I’d only ever seen myself as a Motorcross rider. That was all that I wanted to do. So when Kawasaki offered me a contract to ride in the Australian Off Road Enduro championships I knocked it back. “There’s no chance I’m doing Enduro,” I said. “That’s not the direction I want to go.”
Basically, they’re very different sports. With Motocross or Supercross, there’s a track stretched out in front of you and there’s a crowd, too, so you’re putting on a show. With Enduro racing, you’re riding a 12-15km loop through the bush. There was no real spectator angle and it wasn’t a predominant sport because of that. I just couldn’t see how Enduro would ever get big or pave the way for me to make something out of it in the future.
I had this week of running around and trying to grab sponsorships to continue Motocross racing.
But I quickly discovered it’d involve a lot of money coming out of my pocket. I’d have to put in long hours at a normal nine-to-five job to pay the bills and keep things going. When I looked at the situation properly, I knew it wasn’t feasible.
So I started to wonder if this Enduro contract was my last opportunity to race a motorcycle professionally. Otherwise, I had no idea what I was going to do. I’d probably get work operating machinery or stacking shelves in a warehouse, something like that.
While I was debating this, I realised I’d never really done Enduro and so decided I’d go for a trial run on my own to see what it was all about. Out the back of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri, there was a heap of Enduro loops so I went out on a motorcycle into the bush on the off-road trails. Setting out, I found the terrain really challenging. It was hilly country with hard technical climbs and difficult tight sections through the trees and rocks. My motorcycle wasn’t set up for Enduro and I struggled. I remember thinking, This is a lot to get my head around.
But as I continued, I realised that what I needed to do was find a completely different way to ride. In Motocross it’s high-intensity straight from the gate drop. The crowd is screaming to amp you up and you attack everything, full-gas wide open with 101 per cent effort the whole time.
As I rode around this track, I began to understand that for Enduro I had to learn to slow everything down. In the bush, smooth riding is actually faster than trying to rush and the speed will eventually come if you stay calm and consistent through the whole stage.
I also started to appreciate how challenging and varied this type of riding is. You have to make split-second decisions on the fly to dodge the rocks and logs and trees. The track changes every single lap as there could be a faster line development that someone else has found. Every loop offered a new challenge and different obstacles to get across. It wasn’t just pounding out laps around the same boring track like in Motorcross.
Getting off the bike at the end of that ride I made a decision. I might not love Enduro at the moment, I thought, but I enjoy riding bikes and this is my last chance to ride a motorcycle professionally. I need to take my chance. That mindset is how I still approach everything to this day. When an opportunity pops up in front of me, it may not be exactly the right direction I want to go in. But if it’s the chance to try something new and something different, I like to grab it with both hands and give it 100 per cent.
Making that decision was my turning point. I rang Kawasaki back and luckily the ride was still open. “I’ll do it for 12 months and let’s see how it goes,” I said to them. That year I won the Australian Off-Road Championship and never looked back.
Endurance by Toby Price is out now from Penguin