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!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trans Lesotho: Day 2

Libono to Oxbow
distance: 28 km
vertical ascent: 1100m
time: around 6 hours

The day started with a lovely few kays of climbing on a jeeptrack between fields of Cosmos, and then Grant and Alice (the friendly camera team) joined us on horses on a handmade singletrack cut into the mountainside. After a while the track disappeared and we dragged the bikes up the mountain. Aaargggh bikes were made to ride!

A picnic at the top, and then we found some cattletracks on the other side. A few streamcrossings, some tumbles caused by hidden potholes in the long grass, and generally pleasant riding with Tumi (Lesotho's National Champ; the trackbuilder/sweeper), Fiona (who's writing a book about mountain bike trails), Ray (who was our 'guardian' on ride2rhodes 2 years ago), Francois (a Freedom Challenge finisher) and Paddy (who made it his mission to find and fall into all potholes first).  

When we reached the tar road, Ray and Francois opted for the short way home (some tummy bug issues) and the rest of us crossed the road in search of more singletrack. Tumi lead us off track because there were dogs on the planned track ... more pushing, carrying & dragging bikes - so when Fiona said she had enough and is going to take the tar road home, Paddy & I followed without even thinking about it. We dragged the bikes back to the tar road where I found a stream to fill the empty camelback. It was a short climb, and then a long steep tar-downhill to Oxbow.

Pete and buddies arrived just after us with big grins and stories about a magnificent downhill on the singletrack - i was just  too tired to drag my bike over more obstacles for another hour.  awwww well, next time :)

Swimming with some trout in the deep blue pools of the river below the pub, an afternoon snooze, some bike maintenance and a very good supper.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trans Lesotho: day 1

Liphofung to Libono
distance: 63 km
vertical ascent: 1700m
time: 8:33

The day started with a most excellent singletrack up along a river with plenty of Cosmos, fun flat rock surfaces and a stream crossing or 2. We crossed the river at a rickety bridge. On the other side the singletrack made way for some jeeptrack, in a nice bad condition with some mud every now and again. The jeeptrack petered out into a not-always-ridable singletrack contour. My bike pointed itself downhill very quickly, but I realised soon that there were no bike tracks where the bike was heading - luckily Tumi (the track-builder and sweeper) saw my tracks going off-track and followed me to show the shortest way to the right track. The less-ridable singletrack changed to very enjoyable singletrack, more flat rock surfaces, and then we joined up with a gravel road.

We filled up with water at the first checkpoint, then climbed a mountain before Tumi led us off the path on a very long downhill-singletrack. We had to catch some cyclists who went the wrong way, and then continued downhill - fields of  cosmos and sunflower; the track was rough but ridable because it was mostly downhill. At this stage Francois and Ray were voicing concerns that we were off the map. Tumi suggested that we cross over to the South-African side of the river. Here we're crossing over to the other side:

We followed a gravel road with huge strange cathedral-like rock formations around us, and crossed back to arrive at the second checkpoint a few minutes before Tamara (who was driving the checkpoint-bakkie). The front guys (who followed the real path in stead of venturing off the map) arrived shortly after with stories of wicked climbs (and presumably some downhills to match).

A very nice lunchbreakspot under trees next to the river. Sandwiches with (discarded) thick slices of pink polonie and apples. Filled up with water, and then continued on a gravel road between maize and cosmos-fields - this soon became a long hot climb.

From here on it was just boring - around 25 kays of gravelroad that just went up and down and on and on. The last km or so we were surrounded by horsemen who escourted us into Libono. (pronounced Dibono - under certain conditions an L is pronounced as D in Sesotho)

David (Freedom Challenge) organised some hot showers :D

The rest of the afternoon was whiled away in the shade on the grass while watching the Libono Arts Company in action. here's Grant taking pictures of the first act:

After dinner at the community centre we were off to local huts for the night.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Random memories from 21 Arguses

2253 km in 88:22:53; 25.5 km/h.

Sunday was a most glorious day with stunning weather - cape town at its most beautiful.

Steel, cro-moly, carbon and aluminium.
Mountain bike, roadie bike and tandem.
Tackies, toe-clips, roadie cleats and MTB cleats.
Knobblies and slicks.
Well-trained and racing; injured and touring; undertrained and overseeded and dressing up as Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter, complete with life-size broom and cat) or a fairy, or just decorating the borrowed bike with balloons to celebrate 21 incident-free years

Rain, sunshine, wind, stronger wind and gale-force winds. a few gloriously beautifull days.
A particularly hot year over ou Kaapseweg where the race was stopped because it was too hot - and i was on a cro-moly rigid mountainbike with a harry potter full-size broom - injured, overseeded and undertrained

Finishing in Bakoven, meeting Bergleeu, Bones and some other cycling buddies on the beach for a quick swim afterwards.
Finishing in green point and not meeting friends afterwards because of hospitality-tent-duties.
Doing a personal best and all the buddies that year were somewhere else, so there was no-one who asked how the ride was.
Getting a massage after the ride, and ending up right next to where Weasul was getting his legs sorted out ... and then it came out that i've beaten him ever so slightly :P

There were some route changes: over ou Kaapseweg, then back to Chappies, then finishing at Greenpoint, then over Boyes drive
A draught in capetown where water restrictions prohibited the hosepipe-water-spray on suikerbossie - so they cooled us down with spraybottles.
Sounds of  'suikerbossie ek wil jou he'; a supporter on chappies cheering us on with 'i like to move it, move it'; a radio blaring just below kommetjie pass 'i really don't think you're strong enough'
Swiss bells moved from Chappies to boyes Drive. Loud cheers on Wynberg hill, baboons on Smitswinkel, the ever-beautiful mist at Misty Cliffs, breathtaking as usual up Chapmans Peak, Suikerbossie.

There were lots of friends along the way:
Vredenburg's Dok passing me on suikerbossie and a quick catch-up on the last years' events.
Michelle's dad passing me on smitswinkel for a quick chat.
Francois (the tandem partner) flying past me (with different pilot) too fast for more than a quick 'hallo'.
Brendan (ducttape), Estelle and Jan waiting for me & the knobblies
Chats with Calla & Louis's tandem when we shared the same starting chute - lots of other people & lots of other chats along the way -  all making the ride worthwhile and memorable

Waiting in the dark for the race to start. well trained, upgraded to cleats, looking forward to, and scared of the next few kays.
Riding a second lap - welll technically only a 3/4 lap extra after some flats - with gerard and wouter ... over oukaapseweg with loudly protesting legs

Trying to keep with the bunch up hospital hill - why do they always go so fast up there? - and losing them even before the timing mats that year that i had the broom on the bike.
The south easter blowing Francois & me off the tandem right at the start - and then dodging bikes that got blown over by the wind down Chappies.

Training rides - some years more serious than others
In Stellenbosch there were rides with my cousin Sonelle and buddies Gary, Johan and Nico to Jonkershoek after classes. Sometimes to Strand, and once to my parents' house in Joostenbergvlakte.
Solitary rides to Robertson and Rawsonville from Worcester.
In George, the whole crowd had mountainbikes. We put slicks on in summer, and immediately after the Argus the knobblies would come off for some singletrack 'till a month before the next Argus.
There were early-morning rides to the airport or Strawberry Hill (past Saasveld), afternoon-rides to Victoria Bay or Wilderness, and breakfast-rides to Knysna or Hartenbosch.
The geeky DF Malan computer studies teacher made the school newspaper for cummuting by bicycle.
Early morning training rides with Sebastine, the Dok, Calla & Co greeting the West Coast morning sun. Sometimes afternoon rides against the wind to Saldanha with Marida, and longer weekend rides to Langebaanweg, or from Cape Town back to Vredenburg.
Commuting to Unisa when I landed up in Pretoria, discovering the joys of lap-riding at Kyalami when I moved to Joburg.

A few times I was well-trained and underseeded, but more often i was undertrained and overseeded; on a few rare occasions seeded exactly right, what a joy.

A bike tour through Holland, where a random stranger started talking to me on a station, and when he heard I was from South Africa, knew about Mandela and the Argus tour.

Meeting unknown hubbers for coffee at the airport on the Friday afternoon before the flight to Capetown. Delayed flights, thunderstorms on Joburg international, and helmets and bicycle pumps sticking out of random hand luggage.

Leaving Gauteng with my cousin Herman in the dead of the night, and then pulling into a petrol station at dawn on a friday morning, with radio oranje blaring it out (to the tune of 'i did it my way') 'it's finally friday'

Lots of extra-ordinary people made the ride worthwhile:
Johan, Nico, Gary, cousin Sonelle - my first training buddies in Stellenbosch.
Alida, Dolf, Tricia, Elmarie, Wikus in George, then Calla, Dok, Chris, Oom Pikkewyn, Sebastine, Liesel, Frank - everybody from Vredenburg who made it worthwhile to get up in the mornings - you still are the best cycling-buddies i've ever had.
After I've moved to gauteng, my brother, who taxi'd me to & from the airport, to registrations, to starts, and fetched me afterwards. Who rode a few times on a tandem himself - other friends too - Johan Div, Bergleeu, Hylton - who looked after me more than they probably realise, Sebasting who always phone around this time of year.

The people I've met through cycling, the friends I've made ... those i've kept :D

Well done Rotary Club and PPA - superb organisation every single year.

Everybody say hopla!

Friday, February 25, 2011

birthday ride in groenkloof (sunday 13 feb)

A curios giraffe from this morning's Groenkloof-ride.

Breakfast, coffee and ice-cream at Moyos next door afterwards.

aaaaah, such is life :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The 11 principles of Mountain Biking Economy

Scarcity means that if there's too many people riding your favourite single-track, you have to go find another place to play. Mountain Biking Economy is the study of how mountain bikers manage their resources (weekends, bikes, single-track and riding buddies) to ensure adequate happy-hormone levels.

A dude named Mankiw coined 10 economic principles; i've added an 11the because mountain biking is sligthly more complicated than other economies:

1. There will always be a trade-off between different singletracks. To ride some great technical climbies and bridgies at Teak Place, you give up some cool giraffes in Groenkloof.
2. The 'cost' of riding in one place is what you gave up by not riding at another.
3. The benefit of riding always exceeds the benefit of not riding. It's is better to ride just a little bit on a weekend if time won't allow more, than to not ride at all.
4. Mountain Bikers respond to incentives. The better the tracks, company, variety, remoteness, roughness, stories and wildlife, the more riders will want to go there.
5. Trade can make everyone better off. You show me your favourite trails, and I'll show you mine.
6. Mountain bikers attract mountain bikers. The more mountain bikers you know, the bigger the possibility of getting invited to more exciting places to ride.
7. Don't rely on governments and other people to get it right. But sometimes they do (Groenkloof comes to mind)
8. A mountain biking community's standard of living is directly proportional to the variety of single-track close by. Happy mountain bikers are more productive, hence earn more, hence have more time to play.
9. Inflation is when all your buddies ride very expensive bikes, and you have to get a bike with more travel and tyres with more grip, so that you could keep up with them on the downhills. Either change jobs so you can also afford a very abusable High-Tec all-mountain bike and adventures like Freedom Challenge, or change riding buddies.
10. Mountain bikers face a trade-off between riding and working. The ideal is to always be able to ride, but most riders have to work to afford their hobbies.
11. If the spruit is swamped for weeks on end, or if all free time is used up for studies, dabbling into trail running or even just writing about mountain biking provides some relief :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time to say Goodbye

Snow at Lake Yamdruk, Tibet

A bike tour around Ireland, across Scotland and then on to Holland; a 3-day bike tour through the Baviaanskloof; another 3-day tour from Cape to Agulhas; a ride through the Himalayas from Lhasa to Katmandu. Some spectacular riding in Swaziland after we DNF'd a Swazi Extreme.

Two Sabie Experiences, a Sani2C, a TransBaviaans. Magalies Monster, Sudwala Mankele, a 24 hours at Northern Farms, Lionman, Sabie Classic. Sabie Shenanigans and Midlands Mally. A few proper adventure races, and a lot of sprints.
A wartrail where we had to outcycle a snowstorm up Lundean's nek.

Plenty of Groenkloofs, Spruits, Dark & Dirties and weekends in Waterval Boven.

Even an Argus tour or two.

I was a champion, I DNF'd, I was last, and I finished everywhere in between.

I broke a derrailleur in the Himalayas and on a Magalies Monster; broke the seat post bolt on a Sabie Shenanigans and another one on TransBaviaans a few weeks later. Broke a front derrailleur on Sabie classic mud and fitted the new front derrailleur after the first Sani2C stage, because there was no time to fix it inbetween. Phoned a friend late one Friday evening for instructions on how to make the rigid's 7-speed backwheel work on the Schwinn's 8-speed shifters 'cos the broken spokes would not have lasted for Lionman the next day. I learnt how to fit shifter cables at a very muddy (aren't they always?) Sabie Experience. I experienced the enlightenment of tubeless; the transformation from v-brakes to hydraulic disks; the upgrading to a proper (and working!) front shock.

I got horribly lost in the midlands at night during a Midlands Mally - and during some daylight Rogaines, and on some adventure races. On bunted Mountain bike events too -Wartrail and Induna, among other. I rode much faster than I should have on some downhills on Sani2C and in Sabie. Came off my bike very hard at a D&D ride a week before G4 challenge. And lots of other times, too. Some scars, some blood, lots of fun.

The Schwinn could do it all. Proper singletrack, pannier-touring on backroads, dirtroads and singletrack; locally and abroad; into headwinds, in thunderstorms, and by moonlight; through mud, snow and rivers.

It's time to say Goodbye to the trusted Schwinn - it's in the bike shop to get a new frame.

It had a full life, and will have lots of stories to tell when it get to the place where good bikes go. I hope the XTC would match the Schwinn's undying spirit!

Some of my favourite memories of the Schwinn:

An old castle in Ireland. Heard about it at the youth hostel where i stayed the night before, and spent the whole morning searching for it.

Giant's Causeway, Ireland. There was some very good singletrack against the mountains above the sea after this - one of the prettiest coastlines the Schwinn had the honour to ride.

Some spectacular singletrack on the Great Glen Way in Scotland. Have to go back there one day to go ride in GlenAfric ... without panniers  ...  notice the slick there on the front wheel ... which is what i did the singletrack below with.

More Great Glenn way.

Getting caught in the rain in the spruit ... those white things are not flowers, it's hailstones.

Team Dark&Dirty just before the Transbavians start. In the middle is Hans Wolfaardt (airbus plane crash May 2010)


Just before the pannier-clips broke off in the Baviaanskloof. Nothing cable-tie couldn't fix.

Potala Palace, Lhasa
Some prayer flags at the top of Yulong pass, Tibet

The hardtail at a campsite next to Rongbuk Monastry, a few kays from Base Camp.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The tyranny of the 'AND'

Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) suggests replacing the Tyranny of the OR with the Genius of the AND (in his book Built to Last)

In theory:
There's more possibilities in life than having to choose. Do both.
Not 'ride your bike OR study' but rather 'ride your bike AND study'.

This was exactly what i thought last year when i had to make up my mind about doing an MBA ... OR exploring lovely new places on my MTB. Embracing the Genius of the AND.

This AND-ing got me in trouble now:
The Argus tour is on 13 March. I've done a few (20 and three quarters, to be exact) so I thought i could dress up, Afrikaburn-style, and go have fun - not too concerned about less-than-ideal training time. Classes in Capetown start the day after that, so I'll sommer be in the area, ready for the challenge. The genius of the AND. Easy-peasy.

Except that I didn't bargain about all kinds of other interesting temptations that would appear on the radar. Like Trans Lesotho, which starts 2 days after classes finished in Capetown. In Lesotho.

I also didn't bargain on my boss' generosity to give me that extra leave to go do this ride :)

How on earth am i going to manage both? The AND suddenly became a tyrant. I have around 5 weeks to put in some serious training (inbetween business as usual, getting some sleep, and some serious MBA deadlines.) And I have to work out the logistics to get me and my roadiebike in Capetown for the Argus, then classes, then to Lesotho in time for the other ride.

Training starts tomorrow with a ride with some of my favourite ride-buddies. And if I ignore the logistics-problem for long enough, it might go away :)

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    mountainbiking lessons from an MBA class

    Instead of riding this weekend, I was attending marathon lecture-sessions - from 8 in the morning till 9 in the evening, and then some homework.

    Subject after subject and lecture after lecture it sounded exactly like mountain biking theory.

    Lesson 1: Don't be scared of technical sections - challenge yourself
    (from the business writing class)
    You can buy a dual suspension with lots of travel and have it professionally set up; you can do some weights in the gym; even run a little bit and attend regular spinning classes. This will certainly make the uphills easier. But the only thing that will make you ride single track faster, is riding it. Add variety. You won't get better if you always ride only the tracks that you can ride already.
    Same way that you can learn how balance sheets work and be comfortable with them, and have a super-fast computer to balance your sheets on, and know Excel inside & out. But you won't go anywhere if you only know how to balance sheets. If you're not willing to explain these to colleagues, or present them to management, you'll balance sheets till you retire. (Which is not a bad thing if you want to balance sheets ... or only want to ride up hills.) 
    But if you want to ride fast down hills too, only way to do that, is to ride them.

    Lesson 2: Confidence is everything
    (from the presentations class)
    Well, not everything, but a lot. If you don't believe that you'll clear an obstacle, you probably won't. And then when you fall, you say - 'see, i told you so'. 
    But that's because you prepared for failure. Only way to build this confidence, is to go ride single track. Often. 'till you like it, and then there will be no turning back.
    Same like when you have to stretch yourself a bit at work - when you have to do something that you're uncomfortable with. Do it till you like it - and when you like it, take on the next thing that you don't like.

    Lesson 3: Small steps
    (from the leadership class)
    Lessons 1 and 2 don't mean that you have to go ride the provincial downhill course. Not a week after you bought your first bike, anyway. Ride things that are on the edge of your ability - not two miles above it. Learn to deal with unexpected surprises along the way - small surprises that you're a little unsure of. Go ride the green tracks at the bike park; first slow, then faster and faster. Till you've mastered them. Go play on the blue - carefully, till you know what the unexpected surprises are, then quicker. Go back to the green often. Only then you'll carefully go check out the black routes. And check that your medical aid is up to date, too. 
    Same like you won't promote the shop floor supervisor directly to CEO, even though he was the best supervisor the company has ever had. Challenge him first by progressive (or horizontal) managing positions in different departments, so that the errors are contained; so that he stays confident; and so that he can learn. By the  time he gets to the top, he'll be addicted to learning and used to not having all the answers all the time.

    Lesson 4: Darling may not be the best place for mountain biking
    (from the research methodology class)
    The research example happened to be about the Feasibility of Wind Farms in Darling. From the amount of research that was already done on this topic, it looked like there's a lot of wind in that area. So by induction it may be too windy to cycle there.  There's no wind in Joberg - I'll think i'll stay here for a while longer :)

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Another extra-ordinary ride on the same weekend

    The other extra-ordinary ride was on Sunday in the ordinary Groenkloof. Except that there's nothing ordinary about Groenkloof.

    It was wet and deserted - besides Zu & myself, we saw one adventure racing team on what looked like hiking training, and 3 other cyclists with huge grins. 

     There's a lot more singletrack than when i saw it last. Something for everyone: some gravelroad, fast flowing singletrack, downhill switchbacks, technical singletrack, some highergrade technical singletrack (which I'll have to go back for, because I couldn't clear it) and enough reason to stop and take pictures if you overestimated your fitness levels :)

    Note to self: go there more often - and next time take running shoes with.

    Still the best R23.00 you could spend in Pretoria.

    an extra-ordinary ride

    When Dawn invited me for the umpteenth time to ride with them, i said yes 'cos the weatherman promised a very wet weekend with lots of rain. The festive season took it's toll on me: I was a little heavier and a lot slower than the last time i rode with them, and i didn't want to ride with them, cos i knew i'd hold them up.

    But when the alarm went off long before dawn on Saturday morning, there was no sign of even a remote cloud. There were no more excuses: I had to get up, dress up and pitch up.

    And was I glad i did!

    It must be some of Joburgs' coolest tracks: We left from the Carlswald shopping centre in Midrand. It was 60-odd kays of singletrack, jeeptrack, dirt road, some long climbs, even longer downhills, very pretty views, and a coke-stop in Gerhardsville.

    It must be Jozi's coolest crowd: Most of them have cycled the Freedom Challenge all the way to Cape Town. Those who didn't, have cycled the first bit till Rhodes - so all of us have carried our bikes over Lehanna :)
    All of them extra-ordinary riders, very humble, very strong, but with nothing to prove. They waited patiently at the climbies, they laughed with me right back to the world and the prettyness, muddyness and joyfullness of the tracks and our aliveness.

    An extra-ordinary ride with extra-ordinary people. 

    Thank you Dawn for inviting me - and Dave, Doug, Derek, Ben, Fiona, Henry - for babysitting me on the uphills, chasing me on the downhills, laughing with me on rivercrossings, sharing your chocolate brownie recipes and potatoes, lubing my chain, challenging me on the climbies and dreaming up more adventures. And the M&B breakfast afterwards. Like always, an honour to ride with you :)

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Trans Lesotho

    Isolation, altitude, a flowing footpath worn over hundreds of years .... that's what the Freedom Challenge website promises if you happen to be in Lesotho for the inaugural Trans Lesotho Challenge in the last week of March. 

    I couldn't resist, so my name is on the list.

    - I have no idea how I'm going to work the logistics for this one out - Argus tour followed by a week of attending (probably intensive) classes in Capetown, then coming back to go to Lesotho in time for this ride
    - I have no idea how i'm going to convince my boss to give me the extra leave (which may include possibly 2 days before the Argus, if i do decide to drive down) - I already am planning to spend far more than my annual allowance on attending classes this year (and the next few)
    - I have no idea when I'm going to train for this - I haven't even registered for the course yet, and I already have to think up a 1000-word opinion about a 224-page document, eating up all my evenings and into weekend-time. I might have signed up for more than i expected.

    I guess I just have to play it by ear and see how it goes - can't wait :) 

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    The Spruit - 40 shades of Green

    Katkisasieklas - A G Visser

    Ja, 40 dae agtereen
    en veertig nagte lank gereen
    dis 'n rekord, tot op hede
    Meneer, mag ek Meneer iets vra?
    Maar al te seker, Japie, ja
    Was die Boere toe tevrede?