Trans-Sierra Norte: A unique blend of blind enduro racing and culture

Trans-Sierra Norte: A unique blend of blind enduro racing and culture

Words: Peter Ostroski
Photos: Matthew Bruhns

The Trans-Sierra Norte (TSN) event, based out of Oaxaca, Mexico, is titled as a 4-day bike race but is largely a unique cultural experience with a sampling of some of Mexico’s finest trails. The mountains surrounding Oaxaca City are home to trails that begin near 11,000’, characterized by dense forests and rich biodiversity as they descend over 4,000' towards the city outskirts.

After a decade of consistent racing and transitioning to only a few events per year, my usual competitive mindset shifted for this race. Instead, my focus was on enjoying the overall experience and exploring new trails for the first time. Each day was a new adventure packed with 4-7 stages of blind racing in the Sierra Norte mountains.

I hadn’t raced since the Trans New England Enduro in 2022, spending most of the past summer with my newborn. Jumping back into a race environment, especially at altitude, proved to be quite challenging. In the upper limits of the stages, we would often find ourselves short of breath while riding through deep rich organics in the beautiful pine-oak forest filled with mature agave plants.

In a setting that trail builders dream of, these hand-built trails naturally pour down the mountain, growing steeper and more technical as you descend, yet with good sight lines welcome for blind racing and party trains. It felt like I experienced bits from various riding areas I’ve explored over the last decade. Some sections echoed Alaska's steep, organic terrain, others resembled the smooth contouring single-track of Oregon's upper forests. The lower sections hinted at the Mediterranean Alps, and the runs concluded in desert terrain, offering a climate completely different from the starting points.

What the locals and TSN crew have put together showcases their hard work with the quality of trails we got to race and integrates the riders into a welcoming Mexican culture. The cultural experience is what stood out to me as the highlight of the trip. Beyond the local flavours of food, and storytelling of different local Mezcals the TSN event is held around the Mexican holiday, Día de Muertos, or (Day of the Dead). The holiday honours those who have passed and welcomes back the deceased with offerings of what they enjoyed during their lives. Different scenes of family pictures, food, and art are seen as the holiday celebrates the deceased. In the city, the streets are lined with marigold flowers, paper adornments, pieces of art, and candles, and come evening, populated with parades to celebrate as a community.

Of all the blind trans-style enduro races I’ve done, TSN does one of the best jobs integrating their local culture into the event. On the last day, locals join the party with music, food, and parades through the streets as the community builds toward the Day of the Dead. The festive atmosphere experienced while walking through Oaxaca City resonated daily during the event and echoed on the trails throughout the week.

Learn more about the TSN