It was in 1986 that the Howick Mountain Bike Club (HMBC) held their first mountain bike race, sending about 100 keen mountain bikers on hard tails off into the hills of the Shafton plantations to crunch out 40km of trails and jeep track.

Since then, the event has become known as a challenging race with many technical elements, making the Howick trail network synonymous with the catch phrase ‘raw and unplugged’.

In 2016 the HMBC have extended the Sappi Howick MTB Classic over two days to include the Sappi Howick Enduro on Saturday, 5 March.

Many riders, such as Thami Kunene (pictured), will be eager to celebrate the Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro's 30th anniversary in somewhat warmer conditions than years gone by as the race shifts from June to 5 & 6 March in 2016 while an Enduro event has been added to the weekend's festivities. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Enduro racing is a more relaxed style of racing, where riders can ascend together at any pace to the top of several timed stages that are predominantly descents with the winners then determined by the total time of all of the descents.

With the rise in popularity of the Enduro racing format over the past two years, the HMBC have realised the potential that Enduro’s hold for the overall event.

“The way the trail network is set up in Howick makes it ideal for Enduro racing as generally all our long descents come down from a central point at the Shafton Fire Tower,” said Gavin Ryan, the HMBC Trail Steward.

“Riders simply finish racing one stage and casually work their way back up to the same point to start another descent.

“We held a trial Enduro event in October last year that was really successful and we received such good feedback from the riders that the decision was taken to include it as part of the Sappi Howick MTB Classic weekend.

We’ve designed the Enduro to be accessible to first time Enduro riders too, so we encourage everyone on any kind of bike to give it a go before then staying on and trying out the 40km Classic on the Sunday too as it’s a really exciting race,” he added.

Another big change to the popular event sees it now being staged in March as opposed to the traditional calendar placement of June.

“We found that over the past few years the June date was quite close to the Comrades Marathon, and clashed with some of the KZNMTB provincial series events.

“But, more than that, the conditions in 2015 were bitterly cold and we decided to choose a weather period that would be less stressful to the riders!

“It’s also nice to hold a race at the beginning of the race season, before people experience event fatigue as our races are serious, but they’re also really fun – and we want people to enjoy them!

“We may be turning 30, but we’re still evolving!” said Gordon Beard, HMBC Chairman.

The Sappi Howick MTB Classic & Enduro takes place on Saturday, 5 and Sunday, 6 March 2016. More information can be found at or while entries can be submitted at