Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sabie Shenanignas

When i was a kid, i had a storybook about a boy with a huge red suitcase that he lugged with him everywhere he went. The story starts where someone asked him if he really needs everything in the suitcase. He then unpacks every item, remembering where & when he used it, and decides that it is a useful item to carry along. The book ends with the final item that he never used, but just as he wants to chuck it out, something happens and he packs that back into his huge red suitcase and carry on with his journey.

Jan Ever-ready FrequentFlyer is almost like that - i remember one cold night after a D&D ride he pulled out a blanket out of his magic hat that he shared with MichH & i (the blanket, not the hat) ... but i digress.

Between Jan & I we had 2 sets of goldlinks, a multitool, 2 handfuls of cableties, a huge roll of plaster, a few spokes & spanner, cable, spare tubes, lube, and some other odds & ends. (ok, ok, i'll admit: "between Jan & I" actually means that Jan had all these tools.)
We thought we were ready for any eventuality - that is, until the bolt holding my saddle to the seatpost, broke off about a kilometer from the top of a monster-climb up to one of Sabie's mountain peaks.

We arrived in Sabie latish the friday night - it was probably already saturday morning, to be more precise. Since
Jacques didn't go along, we had to pitch our own tent. My toes were freezing inside the ice nino down sleeping bag - pack warm bags & clothes for the Induna next weekend!

Registration was at 9 on saturday morning (now why can't all race organisers have such civilised starting times?). We crawled out of the tents at about quarter to nine, brewed some coffee, and received our starting times. The novice teams would start at 11, with the more experienced teams starting later.

Plenty of time to get the bikes ready and brew some more coffee. Half an hour before our start time we collected the race instructions. The glowworms (undercover in black & gray) were ready for the adventure. We started almost right in front and were leading the race for a few moments ... that's until we took a wrong turn, and Daleen's team (the WYSIWYGs) passed us.

The race format is brilliant. You never have to digest "54 km to go". The distance (and fortunately the hills too) are broken up into doable chunks: climb for 420 metres, pass over the crossing, continue up for 1.4 kays, turn left, continue up the hill for 760 metres, then turn right and cycle up the track. continue for 130 metres, turn left up the hill.

(Notice the repetitive use of the word "up".)

the day-stage was about 55 kays (without scenic detours) and there was a cut-off at 5 o'clock that evening, if you
wanted to continue with the night-stage of 45 kays back from mac-mac to sabie.

We caught up with Daleen & Pieter on a long steep hill on the way to the top of the mountain. we cycled with them for a while - not much chatting going on, though, because you need breath for that, and there wasn't much spare oxygen on that mountain that day!

about a kay from the top, i heard "clonk" - a seatless bicycle doesn't make for a very comfy ride :(
Jan fixed the saddle with cableties while the stronger teams (who started way after us) passed us - what a pleasure to see them power up that hill! About half an hour later my saddle was ready, and we were on our way again. But, as I discovered on saturday, a saddle takes a little abuse on a hill, and it wasn't long before I broke some of the cable-ties, then some more, and we had to stop again. Jan made another plan, this time involving lots more cable-ties, a whole roll of plaster, and another half an hour. Just after we reached the top of the climb, the saddle was wobbly and unreliable again. We had 20-something kays to go, but we realised that we were in real danger to miss the 5 o'clock cutt-off. Jan's seatpost was too thick for my frame, so we had to continue.

An hour (and some more minor climbs) later I realised that I won't have the energy to finish this race without a saddle, even though Jan pushed me up most hills, and waited patiently for me when i couldn't go further. We stopped again to re-think my saddle-less situation. A few minutes later another team came past us, and (like tobias from my childhood-storybook) had an extra seat-bolt in his bag ... we fixed the saddle, but by then we had about 17 kays to go, with just under an hour to cover that distance ... we knew we were out of the race, but chased time anyway ... what a pleasure to ride with a stable saddle!

There was an AWESOME downhill of 6 kays, it just went down and down and down - faster and faster and faster and slightly out of control - i'm still walking around with a grin on my face!

We arrived at dusk (and 40 minutes after the cut-off) in Macmac with mixed feelings - disappointed about not being able to continue, but grinning from ear to ear about the stunning cycling experience that day. The total ascent for the daystage was a cool round 1800 metres...with a matching 1500 metres of descent. The extra 300 metres of altitude would be for the nightstage.

With about an hour and a half to go until the night stage would start, we tried to convince one of the organisers to
allow us to continue - in the mean time we had to get the bikes ready for the nightstage, find warm clothes and
nightgear for ourselves, boiling water for hot chocolate, and restock on water, junglebars and snacks. We soon realised that the darksone wasn't going to happen for us. So i didn't get to test my new toecaps that was suppose to keep my toes from freezing. (will have to do that on thursday, then)
We did see 2 specialised bikes with lights that looked like they would light up Loftus, though. Would love to see them on a D&D ride once :)
and we did get to cheer Daleen & Pieter on their way out when they started the nightstage. We missed them at the finish though, mainly because we were trying out the local beer in a local pub ... sorry D1 :( !

As consolation for the missed nightride, Jan showed me some of Sabie's singletracks & downhills the sunday morning after the prize-giving-breakfast.

wow what a place!! wow what a ride, what a weekend! And we'll just have to go back next year to do the nightstage too ...

And we'll take a spare seat-bolt with.


the only question that remains is:
if (hypothetically speaking, of course) i am contemplating a dual suspension for some of the singletrack that i saw this weekend (and particularly on sunday morning), what should i look at / spend / buy?

only out of theoretical interest, of course :)