You know what sounds like a great idea? Racing the toughest off-road series in the nation: The US Hard Enduro Championship (on short notice). And away we went.
After racing a few different off-road series, we decided two weeks before the start of the season that we’d get signed up to race the US Hard Enduro championship. The kid is 15 years old, so we figured we’d have him race in the Youth Lites Class which has a maximum 250cc displacement requirement. Unfortunately, we did not have a motorcycle for him to ride because we were leaning towards Western Hare Scrambles for 2023. With a few extra bucks in the bank and little bit of luck we located a nice new 2021 Beta 250RR and started adding a few things to make it durable enough to handle the rigors of racing hard enduro.
The first race would be held at the fiendishly rocky riding area known as Johnson Valley. For those of you not familiar with this particular location, maybe you have heard of the notorious King of the Hammers where rock crawlers and Ultra-4 truck battle for the title in the rock, nasty rocks of Southern California.
We fortified the Beta with a TM Designs skid plate, Bulletproof radiator braces, Pro Taper EVO bend handlebars, levers, Acerbis hand guards, some Engine Ice coolant, Funnel Web air-filter, an FMF Powercore 2.1 slip-on with spark arrestor and a set of Dunlop MX33 front and AT-81 EX rear tire. We were smart enough to run Nuetech Nitromousse tubes so that was one of the smarter moves on our part.
We thought we had our act dialed in decent until we got there are realized we needed a GPS to follow the course. After driving aimlessly around Palm Desert and the surrounding areas we were graciously supplied a Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS courtesy of Beau from Read to Ride Rentals. We wired the unit up and were ready to go on Saturday morning. For those who are not familiar with the hard enduro racing format, here’s the basic scoop. Saturday usually begins with a qualifying race. The USHE crew send the competitors out by class, first the Pros and the Youth Lites go last. Your result in the Prologue dictates where you line up for the knockout race where only the top 150 riders advance to the main race on Sunday.
At KOM the riders were sent our one at a time for a flying 2-mile lap, 30-seconds apart. When the dust settled, Ethan had moved qualified 114th out of 175 racers with a 10-minute and 30second lap. Will Riordan, Cody Webb and defending champion Trystan Hart were the top three with blazing laps of 4:24, 4:33 and 4:39 respectively. This was a real eye opener for both of us.
The second qualifier was roughly 5-miles. Ethan and the defending Youth Lites champion Kael Widdicombe on the HTR GasGas finished in 2:21.48 and 2:2:46.38. They made the cut qualifying in 85th and 102nd positions. We spent the evening begging for more help swapping a used IRC VE33 rear tire that we sourced from Ready to Ride Rentals. The folks from TM Racing USA team did the tire swap. Things were looking good, and our excitement level was high as we slept restlessly in the Sprinter van in 32-degree temps. The next morning arrived early and before we could wipe the sleep from our eyeballs, Ethan was lined up on the fifth row and was awaiting his first US Hard Enduro main event: 30-some odd miles of racing on the most difficult terrain would be he had ridden on, in his life.
Things went sideways quick when the green flag dropped. Ethan made a strong start and went high through sand as the group of 30-riders rocket toward the first obstacle, Chocolate Thunder. As he dipped in towards the wall, he hit a hidden rock that sent him over the bars hard, resulting in a dislocated shoulder. This was a recurring injury that he’s been dealing with so once he was clear from the congestion of the crowd, the USHE medical team contacted me and required that I inspect my kid before he continued with the race. On the clock, he had spotted the rest of the field a 15-minute head start but there’s no quit in this kid. He hopped back on the Beta and proceeded to deal with Chocolate Thunder for another five minutes before finally heading out into the desert.
Six grueling hours later, the race timed out with Ethan managing to recover from that horrible start and finish with the win. He managed to pass through Checkpoint 7 of 9 aboard his Beta 250RR with a time of 5:42.52 which landed him 78th position overall. The second place Youth Lites rider was once again the defending champ, Kael Widdicombe on the 85cc HTR GasGas who made it to Checkpoint Four in 3:55.28 but wasn’t quite able to get to Checkpoint Five. That earned him 95th place overall, and two-minutes ahead of third place finisher Mickey Udell on the privateer 150cc Husqvarna. These young men should serious fortitude considering over half the riders didn’t finish at all, had mechanical failures or simply quit.
The Pro Class was a dogfight between Factory Sherco rider Cody Webb and RedBull KTM rider Trystan Hart. Hart would take the win by finishing TWO laps in a time of 1:44.27 with Webb 9-minutes behind him. Rockstar Husqvarna’s Ryder Leblond was third with a time of 1:59.07. The difference between the regular humans and the off-road aliens is both amazing and painful for the rest of the field. On the podium, I could see it in Ethan’s eyes… he finally found the racing he enjoyed, he was hooked.
Next race was the IRC Endurofest a month later in Hawaii. Things were about to get really expensive for the factory and privateer racers alike.