Monday, June 21, 2010

Ghana: 1 Socceroos: 1

The coolest part was all the South African flags being waved at the game between Ghana and Aus :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Yesterday morning at the top of Thang La in Tibet it was about -10°C. This morning in Nepal jnext to the river, ust before lunch it was 41°.

The downhill continued, through the border where we swapped the truck and landcruiser for a bus. Was also where I gave Calien's bike back and got the rented bike.

Soem more downhill followed (I could get used to this) and then some very pleasant riding next to a river.

For lunch we stopped at a local restaurant - where we duly followed the local example of eating rice with our hands.

Was a monster climb to Dhulikhel - was very hot and i soon ran out of water. Luckily met Herman the Flying Dutchman about a tenth up the hill, and he emptied his 1.5l bottle of hot water into my bladder - 'twas enough to get me up the hill. With gears slipping, and brakes holding onto the rented bike's rims, I was not very impressed every time there was a downhill after we've gained some altitude - and very glad to finally reach the top a few hours later. The resort was absolutely beautiful (but we couldn't find a swimming pool anywhere) .

The food was once again great - and the view of the mountains around out of this world :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The last 5000m hill - and one of the world's best downhills

(so far as tar downhills can be nice, that is)

You don't go to Tibet for the epic snowstorms that you'd have to cycle through - that's what the Freedom Challenge is for. You don't go to Tibet for the miles of endless singletrack - that's what Joberg2C is for. There are awesome pieces of singletrack and technical riding if you look for it - if there's badly corrugated roads for miles, there's very likely gonna be a yak-track next to the road. If the jeeptrack to basecamp gets to boring, there will be a hiking trail somewhere if you search for it.

But I digress - you don't go to Tibet if you're after exceptional technical riding ... But if you're after exceptional views of big mountains, then this is where you'll get it. If you like the piece of road between Worcester and Ceres, or if you like the drop from the N2 down into Nature's Valley, then Tibet is a 3000m drop over 30 kays.

Climbs to match, of course.

It was cold when we climbed the last 5000m pass up Thang La. By now we're used to the altitude, so it was possible to race this hill - as far as the oxygen at 5km above sea level allow you to race, that is ...

The downhill was even colder - you sit on your bike and do nothing while the icy winds from the icy mountains cool you down. The downhill flattened out and the ride was interspersed with some mild climbs and very pleasant riding to lunch at Nyalam.

After lunch the real downhill started - the road just goes down and down and down. Breathtaking, the river far below - and suddenly you smell trees. You're below the treeline again, but the downhill just continues.  

Just before Zhangmu the road surface turn really bad - you ride through a few construction sites with lots of mud. The whole town of Zhangmu is built on one single road that snakes down the mountain. You'd walk into the hotel at street level, then go down doe your room on floor 3 (with a nice view) and down to the first room for breakfast - where' you'd be on street level again.

Tomorrow we cross the border and back into Nepal.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

a broken derailleur

Yesterday on the way to basecamp the jockey ended up in the spokes, damaging a few spokes and bending the jockey. There were calls to remove the derailleur and make a singlespeed, but we managed to put the bike in an acceptable gear, and continued the ride with a 3-speed.

This morning about 1 kay into the ride, the derailleur ended up in the spokes again, and was bent so badly that it refused to keep the chain rolling. The guide offered his bike and we loaded the hardtail on the land cruiser.

The first bit was absolutely stunning riding - it was mildly downhill, and the corrugated road caused me to continuously search for singletrack next to the road - of which there were plenty. The guide's bike's handlebars are very narrow, and the set-up feels like the bike want to go fast. It's light and handles exceptionally well.

Then we started on a long uphill headwind-climb that lasted an eternity. Here's the mummy-man at the top of the climb - from here it was superb technical riding with big rocks, a river crossing, some sand and generally good desert surface.

After lunch the guide rode his bike while I had a ride in the Jeep - it did not help my mood at all when everyone arriving at the campsite had huge grins on their faces, telling tall tales about a tailwind and not having to peddle at all for 40 kays ...

The derrailleur was bent badly, so that the top wheel-thingy de-railed the chain before it got to the bottom wheel-thingy.

I removed the broken derrailleur and shortened the chain. Test it - chain climbs up to next gear (at back). Ok, lengthen chain again and put it on that cog - no luck, now it wants to climb down to the smaller one.

The question:
- Any advice on how to change the bike into singlespeed without a derailleur, and get it to work without the chain wanting to go to a different gear than the selected one? I tried to select what looked like the gear that was in line with the middle blade at front, but obviously it was not in line enough. Is it even possible to make a singlespeed without using a derailleur as tensioner?
- Would it have been possible to bend the derailleur back in some way, and use it as a tensioner?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Everest Base Camp

The derrailleur got caught in the spokes and bent badly. Here's my bike being converted into a singlespeed with a pretty hill in the background.

Some prayer flags almost at base camp.

The mountains next to the road looked like bottles with coloured sand-layeyers in them.

Top of a tiny hill at basecamp.

The ride there was good - but back was superb when found the hiking-trails :D

The hardtail.

The prettiest campsite in the world

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

42 hairpin bends - and the sweetest downhill singletrack

It was a beautiful day when we left Shegar. More tar, then the first signs of a big mountain waiting for us - here we finally left the tar - the bike now much happier 'cos it was on familiar surface :)

Lots of town have 'gates' at the entrance - here's the town gate just before Pang La. 

Tibettan houses all look the same - a flat roof and painted square windows like this one. Often more symmetrical, though.

Pang La has 42 hairpin bends. I counted them. It's about 1000m's worth of vertical ascent. It took a while to get up there. On the way up, I thought it would be cool to come down that bends - but that was before I saw the singletrack on the other side :)

The view from the top was just stunning - the first time we saw the Himalayas. Wow. Was windy and cold, so I retreated to the lunch-spot about 200m back.

After lunch, we crested the hill again - and then, when everyone wanted to go on the motorway, the guide pointed to a hiking trail. 'The road's too bumpy', was his excuse. And man, was that singletrack fun! I'm used to let the faster people go first on singletrack ... but I soon realised that the 2 South Africans are much more comfortable on this than any of the faster climbers or tar-riders ... so we asked some track and bombed down the trail with large grins ... there were some steep turns, and a jumpie here and there - and every time you look up, Everest is in front of you.

THIS was why I came to Tibet.

The thrill lasted for a long time - at the bottom, we joined the dirtroad again, but it was horribly corrugated - and there were lots of yak-tracks and donkey-cart-tracks next to the road, which made for excellent mountainbiking on what was generally downhill and with a tailwind. I stopped too often to take pictures, so lost contact with the front guys - but those behind me couldn't catch me - so this made for some solitary riding in a desert - this day easily counts as one of my best days of riding yet.

When the downhill finally ended in a small town, we waited for the whole group while the truck tried to source some drinking water for the night. the last 5 kms was into a gale force headwind on a false flat - uphill on badly corrugated road. Was hard cycling, but luckily not too far. Arriving at the campsite, the truck's crew (who arrived just before us) had difficulty putting up the tents in that wind - so we all jumped in to help. It took about 6 people per tent to pitch it in that wind.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Yesterday morning when we woke up in fresh snow at 4700 and way below zero degrees, I thought my next holiday might be somewhere hot, and with lots of oxygen ... like Hawaii, maybe, or the Moz coast. But then

we ascended the Karo La pass (5000m), and cycled a pretty downhill, first with a backdrop of snowcovered mountains, and then through picturesque towns with red/orange/yellow/purple mountains as backdrop.
Horse carts with bells, dogs with red collars, yaks with yellow earrings and red collars. We spent the night at Gyantse (about 4000m above sea level) - LOTS of oxygen :)  From far away you can see the town - a fort (built by the english at around 1900) looks over the city. Another visit to a monastry.

Today we cycled just over 90 kays to Shigatse on the flattest road possible ... the total vertical ascent was a meagre 60 metre ... and the descent 190 (yup, even MORE oxygen tonight)

A Belgian, a Dutchmen, 4 Norwegians, a Chinese American, a Canadian, a Spaniard, a Swiss and 2 South Africans ... and everywhere people know that the world cup is in South Africa.

Lots more tourists on this route than expected :(