You may have heard me say that I am considering getting an e-bike (electric bicycle). So, now that I have said it, I get asked why all the time.
Okay, here’s the reasons why I am indeed seriously considering it:
- It will be for commuting (and not racing). I live 1,5 km away from my office and travel there every day by means of a 2 liter diesel engine. Sure, I have a road bike and a mountain bike and I do like riding them. I do however have meetings on most days either at my office or within a 20 km radius from my office. So, knowing that I can get there without a big car and not needing to don my lycra bib or rely on a shower at the other side, is a great plus. I will still be pedaling to get the most out of my battery, but it certainly wont be at race pace. With cycle paths now very much rolling out across all major SA cities, I can ride on those, avoiding the danger that comes with riding on the road.
- The electric bicycles cost about 2,5 to 3 times more than the cheapest scooter, so why don’t I just get a scooter? Firstly, the scooter will have to travel on the road, making it a far more dangerous option than the bicycle. Secondly, I’ll still be using fossil fuel, something I’d like to eliminate as much as possible. Thirdly: one charge of the e-bike’s battery will let me travel about 70 km. That charge ( at current Eskom rates) will cost me less than R1,00 so yes, money saving is an issue when compared to a scooter.
- I am a great Elon Musk fan, he of Tesla fame. Hopefully my affinity for battery over fossil fuel, will make me see things his way and we all know how successful he is. ( I know that is a long shot, but worth the try, right?)
- I like the helmets that e-bike riders use. Really, that is one of my major motivators!
Photo courtesy of Cycology
It was indeed a great privilege to attend the chat by Alex Harris on Tuesday evening 19 August at Waterford Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. Although it was a cloudy day with some occasional rain showers, it was dry when I arrived at the venue.
With the blinds down on the big stoep area, the gas heaters on full power and excellent Waterford wines and catered eats on hand, the setting was just right.
Alex Harris, (http://www.xplorethisworld.com) for those who don’t know, is an explorer. He has climbed the seven summits, walked unsupported to the South Pole, crossed the Arabian desert unsupported and recently returned from his 15th summit of Kilimanjaro.
He is also the guy (and race director) behind the Munga, that $1million, one-stage, 1000km MTB event that will be held in December 2014.
His talk on Tuesday night however was about his preparation and experiences for and during the Freedom Challenge as well as the Tour Divide. Both of these are long distance, unsupported mountain bike events. The Freedom Challenge is over a distance of 2300km and takes the riders from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl in South Africa.
Tour Divide takes the participants from Canada all along the USA west coast to Mexico, a distance of 4418 km.
Alex shared some great “war stories” as he calls it about sleep deprivation, climbing over electric fences, being stung 30 times by bees in the face, parting a heard of buffalo and making repairs on the fly while doing the Freedom Challenge, an event he has won twice.
The Tour Divide’s challenges include snow, bears, lack of sleep and of course, 4418 km over a period of 16 days and 2hours for the 2014 winner. Alex came 3rd in 2013 and had to bail due to major injuries in his 2014 attempt.
Hearing Alex speak served as great motivation and a reminder to me to just DO IT. ( thanks Nike)
Put your mind to something, plan, train, strategize, etc. but then do it. You may not succeed the first time ( or even after you’ve been successful a few times) but you just have to take the plunge and get on. The human is an amazing being and can accomplish far more than we ever imagined ( or were told to believe when growing up)
I am motivated and will start working on my own challenges now Alex, thanks.
See some of the tweets from the function to see what others said / thought.
On Saturday 28 June the Rainbow Challenge event was held at Cascades in Pietermaritzburg. On Sunday 29 June the same venue hosted the mountain bike marathon world championship.
I was privileged enough to hang out there for the whole week-end to experience the vibe, albeit not on a bike. Yes, I went to chat to every-one that would listen, about the Munga, take photos, tweet and update my MTB contacts while there.
When I arrived on Friday afternoon it was cold and very muddy. Slipping and sliding through the venue to the briefing area was not a good sign of things to come. The cold conditions persisted on Saturday, though there was no rain. The various categories in the Rainbow Challenge set off from 08h00. Men 30-59 did the 70km route and the women and men 60+ did the 50km route. It was clear that this course, also the SA MTB champs course, was not for beginners. I overheard one rider say that the race was tougher than the Epic! I trust he meant one stage of the Epic. Either way, it was a mean course.
On Sunday, the weather started out very cold once again when the pro men started their 95 km race followed by the 74km ladies race. By the time the first men came in, it had warmed up enough for me to be in my shorts and T-shirt. There was a nice vibe at the supporters area near the finish line ( as well as the bar and food stands!)
Seeing those elite riders come in was a great sight to behold. Knowing that these guys and girls traveled from all over the world to participate in South Africa was a great feeling. Seeing how few people came out to watch, was however embarrassing. Being a world championship event I expected a lot more people coming to enjoy the vibe. Heck, it was the first time ever that Nepal sent a team to the world marathon champs and where were the supporters?
Being at the finish area when Jaroslav Kulhavy stopped just before the finish line to pick up his bike and carry it over the line was great. Seeing Annika Langvad claiming her 3rd world title was also awesome.
Chatting with the legendary Mannie Heymans ( Team Namibia manager) about fatbikes, Cory Wallace ( Team Canada pro) who saw his first ever giraffe during his race, Friedemann (Team Bulls Manager) about his team possibly riding the Munga and other organisers and sponsors over the 2 days in addition to taking over 200 photos was a great experience and one I hope to enjoy again.
See the full pro results here: http://mtbworldchamps.co.za/results.html
On a cold and misty Saturday morning, I found myself at the start line of the inaugural Darling Brew Extreme MTB, Bone Crusher route. And yes, it was held in the village of Darling, about 76km north of Cape Town.
We started off a little after the 08h00 on a fast and flat stretch of farm roads. The first climb, ascending Klipberg was not nearly as tough as they made it out to be. You basically juts had to be in front at the start to win the king of the mountain prize. The descent onto the single track, just after the 10km mark is where the fun started. The fun and tough 15km of single track on the farm Wolwefontein, was absolutely great.With short uphills, plenty of downhills, rock gardens and well built berms, this was indeed a mountain bikers dream.
I saw some slashed tyres and 2 men down while on that section, making it both exciting but also requiring all your attention not to become a casualty.
The single track really exhausted me and I was very grateful for the second water point at the 25km mark. Here I had Bar-ones, dried wors and 2 Cokes. From here we returned the way we came and rode into Darling and out again on the other side back onto farmlands.
The mist stayed thick and low and only once for 15 minutes or so could I enjoy the beautiful vineyards and countryside of the Darling hills.
The koppie we had to climb to the 38km mark was really tough, with most riders opting to walk. It was short and very steep, followed by a steep downhill on the other side, only to be followed by another steep but longer uphill up to 44km.
From there it was a great downhill section back into town and out the other side again and still not the end. The 55km route ended up being 57,5km.
Every finisher received a Darling Brew beer glass with a token for a free draft beer as well as a piece of local dried wors and a Darling dairies yogurt.
There was a great vibe in the tent afterwards with stalls selling delicious local fare. All in all a great first event for the organisers and one I’ll be back to do.
Well done to Justin Basson and his team of the Renosterveld MTB stage race who organised the event.
Some positive feedback:
- Please make sure we don’t get lost only 200m after the start
- Please make sure we don’t get lost at about 37km way out on a farm without any route markers.
- More than 1 queue for beer next time.
- Those showers guys…..
Last Thursday, 22 May 2014 was indeed a huge day for MTB, not just in South Africa, but globally.
It saw the launch of what the organisers are calling the world’s toughest, most demanding – yet most rewarding – mountain bike race.
The Munga – a 1000km, single-stage race will now offer the type of prize money NEVER before seen in cycling of any discipline. In fact, it now rivals prize monies usually reserved for international golf championships. First prize is US$ 750,000, 2nd: US$100,00 and 3rd: US$50,000 per 2-man team. Every team ( besides the top 3) finishing within the cut-off time of 5 days also stands a chance of grabbing the underdog “lucky draw” prize of US$100,000.
“The Munga offers more than just a race, it’s a test against the toughest of external elements and against the human body, but most importantly, it’s a game changer,” says Alex Harris, renowned explorer, athlete, founder of Xplore Authentic Experiences and Race Director of The Munga.
“With The Munga’s prize money significantly more that of current event prizes, it is a massive leap for the sport and one that we hope will bring greater recognition to the sport and to the racer in all of us.”
Two-person teams will tackle this single stage mountain bike race that will take place from the 3rd of December 2014. The intense, 1000km route for The Munga’s inaugural race will start in Bloemfontein, leading riders through vast distances across the Karoo, and conclude at the finish line at the Waterford Wine Estate, in the heart of Stellenbosch.
“The world is not short of tough things to do. It’s short of tough people willing to tackle tough things. And this is set to be one of the toughest races on earth. Do you have what it takes to compete in The Munga and win your share of a million dollars?” concluded Harris.
No, I did not go all the way to the USA to do a MTB event. The Philadelphia I am referring to is in fact just a few minutes from Melkbosstrand and in the scenic farmlands near Durbanville.
They hosted 3 different events on Saturday, 26 April. I decided to tackle the longest route, the 63km one.
We started off in groups according to the PPA’s MTB seeding. It started raining lightly at just about the time the first group was ready to start at 08h00. The rain continued for about 10 minutes and although I was feeling wet and cold at that stage, it lasted only for a short while.
The initial sections were farm roads of relatively flat nature. That changed at about the 7.5km when we started climbing to the top of Botterberg on the N7 to reach the radio towers at the 350m level.
Though still misty, it was a great view from there all the way down to the sea across the N7 to the right and all the way to Durbanville to the left.
A serious downhill took us back into the flat, dry and mostly boring farmlands. I was surprised however to start riding through a bluegum forest along the Dieprivier at about the 20km mark. This was a great single track and the most enjoyable part of the race.
After that followed more farm roads, mostly wide and flat with some grasslands in the mix. We did 2 river crossings and had to cross on big black mud hole.
The water points were very well positioned, managed by friendly people, all from the various sponsors of the water points. What struck my was how well the people at these water point worked togfether, all dressed in their company branding and seemingly having a great time.
I stopped at 5 of the 7 water points on my ride. I had water, coke, a couple of Bar-Ones, an Energade bar and energy drinks. I also saw flavoured water and oranges at the various stops.
The race ended at the bottom end of the main road, where it started, but with coke and medals being handed out at the church grounds where we registered.
All in all I loved the ride and wish to congratulate the organizers for a great route, well marked with excellent refreshment stops.
I will be back!
Put Your Best Foot Forward at the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run: 18 May 2014
I love doing mountain bike events. I also love doing trail runs. Well, here’s an opportunity for lovers of both to participate at an event.
Already a favourite with mountain bikers, the 40km Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge boasts what many have called ‘the best single track of any single day event’. Starting from the Mid-Illovo Club, it traverses two of KwaZulu-Natal’s most picturesque game reserves – the Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi Game & Spa. This event takes place on 18 May 2014.
For less experienced riders and family and friends, there’s also the 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and the 10km i-Cycle Insurance Fun Ride.
Those tackling the 8km and 18km iNsingizi trail runs will be also be taking on plenty of rough and ready terrain.
Entries close Wednesday, 15 May at midnight but late entries will be accepted on the day.
40km Husqvarna Classic: R140
18km Gwahumbe Family Experience: R120
10km i-Cycle Insurance Fun Ride: R60
18km iNsingizi Trail Run: R 90
8km iNsingizi Trail Run: R70
So, now my challenge: do I ride or run?
See some pics form the 2013 event.
Last night, while attending the Aramex Songo.info champions race in Kayamandi, outside Stellenbosch I saw “hope” in action. This “township” of about 30,000 people hosted this event for the third year.
It was a short-track MTB event with categories for juniors, women and men. What made it so unique is the fact that is took place a few days before the start of the Absa Cape Epic, meaning that many of the professional mountain bike riders participated. Seeing them close-up in action was a great experience.
In case you don’t know much about Songo.info, let me give you the highlights. What started as an idea to allow Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander to race together in the 2008 Cape Epic has developed into a social development program that provides sport and recreational activities to children. This is a result of the great work initiated by Songo Fipaza in Kayamandi and his subsequent teaming up with Christoph Sauser, the Swiss national who calls Stellenbosch his second home.
It became quite clear during the men’s race that the Kayamandi kids knew exactly who Christoph is and shouted his name as he passed by and even patting him on the back as he passed. Seeing that was something that I certainly have not experienced before. It was however when Christoph crossed the finish line first that these kids literally went crazy.
As Christoph finished, he cycled on for about a 100m or so away from the finish area, on the sports field. It was then that the kids at the finish line ran after him, en masse. It made any celeb mobbing I may have seen before look tame.
When he finally stopped, the kids were all over him. Two security guards eventually had to try and get the kids away from him. At no stage however did Christoph complain or try to get away from the kids. Everyone who asked for a “hi-five” got one and it was clear that they were in awe of him and that he is their hero.
When I walked away from there, I realised that he has given them an amazing gift: HOPE! Hope that no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, they could one day be that mountain biker / athlete / individual that succeeds, creating a better lives for themselves and hopefully, in the spirit of Songo Fipaza and Christoph Sauser pay it forward!
I recently had a chat with cycling legend, Robbie McIntosh, to ask him about his 2014 MTB racing plans. He has been very active this year and participated in a number of big league MTB events and plan the same and more for next year.
So, here’s the list of definite events for him, although there are a number of other ones he wishes to do, depending on timing and sponsorships:
23-30 March: ABSA Cape Epic - The race is held over 8 days and includes a time-trial prologue. The route changes every year, and leads aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through approximately 800 kilometres of the unspoilt nature of the Western Cape and up approximately 15 000m of climbing over some of the most magnificent passes in South Africa. Learn more about the race in the Absa Cape Epic Intro video.
25 April – 3 May 2014: The Old Mutual joBerg2c is riding the off-roads less travelled and trails never travelled. It is racing, riding and touring across this magnificent country. It is sharing a passion for mountain biking with those who love riding. Our aim is to provide a journey where the destination is less important than the experience along the way. Entries close on 31 January. Go here for details: Joberg2c
Mid June: This is a 2300 km Race Across South Africa (RASA) MOUNTAIN BIKE. It is non- stop and unassisted, starting in Pietermaritzburg in mid-June every year and following South Africa’s Freedom Trail to end in Wellington outside Cape Town. Learn more hear about this monster challenge: Freedom Challenge
10 – 12 October: Fedgroup Berg and Bush - The race starts at the picturesque Emseni Camp on the banks of the Tugela River, only 20 minutes outside of Winterton. The route varies every year offering roughly 130km of challenging single track, through scenic mountain and bushveld countryside, which forms part of privately owned farms. There is a 2-day option as well. Enter here: Berg&Bush
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