When you decide to do a long endurance race, there are a variety of different event formats to choose from. Some are likely to hold more appeal than others. Take a look below and see what suites you. The Examples are just that – examples. It’s pretty likely that there are many events with a similar format.
Point to point
Point to point events begin in one location and end in a different location. If self-supported this creates additional logistical difficulties for making sure racers have transportation back to their stuff or that their stuff comes with them to the next point.
Example: Park City Point-to-point, BC Bike Race (stage race)
A lap event involves riders following a predefined loop over and over. This may happen for a specific amount of time, as in the case of a timed event, or it may happen for a specific number of laps, to gain a certain distance. In either case riders follow the same loop multiple times.
Example: Pierre’s Hole 100
A loop is just that. Riders leave from one location, ride in a loop of some size, but always return back to the start location for the finish. Personally I prefer loops to laps as I tend to get bored going in circles.
Example: Vapor Trail 125, Breck Epic (stage race)
The amount of support that you receive in different events varies greatly. It’s good to know how much help you’ll have out there so you can plan how much to carry and how that will impact your speed or ability to ride technical terrain.
It’s all you. In fully self-supported events there is absolutely no aid, and for the most part none is allowed. Typically events of this nature will allow you to stop at any convenience store or bike shop and purchase additional food or materials. However, you’re not allowed to have someone meet you on the route and provide guidance or other support.
For example the tour divide is fully self-supported, but racers always stop at restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores to resupply. There’s simply no way to go the entire distance from Banff to Antelope Wells without this. In contrast the Race Across America (RAAM) riders have a support vehicle and crew following them for the entire route from California to Maryland. In RAAM all the rider does is ride. On the TD the riders take care of everything.
In most cases events that are self-supported have little to no entry fee.
Example: every ride in the Southwest Endurance Series
Fully supported events require a fee and usually have a number of aid stations manned by volunteers. These aid stations typically have food and drink provided by sponsors. Some events also provide neutral mechanical support, meaning that the mechanical support is free to anyone in the race and offered on a first come first serve basis. What this means though can vary. You may only get the offer of a lubed chain, or like in the High Cascades 100 when I did it in 2010, there may be professional mechanics on standby at each aid station.
Example: Laramie Enduro and almost every event with an entry fee.
While most events are fully supported or self-supported, there are some with options in the middle. This may be something like an additional fee for bag drops at a specific point of the route.
Example: Dirty Kanza 200 (there are varying levels of support)