Interviews: Sven and Anka Martin

Words Seb Kemp
Photos Sven Martin
Date Jan 25, 2012

For the week of January 24 to 27, NSMB will be bringing you exclusive content about Enduro racing. There are more of these races popping up each year fed by enthusiastic organizers and keen competitors who want value for their money – Enduros generally mean a lot more time on your bike than downhill or even cross-country races – and a bit of biking fun. So what next?

NSMB.com Enduro Week

Sven and Anka Martin may be the most experienced and opinionated voices in the world of Enduro. We picked their brains on the topic to see where they stand…


Sven Martin

Sven Martin is not just a World Cup photographer. Former professional skateboarder (he has his own signature deck), World Cup racer in his own right and because of his incredible output, craft, passion and knowledge is probably the most important journalist to be working in the mountain bike world. In between shooting World Cups, organizing freeriders into a line on safari trips and generally blipping about the globe like a tennis ball he likes to experience new forms of racing. He has been championing the cause of Enduro for several years now and probably knows more about what is all means than most people.

NSMB: What is Enduro racing?

SM: No one answer. No one definition, rather different styles, schools of thought, and interpretation. What it definitely is, is multi-stage racing on different tracks and can be over multiple days. Italian style is all human powered with some pre run allowed, French style may be lift assisted (plus pedal/push) sight unseen. Is a mass event like the Mega an Enduro race, yes. But just another incarnation with its own style and format. It IS NOT SUPER D.

Enduro seems like a broad term that is used to describe many forms of racing. Is this because it is getting to know itself or that variety is the spice of life?

It does not need to be one specific style or have one set of rules. This is the beauty of it. It mirrors and matches the culture and geography of the area, as you have said variety is what keeps it always new and exciting.

The UCI have clearly asserted that they plan to work with existing Enduro race organizers in the hope that a World Series of World Championship can arise. This question is two fold: What are the benefits to elite Enduro racers having a World Series? And what does this mean to the average rider who takes part in these races? 

I would say using the word asserted is a bit strong. The UCI have not asserted anything they are in an exploring stage right now. One benefit would be a better understanding and communication message about the format and the racing and the various races. They are all great races in their own right at present but can benefit from increased exposure (with growth and sponsorship dollars/prizemoney etc). Participation-wise most are already running at max capacity and fill up. Maybe it means more events in more countries that will allow more riders to try this rewarding “value for money racing.” The spirit of Enduro also allows your average rider to race shoulder to shoulder with riders like Nico and ACC… who hasn’t thought about shredding a piece of trail with their favorite rider. Enduro is inclusive not exclusive.

What does Enduro racing mean to the average rider? What relevance has Enduro racing got with everyday riding?

The relevance is these are the bikes we are riding day in day out every day. Up hills and down hills. Human nature, whether you are with a bunch of mates or against yourself to push your riding to the limits. Enduro racing allows you to go shred with your friends and someone else is taking care of the timing. French style allows you to go off in 30 sec intervals or if you prefer with a group of mates all at once. Just like your Wednesday night beer rides.

Do you think Enduro racing has the potential to help push mountain biking to a more mainstream audience?

Who cares about mainstream. Enduro racing is about fun. We don’t need mainstream. You need to be a rider first to appreciate Enduro. But it does make it more FUN and accessable for an average rider who may be turned off by XC or DH both forms are too extreme at different ends of the spectrum. Mainstream audiences may be more turned on by watching extreme athleticism be it XC or DH. Enduro is about participation. I would say it is more of a participation sport than a spectator sport. It can and will be the biggest potential number of racers as that is the bikes people are buying right now: ones that are cable of going up and down.

What are the top Enduro events?

Trans-Provence, French and Italian Enduro series, Enduro Nations, Megavalanche, Mt. Hell.

Can you envision a time when Enduro racing eclipses all other forms of racing?

In numbers of participation yes (just like how marathon XC stage races are eclipsing regular XC racing around the world) but in terms of importance not necesarily. It has its own place. I wouldn’t say DH is Better than XC or Visa versa. Same with Enduro. They all have their own place.

And don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with Super D. Another format when time and venue constraints are slim then it has a place. But if you can win on a light XC set up with skinny tires and high seat then it is not an Enduro worthy course.

NSMB.com Enduro Week Day Three Sven Martin Anka Martin  racing superd
  Sven’s experience lends itself to an opinionated viewpoint about Enduro racing…


Anka Martin

Anka Martin is one fierce lady on a bike. She is a very well rounded rider who has aimed herself towards the Enduro racing side of things in recent years. In this time she has probably raced just about every one of the main Enduro events around the world. If there is anyone who knows Enduro it is her.

NSMB: What is Enduro racing?

AM: Going flat out on your trail bike, pushing the limits on sketchy, unknown trails, never quite knowing the track or where the hell you’re heading flat out to, constantly gasping for air & loving every minute of it. If an XC racer can win with a high post, it is most definitely not an enduro race. There seems to be some confusion between Super D & Enduro racing.

NSMB.com Enduro Week Day Three Sven Martin Anka Martin  racing superd
  Focused on Enduro. Photo ~ Sven Martin

Enduro seems like a broad term that is used to describe many forms of racing. Is this because it is getting to know itself or that variety is the spice of life?

What makes it exciting & keeps it fresh, is the fact that it is different in every country. The fact that at most races, you have no idea what is going on, because they don’t translate the rules very well, but that is what makes it so awesome. It is that unknown warning, or that course change that they spoke about, that you have no clue about, that keeps it fun and keeps you wanting to come back for more. It is never stagnant with the same set of rules, and the same tracks, and the same rules to play by. Every event is new, different, and it creates for the most amazing stories afterwards.

NSMB.com Enduro Week Day Three Sven Martin Anka Martin  racing superd
  Through the misty mountains… Photo ~ Sven Martin

The UCI have clearly asserted that they plan to work with existing Enduro race organizers in the hope that a World Series of World Championship can arise. This question is two fold: What are the benefits to elite Enduro racers having a World Series? And what does this mean to the average rider who takes part in these races?

There are already so many amazing races, events, and existing series that are out there, with hundreds of entrants at each event, so I really don’t see the need for one “world series” organized by the UCI. It sounds like a baseball series and if the UCI becomes involved it will more than likely become too serious & take all the fun out of it, which is exactly why Enduro racing has exploded, because people have fun and it is not such a serious “world series” event where you chase points and then what? Have the most points. It is supposed to be raw & reckless with people from all walks of life racing, just riding or having fun. No national anthems or commissaires checking to see if you’re wearing body armor, the tightness of your jersey and if your grips have bar ends. I think that this will put off some of the average riders, and they are the riders that make these events possible & feasible to start with. They are the riders that remind you that you should be out there having fun on your bike, with your mates and that the actual race is such a small part of the overall weekend of ripping trails.

What does Enduro racing mean to the average rider? What relevance has Enduro racing got with everyday riding?

You don’t need anything special or custom. You just use the same bike you would use to do your weekly group ride with, you still get to go ride with your mates, but it’s pretty cool to get timed so the heckle factor with your mates afterwards at the pub is just so much more fun.

NSMB.com Enduro Week Day Three Sven Martin Anka Martin  racing superd
  Clearly steeper than this photo looks. Photo ~ Sven Martin

Do you think Enduro racing has the potential to help push mountain biking to a more mainstream audience?

I hope not! Why would you want to be more mainstream? It is pretty freaking awesome how it is right now & I don’t particularly care to be a part of or appeal to the mainstream audience in any which way.

What are the top Enduro events?

  • Trans Provence
  • MegAvalanche
  • Mountain of Hell
  • Super Enduro series, Italy
  • French Enduro series
  • Enduro des Nations trophy

Can you envision a time when Enduro racing eclipses all other forms of racing?  

There is no need for it to do that, it is cool to have different disciplines of racing. Each one brings an element to the table and they are all connected by general passion for bikes, no matter which form.

NSMB.com Enduro Week Day Three Sven Martin Anka Martin  racing superd  On top of the Enduro world. Photo ~ Sven Martin


Sven and Anka are well-versed in their Enduro history and quite opinionated about its future. The pot has been stirred – will you take the bait? Let ‘er fly below…

To see all the Enduro Week articles, click HERE.

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