MANUEL LETTENBICHLER – TOP TIPS FOR CONQUERING EXTREME ENDURO HILL CLIMBS
Make light work of extreme enduro’s toughest hill climbs with Manuel Lettenbichler’s secret tips for reaching the top…
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler has quickly established himself as one of the world’s best extreme enduro riders. Winning the 2019 Red Bull Romaniacs on route to clinching the WESS Enduro World Championship, Lettenbichler more often than not showed his competitors a clean set of heels when it came to conquering brutal hill climbs.
Thanks to hard work, hours of practice and an enviable natural talent, Mani has learned how to ride his KTM 300 EXC TPI up and over terrain most would shy away from. Breaking his process down, Mani, who is currently recovering from a small injury ahead of the WESS Enduro World Championship 2020 season, offers advice on how to master those Red Bull Romaniacs style long, steep, zig-zag single-track goat trails.
“When approaching a climb, I scout my eyes as far ahead as possible to pre-empt what might be coming. Of course, for Red Bull Romaniacs, we are seeing things for the first time when we get there, but there are little things you can look out for. If there’s a signpost naming the climb then you know it will be tough. If spectators are gathered in certain areas then they are the key parts to get right.”
“I like to stand up as long as I possibly can. It’s the best riding position to be in to react to the trail and to save energy. My body position is central on the bike. I’m in a balanced position to maximize traction and I can play with the bike using my upper body. When I need to sit I still adopt this central position. During off cambers I keep my inside leg off the footrest ready to dab for extra balance and support if required. A tip for slow and steep seated climbing is to put your feet in front of the footrests. This stops you from sliding too far back on the seat.”
“I like to ride a hill climb one gear higher than usual. I want to use the torque of my KTM 300 EXC TPI to drive forward. All of the time I’m trying to keep my RPM low to avoid wheel spin. I always cover the clutch with my index finger but avoid using it too much. This way you’re saving the bike and preventing your finger from cramping up. When things get crazy steep I will drop to first gear, but again I’ll ride with a low RPM with a little clutch use.”
“Starting an event with a new set of tires and a new rear tire for each race day is crucial for extreme enduro. Fresh rubber will make a big difference in your riding and experience, especially for somewhere like Red Bull Romaniacs where you are on the bike all day. I fit a super soft Metzeler to get grip and traction on those off-camber climbs. But a soft tire is not enough if the moose is too stiff – that’s something a lot of people forget. A stiff moose means no flex and in turn no grip when you need it most. So, check your moose and drill it to soften it, if needed.”
“For long climbs it’s important to save energy. Big climbs usually have a signpost at the beginning to signal them, so take a quick drink from your hydration system. If you’re feeling it midway, find a safe ‘level spot’ off the main line to stop and pound an energy gel. Once you reach the top keep moving but reduce your pace to recover.”
Be patient and calculated
“Always remain calm and don’t stress out. Try to ride clever and be smart out there. Yes, it’s a race, but when the race is five hours long or maybe more, it’s ok to take an extra 10 seconds to assess the situation. This way you can help to avoid unnecessary rock strikes or crashes and save your body, bike and energy.”
Why practice makes (almost) perfect
“At home when you go for a ride, try to practice sections like these. Don’t wait until race day to learn – that’s the hard way. This is important because you can work on your technique without being under pressure. You’ll find ways that work for you and your bike so when it matters you will instinctively know how to conquer those climbs.”