I do…

When you de­cide to take your new wife on an eight-day bike tour for your hon­ey­moon… there are risks. And more than a few re­wards. One cy­cling new­ly­wed did just that.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - Inside - In­ter­view by Mike Finch

Tak­ing your new wife on an eight-day bike tour is risky. Ask SA en­durance rider Kevin Benken­stein.

With mul­ti­ple long-dis­tance chal­lenges to his name, in­clud­ing the ABSA Cape Epic and nu­mer­ous ‘Ever­est­ing’ suc­cesses, en­durance rider Kevin ‘Benky’ Benken­stein is used to long hours on the bike. You could say that it’s been his life… un­til, two years ago, he met Mikayla Webb.

So when the two got mar­ried late last year, it made sense that the best way to seal their new union was to em­bark on an eight-day cy­cling tour around Le­sotho and the Drak­ens­berg.

Why do your hon­ey­moon on a bike?

KEVIN: It’s just who we are, re­ally. Our first date was two long days of rid­ing in The Kark­loof; and we’ve spent so much time to­gether, ex­plor­ing, that it felt nat­u­ral for that to be how we cel­e­brated our mar­riage… to me, at least! Nei­ther of us are big fans of ly­ing around do­ing noth­ing any­way, so wher­ever we were we would prob­a­bly just end up go­ing rid­ing all day. I fig­ured we might as well see a bit more of where we live than just go­ing to one place and see­ing much of the same, day after day.

Weren’t you too tired to… erm, well…

KEVIN: No! Well, maybe on that day across Le­sotho. Haha!

Wasn’t it bit risky, tak­ing your new wife on a long bike trip?

KEVIN: My friends who have been mar­ried a while said that lay­ing down the ground rules

early is im­por­tant… ha­haha! Re­ally, though, I

was a lit­tle ner­vous about how Mikayla would feel about it all, and for the most part I kept it a se­cret as much as I could ahead of the trip. I felt like it would be a good idea; but at the end of the day, I’m nor­mal enough to know that an 800km/16 000m hon­ey­moon is quite a push – no mat­ter how much you love rid­ing. I was ner­vous.

Would you ad­vise other peo­ple do this? Or is this just a Benky thing?

KEVIN: I think it’s a Benky thing, sadly. But it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence to take on this chal­lenge with my wife, and both of us loved it in the end.

So maybe it’s a Benky thing to do this for your hon­ey­moon; but I think ev­ery cou­ple could ben­e­fit from do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar, in their own way, as a cou­ple. We are def­i­nitely closer and stronger after it.

It can’t have been all sun­shine and roses, though? Any tough times, when you thought Yikes, maybe we should have taken that hol­i­day on the beach in Mau­ri­tius! KEVIN: There were def­i­nitely tough mo­ments, and sense-of-hu­mour fail­ures. The ride from Sani Pass to Afriski was test­ing over the sec­ond half, with the last 50km in­clud­ing a 20km climb up to 3 200m, and then an­other 30km at over 3 000m alti­tude.

At that point Mikayla was less than pleased with my route choice, and I was try­ing to work out how to fix the sit­u­a­tion… but there was no fix. Right then, I might have taken that beach hol­i­day, just to see her not scowl at me for five min­utes.

What did you learn about each other on the ride?

KEVIN: That even­tu­ally, Mikayla will just shut up and pedal!

Re­ally, what we learnt is that we are hap­pi­est ex­plor­ing to­gether. For eight days we were es­sen­tially alone, with lim­ited in­ter­ac­tion with oth­ers – es­pe­cially dur­ing

…at the end of the day, I’m nor­mal enough to know that an 800km/16 000m hon­ey­moon is quite a push – no mat­ter how much you love rid­ing.

the rides; and that was per­fect for us. It sounds soppy, but we are both re­ally lucky to have found our other half, and our hon­ey­moon was just an­other ex­pe­ri­ence that con­firmed that for us. It was truly spe­cial be­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere, see­ing these amaz­ing views and places as just the two of us. There were a mil­lion mo­ments that re­ally did feel ‘once in a lifetime’.

Rid­ing seems so much part of your life. Do you ever take a break?

KEVIN: On Mon­days I rest, yes. Haha! No, but re­ally, I do take a cou­ple of weeks off here and there – for ex­am­ple, after The Munga – but oth­er­wise, I ride all year round. I think I take care of my­self more than it ap­pears; and at the very least, I man­age my in­ten­sity to en­sure that I can al­ways ride – I would rather ride easy than not ride. That’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant part of rid­ing.

My only rule is never to ride in Zone 3 – that’s how form and strength die.

I know that my vol­ume of rid­ing is not what’s rec­om­mended, but it’s what I like to do; so it’s what I do. My favourite thing to do is ride my bike, to ex­plore, to find and see things, and to learn more about my­self and the places that I see while do­ing so.

I have got bet­ter at rid­ing easy when I need to, and at look­ing after my body and not ex­haust­ing it un­nec­es­sar­ily. Which helps me be able to do that all year.

What fu­ture trips do the two of you have planned?

KEVIN: A lot. We’re even start­ing a bike­tour­ing busi­ness, to take peo­ple with us! There’s still a lot of South Africa that we need to see and ride to­gether, so there are a few trips here that we want to do. First up, in my mind, is to take Mikayla to see Mpumalanga – maybe we’ll ride there from Dur­ban.

Over­seas trips hold some al­lure for any rider, I think, and we are no dif­fer­ent. Mikayla’s planned trip for us is across Italy, see­ing the Dolomites and Tus­cany. And I’d like to plan trips in the USA and South Amer­ica – very dif­fer­ent places, but both to ex­pe­ri­ence their cul­tures. We want to go back to Aus­tralia, too; we have great friends there, and I think we would have a pretty cool trip go­ing to visit them.

The world is full of places to see, though – we come up with new ideas con­stantly. So who knows where we’ll end up go­ing next.

Tell us some of the most in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ences you had on this trip.

KEVIN: I think the favourite mem­ory for both of us is all of the times we met peo­ple along the road – es­pe­cially the Ba­sotho in Le­sotho, who were re­ally friendly, and so, so happy to see us. We were con­stantly met with big smiles and loud greet­ings. I re­mem­ber the women be­ing fas­ci­nated by Mikayla, call­ing each other to see this woman rid­ing with a bag on her bike, up these huge moun­tains. That was awe­some to wit­ness.

An­other great mem­ory was buy­ing a Coke and some sweets from a road­side ven­dor near Clarens. She had no change for a R20 note as it was still early in the day, so we didn’t ask for change. It was just R5, but to her it meant so much to have made more than nor­mal.

That was hum­bling, and a re­minder of just how much we have, and how lucky we are to live the life that we do. That has re­ally stuck with us both ever since.

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