina [expect 3 to 6 hours of riding per day] over the multi-day event are huge factors. The whole course is a veritable what’s-what of mountain biking epicness: narrow singletracks with exposure on ridgelines, traverses and corners; flowy, high-speed single- and doubletrack; forest soil and vegetation; loose rocks, pebbles and scree; steep, tight descending switchbacks; the occasional wet stream crossings with mud and, quite possibly, snow. Riders should have previous experience with big-mountain alpine-style riding and – of course – experience at those high altitudes. All race stages take place above 10,500 feet of elevation.

Riders relax in Manang during down time (Source: YakRu)

“This is something really special, to have an enduro race at high altitude,” rider Harold Schmid told yakru.com. “And after, now, three days of racing which is over now, I can say it has really, really worked out. I’m very excited. I got second place here in the YakRu race.”

Just getting around the course is a big-time challenge, whether on the bike seat or off. Each race day, riders can expect a starting transfer stage of around 2 to 2.5 hours of uphill riding, as well as walking with their bikes to reach the first timed stage. Meanwhile, 4-wheel drive trucks provide limited vehicular uplifts to get riders through other sections of the race. Before the start of racing on the second day alone, riders can expect a 40-minute early-morning uplift between towns before even hitting the trails on their bikes.

It’s strenuous enough that insurance is required for all riders.

The mountain views are reason enough to compete in this grueling race (Source: YakRu)

“I also got to learn a lot from other seasoned riders,” rider Suman Tamang stated. “Actually until the end of the 6th Stage I was not sure of winning the race as I was trailing behind top two riders. During the 7th and final stage I thought to myself I am gonna give all I have as it was also a blind stage for everyone, I had no expectation what was ahead of me. I am pleasantly surprised that I left others far behind by good margins and I won the overall race.”

The world’s highest multi-day mountain bike enduro also offers a true communal vibe as well.

Riders are accommodated in standard twin-share hotels and guesthouses while staying in Kathmandu, and are housed in basic, comfortable bunk-style rooms at alpine lodgings and teahouses in the mountains, according to race organizers. Cooked breakfasts and full dinners comprised of mountain region Nepali cuisine are provided every day.

“When I heard about the YakRu I thought this was gonna be a lifetime opportunity, so my friends and myself we just grabbed it , and I think that is one of the wisest decisions we have made,” rider Nirakar Yakthumba told yakru.com. “It was an incredible experience, fantastic rides, beautiful country, beautiful mountains, beautiful trails, and lots of great riders to ride with. Great friends, and new friends we’ve made. I would definitely recommend the YakRu Enduro Race to all mountain bike lovers.”

With such a beautiful setting, it’s no wonder many riders return to compete in the race year after year (Source: YakRu)