Saturday, August 6, 2011

Last ride at Teak Place: Tuesday 9 August 8:00

Teak Place closes on Tuesday. My favourite part (the bridgies that criss-cross the river) is closed already, as is the part on the other side of the tar road.

Last ride there on Tuesday at 8. Black route as far as it's still open, then coffee, and picnic-legs-allowing, blue/green afterwards. Followed by a cyclists breakfast and a huge orange rock shandy, just for old times' sake.

Join me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mountain Bike Diaries

A replica of cyclingwith ... too many people ask  'cycling with whom ' ... and they're right, the original intention was ... cycling with legends, cycling with heroes, cycling with freedom challengers ... it's just that i often cycle alone ... so this is my diary of where my mountainbike took me lately :)

Gauteng bikeparks: the good, the better, & the coffeeshops close by

... and then it was June.

Time for some feedback on the bikepark fact finding mission. I've lost my camera on one of these fact-finding rides - which means I'll just have to go back to take pictures :)

Here's some of the good, the better & the coffeeshops close by.

Teak Place
Teak place was my Joburg-to-Sea training ground last year, mainly because it's safe enough to ride there on my own. It offers a huge variety of singletrack. Some highlights:
The 2 steep technical(ish) climbs and quite a few shorter ones.
Some wooden bridges over the river (with low-hanging trees and roots to make it suitably technical)
Chicken runs if you don't like the bridgies, or if they are too slippery.
An excellent piece of downhill followed by fast-flowing twisting singletrack (the blue/black route from the viewpoint down - that's one of my favourite favourites)
Not too much congestion on the singletrack - can't rememebr that I ever had to queue for any singletrack there.
Safe enough to go ride there on my own.

The tracks on the other side of the tar road has a distinct 'Ride2Rhodes' feel about them and you come back on a fast slightly twisty awesome piece of downhill. Ideally done with friends - this one is too good not to share!
Double the vertical ascent per distance of Groenkloof or Rietvlei.

Theres a fun non-technical green route for your beginner-buddies. It's not flat, however - your beginner-buddies might be out of breath and pushing their bikes once or twice. But they will have big grins :)
The floating bridge was next to the dam last weekend - hopefully it's just in for repairs?

Take a dual suspension if you have one; hardtails are perfectly good, but some of the downhills are more fun with more control.

The running trail is sometimes sharing the route with the bike tracks - a mix of dirt road and singletrack.
A decent coffee shop where you could get cuppucinos, big glasses of rock shandy with ice, and a cyclist breakfast afterwards. A jumping castle to keep the kids busy if your wife's having breakfast while you're riding.
Showers and a bikewash if you have other appointments afterwards.
Parking in the shade if you're early.

Rietvlei (Zoo farm)
I've only seen Rietvlei during races - 2 * 24hours, a very wet cross country and a Dirt Festival.
This time, I met a few roadie-friends for a 40 km tar-ride before we hit the tracks. I felt safe on tar - not too much traffic, and a wide shoulder so that we could stay out of harm's way. The route was generally flat - only one long(ish) uphill to wake the lungs up.

Then we switched bikes for the bike park :)

The green route is big fun, lots of tight turns in forests, some climbs but not too technical.  An ideal place to take beginner-buddies after they learnt how to work the gears. It's flat(ish) and would teach them bike handling skills while keeping it fun. More people on the tracks than at Teak place, but not congested at all.

The blue tracks are detours off the green route, joining Green again. They are technical and at some places a bit more technical than the black routes at Teak - some of it reminds me of the black routes at the MTN bikepark. Don't attempt the Japanese garden and the blue tracks around there if your'e not comfortable on your bike. My hardtail would love the green routes; I felt a bit safer on my trance on the blue routes. While there were poepl on the green routes, the blue routes seem deserted. There were blue detours that I haven't seen, so I'll have to go back :)

There's a coffee-shop on site; I can highly recommend the chock chip muffins - they arrive heated up so that the chock chips are slightly melted. Have one between the roadie- and the MTB ride, and another one when your green-route friends leave before you go out on your blue-route-loop.

Safe parking - but in the sun.

There are very few places in the world where you could cycle on beautiful singletrack and then have to stop because there's giraffe or zebra on the track :D It's like a gamedrive from your bike - in the middle of town :)
Very popular, so if you like to bomb down singletrack, you'll have to make a gap between you and the people who went in before you. Excellent riding; enough people on the tracks that you won't have to lie with a broken arm for too long, should something go wrong on a solo ride.

Some technical climbies, favourite downhill switchbacks, bridgies and tree roots. Some recently added singletrack which means you'll have to do more than one loop to fit in all your favourite singletracks in one morning.

There's a whole network of hiking trails - excellent technical running in places. Sometimes there's runners on the singletrack - look out for them. There's often beginners on the singletrack - just leave a gap in front of you, and pass where the singletrack ends - rather than scaring them by trying to squeeze past. The singletracks are generally shortish, so you won't have to wait too long for a place to pass.

There's lots of jeeptrack for your beginner- and non-technical friends.
Stay off the hikingtrails when on your bike - it's unsafe for both mountain bikers and hikers, and there's enough custom-made singletrack to keep you busy for a while.

Bike and helmet rentals if you broke your bike and desperately need to ride.
Moyo is just next door; they do allow soaking wet muddy riders in for hot chocolate :)

Safe shaded parking, hot showers, bikewash.

There's hiking huts inside the reserve ... so theoretically you could make a whole weekend of riding / running / horseriding there if you feel it's too far to drive from jozi :)

Just next door to Groenkloof, getting in on the same access card.
More of the same - a great extension to the Groenkloof ride if you need more distance or less congestion. I don't feel safe riding there on my own - there's far less riders than on the Groenkloof side. But next time you go to Groenkloof for a ride with your buddies, do yourself a favour and go ride on the Fountains side first :)
Then go to Moyo for breakfast, before continuing on the Groenkloof side.

Make sure that your newbie-friends are comfortable on the Groenkloof-side before you take them to fountains - some of the trails may be daunting for newbies. Kids would probably love it :)

Voortrekker Monument
Around 12 kms of good training. The singletracks are much longer than Groenkloof or Fountains, so once you're in, it will be a while before youll get a chance to pass. Not congested at all - the only people I saw on the route, were our own group. The track seem to go up and down a lot, and at times (especially towards the end) I felt like they're adding twists (always in the forms of ups & downs) just to add distance instead of real value. Good training, rocky descents and climbs, but the fun-factor not as high as next door.There are some black detours off the blue route; these are usually steep ascents (I couldn't ride them) followed by steep droppies. Make sure there's a proper fork when you attempt those.

Don't take your newbie-friends or kids there. While it's not too technical, there's a lot of ups and downs towards the end without a big fun-factor. Good training if they want to learn to climb, though. I prefer fun.

Sadly, the tracks are not joined with Groenkloof/Fountains, and don't look like they would join up anytime soon.

Parking in the sun; for coffee go to cafe 41 in Groenkloof, or Brooklyn.

I will not drive through from Joburg to go ride there, but if there's a running event or orienteering event, I will certainly take my bike with to add some value while i'm there.

Northern Farms
This used to be a favourite, years ago - we would cycle there, do a loop or 2, drink coffee, and then cycle back home. After a few hijack incidents I haven't ridden there for a while.

Access is a bit tedious: you buy the access tickets at a totally different place than where the farm is. But a multi-entry tickets can be used for your buddies and there's no expiry date, so you could use all your entries even if it take more than a year.

I would not ride there on my own, but my last ride was with 2 girl friends and we never felt unsafe. Lots of singletrack added since i was there last. There are some definite favourites singletrackies next to the river. Lots of people out there, so you may have to make a gap before going in to the singletrackies if you like to go as fast as you can.

There's jeeptrack and river crossings for your newbie-friends & kids. The ride always ends with an uphill - but at least there's bacon&egg rolls & coffee waiting.

A bikewash and showers if you must be somewhere else. Parking in the shade if you're early.

Van Gaalens
My new favourite track at van Gaalens: the Daggapad.

You go up to the cement tracks on the way to the Pofadder, but then, just before you tackle the real Pofadder, you veer off to the left. The most excellent mix of flowing singletrack, green forests with ivy-covered trees, twisty tracks, then next to a river, or on an old railway line, or on a technical path far above the dirtroad below. The scenery and tracks keep changing. The route is never boring, a big fun-factor. Before you know it, you've cycled 40 kays ... and then you don't want to stop.

It's far out of town - an hour's drive from Randburg with all the traffic lights - but very much worth it.

I would not cycle there on my own - but i think it's time to get  few friends together for a van Gaalens ride.

MTN bikepark
Sharpen your technical skills on a Tuesday after work,. If you're not tired by sunset, put on some lights - the parks stays open a bit longer on Tuesday nights.

Don't go there on a weekend - there's too many kids.

Take a camera with - and a friend who will ride all the bridges on roller coaster.

Go play on the BMX track if it's open and there's no training sessions - or kids who will point and laugh :)
Don't attempt the black routes if you're not comfortable on the blue - and don't attempt the blue if you're not comfortable on the green. See how fast you could go down corkscrew or green mile; try to ride the bridgies on wetlands - lots of trails in a very small area to keep you entertained for a few hours. You could add a bit of distance by riding there & back home.

Still on the to-do list:
Haven't been to these, so still have to go check them out:
Rietvlei (Pretoria)
Owls Nest
Kings Kloof
Boskop (?)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

the Great Gauteng Easter Bike Park Fact Finding Mission

When someone ask me what my favourite singletrack is, the reply is simple: it would be the last one I rode. I have a few firm favourites among the bike parks in and around Gauteng ... which means that I don't often see new ones, or forget about old favourites.

How many bike parks are there, what are they like ... and how many bike parks can you ride before you get bored of singletrack? It's time to find out :)

8:00 22 April (Easter Friday): Groenkloof & Fountains
8:00 23 April (Easter Saturday): Rietvlei
24 April (Easter Sunday): TBA - maybe just a short loop through delta park & botanical gardens :)
8:00 25 April (Easter Monday): Van Gaalens
17:00 26 April (working Tuesday): MTN bikepark (it's open till late on tuesdays)
8:00 27 April (Freedom Wednesday): Teak Place
28 April Dark&Dirty Thursday ... I wonder if the Dark&Dirty crowd would include Xtacy park if i told them about the bikepark-a-day mission?
29 April - work & recover
8:00 30 April (Saturday): Northern Farms
1 May (Workers' Sunday): XCO Avianto
2 May (Worker's Monday): Boschkop? Owls Nest? Logwood? 

Which bike parks have I missed that should have been on the list?

These rides could vary, e.g. some of them afternoon rides, some morning rides.
Most of these have trailrunning-tracks too :)

Join me for all or some of these rides.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tubes, stans & mud don't mix well

Had a problem with the tubeless a while ago, so put a tube in. It was long enough ago that I completely forgot about it, except vaguely remembering that I can't just jump down & especially up pavements with too-flat tyres.

'Till Sunday. The Spruit was particularly muddy and very enjoyable. I felt the snakebite as i climbed up a pavement. (Yes i know: One day I will be able to lift the back wheel and not be a snake-bite danger to all tubes.)

It took 1 minute to get the wheel off (at that stage I was still trying to keep my hands clean), around 30 seconds to get mud on everything, and then 20 minutes to try to separate the old tube from the tyre, so that i could put the replacement tube one in.

Lessons learnt:
- don't ride in the mud if you dont have tubeless
- don't ride in the mud if you had tubeless but then put a tube in while there were still stan's in the tyre
- if a tubeless did get an emergency tube in, remove the tube before it becomes part of the tyre.

The whole mess is at the bikeshop now to get cleaned, separated and sorted.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trans Lesotho Day 4

Motete to Khatse
89 km (including some minor detours)
2273m vertical ascent (including some minor detours)
just under 9 hours

An early start on a long wet muddy jeeptrack. The downhill-side was dry and fast; cold toes from wind on the still-wet shoes. At the bottom we turned off onto a singletrack and started climbing immediately. The bottom bit of this singletrack was a lot of fun to ride. It was wide, a smooth surface from years of donkeys and people, with the occasional obstacle to keep it interesting. It soon became steeper, and then it was a bike-carry-and-drag to get to the very top. A man with a horse rode next to me for a while, indicating something about his horse - i couldn't make out whether he offered me a lift on the horse, or whether he offered my bike a lift on the horse. A lift for the bike would have been well appreciated, but 'Lumelang', 'U phela joang' and 'Kea Leboha' only gets you so far ... Francois and Ray waited for me at the top. It was a pretty view ... and a spectacular piece of singletrack down. Mostly cattletracks, and sometimes a chosen line would just disappear, or dead-end in rocks. More technical at places, but THE BEST piece of singletrack of the whole tour.

At the bottom we joined a gravel road and followed it (up, down, up, down, up, down, steep up, down) till we met David along the way. After some ice cold cokes we were on our way again. Stopped at a spaza shop where we had more cold coke, then up a short tar climb and off onto gravel road next to the upper parts of the Khatse dam.

You would think that a road next to the dam would be kind of level .... WRONG. This road went up, down, steep climb, down, steeper climb, down, endless climb, down again ... up, down, up forever. (wellll all 22 kays of it).

I lost the front group due to all the climbs and nothing technical to slow them down. The only people behind me were those who had bike problems (Tumi singlespeeded after breaking his derrailleur, and Paddy fixed very muddy punctures) or those who got lost (Fiona went searching for a diamond mine and Nick, Hardy & Brian all rode a few kays extra on the other side of the river) -  so this was a solitary ride up and down between villages. The kids in these areas had more contact with travellers - there were frequent requests for sweets (which we haven't heard deeper in Lesotho)

Finally saw the dam wall. The last time i saw it, was about 20 years ago when it was still under construction -  there were flags high up the mountains indicating where the water levels would be. A whole lot of water.

Once over the dam wall, i realised i didn't have the last map with me - and had no clue where I was supposed to go. I cycled up the hill (if you go wrong, it's always better to have to come down to correct the error) and then cycled to the education centre to ask where the Khatse lodge was. Met McGregor (they cycled all the way to the bottom of the dam) and since he could speak Sotho, could easily ask for directions about where the other cyclists went.

Munchies at the lodge, then Tamara took us to our overnight houses. A celebratory dinner with lots of awards for all the riders - and then off to the white linen for a well deserved sleep.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trans Lesotho: Day 3

Oxbow to Motete
38 km
1073 m vertical ascent
around 10 hours

This day has the potential to be among the best singletrack that i've ridden ever. I say potential, because at many places what should have been a mindblowingly flowing singletrack, was frustrated by too many unridable obstacles and a too narrow too deep path against the steep slopes.

It was nevertheless one of the prettiest rides to be found - and some of the best swimming pools that i've seen. On high spurs you would see silhouettes of blanket-wrapped shepards with dogs. On other high spurs you would cycle past lone huts. The water in the river below is crystal clear, the surface below the water flat basalt. Here's Paddy at one of the river-crossings.

This area will probably be the highlight of future Trans-Lesothos, and I will certainly go back to ride this stretch again when enough riders has gone through there.

We crossed a river, promptly lost Nick (the third time in so many days), and then followed the newly built singletrack downriver. At one point there was another bike-dragging episode for a climb of 100 metres or so. At this point Tumi decided to go back to search for Nick, and the rest of us continued on some wide-grin singletrack. That petered out and we followed the newly-made singletrack where we could find it. The slopes was steep and the track deep and narrow. This made cycling very difficult - if a pedal catches on the slope-side, you'd roll down and come to a stop a few metres below the track. Where the track was wider, there were too many stops for obstacles that could have been avoided by building the track around it :(

Grant (the-photographer-who-hadn't-ridden-a-bike-for-30-odd-years-but-joined-us-because-how-else-would-he-see-the-valley) was concerned about his photographic equipment, and often opted to carry his bike rather than riding it:

When Tumi and Nick caught up with us, we had the tour group's 2 biggest talkers in the slowest group for the day. At every river crossing, and often in between, they started telling stories - the problem was that these were often funny, so everyone wanted to hear the end of the story before anyone could continue riding.

Carrying & dragging bikes rather than riding them, together with all the stopping at rivercrossings, made the group very slow and we knew we would not outcycle the oncoming bad weather.

The already technical singletrack became slippery and muddy with the rain, which made the going even slower.

When we reached the jeeptrack where Dave has arranged to pick Grant up, we left him with the sweeper and picked up the pace ever so slightly. The jeeptrack was of that kind of mud that sticks to the bike and adds 20 kgs of weight in a few minutes. I enjoyed riding in the rain. Although Paddy and Fiona was riding with me, it felt like a solitary ride - peaceful with just me, the bike and some bad mud. Just the way I like it.

When we reached the top of the pass, it was a quick downhill and then a very slippery singletrack to the village. We washed the bikes inside the river when we crossed it the last time, and then continued to the school that would host us for the night.

A lovely day, and it would be awesome riding once the technical problems are cleared up.

What I particularly liked about today:
- Knowing where i was all the time. It was very easy to match the map with the surroundings.
- The deep clear swimming pools in the river.
- The short pieces of excellent riding.
- The speed with which Alice, David & Tamara organised hot showers and tea when we arrived cold & wet:)
- The school choir that welcomed us. The program was short and well thought-out, leaving us feel welcome, but with enough time to sort bike-admin out.
- The slapchips with lots of salt & vinegar in the head master's office.
- The dining hall decorations.
- The evening program that included a bit of interactive background about Lesotho without being intrusive - well done Motete School!