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

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

Weather Tip

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.

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