Thursday, 29 March 2012

Exploring & reaching the ocean

After a lovely morning of bonding with old friends, I decided that I needed a few key spares (like a skewer that I forgot and some links) so went to a local bike store. Now, dudes, you have a bike store and service is key! Just cause I am a skirt, doesnt mean you can be a jock. I am a cyclist and have likely seen and done more than you. After that warm and fuzzy experience, I was driving down York street and saw Willie Marx cyclists. I have read about Willie Marx and know he has set legendary records. So, I pulled up and met the former pro.

Wow! What a man. If you are a cyclist reading this and are ever in George, please go pop in and meet oom Willie (and support his shop). After seeing his scrapbooks and listening to stories, I was invited to return for a bike setup. I left his store feeling like I had had service despite not spending 1c yet.

I then headed to Beyond Flavour Eatery and Bakery for lunch where I enjoyed a chicken wrap second that was amazing. It was served with a salad with beautifully nom feta. Feel like cloning this place and putting it near my home. But the wrap was not all… homemade lemonade. I love food and healthy, tasty food is hard to find. Tasha the owner, chef and baker has hit the nail on the head. (Beyond Flavour can be found at the Eco Stop Centre on Langenhoven str in George)

After my lunch, I headed back to Step Aside and grabbed my bike. The cruise into town had my bike shuddering and squeeling so instead of exploring on the way to the shop, I headed straight to Willie Marx cycles. My bike setup showed my saddle was WAY too low. Whilst doing the setup, Oom Willie shared a secret with me. He told me….. Sorry, its a secret from a pro and I cant share. Smile with tongue out He then fixed the shudder, sold me a few spares and sent me on my way. I really enjoyed the meeting and my bike feels much more comfortable.


Then came some exploring and a trip in the forest where I met a guy that won a Schwinn Mesa yesterday and now wants to enter Trans Baviaans as well as seeing a herd of bushbuck. The forests of George are really special and I am not sure if I just didnt notice it but it seems as if people here are much more active then they were when I last lived here.

In the evening, I dispelled a Joburg myth:Mitchells beer is not only available on tap – it comes in bottles too.

Link to my route with pics -

After a day of good experiences and meeting really fascinating people, I needed an adventure and today was the adventure. Today I hit the tar early and headed to Wilderness.

The trip out of George was uneventful and fairly quick. As I cruised out I contemplated how distance is relative. In Joburg travelling an hour to somewhere is “down the road”, in George, that equates to going really far. I mean, Oudtshoorn is “down the road” but is far. Anyway, I have weird thoughts on the bike. As I exited George, I hit the top of the Kaaimans Pass. I had decided to take this route to Knysna as I was nervous of the back road but this had another toughie: it was busy. It was a fun downhill but I so craved my roadbike! I can only imagine the speeds I could get on the roadie. It would be such a blast!! (I maxed at 56km/hr but held back cause I still have a holiday and cant afford a crash.) Reaching Wilderness was easy and fast so I scouted out coffee shops, then went to the beach where Rex posed for a pic.


Then, after some seriaasly strong but yum coffee at a place with blegh service, I got the nerve to travel up Kaaimans Pass back to George. Do NOT cycle up this pass. Wait until one day when they finally end the construction. It is narrow and not fun for that section. For the rest it is not that bad if you are on a mtb (can be done comfortably on a roadie too) as there is a storm gutter to cycle in. If you do decide to cycle this, do it early like I did – the tourist buses at least hoot and wave. Its a beautiful pass and is an experience second to none though. Glad I did the ride.

With the trip to Wilderness done and dusted, I have now stood and touched the Indian Ocean. In 2 weeks, I will ride to the Atlantic to complete the Trans-Continental journey. Just wish Tessa and Johan could have done this part with me.

Link to today’s route with pics:

Spent the rest of the day being a sloth at Step Aside. Nice to chill for a change!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

2 Weekends of quality riding

I know I have been quiet with the blog updates but that is only because we have been getting ready for this tour by doing some cycling.

Northern Farm ride 4 March

Last Sunday Tess and I headed out to Northern Farms for a longer trial run of the tourers and for Tess to have her first experience with a full load. For those of you who don't know Northern Farms, it is a safe cycling area that was a Johannesburg Water farm and is now just a horse riding, hiking and cycling farm. The irony of this place is that it is right next to Diepsloot which is a rough and not so safe township. Northern Farms has gone through some tough times with regards safety but is now once again safe for small ride groups thanks the the excellent security guards that actively patrol the area.

After loading the bikes with clothing, food, tents, sleeping bags and much much more, we fine tuned our strapping methods and set out. Our goal was to hit hills and although NF doesn't have mountains, it does have its fair share of climbing. We started off with the downhill into the valley which I normally bullet down but now with a fully loaded tourer, things were different and I had to utilize the least used parts on my bicycle: the brakes. Other than not being able to jump and having to take easier lines, it was not as bad as I had expected. Then came the long drag of a climb…. Now, when I had initially thought of this tour concept and invited Tessa to join, I was nervous of her fitness but clearly someone has done some training because Tessa is MUCH fitter than 6 months ago!!! As we climbed up the hill, Tess was proving to be the stronger cyclist on the day – I was getting nervous of my fitness!

Anyway, we conquered the climb and after about 15km of riding we decided that cycling in the middle of the day on a hot highveld day isn't a great idea so we sought the shelter of some trees where we dug out some roast beef sarmies and enjoyed a luxury, touristy lunch by the stream. After a nice chilled lunch, we headed up our last climb and back to the cars, finishing the day’s riding with just short of 18kms of quality loaded riding.

Tessa and Diane setting out for the Northern Farm ride The link to our gps data:

Breedtsnek Ride 10 March

Breedtsnek (aka Breedts) is not just a road or a mountain bike play ground, its a serious training ground where hardcore Epic hopefuls spend hours riding to get used to climbing steep, technical hills. Breeds is an epic journey starting from the town of Hekpoort, along rolling dirt roads up to the mountain road known as breedtsnek. The main part of the climb is about 5km long and as the season progresses, the road surface gets worse. The view from the top is WOW!! Brave, fit souls go down the other side to the shebeen for a cold drink and then fight their way back to the top and then along the same rolling hills back to Hekpoort.

On this fine Saturday, Tess and I headed out (sadly Johan had to work so could not join us) to Hekpoort where we decided to park at the bird store (a general store at the start of the dirt road). On arriving I realized that I was rather dof and left the key to the padlock that was securing my bike to the car at home. Stupidity at its best! We quickly went round to the garage around the corner where where we found 4 rather helpful gents who were way too good at breaking locks – after that, I don't think I will be like the masses and park there ever again! After returning to the bird store, we got ourselves ready, loaded cooler bags to the back of the bikes for weight and headed off. I was glad to be back on this pretty road and the rolling hills. I was feeling quite strong and had to remind myself that it was a long trip so I needed to hold back a bit.

On our ride up we were passed by many Epic and Freedom Challenge hopefuls who all slowed down for a chat to find out about what we were doing. We also had a nice chat to some guys about Tour de Tuli as I was wearing my Tuli shirt and they had done the event as well. After about 15 or so kms we came across some rather troubled looking cyclists in need of technical assistance – they needed a Leatherman and none of the guys had one. Girls to the rescue! This lead to a nice long chat and there after we kept finding these folks doing patch up jobs on the chain.

Breedts Repair 1

Then came the mountain. With Queen’s Bicycle Race blaring in my one ear and my 2-way radio ear piece in the other I set off. I was going to conquer this beast again. Up and up we went, over rocks, through ruts and up the steep climb. At the top of the main climb I got a radio call from Tess so I pulled over at some shade and waited for her – sadly the weight of the cooler had offset the bike’s balance so she was forced to hike the technical bit. We rode the last few turns together and after what seemed like an eternity we reached the top. This was my first return to the mountain after Sani and well.. it was AWESOME!!

After the “wow we had made it” moment we set about the important task of making coffee and settling down to rusks and muffins – much to the envy of the cyclists around us. We were even able to assist an American cyclist who had suffered a flat tire on the way up and had to walk up 3/4 of the other side of the mountain and as a result needed cold water quite badly.

Breedts coffee Diane and Tess at the top of the world

Sadly all good things come to an end and we had to pack up and head down. This proved interesting as I forgot I was on a tourer and bolted down, only having a cyclist tell me to pull over as my bag was falling off – the caps holding my rack on had come off and an emergency repair was needed. Fortunately it was nothing that duct tape couldn't fix and after a few mins we were off again (this time I used those funny brake thingies again). The trip down was fairly uneventful and we made it to the cars safely. Just over 47km of amazing riding!

Think we are ready for the tour after that.

Gps link to the breedts ride:

*Thanks to our i-gotU gps units we are able to track and publish our routes to show you all where exactly we have been. These maps use google earth mapping to give a clear idea of where we have been and the terrain we go through. Its also really useful that we can also geotag our pics.