Jul 31, 2010

A day in the mountains

To take advantage of perfect winter weather and to take a break from the constant programming and frustrations that go with it decided to have another wild ride in Jonkershoek. This time however i've done the whole route beforehand and knew what should be rideable and therefore what we're going to attempt.

Roping in my partner in crime wasn't too difficult, thanks Harry, and we set off early Sunday morning in quite chilly weather. Overview of the route, start by riding up to Bergriviersnek, over Dwarsberg and then onto Swartboskloof route and down it. In total close to 18km of very tough riding/walking over some very scenic mountain terrain.

The first section went a lot quicker than the previous times, made it to top of Dwarsberg in about 3.5 hours. Had a quick detour to have a look at the path to Victoria peak, will definitely come back to do the first part of it. Some very technical and exposed riding later descended to top of Kurktrekkersnek and made way up to Sterrekykerskop. Surprised some hikers, most of which just stared in disbelief. Reckon i would have done the same thing a few years ago, it just doesn't seem possible/sane to take a bike that far into the mountains.
Although i can imagine that Cape Nature would be ecstatic to find us with bikes on the route i seriously doubt there will ever be a problem with mountain bikers causing erosion up there. Not enough crazy people to do it.

Once we hit the section next to the Triplets the trail smoothens out becoming probably the best section of riding in Jonkershoek (or above it), still a lot of technical sections but very rideable and with spectacular views of surrounding mountains and areas. Saw a Mountain Adder on the trail, very beautiful but gave it a wide berth after some photos.

When we arrived at the top of Swartboskloof decided to ride down as far as possibly before taking break. Our first mistake of the day came when we started discussing the ride as an adventure and and before it was over. Harry said, "One of us should just break something then it's an epic ride..", well 5 minutes later i rode over some rocks, which when compared to the rest of the route really wasn't even worth looking at. Maybe i should have been more focused on the trail than the views but never even felt the rock that hit my big blade, broke tooth and ricocheted off into my rear derailleur snapping the hanger. Well no worries i told Harry, will just make it a single speed and then ride down. Take out the multi tool. Ok look in the other pockets, open zip shake out bag...remembered that i took it out to put camera in. Luckily had some tape, taped up the jockey and proceeded to nature-fix the chain so that it doesn't flick into spokes. Good thing it happened right at the end, would have really sucked if it broke on the singletrack earlier. Still made for some very tough and interesting downhilling on last part of Swartboskloof trail (first half down is not very rideable).

Eventually made it all the way down to the circle route, that's when Harry realised he now needs to push me all the way home. With Lady Luck smiling on us just after the first small rise ran into some friends one of then busy fixing his chain. Great, converted the bike into single speed, took random guess took out couple of links and ended up with a 30*16 which actually worked really nicely.

Jul 23, 2010

Equipment Review

The time has arrived to do the equipment review before studies starts vying for space in my mind. Posting might become irregular/cease to exists if the academic load keeps on piling up.
Starting off with things i didn't find as useful or wouldn't take again would probably be the easiest.
  • Shoes- even after reading about the nature of the event i really didn't grasp how much walking there was going to be. Stupid me. With the backpack and trying to conserve energy i soon lost the urge to cycle to the top of every hill. Also certain hills were aptly renamed 'prostaat bulte'. Marnitz arguable had the best shoes i saw in the race, Shimano SPD boot. Actually anything except normal cycling shoes would have worked, even tekkies would have been too bad for the first week. That said i'm still really impressed with the abuse and bashing that my Mavic Razor shoes took and they're still going strong(ish).  
  • Gloves- i used full fingered gloves just about every day worked fine. However instead of buying a pair of wind proof gloves i opted to go for the surgical glove approach. One pair inside and one as outer layer over gloves. Even though this probably saved me from some frostbite;-), my hands were still freezing. On certain days even with Grabber hand warmers inside. So next time wind proof gloves.
  • Socks- Normal woolen socks worked just fine (the R30 ones in cycle shops), but for the first part of the race, especially with the cold and river crossing sealskin socks would have been worth their weight in gold. Definitely not attempting this again without them and decent shoes.
  • Condensed milk in 2l boxes. Even though his seemed to be a great idea at the time, we skipped a lot of the support stations which meant that spending a couple of hours outside having some great snack and appreciating the scenery was simply put, impossible. One Can would be able to tell his friends about an amazing night hike over Lehanas and another spectacular 400km's of travelling before falling prey to some farmers kitchen.

Jul 7, 2010

Beating the Pofmuis

Still not quite sure what to do with myself, busy updating the blog and sorting through the photo's. i've successfully beaten the dreaded Pofmuis (according to Marnitz this happens after the race when your body start retaining water and you start swelling), and adjusted the timer for next year;-).
Photo's will be on the slide show, but probable easier/better to just view them here, Freedom photo's. Well need to get back to some projects and find the motivation to not take my bike and backpack out somewhere on such an amazing day.

Since i'm going to redo most of the posts and layout, any comments would be appreciated. Also anyone wanting to join on excursion through the mountains are more than welcome...

Jul 6, 2010

Day 16

Last day. Finally caught the double Deckers and got 5hours of sleep. Woke up, everyone seemed extremely tense about Stetteynskloof,lot of stuff lying around that people left. Went up first part of trail,looked like hiking trail, seemed quite easy. Stopped before river to take bikes apart,rest of group didn't. Went right a bit early and spend some time creating new routes for the rest to follow:-). Found the airplane wing from the Shackleton crash and the rest of the plane shortly afterwards. Mixed feelings,exited to find it,but seeing the crash site and thinking about what happened to the crew, can't even imagine.

Shortly afterwards forgot about it all as moving forward become the only goal. Photo was at the easiest crossing (no jokes), the rest i really didn't even think about taking out my camera. Went for some serious bundu-ing through hakea,reeds, bramble bushes and all kinds of impassable underbrush. Luckily i packed my bushbreaker, Marnitz. Absolutely amazing what he went through, things i wouldn't even look at twice he just went through and created a nice road for me. Took about an hour to do 50m. Even with the bike strapped to my back it seemed to get caught on just about everything. Eventually made it through and up to top of climb,got David there waiting for us. Spectacular mountains all around. Heard that there was a path cut open at the bottom,but that's just part of the fun. Found quite a lot of leopard tracks on way down,and two cameras (made some interesting photos for cape nature).

Got to bottom of Du Toits kloof and went up the old pass, probable one of the worst moments in the race, up to the second last day we've been passing through the most amazing areas, scenic ride through South Africa and loved being out there. Now we were riding up a pass with amazing scenery and mountains surrounding us,but with more litter per every 10meters than the whole trip before that.
Lot of different thoughts as we coasted into the final few kilometers, bit of unbelief that its finally finished,wished i could turn around and to it again. Not going to go into too much detail,but it has definitely been a life changing experience and learned a lot about myself.
Will go through photo's a bit later and start uploading and edit posts a bit.

Jul 3, 2010

Day 15

Anysberg to Trouthaven:  235km, 21hrs, 1hr sleep.
Made a pit stop at Anysberg, in retrospect this was a good choice, i was still keen to go on when we arrived at 10, Marnitz in his infinite wisdom convinced me otherwise. Struggled a bit to sleep with the Leopard in the house with me ;-), but got bit more than an hour, didn't feel too bright when it was time to go on. Felt like i wanted to do the last 4 stops in 4 or 5 days and not in a single go. But got this far might as well keep going. 

Being the eternal optimist i am, i decided to treat the last part of the narritives into Montagu the same way if people tell you in a race that it is all downhill from here, or that you have a 15km downhill. i'm not a pessimist, but except for Swartberg pass and a few others there just isn't a thing such as a 20km downhill. As Marnitz said, if they tell you its downhill in mountain biking that just means it's a very flat road.

So with this mindset i just kept the pedals ticking thinking the last 29km downhill would be something similar to the previous 5km's. Was i ever surprised. Ok it's probable not really a 30km downhill, but after having been on the bike for about 24hours, with short stop at Anysberg, this was the easiest part of the route by far. You would be able to coast almost into town, with exception of one or two slight rises. Hit 68km/h in the dark, would love to do Ouberg pass in the daylight again. Stopped halfway down to put on some extra layers, suddenly very cold again.

Got into Montagu, had a warm shower and huge breakfast, aaahhh the small things. Left for McGregor, up and to this point in the race i'm guessing we've probable done less than 50km on tar, and it felt like we did 50km today, feeling very weird to ride on the tar. Then the camera crew caught us, of all the places, mad downhills, insane singletrack, taking some unplanned drop offs, riding some absolutely spectacular roads we're on tape on a tar road. At least the vineyards should make for a nice background view.
The camera crew seemed to unleash a new source of energy for my new GPS, taking climbs in his stride and actually making me work hard to keep up with him. Thank goodness they didn't pitch up anywhere with serious climbs ;-).
The worst part of riding came on the way to Brandvlei prison, on the tar road almost got hit a few times, would not make for the finish i imagined. This was the second worst part of riding on the whole trip, the worst part being Du Toits kloof pass. Don't want to complain, but i'm sure there must be better ways to finish off the last few days. But then again, with the exception of a few sections, say 30km's this has been a lifetime's riding the most spectacular roads, trails, paths and unridden sections of mountain biking which has been an absolute blast so culd easily look past this.

Jul 2, 2010

Day 14

Die Hel to Anysberg: 150km, 14hrs, 4hrs sleep.
Started at 5, i thought it would be fun and games to try a Rageltjie de Beer impersonation. Just couldn't get warmed up. So cold that i got back into bed after got dressed to just try and stop shaking. Marnitz snapped his gear cable after about 10 minutes. Then abused Tim's offer to stop there for breakfast (the provided frozen bananas and pears just didn't seem that appetizing) they were touring down the route this year. Saved by best oats ever. Thanks Tim, Michelle and Murray, for your helpfulness and hospitality and helping just about everyone on the route this year, absolute lifesavers today!

We only got to Die Leer at 9, but the stop was more than worth it. Unfortunately i tried cycling through the last river, whilst standing in the middle i saw the path to the left. Shrug, well that's how you learn, at least my shoes had dried out a bit before the walk up the ladder. Went through 4pairs of socks trying to keep my feet dryish. An absolute must -Sealskin socks.
Amazing walk up, can't believe donkeys go down there. Most of day was a rush to try make Montagu. We had some insane downhills though hit 75+ 4 different times, great. Tried hitting 80 on the Horlosiekrans downhill. This was probable the most accurate part of the narratives for the race:
"When you reach the top of Horlosiekrans prepare yourself for one of the fastest downhill rides
around. The gradient, the surface and the camber combine to draw you into a great descent.
Top speed reported on the downhill is currently 78 km/hr." 
Spun out at 65km/h twice and went down as aero as you can with a 10kg backpack, started to catch up to Marnitz and then nothing. Never even got near my brakes but reckon the weight disadvantage was just too much, never got above 77km/h. Next time i'm stopping at the top and stack up on as muck rocks as possible and then hit 80! ;-)
Got to Anysberg, wasted 30mins to search for the support station, 22:00. Decided to sleep bit,got 1hour and carried on to Montagu. Marnitz though he heard a Leopard, saw some tracks, but the only wildlife i saw was a Panda,  world gets a lot smaller when you can't see beyond your bike light and have been going almost non-stop for the whole night.

Day 13

Willowmore to Die Hel: 250km, 19hrs, 5.5hrs sleep (Last long sleep till end)

Early morning, started riding at 3. Difficult eating so early, but then again i'm not quite sure if i still have a natural biorhythm. Left Willowmore and yesterday's decision to wait turned out to be a good one, didn't really have any wind to speak of. Took about 7 hours to do the first hundred which took Carl 12hrs yesterday.
The first 180km was actually pretty flat riding, although for most of the way you had a choice between thick sand and heavy corrugation. Going to check in shower whether or not i have a Kore logo imprinted on my ass. Good thing i have an old Fox terra logic shock that doesn't distinguish between flats and corrugation. This section must have been an absolute blast to do on a rigid singlespeed-MUCH respect to Glenn Harrison.
Luckily we found a yellow monster which made the last section of about 10km a lot easier.
Got to Prins Albert at 2.30, left again at 4.

Cycled about halfway up Swartberg pass and walked the rest, took about 2hours. The kloof section at the bottom is a definite highlight, picturesque views. Went into the hell, normally can cycle everything easily now however with backpack it is quite a different story, walked most of the steep climbs. Lights died again at least i'm becoming quite good at descending in dark :-). Actually i'm very impressed with the light, bought the Hope Vision 1. For the price class it sits in and the weight this was probable the best buy of the trip(after the backpack), will do an equipment review afterwards.
Last hill felt like it was never going to end, think we had a quiet competition about who can make the most tracks going sideways. Heard car approaching, Tim James! He drove out to come see how we're doing and brought some coffee along, what a legend! Down into Hell scary downhill, especially at night, took it easy down after almost taking the straight line to next level on first few corners. Going down it felt like someone opened the freezer got immensely cold. Starting to struggle to maintain body heat, in the shower i was shaking so much almost couldn't get dressed. At least there is no sign of that imprint. Planning on going to Montagu tomorrow and then easier day to Trouthaven and home free after that, if all goes to plan.