Sometimes you end up with your butt planted in the dirt
Mountain biking can be an absolute pleasure, but be prepared for a fall Steve Pike
MOUNTAIN biking has the rare distinction of combining intense pleasure with intense pain. In MTB stage racing, if you’re not sufficiently prepared with bike or body, the latter increases exponentially.
It all began two weeks ago during a training ride up Table Mountain, and ended last Sunday during Day 3 of the FNB Wines 2 Whales Adventure. Winding my way along the gnarled single track that sweeps up from the bottom of the Rhodes Memorial entrance on the M3, I fell over.
Falling over on a mountain bike is a fairly routine act for many people, especially when you’re going slowly. Grinding over rocks or roots, your wheel can slip and your bike stalls.
Because you don’t have time to uncleat yourself, you flop over, breaking your fall with your hand or shoulder, and thigh or hip. No big deal.
Standing up, I reached back into my pocket to investigate a wet sensation seeping through my cycle top. I realised that my can of pepper spray – on standby to prevent unruly canines from shredding chunks off my calves, or for possible rogue robbers – had ruptured.
I continued riding. As the sun beat down and my upward cadence built up a sweaty grind, a burning sensation around the butt area began to turn up the heat. Eventually, I was flying uphill: fuelled by a rocket-propelled posterior.
Of course, the inevitable was always going to occur, despite countless internal instructions. It’s like when you’re chopping chillies. You invariably forget. Next thing, you’ve scratched your scrotum, or wiped a tear from your eye – not necessarily in that order.
The irritant effect of onion fumes on eyeballs pale against the ungodly conflagration caused by capsicum.
There I sat, blindly poking about in the fynbos halfway up to the Blockhouse, ass burning, face smouldering and eyes welded shut by scalding corrosion. Opening one eye, let alone two, evoked a sudden stabbing sensation. I can’t imagine what a full facial squirt – courtesy of an angry old lady – would do. I was a sitting schmuck. Luckily, no dodgy dudes were on patrol that day.
Fast forward to Day 2 of the W2W Adventure after a particularly torturous Day 1 – the 78km route and 2300 metres of climbing had been a burn of a different kind, courtesy of relentless cramps and unusually tough riding. But it was only on Day 2, that I realised why Day 1 had been so hard. The free hub bearings of my rear wheel had been wearing.
For several k’s before the 34km mark on Day 2, with similar mileage still to go, I battled to keep going. The cassette would spin disengaged at times, before catching again.
Halfway into the stage, the bearings died. Catastrophic failure. Pedalling did nothing. Trying to climb out of the Puffadder kloof, I was spinning faster than Beep Beep the Road Runner, but with zero propul- sion. I was out of the race.
Trudging a few kilometres back to the Paul Cluver water point was the easiest part of the weekend. My mechanic, who had a few days before said he couldn’t find a replacement hub, had told me the hub would last the race. Haha, I had thought, cynically, envisaging him buried to his neck in a red ant heap, his head coated in honey.
The mechanics on site at Oak Valley race village begged to differ. They replaced the hub, the front cranks and the rear cassette. Finally, a bike that actually went. Sunday dawned. As we left in the 8am batch, we could see big rain looming behind us from a drenched, wind-bitten Cape Town.
It was one of the toughest days I have ever had on a mountain bike. Climbing the hills lining the Hemel en Aarde valley, we cycled into the teeth of a black southerly gale.
The rain was horizontal – a fusillade of tiny stabbings to the face. The frigid headwinds slowed us to a faltering crawl.
Mountain biking can be a pleasure. Being lessens the pain.
prepared MILD westerly winds blow this weekend, with small to flat seas. Today looks 1-2’ pushing to 3’ in the afternoon as a weak groundswell pulses. Winds light W going moderate bumpy SW.
Tomorrow, a fresh NW blows, making the 2-3’ swell bump and broken up. Muizenberg is tiny 1’ maybe 2’ but offshore both days.
BLASTING OUT: Filipe Toledo of Brazil on his way to winning the Moche Ripcurl Pro Portugal last week.