EnduroCross Rookie Class

Destry Abbott teaches the basics of riding and racing EnduroCross.

The Endurocross Rookie Class, run by Destry Abbott with his DA8 Training facility, is a great way to introduce yourself to the exciting world of EnduroCross. You get half an hour of instruction, which includes a track walk, followed by an hour of seat time. There are experts and pros alongside the course the whole time helping you with technique tips to get you around the track with more ease.

Rider leaning on truck at race
The atmosphere for the day is casual and fun, with no pre-race jitters.Photo by Tanner Yeager

We started at the entrance to the stadium, where Destry explained what we were about to do. We proceeded to push our bikes into the stadium and we emerged on the starting straight. This was the first time I had seen an EnduroCross track in person, which made my nerves amp up a bit. When we started the track walk, Destry took it obstacle by obstacle. He explained techniques and the best lines to use through each section. Everyone got opportunities to ask Destry, or one of pros like Taylor Robert or Max Gerston, questions about the obstacles. Knowing that I was getting the best answers possible gave me more confidence when it came time to swing a leg over my bike.

Bikes ready for Endurocross clinic
We got there with plenty of time to get the bikes ready and relax before the class. We weren’t sure if Destry gave tardies or not, but we didn’t want to chance it!Photo by Tanner Yeager

On the first lap I found that I had to work on my technique through some of the obstacles. But with every lap, I felt more and more comfortable with this type of riding. One good tip that I can provide is that confidence is key. If you go in with an abundance of confidence, you're going to perform better. A lot of EnduoCross is mental, and this class really works on building up your confidence as well as giving specific tactics for each section.
If you have ever watched an EnduroCross race, you may think that it is the most dangerous form of motorcycle racing. That is false. The speeds are much slower than in any other type of racing, making it generally safer. You will fall more times than you ever have in your life, but you will likely get up every time with a smile and only a bruise.

Destry Abbott giving advice to group
Destry Abbott gave the group some advice before we got into the arena, maybe so he’d have an easier time keeping our attention before we laid our eyes on the track.Photo by Tanner Yeager

Going into this, I thought that there was going to be a lot of pressure. I was surprised to find that this was a completely pressure-free environment. I was a little nervous thinking that there would be people in the stands, but no one was there to watch. There were riders of all skill levels, ranging from beginner to expert. You can pull off the track at any time to take a breather, or ask one of the pros for advice on an obstacle. There were always pros and track workers there to help if you get really stuck.

Rookie class track walk
The class started with a track walk. Destry infused us with confidence as well as advised on the best line through each obstacle and which techniques to use.Photo by Tanner Yeager

In terms of fitness and endurance, EnduroCross is one of the most challenging type of riding you can do. I had been told how physically demanding it is, but I couldn’t quite grasp that until I did it myself. To put it into perspective, you can sprint up a long hill or swim freestyle in a pool without breathing and you will get that same sensation – you just can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs. Destry told the class that less-experienced riders tend to hold their breath while they’re going through an obstacle. Before we got to riding, he reminded us to remember to breathe, which probably helped me get around the track a few more times before stopping. I am an avid off-road rider, and in terms of endurance, trail riding and EnduroCross are completely different. On the average trail ride, there’s way more space in between obstacles, so you have more recovery and rest time. On the track, it’s one obstacle right after the other, so you have no rest time. One of the great things with this class is that you can pull off the track whenever you need to catch your breath and bring down your heart rate.

Destry Abbott and Dirt Rider crew
One superstar vs. three EX rookies. From left to right this is Destry Abbott, Sean Klinger, Justin Wilkins, and Pete Peterson. One of these guys isn’t nervous here!Photo by Tanner Yeager

At the end of the hour, Destry had us line up at the starting gate for a 2 lap mock race. This is awesome because it gives you a realistic idea of what a race would be like. It gives you the same adrenaline rush, along with the same craziness of a real race.

Pete Peterson and Sean Klinger
One of the rookies was more nervous than the others!Photo by Tanner Yeager

After the class, Destry took some time to talk with me about some of the details behind why he does this class. “Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of up and coming riders, and I just enjoy giving back,” he said. I asked what kind of encouragement Destry offers to help make riders better, “It’s just staying positive, whether it’s motocross, EnduroCross, or off-road racing. It’s not easy, so when they do something good I tell them, and at the same time if they’re struggling, I’ll tell them what to do or correct them.” He says the biggest thing is just to have fun. All riders get mad or frustrated at one time or another, but you have to remember that riding isn’t a job; it’s meant to be fun. The most common mistake that new EnduroCross riders make is losing their momentum. Destry emphasizes that it is key to keep your momentum through the obstacles. I wanted to know another common mistake that he sees new riders make, and he added, “Sitting down is a common mistake. You watch any of the top guys and they’re always standing. You use your legs as another suspension device, so whenever you’re stuck, it’s always standing. Weighting the pegs, and steering with the weight of the pegs is also really important.”

Pete Peterson jumping tractor tires
Destry told us during the track walk that momentum was the key to many of the obstacles. This huge tractor tire obstacle would give when you put your foot down at the top. During the track walk for the pro riders they evaluate which tires are the softest and which are the most firm – critical for them since in some cases the tires are jump take offs.Photo by Tanner Yeager

So if you’re looking to ride an EnduroCross track for the first time or get further practice and instruction, I highly recommend signing up for the Rookie Class. Destry and everyone who helps out do a fantastic job building confidence and making sure that everyone has a fun time. Check at endurocross.com to see if the series is coming to your area in 2016, and if you see an event you’d like to attend, check if the Rookie Class is offered – they are not normally available at every round.

Taylor Robert advising Justin Wilkins
Taylor Robert was one of the pros on hand to help give advice. It’s fortunate here that Justin Wilkins was at a stop, because he needed a lot of advice.Photo by Tanner Yeager

Second Opinions

"I'd ridden a few laps on an EnduroCross track before, but that was years ago. I am a C class rider and not ready to race an EnduroCross, but this Rookie experience was perfect. For the same cost as racing the event a dozen of us got a casual hour on the track; that means we could wait for a section to clear before going through it, and better riders could wait for us to get through or go wide around rather than push past as they would during a race. As for the track in Ontario, all of the obstacles were doable. I was too cautious on my first lap, and several of the tall obstacles took a few runs since I was being too careful to not over them too fast. But then it was a real confidence boost to approach some of the things I'd previously been nervous about with an "I've got this" attitude after a couple laps. It was also great to be able to stop after each lap to catch my breath - something you wouldn't let yourself do in a race. I can't call the Rookie Class event fun, because even in the low-pressure environment it was stressful trying to stay upright, but it was a great challenge and I felt great afterwards. It was also really cool to have the top pros there to give guidance; as the leader, Destry was great and built up my confidence during the track walk, Taylor Robert seemed to really enjoy coaching us through the Matrix, and I've never seen Max Gerston in a bad mood – he's great to have trackside to cheer you along. If you can consistently get over a 12" log on your local trails, but aren't confident enough to sign up for an EnduroCross race, try the Rookie Challenge. They do it Friday afternoon so you can still race if things go well and you think you could handle the track with a pack of racers around you; for me, just the track is perfect." —Pete Peterson, 5"10", 170 lb, Vet C

Sean Klinger at Endurocross clinic
Sean Klinger had a few exciting moments where throttle control went out the window… and the bike nearly did, too!Photo by Tanner Yeager

"As a first time EnduroCross rider, I think the Rookie Class is a must, especially for those who are crawl-walk-run type of learners like myself. Even for a more experienced rider, the Rookie Class is still a really good idea since you can get a good look at the track and ride it in a no pressure situation. If you just sign up to race, there is very little practice time for each class, where the Rookie Class is about an hour solid of track time. I had the luxury of taking my time, resting, and not stressing about messing up anyone else's track time. Plus, we had multiple instructors and track workers ready to help when we got stuck, which was often. In open practice in other classes, you are on your own. I feel like most people underestimate how physically demanding EX is and the Rookie Class allows you to ride at your own pace. Overall, I would recommend doing the Rookie Class to any first time EnduroCross racer, regardless of experience and skill level. The instructors give you confidence and it is a very positive, non-judgmental environment. I did okay in some sections while others totally kicked my butt. If I signed up for the Amateur Class, I would have probably been really discouraged when I struggled through the tougher sections and I might question why I even wanted to do the race. But I came away itching to practice more EnduroCross type riding and thinking about racing come next season." - Sean Klinger, 5'8", 210 lb, Novice.

Sean Klinger riding over tires
Klinger redeems himself and motors right over some tires.Photo by Tanner Yeager
Justin Wilkins riding through the rock garden
Justin Wilkins glides through the rock garden, staying on the high line and out of the low spots, just like Destry had told him to do!Photo by Tanner Yeager
Pete Peterson riding EnduroCross obstacles
Someone told Pete Peterson when he was a kid that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’Photo by Tanner Yeager
EnduroCross Rookie Experience class race
The Rookie Experience ended with a two lap race. Sending all the students onto the track at once was fun and really pointed out how valuable the class is to be able to tackle clear sections rather than try to get around a course littered with other riders.Photo by Tanner Yeager
Sean Klinger rides through the rock garden
Sean Klinger gets through the rock garden and is on his way to the finish line.Photo by Tanner Yeager
Rookie Class EnduroCross Experience
After the class everyone got onto the podium for a group shot. Thank you, Destry!Photo by Tanner Yeager

Want to see what our rookies were hoping to experience? Here’s Taylor Robert's GoPro helmet cam footage from his win at the event the next night. Or rookies rode the same track (without the water in it), but of course we're not making Taylor's huge leaps.