Monday, December 21, 2009

a most pleasant Breedts' nek ride

I'm no roadie.

I tolerate district road rides like Breedts nek, because i know it's good training. So that i'd be able to enjoy things like Joberg2C, in stead of simply surviving it.

So when the hubbers organised a Breedts nek ride, I figured - why not. Nancy Drew's family has a farm in the area, which would provide safe parking and some boerewors rolls afterwards. Agteros organised some coffee and Nancy provided some carrot-muffins - yummie!

There were what - about 50(?) riders and they soon broke up into smaller groups with the racing snakes (who cycled the 60-odd kays from Joburg to Nancy's farm) way up front, and the mortals at the back.

Some beautiful singletrack through sunflowers, then off to the main bump in the road. The racing snakes went down to the shebeen on the other side, but the saner hubbers just sat around at the top of the mountain before racing back.

Some nice chats on the way, some bicycles to drool about, through the sunflower-tracks again, and then boerewors-and-swimmingpool-time.

It's good to be a cyclist.
And it's good to have friends who can organise rides like this one - THANK YOU NANCE!!

Rock & Roll

It was Thursday Night again.
We've had the official Dark&Dirty Year-end party ride, but with traffic between Joburg and Pretoria calmed down a little, I nagged Oupa Gerrit for a ride.

He agreed, and I dragged Gadget and Agteros to the ride to show them what REAL mountain biking is about.

Oupa Gerrit was the competent leader.
Herman (whom Oupa Gerrit poached on a Sani2C ride) was the sweeper. Between them were
- William, who forgot his light so bought a Pick&Pay emergency light
- Gadget, the x-freedom-challenger and my Joberg2C partner
- Agteros, an x-roadie whose conversion to mountain biking is almost complete
- Gideon, not a newbie, but because I haven't been there myself for almost the whole year, whom i've never met

We sped off to the top of Big Dipper. Searched a little in the grass for it. It was far gnarlier than I remembered it - only at the bottom did Oupa Gerrit confess that we weren't on Big Dipper at all - we found the right track, and then went on to the Cornwall RUSH. The last time I was there, there was still a gate and the downhill was all powdery. But WOW - all the sweetness and gnarly-ness of THAT downhill is back! Then on to St Georges, up Roetter's Route, then down on the Shebeen-Queen track to find the turn-off to the light-chase, where Gadget did some emergency-repairs to Agteros's brakes (it was HIS excuse) while the rest of us caught our breaths.

Then down Mine Shaft, through Blair Witch, and back to Roetters Route, this time down. Up that heartbreak hill koppie, then on to do Quadbuster, down Look-Ma-No-brakes at break-neck speed (this is why i cycle!), up Python, and on to Tour d'Tar.

I never wanted the ride to stop.
I never wanted the evening to end.
I wanted to be nowhere else.

Roetters Route has never been this fast.
Blair Witch was never this pretty.
Cornwall Rush hasn't been this gnarly for years.
Quadbuster was as tiring as I remember, Look-Ma-No-Brakes was FAR better than I remembered it.
Python has never been sweeter! The mud dried out a little, so it grips the tyres on the corners; I just wanted to go back and do it all over.

Has Tour d'Tar always started right at the bottom? And has Joburg always had THIS little oxygen?
Up Big dipper where William had an unfortunate incident with his bike and his cycling shorts and a rock and his bike's seat.

On to Cruiser and then back to the Moo Mall for some hot chocolate - a perfect end to a perfect evening.

Champions for the night:
- Night Light Chase: Oupa Gerrit
- Quadbuster: Herman
- Tour d'Tar: Agteros

Stats for the night:
- Distance: about 30
- Mechanicals: none
- Involuntary dismounts: William: 5; haven't seen any others - which is amazing considering what the wannabe-Big-Dipper looked like - not to mention Cornwall RUSH.
- Total vertical ascent: about 400
- Smileage: LOTS

THANK YOU to all involved - when can we do this again??

Friday, December 11, 2009

gumption traps

gumption: the energy you throw into what you're doing - the enthusiasm, initiative, sparkle

gumption trap: something that drains the gumption - energy sucker, enthusiasm damper

I just finished reading Robert Pirzig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - a book that is not about Zen, not about Art, and not much about Motorcycle Maintenance either.

But this is not a book review, it's about things that drain the gumption - cycling gumption in particular - and possible ideas on preventing it. Or at least minimizing the damage.

Gumption traps (said Pirzig) can be external or internal.

External Gumption Traps are things out of your control. Examples are

- horrible thick mud that collects on your mountain bike and builds up so thick that the wheels refuse to turn.
- ill weather - a non-stop south-easter, or never-ending cold fronts, or hail storms every afternoon exactly when you planned to ride.
- injuries / illness - you have all the gumption needed but can't put it to use because of an injury.
- mechanicals

Internal Gumption Traps are things within yourself. Examples are
- tiredness
- boredom

The essence of Pirzig's advice for bypassing Gumption Traps (in Zen & Motorcycle Maintenance) is to take time off. He calls it 'to go fishing'. Sit back, do something else. The answer will find you, you don't have to search for it.

I have seen this parallel principal at work very often with work-related problems. I would struggle with a problem on the database, not knowing exactly how to solve it, and then go onto Chain Reaction's website to browse through e.g. red bitsies for the bike - and next thing the solution would jump into my head. On a more dramatic note, i have gone to sleep at night with an unsolved problem, and wake up in the middle of the night with a clear solution - which i then immediately email to myself at work, and usually would work on the first implementation.

I have seen this parallell principal at work in cycling as well.
Some gumption traps that I have fallen into, and possible ways to bypass them:
The thick sticky clay on the first after-rain lap at the 24-hours
This was both an external and internal gumption trap. External because the mud simply didn't allow my to continue cycling. internal because I was frustrated that i didn't want to damage the bike (I spent almost R2000 at a bikeshop after some mud in last year's Sabie Xperience) and had to give the lap up.

Afterwards i was curious as to how other cyclists managed to cycle through the mud. I hubbed the question and got some pointers:
- Ride through every puddle you see. It washes the clay off and would allow the wheels to keep turning.
- Just keep pedaling. The clay will fall off after a while.
- Try to avoid changing gears.

The emotional trap I solved by standing back and changing the goal. Originally i wanted to do as many laps as possible. When the mud happened, I realised that I could either try to continue to race (and pay for teh damage) or just give up the race. I took a lot of time off, cleaned the bike as well i could, socialised with members of an x-adventure racing team, D&D buddies, hubebrs and other people i knew. Then went to sleep until i realised a long time later that that particular piece of mud was not part of the laps any more. I felt refreshed, the bike was reasonably ridable, and i got back on.
I'm going to have to train more to be able to ride through mud, but at least the take-time-off worked for getting back on.

the broken gear-cable at 94.7 MTB
I was flying - has a good seeding (2nd batch) and haven't been passed by many people in my group - in fact, I was passing people on the climbs and on the downhills. I felt good. Until the derrailleur stopped working at about 15 kays into the race. Stopped to check it out, and the gear cable broke off clean.

- learn how to fix it - or at least how it works.
When there's no gear cable, the chain goes to the smallest chainring - the biggest gear. A knight stopped and changed the limit-screw on the derrailleur so that the chain came to rest on the second-smallest chainring. This helped. A cycling-friend afterwards sugested that i could also have put a stick between the derrailleur and the gear where i wanted it. It would have manual gears, but it would have been better than singlespeeding in a difficult gear.

The ultimate place to see these make-shift fixes in place, is on Freedom Challenge. gadget epoxy'd a bottom bracket into place, the Gardener singlespeeded for a while, Doug rode with broken shoes, the tandem, the snowstorms and high winds and driving rain for days on end .... good grief, now that i think about it, the Freedom Challenge blogs are ALL about overcoming every possible kind of gumption trap - i wanted to still talk about getting bored with training, and with the ride itself, tiredness and other gumption traps - but there are far better examples of this out there - fiona's blog or doug's or the tandem story or gadget's story - so i'm logging off :)

It looks like rain, dear

It was the annual Dark & Dirty Xmas Ride. Decorate your bike, your helmet and yourself in Xmas attire and take the singletrack to Lawley Street to admire Pretoria's lights.

I braved the 2-hour-traffic to Pretoria to go empty my mailbox in Groenkloof. (I originally kept the mailbox as an excuse to go ride D&D - and it worked!)

I happened to have the bike on the car - still muddy from the 24 hrs.
Haven't been at a D&D ride for a very long time - was surprised (and relieved) to see so many familiar faces.

Dark rumbling clouds warned of wet weather to come. It was ignored, and QT made up songs as we rode.

Old familiar singletrack - I forgot what a joy it was!

End of the World, but the bridge looked totally different and crossing the road was scarier than i remember. Then Gauntlet, but perfectly good singletrack had to make way for Gautrain-excavations :(

Up King of the Hill to the old D&D centre, and then learning the Jinglebellride-song's words as we ride on tar up & down some hills.

singletrack, singletrack, riding in the night
oh, what fun it is to fly on singletrack at night

we riding singletrack
on our bikes at night
we're on our way to lawley street
where all the cars go 'beep beep beep'

*all together now*
singletrack, singletrack, riding in the night ...

On to Lawley Street, Pretoria's fairytale-Xmas-light-street - complete with horses pulling a pumpkin-cart - and some reindeers :)

Lighting-flashes, camera-flashes, xmas-lights, bicycle-lights.

When the rumblings became too loud to ignore, we headed back past the old D&D centre again - where the Hardies revealed their Xmas prezzie to us all: drive-through ice cream at macDonalds (where of course we all had to scream for ice cream)

The cloud rumblings became louder and the flashes more frequent, and bets were placed on whether we'll beat the storm to the Moo Mall.

We missed a turn-off and took a grass-route into the airforcebasewall-singletrack. Almost at the cemetry there were loud noises of surprise from Hardy. Legs on the singletrack. Don't know who skrikked the most - hardy or the body attached to the legs. Then the balancing act through the narrow-alley under the bridge and racing the rain on tar all the way to the Moo mall.

We reached the mall as the first drops fell. Still dry. The heavens opened. By the time all the bikes were on cars - about 4 minutes later - everybody was drenched.

Hot chocolate and all-day-Thursday-specials at the Spur. And some prezzie-exchanges.

Another uneventful D&D ride.

Here's to lots more for 2010.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'uge no more

received an email this morning from one of the most adventurous adventure race directers in gauteng the last few years. 'Uge events will not present any more adventure races. The organisers have careers and other things to focus on now.

they will be missed.

my first longer AR was one of their events - a 150 in Botshabello - they wanted to stop the race during a rainstorm after a freezing leg on a canal, but graciously allowed us to continue. Other teams were stuck on the dam, but they handled everything without a glitch.

there was an event in the drakensberg with a rock-climb at night, and abseiling off it, followed by en epic night-hike in a stunning forest. an orienteering leg when no-one could keep their eyes open any more. some cycling high up in a mountain.

there was taking a blind guy through grootkloof to see if he would manage the worst that a race director could throw at us when we were contemplating doing an AR with him (we couldn't do that due to date clashes - but it was because of an event that they were planning to put up, that we had that unforgettable experience)

there was getting sick after some tubing - and then jumping into - the jukskei, there was island-hopping in parys somewhere, some kloofing in krugersdorp - that one had some gnarly rocky descents on the bike-leg and an ice cream-stop in town - there was an event right in the middle of joburg with rhymes for clues - running and cycling without a map (we lost it and checked other competitor's maps every time we saw someone) around pretoria on a saturday morning - that was the event in memory of philip - A checkpoint in a cave somewhere near - krugersdorp? a sprint in parys with some hair-raising rock-climbing (for non-climbers) up the devil's chimney... a 65 event last year about this time with probably around 20 punctures, convincing some team members to convert to tubeless

the memories they gave us!

there will be other adventure racing events and organisers - the kinetic events were fun this year, and there are talk of longer events - but 'uge will certainly leave a gap in the calendar.

a 'uge thank you to the 'uge guys and girls who allowed us to be fully alive.

Monday, December 7, 2009

the dirtiest bike

I found some muddy tracks this weekend.
At Omni-motion's 24 hours at Rietvlei.

The race was stopped for 2 hours due to a thunderstorm.
When the tracks opened again at 7-30-ish, it was a fairy-land of red & white lights out there on the tracks. Some bikes made it through the mud. Some weren't so lucky.

After half an hour for 2 km's, i decided to give the lap up and dragged the bike back to camp. It was slow going - the bike was too heavy to pick up, and as soon as i stopped pedalling, the backwheel stopped turning. Believe it or not - up till that stage the rear derrailleur was still working. It took another half an hour to get it back, and then about 2 hours to get the bike ridable again.

Thank you to all the samaritans out there who helped with getting the mud off!

Luckily the organisers decided to cut that 2 km out of the loop, and i was back on the bike for another few loops.

A good weekend!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

4 sleeps till no sleep

Boss: Can we release early on Monday?
Me: I might be slightly useless on Monday.
Boss: K, how about Sunday morning then. 2 am?
Me: I'll be cycling.
Boss: 2 in the morning?
Me: Yes. I'll be cycling.

The expression on the boss's face was priceless.

It might not feel that good to actually try to stay awake at 2 on Sunday morning. But it sure will beat shutting servers down and running scripts.

The 24 hours start at noon on Saturday and ends at noon on Sunday. Technical (hopefully) laps of around 11 km. There is talk of climbs and forests and drops and bridges - round and round on the same track, getting to know the obstacles and going faster and faster over them - didn't clear this one on the last lap, now try something else ....

Lights are on the charger, camera is on the charger, just 4 more sleeps till Saturday.

Can't wait!

more info: