Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In search of Dirt

The Vitalstatistics:

The date: 20 March 2007
The occasion: a Beeg Nite Out
The distance: 79.9 kays
Time out there: 6 hours 18 minutes
The actual riding time: 4 hours 30 minutes
The average: 17.8 km/h
The altitude gain: 680 metres

The Cast:

16 nightriders: Oupa Gert, PowerGirl (with the usual heavy AR backpack), Hardy (with the usual heavy backpack with the baseball bat sticking out to scare any potential attackers), QT, Bennie, Sybrand, Wollies, the Thug, D1, William, Con, Pieter, Ian, JP and Marius. And I

The Scene:

Each D&D outride starts the same: You arrive at the D&D centre; get your bicycle ready, check the lights, greet everyone else (this usually gets noisier the more girls there are on a particular ride), & sometimes chatting to someone who can’t ride that night but arrives in his work attire to wish you well.
Wednesday was a public holiday, offering (some) the rare opportunity to sleep in after the previous night’s ride. So Tuesday simply had to be a beeg nite out.

The riders for the night included the old-timers, the every-timers, the some-timers & even a new face.
You wait for the last cyclists to get their bicycles ready for the night’s adventure, then ride to the garage to meet Hardy & Bennie where they stocked up on jungle bars - and finally the games can begin.

Headlights, Taillights, Helmets, and … Action!

Like all other D&D rides, the ride starts by flying down king-of-the-hill, around the traffic circle & then onto the dirt track. Unlike other dirty nights, this happened in broad daylight ‘cause you (at least tried to) leave a little earlier than usual.
So it was on to the air force base, around the garage-corner, down VO2Max hill into the sunset, over the sewerage-stream, down to the SPCA, & next to the railway lines. Switch off your headlamp, because it only lights up the dust kicked up by the bicycle in front of you. The last thing that looks vaguely familiar is the area around Smuts house – and then – gone. ‘Cause as soon as you get to know the cycling routes, a new fence is erected, a new development is built, or the Hardenburgs think up a new route. Just to keep it interesting – and to keep you coming back for more 

Some shockwaves as you pass under power cables, then through a veld on fire, & on to a sweet track with a squatter camp on one side where Elsie’s wheel decided it’s enough. A quick fix, & you’re on the road again, with excited greetings & shouts from the community members – they probably don’t see 16 cyclists (at night, nogal) riding right past their camp.
Now onto corrugated dirt road with Sybrand telling stories (and asking Bennie & Hans every now and again to confirm it) about QT’s need for speed when they scouted the route a few weeks ago.

After some mad chases up QT’s hill, you reach the first jungle-bar-stop and Hardy tells the legend of the ghost of a girl from a long time ago … with the appropriate light-effects to go with it when you signalled the ghost-girl, nogal.
After the brief spell, you’re on the road again. But Hardy discovers a flat tyre. Pump. Race down the hill. Flat. Stop. Change tubes. Pump. Race to catch up with the others. Flat again.

Starry skies. No wind. No sound, except from the 16 slightly crazy cyclists. No moon – the only light is from 16 bicycles with 15 headlamps & 15 handlebar-lights and the occasional ambulance or rattlecar (from driving on the corrugated roads too often) passing slowly to witness the spectacle. The long yellow grass & dry dust tells you that it is autumn already. There’s a chill in the air that confirms the end of summer.

Hardy pumps. Hans pumps. Hardy pumps. QT watches. QT comments. Bennie comments. Sybrand comments. Finally you’re on the road again.
The pace picks up, & then you get to the end of the corrugated road. Hardy’s magical backpack produces hot coffee for all. There’s talk of easing the pace a little, but that’s promptly forgotten as soon as you hit the road again. You try to keep up with Oupa Gert and the Tug on the dirt next to the tar road, with a few stops to regroup. Then you turn into proper dirt road again.

It’s a perfect windless starry night. No sound, except wheels turning & cyclists chirping & chatting. You want to be no-where else than on your bicycle on that moment on that road. And with these slightly crazy people 

By the time you reach the garage, everything’s closed. So Hans rigs the locked tap, you fill your bladder, you eat your jungle bar, and then you cycle off into the night again.

There are lots of warnings from Hardy (with confirmation from Bennie) about the loose rock on the next downhill, but it’s paved now. You switch off your headlight because it only lights up the dust, and then it’s downhill, regroup, more downhill, regroup. Then a magical rocky uphill single track – most attempted it, some walked it, some almost cycled it all the way to the top – wow, well done! You will have to come back one day & cycle the whole darn thing 

Oupa Gert’s wheel requires a quick pump, & then you speed off into the darkness again.

An uphill. QT picking up the pace again … and picking it up, and picking it up until you’re almost dead at the top of the hill – gee-whiz girl, where do you get all the energy? Bennie fixes your breaks, & then you’re ready again. Some tar, & then off to the right in search of single track once more.

From somewhere you join Atterbury road. You stay on the sweet downhill single track all the way. In the back of your mind there’s something vaguely familiar about where you are – and a gnawing feeling that there’s a mountain between where you are & where your car’s parked. But the current moment is the only one that exists – and oh what fun it is to ride downhill single track in the dark!

Then you hit Hans Strydom. Bennie says goodbye & cycles off home.

There’s something blissful about not knowing where you are – ignorance of the hills to come make them somehow more tolerable. But you know where you are. And there’s no getting away from it: the only way to get back to your car, is over that mini-mountain.

But the current moment is the only one that exists. So you put your head down & conjure up the energy to cycle up the hill. Those traffic lights in the distance, they are at the top. There is no other life; there is only now.

Long live Elsie-with-the-backpack, Queen of Hans Strydom hill! You go, girl!

It’s a downhill cruise to the shopping centre & the cars. Another hill conquered. Another magical night in the dark. Fifteen dirty happy slightly crazy riders, 15 dusty bicycles & 15 huge smiles. What a night!

The Credits

Coffee provided, carried & kept warm by the Hardenburgs.
Scouting of the route done by the Hardenburgs, Sybrand, Bennie, Hans, Oupa Gert.
Sweeping courtesy of Hans
The excellent company en route – provided by all the knightriders – thank you SO much everyone for keeping training fun!!

Special thanx to Clinton & QT for the enthusiasm that keeps the night-rides alive, fun, entertaining, interesting & excellent training.