Thursday, November 19, 2009

Riding, not Racing!

I've done 2 extremely muddy Sabie Xperiences, and kind of decided to not do it again because of the damage to the bike.

But when Fiona and Doug and Gadget (my freedom Challenge riding buddies in Joberg) all said they're gonna be at the Sabie Xperience preride, and with Dawn and Dave unavailable for playing, I realised I could either go with, or have no riding buddies for that weekend.

I have been tempted to do the preride before, but intimidated by my own (lack of) ability and what i've read from other people about the speeds that they do these rides at

Couldn't get leave for the Friday (due to a new product launch that didn't seem to fit in with my riding plans)

Left the office at 2-ish on Friday afternoon, only to be prevented from going anywhere by William-Nicol Traffic. Left Gadget's place at 5-ish. More traffic-woes, and we were free. Quick phone-call to Fiona confirmed that the day's ride was muddy and wet and long and awesome. Doug was battling with a cold, though, and didn't ride Another phone call to Steve (Honey) whe is lucky enough to stay in that area nowadays - also looking forward to the next day's ride.

We checked in and found the house-mates to be Colin and Graham - Colin, with whom i shared a downhill or two in Waterval-boven and a few other places - but more importantly, who has cycled events like La ruta de los Conquistadores and Trans Rockies - a LEGEND. and Graham, who has toured lots of the freedom trail SOLO. another legend.

It promised to become another weekend of cycling with legends, listining to their stories and admiring their bikes.

Woke up Saturday morning with the smell of freshly brewed coffee - Graham came prepared! We lubed the bikes, got our wind jammers out, and off we went. Doug was not looking well at all, but who can blame him for wanting to come with?

Out into the fog and through the pine plantations and through the fog. Admiring wooden specialized bikes, listening to stories, dodging mud-puddles, and just generally being alive.

Stopping for water, junglebars and bananas - then climb some more. A flat tyre, a cold that got the better of Doug, who opted to get into the ambulance - then climb some more. Wait at the top. On rare singletrackies, send the fast people first- partly so that you can see where the dangers are, but mostly for the enjoyment factor of all.

Up on to the reserve, and then on the level before the descent started. We had an ambulance, so

No mud-baths where 1000 cyclists went before you.
No queues on singletracks, and therefor no-one who jumps queues, and no-one walking perfectly ridable obstacles.

Some downhill at last, release the breaks and just go. The Trance's shocks were pumped a little too hard (due to the 6-hour-event the week before) and it handled even more unstable than i remember the hardtail - probably only because i haevn't been on the hardtail for a while!

Anyway - so we bomb down this hill and that - up that little climbie, then down again, and too soon the ride was over.

Washed the bikes, had an humungous chelsea bun (the size of a chocolate cake, really!), and then got clean to go watch the rugby in a pub.

Gadget organised some chicken liver pasta for supper - yummie!!!!

Then Sunday morning, more riding!

Doug looked a lot better, but wisely decided not to ride.
So we bid him farewell, and off we went - 'n climb on tar, some downhill, a wicked steep long breathtaking climb - and what a pleasure that it was ridable - mostly because there was no mud-bath where 1000 bicycle have gone before you, and the pathe was not full of people hiking up the mountain with their bikes.

Breathtaking climb, breathtaking views, awesome people. I wanted to be nowhere else.

More singletrack, more climbs, more downhills, a little mis-happie on a slippery climb that left a big gash on my knee, some attention from the medical team, more singletrack, more general feel-good-ness and alive-ness.

Too soon the ride ends.
Get clean, and head for Dullstroom for some pizza ans other fatty unhealthy foodstuffs and beer and hot chocolate.

Part of the reason for the ride is that the medical team can see where accidents are most likely to happen - and to work out their evacuation plans for the main event. There are 3 vehicles, so depending on the number of people who wants to ride on the day, there can be a maximum of 3 groups. People falling off from the fast group gets picked up by the slower groups. Your R100 per day's riding includes permits and a medical team that follows you in a car wherever possible - and who carries water and some energy drinks, junglebars and bananas. And priceless, the AWESOME riding buddies in what is one of South Africa's greatest mountain bike destinations ..... I'm afraid the Sabie Xperience 'main race' won't see me again.

But the preride .... i will be there next year. And i'll get leave for ALL the days of the preride.

THIS is the ride to do.
THIS is what mountainbiking is about (for me, anyway).

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