Tuesday, June 23, 2009

the giants out there

It was perfect weather for PMB to Rhodes.
When we saw the guys (and girls) off in Rhodes, it was cold, and we knew it would be a hard and difficult journey to Cape Town, but everyone was cheerfull and expected to finish.

But the weather is not playing nicely any more. It is scary to read on the website about the people who are pulling out - I have cycled with some of those guys, and trained with some others, and know how strong they are - mentally and physically :(

Some of the strongest dudes and dudettes that I know, blog about how hard the days' cycling was. I read about gale force headwinds, stan's freezing in the tyres, painful knees that makes cycling virtually impossible.

Everyone here in the office is cheering them on, everyone wants the tandem to finish, I could already hear 'chariots of fire' as ordinary people cycle into Diemersfontein after an extra-ordinary journey ... I so want the people that cycled with me to Rhodes, and the people who trained with me, and the bloggers and everybody else to hurry up and finish the race so that I can concentrate on work again ....

And I want to shout 'hang in there, keep going' when I read about hailstorms and sore knees ...

But when does it become just a little stupid to continue? At what stage is it sensible to listen to your body and stop cycling and give up, so that you don't damage your body and can come back next year to finish what you started?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

what a ride

wow, what a ride ... 60-+ hours in the saddle (including interpreting the maps, crossing rivers and climbing mountains) to cycle 509.4 kilometers to rhodes.

a magical ride, some of the BEST (and toughest) riding i've done.

day 1: pmb - minerva - hella-hella - mackenzie; about 11 hours with 2616 m vertical ascent
Cycle to the townhall, some fodies, wait for the clock to strike 6, and off you go.
Mild distric road, chatting, bantering, mild cycle, first turn-off, a loong climb on forest tracks and later singletrack into minerva, rewarded with soup and bread, yum. in a tracktor and farm-implement-musuem :)

Then a steep downhill, more downhill, a rivercrossing or 2, map interpretations and more map interpretations, a very steep climb up hella-hella, followed by the BEST toasted sarmies and carrotcake EVER in the mackenzie country club. Hot showers, great food (lots of it) and chocolate eclairs :)

day 2: mackenzie - centacow - ntsikeni; just under 12 hours; 2658 m vertical ascent
Starting in the dark, lots of map-interpretations and discussions, totally wrong route, arriving in Donnybrook via a huge detour, them a stunning bit of forest-cycling (inlcuding some very nice downhills) into centacow. more stunning cycling along distric road and then offroad on cattletracks - the last bit of uphill cycling on cattletracks to ntsikeni in the dark, with a rivercrossing to get the feet wet right at the end. A huge logfire in the most beautiful cottage in the mountain, with bright bright stars and hot water for the showers. Soup, bread, supper, clean white linen, and no snoring (the snorers were in the other cottage)

day 3: ntsikeni - masekala in just over 12 hours with 1756 m vertical ascent
A rude awakening over grass and wetlands, took us 3 hours to do the first 13 kays. There were some rewarding downhills, though, a few kays on a district road with a headwind, some excellent soup, rolls and bananas in a farmhouse, and then a long climb over a ridge, with an apple-stop at the top. A downhill to match, more downhill, and finally some navigation in the dark to get to Masekala where there was no running water :(

day 4: masekala - queens mercy - malekonyane in 9 hours with 1016 of vertical ascent
The prettiest day of all ... into a massive plain and then downwards on whatever tracks you could find. Lettuce sandwiches at queen's mercy (supplemented with 2 cm of peanut butter and filtercoffee), then a stunning climb through villages, and up, up, up, and then lots more map-interpreting, some investigation down a valley, but back up, and finally DOWN to a farmhouse on an exhilirating downhill, and onwards to malekonyane, with a sharp steep climb, hot showers, vetkoek, a visit to the mission station.

day 5: malekonyane, tinana, vuvu in over 12 hours; 1976 of vertical ascent
starting in the dark with muddy singletrack, then district road, a climb, some downs, then off into the mountains for more singletrack, up to black fountain on cattle tracks, and then ... it looks like a bikepark up there ... wide playgorounds where cattle dragged wood ... lots of map-interpretation ansd searching for bicyclce-tracks, a very technical downhille (which the trance loved) and then onwards to tinana mission for a snack-attack of note: cheese-and-peanut-sandwiches, doughnuts, coke. followed by a climb on district road, and then 20-something of cobblestone winding up-down never-ending district road. arriving in the dark, was glad to see the school! interesting shower-thingy, and then sleeping in huts.

day 6: vuvu-lehana-rhodes in just over 9 hours (including about 2 hours of stops, but it was the last day, we had to make the most of it) 1546 m vertical ascent
starting in the dark, a downhill from vuvu, with the most stunning view of bicycle silhouettes against a red sky ... then up into lehana, lots of it ridable ... a few picnics on the way up - then more upwards around the corner, and downhill to the tenahead lodge for some tea and sarmies. onwards down to the top of naudes neck, ehtn down, and a loooong climb before finally a long sweet downhill, and then rolling hills into rhodes, with hot showers, food and clean white linen.

the rasa-guys cleaned their bikes and washed their clothes while the r2r-ers spent the time in the pub :)
woke up at 4 to see the rasa-people off, and then promptly back to bed, to wake up to a late breakfast. will be back next year!

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Friday

It's finally Friday.
It became Friday too quickly.

One day i was contemplating if i shall jump in & do this ride. The wuzzie-one, at least.
The next day it was Friday afternoon.

Far too soon.

The race has started.
The runners were out there all day, first finishers expected any moment.
The first batch of cyclists start tomorrow, while some nutters decided to go do Induna as some last-minute training.

The bike is washed, the tyres re-stans'ed and trued.
Piles of cycling clothes, tools and winter-gear are now sorted, packed and ready to go.
Only thing left to do is to replace ride-snacks that mysteriously disappeared from the race-box during the last week.

Too soon.
Can't wait!!!

Good luck to the Freedom Challengers, the Rasa-ers and the R2R-ers!

Monday, June 8, 2009


Late autumn, a perfect day for playing in the Spruit. The muddy patches are mostly dried up, the winter dust hasn't dusted yet, and brown and yellow leaves all over the singletrack.

Sunday morning was a most beautiful day in Jozi. It was a windless day with clear blue skies and a few irresponsible mountain biker buddies that know where to find all the juicy technical bits. And know how to ride them.

'twas a ride to celebrate freedom - Freedom of the Spruit, Freedom to ride Mellville-koppies, Freedom to be outside in winter, to ride proper offroad right in the middle of Jozi. Freedom to start the ride only at 8:30 - and not the ridiculous early hours that the freedom challengers seem to think is appropiate to start a ride :)

And Freedom to play rather than train, because it was only a week to go to r2r, and finally - finally - it was too late; training would not make any difference any more.

A late long lazy brunch afterwards.

THIS is why I mountain bike.

On the academic side:
  • found a map board, hoping to fit it tonight
  • finally we have some bad weather here - may test some of the winter-gear tomorrow morning on my commute to work
  • finally downloaded the maps and instructions
  • capestorm stuff is on it's way
  • camera is still at customs - hope it gets released on time
  • bike needs a wash after sunday's ride only a pleasure to wash the bike after a ride like sunday's :D
  • top up the stan's in the tubes

Results of the accidental front-brake-experiment:

Accidently used the hardtail's front wheel on the Trance yesterday.
Juicy five brakes are compatible with hayes disks :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Filling a 100 litre tub

It's so much easier, doing the r2r.

You can, for instance, pack a clean set of cycling clothes for every day.
Warm (clean) clothes for the evenings.
A full-sized toothbrush :)
Big towel and soap.
Living up to the RASA expectations of looking like a tourist in the evenings, all clean and dry and smelling of soap.

You have, after all, 100 litres' worth of space.
Which is about double what the Freedom Challengers have, at 26*2 litre ... for about a quarter of the distance. Yes, lots of space.

With the Freedom Challengers' boxes already on its way to Capetown, and with all the talking and blogging about what they packed, and how, and how to get everything else in the 30-litre-backpacks, you feel a little left out. So you decide to go find a 100 litre box (to get an estimate of quantities) and put your stuffs together.
Just in case you have to go to the capestorm shoppie once more.

'If in doubt, take it with', one of the freedom challengers said, 'you can always leave it in the box if you don't need it.'
'I'll carry your fruitcake', you replied. 'I've got planty of space. Need me to carry some coke for you as well?'

100 litres. LOTS of space. Clean clothes for the evenings, warm stuffs, pretty pink fleeces and cute beanies with hair. Polar buffs. Gloves from the last time you climbed a real mountain.

Throw everything out in the spare room, box goes in the corner.

Big box. Lots of space.

Start packing.

In the box:
  • a few spare tubes
  • a chain
  • a tyre
  • half a bottle of stan's (cos you have it)
  • lube - wet and dry
  • a front derailleur (because you have it)
  • 2 skewers - front and back (because they were lying around in the house)
  • 2 of those little wheel-thingies that goes onto the derailleur
  • some tools
  • 6 sets of cycling clothing - shorts, shirts, long- and shortsleeved
  • a fleece or 2
  • fleece pants for the nights
  • 2 sets of legwarmers
  • 1 set of armwarmers
  • a fleece headband
  • 2 buffs
  • civvies for day after the ride
  • full sized toothbrush
  • sunscreen
  • odds & ends
  • rain jacket & pants
  • make-up and unmentionables, as suggested by Gadget and his buddies and buddettes
  • you're sure you read somewhere that someone recommended you take a sleepingbag with
100 litres. errrrrmm ... not that much space after all.

You'll have to rethink the game plan, then.
Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Gadget for you, you wanted pictures: Bike is packed and ready to go.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cycling with FreedomChallengers

I signed up for Ride 2 Rhodes.

The kindergarten-version of the Freedom Challenge, complete with a guardian to look after us :)

Gotta do a bit of training. Even though this is the novice-version, there would still be hills to climb. But when Dave suggested on Saturday that we go for a ride with Fiona and the Freedom Challengers, I was a bit wary ... these people are going all the way to Cape Town, and they probably trained accordingly - if their blogs were to be believed. Intimidating!

But I allowed myself to be talked into riding with them ... they would be cycling with full kit and apparently were tapering, and who could resist a ride in the Magaliesberg area anyway?

An early start on a coldish morning.
Dave lead us down a tar-hill to test the buff's ability to keep the ears warm, and to find out where toe-freezing-point is. Then up again, through the gate, and heaven. This is why i cycle. For dirt and pretty views and rocky climbs with gnarly downhills. On towards the dam, then down, another little singletrackie through grass, and coffee.

Then a portage - 'cos the Queen Bee said so, and even though i was gonna do the kindergarten-ride, i, too, will have to go over Lehanna. That's what they said, so I went with them.

'they' also confirmed a few other things for me:
  • the ride 2 rhodes is 6 days, not 7 - so i have enough cycling kit (the luxury of not having to carry everything, therefore being able to take clean kit for every day)
  • the 20 litre bag will be big enough, even with travel-size makeup and other unmentionables in the bag
  • thank you Fiona for all the tips on navigating! i'll see how much i can remember
  • apparenlty my pet cat looks more like a dog, but in the end they admitted that maybe it could pass for a lion-cub, which is feline, which makes it a cat.
  • my lift back from rhodes was in fact riding with us in the group (i only had email contact up till then)
  • blue is a very good colour for a camera - now it must just arrive in time, otherwise i'll have to take the SLR
There was a race at van Gaalens, so we couldn't ride my alltime favourite singletrack :(

The Freedom Challengers quickly replanned the route, and we went up the vegetable farm, a short climb, a nice downhill (the bike loved it!) then up some gravelroad, and then up a stunning little rocky climb. heart rate monitor's battery is flat, but i'm sure with the last remnants of last week's cold it would have been a ne max heartrate. All of them with backpacks approaching 40 kg's, way up ahead on the climb, and me trailing a km or 2 behind them with my 2 litres of water in my bag. (That's why I do the novice ride.)

Did I ever feel left out of all their talk about ice-cream boxes that had to be packed and sent down to capetown, or about their final preparations, or about parts of the route that i wouldn't do? Not at all. Just very thankful for a few things:
  • i didn't have to climb that rocky bit with a backpack almost as heavy as fiona herself.
  • i know people who know how to connect all the juicy bits in the mountain in the best possible way, creating a stunning ride :)
  • happy to be on my bicycle -the bike absolutely loved the ride
And mostly a little bit sad that the preparations are nearing it's end, and that their may not be repeats of a ride like this one :(

thank you, Gadget, for the entertainment provided :)

Good luck, all ye Freedom Challengers! Two weeks to go!