It’s easy to assume that Enduro was born with the first ISDE edition in 1913.
However, this isn’t the whole truth.
In the very beginning motorcycling was a trailblazing endeavour and there was hardly any difference between the various disciplines.
There were no closed-off tarmacked race circuits. At the very most, there were dirt roads that really challenged the very first motorcycles.
Technology evolved greatly over the years. During today’s Enduro World Championship’s races, the best riders and boldest amateurs continue putting those earliest bikes’ grandchildren to the test.
One question still remains: What exactly existed before the Enduro we know today?
Just like the first bicycles, its front wheels are bigger than the back ones. It uses a two-cylinder four-stroke engine that allows it to reach a speed of 45 kilometres an hour.
This is how the Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, covered by patent 18553 of 20 January 1894, starts a revolution.
It is the first model to be called a “Motorrad”, a motorcycle. The Paris-Rouen, the first motoring event ever, takes place that very same year, 1894. Both cars and motorbikes can participate. City-to-city races become the norm for about a decade until the tragic Paris-Madrid in 1903 which is suspended early on because of fatal crashes caused by superficial preparations.
Almost all first motorbike races are in fact endurance races at this point: Enduro competitions before Enduro.
As Charles Rolls – who hadn’t met Royce yet – affirms, races mainly serve an engineering function in those early years: vehicles are tested in order to find out exactly how far they can be pushed. The coinage of the phrase “endurance” for this type of competition, which later becomes a completely different discipline to Enduro, is connected to an event whose name already explains it purpose. It’s the “Six Days Reliability Trial” of 1903, literally a six-days-long dependability test organised in the United Kingdom. This competition crowns the fastest rider to complete a very long route without any part substitutions or stops. Only reparations and refuelling are allowed.
More and more motorbikes are produced in the first years of the twentieth century.
English Royal Enfield, Triumph, the American Harley-Davidson, the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company all created their first models then. History changes. Faster, stronger engines are needed as the racing scene increases simultaneously.
On 12 August 1909, ninety-nine riders on bikes manufactured by seventeen different companies leave Cleveland to embark on what contemporary newspapers call “the endurance race with the greatest number of participants” thus far. Their destination is not random. 388 miles have to be travelled in two days with an overnight stay in Columbus, Ohio, in order to reach Indianapolis. There, the racing circuit which would forever change the collective imagination of motorsport is about to be inaugurated.
64 of them make it, 12 of which above the maximum time allowed.
Even if in an embryonic state, something happened that would change motorcycling forever. 1913 was just around the corner and those first attempts, which now are considered true pioneering endeavours, are transformed into something which still shines by its own light even today.
Ten years after that historic 1903, the International Federation stages the first international Six Days Reliability Trial, which kept its name until 1979 and is known today as the International Six Days of Enduro.
Enduro is recognised as a global discipline with a long and ever-enriching future ahead of itself.
The next story of this column will trace those beginnings.