TUN­NEL OF WHITE

Road Trip - - ROAD READY -

TAKE A CHANCE

At first glance, and when en­ter­tain­ing the idea of rid­ing a moun­tain bike in the snow for the first time, the prospect felt a bit daunt­ing. Adrenalin flows and a slight panic sets in. How­ever, equipped with a medium level of fit­ness and the pres­ence of mind to not over ex­ag­ger­ate the chal­lenge be­fore it had be­gun, rid­ing in the snow was far eas­ier than I ini­tially ex­pected, and the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of such ex­quis­ite sur­round­ings soon con­quered any pre­vi­ous trep­i­da­tion. This year is the sec­ond year I have taken part in this three­day event and I am now more fix­ated on the ex­pe­ri­ence than ever be­fore.

South Africa has moun­tain bik­ing con­di­tions and events that at­tract peo­ple from all over the world and are of­ten sold out within hours of open­ing. No mat­ter how cre­ative the lo­cal races can be though, our cli­mate makes sure none will be able to cre­ate the dreamy land­scapes which riders take to ev­ery day of the Snow Bike Fes­ti­val.

Within the first hour of day one, I was hav­ing the most sur­real ride in the sad­dle I had ever ex­pe­ri­enced. The ini­tial tightly packed group of riders quickly thins out and the to­tal white-out that sur­rounded us was some­thing spe­cial to be­hold. From the trees car­ry­ing their bur­den­some load of twin­kling snowy pow­der, to the thickly cov­ered river­side path and the gush­ing white wa­ter of the half iced-over river it­self, the snow was ev­ery­where; I was rid­ing through a tun­nel of pris­tine white per­fec­tion.

There was more than just the sense of sight that was be­ing gifted with such a jewel though.the lack of al­most any sound added to the unique ex­pe­ri­ence of the ride. The snow ab­sorbs sound really ef­fec­tively, which damp­ens the sur­round­ing sound ef­fects we be­come so used to when out in na­ture. Out here in the snow, it is just the crunch of the fat tyres on ice and snow below, and my own deep rhyth­mic breath­ing to lis­ten to un­til rid­ing past a pocket of cheer­ing spec­ta­tors in­ter­rupts the sub­lime sen­sory co­coon.

SLIP­PERY SLOPE

Three days of rid­ing these long loops of trails al­lows riders to in­ter­act closely with both na­ture and com­mu­ni­ties alike, and pro­vides a tan­gi­ble in­sight into the every­day lives of the lo­cals.we got to cy­cle passed barns with geo­met­ric piles of win­ter fire­wood stacked out­side as the live­stock shel­ter in­side, lo­cal houses that were hun­dreds of years old with their or­nate fam­ily sto­ries proudly carved and painted on the façade for all to see, and the nat­u­ral ebb and flow of vil­lage life around tall spired churches, nar­row streets, and friendly faces.

Of course, there are a few chal­lenges in the race; it takes a lit­tle more skill than nor­mal bike rid­ing to de­scend along the red run from the top of a climb on day two. I quickly learnt how to pull on the back breaks lightly and shift the weight to slide the back wheel out a lit­tle.this con­trolled wheel slide is the best way to ne­go­ti­ate the off-cam­ber tighter turns – and it is su­per fun once you get the hang of it! When the way ahead is

Three days of rid­ing al­lows riders to in­ter­act closely with both na­ture and com­mu­ni­ties alike, and pro­vides a tan­gi­ble in­sight into the every­day lives of the lo­cals.

straight though, it is just full throt­tle down­hill for max­i­mum fun fac­tor.

GS­TAAD EX­CEL­LENCE

Gs­taad is the per­fect town to host the event. The op­u­lence of the event mixes seam­lessly with the sim­pler town life. Dur­ing Sum­mer, they host the ma­jor Euro­pean volleyball se­ries, and ten­nis too in the form of the ATP Swiss Open. Both are grand at­trac­tions in the area.

The rich lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ences of Gs­taad are well worth ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Since the cy­cling was not too in­tense, I had en­ergy enough to en­joy fon­dues at night in a real barn (com­plete with a cou­ple of fat cows a cou­ple of me­ters away) and, of course, fon­due in the day too (it really is all about cheese in Switzer­land) with fan­tas­tic views and a por­ta­ble packed lunch at one of the fon­due pots on the hill­side.

Hot air bal­loon­ing is also big in these parts, and a trip to Glacier 3000 is a great idea to get an overview of all the fun sports and ac­tiv­i­ties that present them­selves when snow and steep slopes com­bine.

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