“Everyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine”

When you first start riding, especially mountain biking, it can be a lonely and daunting journey. In my experience, it goes like this:  You decide to get a bike. Then you get one. Then you realise you don’t have so many friends to ride with as you thought, as the ones who got you into it in the first place aren’t exactly excited to share their saddle time with a tortoise. It’s not safe to ride alone, so there is no other option than to make new friends…. And eventually you become a little like Lou Bega who sings “I gotta girlfriend everywhere!!” (I just gave my age away, didn’t I?!)

This morning I went for a ride with two new friends and we had a fabulous time. When you hear a girl, with a deep southern suburb English accent shout behind you “Oeee lekkerrrr, nog ‘n ene!” when referring to another swoopy switchback, then you know the trails are serving you well. I couldn’t help but have a little chuckle to myself. Not at her, but because I was experiencing the same joy at the time, and even though I don’t really know this girl, we are instantly connected through this shared experience.

Now you have something to chat about during the post-ride coffee, and then unexpectedly, you realise you have even more to talk about than just mountainbiking and trails. And a rich conversation ensues.

When you first start riding, you suddenly find yourself “friendless”. You are taking up a new sport, which your existing friends don’t necessarily like and you are forced to reach out to people outside your existing group of friends. You make friends of acquaintances, you step out of your comfort zone and dare to experience life with a new set of people. And suddenly you find you have added a whole new dimension to your life.

This is where I believe that the bicycle has the power to instantly solidify bonds between people.  It’s the shared experiences that bind us together.

This once again proves my point. My bike has brought me so much happiness, in so many forms, since I started riding. I am grateful for every friend I’ve made on this journey so far and so excited about the ones I will still meet along the way. And when I think about the new one I made today, I think to myself “Oe lekkerrrr, nog ‘n ene!”

 

The Argus Gentleman

Today I cannot help but to reminisce about my first Argus. It was in 2014. I didn’t want to ride it because I had an irrational dislike for the Argus, mainly because it always interfered with the birthday parties I planned for myself. However, 2014 was the first Argus to take place after meeting Jan.

Jan, being the handsome triathlete, outdoorsy, adventurous, rugged Camel-man type that he is (can you tell I’m freshly married?), has at that stage completed no less than 10 Argus rides, loved it and insisted on doing it with me because “You will have so much fun!”. I was not keen. Then one day, about 2 weeks before the Argus, I received an email confirming my entry and my starting time. I was completely devastated. Really. I was scared of drafting, I was scared of crashing… and legitimately so, as I couldn’t even have a drink from my water bottle without falling of my bike or stopping to take a sip, and at that point, I have never mounted a road bike before.

To add to the devastation and pressure, Jan’s mom was an avid sportswoman in her young days, completing 5 DC’s and 2 Comrades. Luckily, mom Jenny is also one of the kindest people I know, and let me use her full carbon road bike for the race, and kitted me out in a little Assos suit. I had all the gear, no idea and was full of fear!

So the weekend before the big race, I set off on my maiden road bike voyage. To say that I was uncomfortable and fearing for my life was an understatement. But I did a 55km ride and that was the full extent of my road training for this event. I decided that if I’m under trained, I might as well over prepare on the nutrition front. I did a lot of research of what to eat and not, and the night before the “race” I put out my kit – the food on top of it – and it looked like I was going on a picnic. There was no hope. The weather was also not looking good, as gale force winds were predicted all around the peninsula.

So on the morning of the race, me, Jan and his dad (Big Jan, who has done 23 Argus rides) set off to the start. Ooooplah! I was in serious company. So I set off on my ride, starting with Jan, and riding the whole race with him (which seriously screwed up his seeding ‘til this day).

On the Blue Route stretch I decided to draft the guys on mountain bikes. At Simon’s Town I had my first stop, completely amazed at all the snacks. (You can totally sell a race to me based on the quality of the water points.) Slowly but surely I chugged along, going tortoise speed towards Misty Cliffs. Going up the back of Chappies I started feeling the strain. So I stopped for a GU and a quick appreciation of the view of Noordhoek beach before falling back into the grind. The last few bends before the top of Chappies was torture, but I made it up with much pain, concentration and swearing.

I flew down Chappies, faster than I was comfortable with (which was objectively speaking still very tortoise-like), but I wanted this experience to be over with…and knew Suikerbossie was lurking. The sweeping gusts didn’t even deter me.

At the bottom of Suikerbossie I was greeted by excited crowds of spectators. The one shouting at me “Lady, do you want a poooeeeess?” At first I was terribly offended, then I realised what he was actually saying, and indeed I did need a push. So being the gentleman he is, I felt Jan’s hand on my lower back and the strain on my legs eased. He kept at it all the way to the top, and as I got sight of Llandudno I was met with a super strong head wind. I was sore, I was tired and I wanted to be done. I didn’t want to do this in the first place. All I wanted to do, was get off my bike, have a little cry, get back on and finish. But crying wasn’t an option, merely because stopping wasn’t. At that ill timed moment, Jan said to me “Baby, now you need to push!”. If I had any energy, I would probably have shouted something at him, but my face just made crying expressions and he knew, to shut up.

The wind got worse, the pain got worse and then it was over. I crossed the finish line, got off my saddle, but couldn’t lift my leg over the top tube of my bike. My chest was aching, I felt like I was getting a migraine, my back and shoulders were sore… only my bum was alright. Big Jan was waiting for us (probably for an hour already) with a beer in the hand.

I slept the rest of the day.

When the entries for the 2015 Argus opened, I was the first to remind Jan that we have to enter. We ended up not riding due to unexpected travels abroad.

But this year, I’m back – determined to do it better, faster, harder and without the help of Jan.  I’m not much of a roadie, but I can give it a shot! God’s speed to all of you who are riding! (Pun totally intended!)

Time to get my hands dirty!

According to my dad, one of the first words I learnt was “self”. I wanted to do everything my”self”. I can imagine that this was a patience building exercise for my parents, yet an independence building one for me.

I’m an advocate of taking the good with the bad, riding the climbs to revel in the downhills. Life is not just about pleasure – you need to endure the pain to appreciate the good stuff, otherwise the experience isn’t complete. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment, who knows? So once again, I’m heading out for a new “self” adventure, where I’ll be learning some of the in’s and out’s of bike mechanics at Revolution Cycles for the next three weeks. If I want to ride it and break it, I need to be able to fix it.

Next time, I’ll be changing those brake pads myself! I’ll keep you posted.

pleasure room
My kind of guy…

 

“You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem.”

About a week ago, feeling apprehensively excited,  team dirt diva set off for their first mountain bike stage race – Wines2Whales Adventure.  This was bucket list stuff. To me, the mental challenges of mountain biking have always been the more fascinating aspect, opposed to the physical challenges of the sport. I was about to be challenged to the extreme.

Day 1 put me in my place, properly. We started off with the most beautiful, winding climb overlooking False Bay and the Hottentots-Holland mountains. After a while, I was wondering how challenging this ride will really be. Riding past local supporters who were singing, “Hou bene hou!” the tune suddenly turned into “I like your tights!” Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks dirt diva kit is fabulous! The “hike with your bike” over Sir Lowry’s pass was anticipated, but completely underestimated. It broke me, physically… and in the last few kilometers of the the day I found myself secretly fantasizing about pushing my bike up every little climb, but it wasn’t an option. My fellow diva was ruthless and had no sympathy for cramps. When my chain snapped, I finally got a chance to gather my legs.

Done... and dusted!
Done… and dusted!
Lesson for the day: You don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when you’re done. After 79 grueling kilometers I was done… and dusted!

Excited for Play Day
Excited for Play Day
Day 2 is commonly referred to as “Play Day” and for good reason. We rode endless, fun, sweeping single tracks all day long and got spoilt with hanging bridges, berms and play parks. The ice was properly broken when, during the last kilometer of the day, I flew over the handlebars, down an embankment and into a bramble bush. I was stuck in the bush, with my bike on top of me. A gentle giant with a kind smile riding behind me came down the embankment to save me from entanglement. The giant said it was a rather spectacular crash.

Lesson for the day: When you crash, do it in style!

 

Going solo...
Going solo…
Day 3. My toughest day on a mountain bike to date. The wind was howling and the rain was imminent. Altogether not a picture that got us too excited. From the moment we left the chute I realised that Day 3 was going to be a mind game. Nothing was easy. Until it got even harder. On the 18th km my partner fell and cut her leg badly. She got carried down the mountain and it dawned on me that I’m going to have to finish this adventure alone. The rain started pouring down, making white splashes against my legs. It was windy, muddy and cold. Nothing in me wanted to do this anymore. I told myself that I can quit at the next water point if I still felt like it. Then I got to the water point, and the next water point…and eventually the last water point – constantly having to remind myself “it’s just water and discomfort”. Somewhere along the route, the quote from A.A Milne came to mind: “You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem”.  Eventually I realised “I’m going to make it. I’m busy doing it. I am going to finish this race”.

Which I did – with a stitched up partner, a mom, fianceé and bestie waiting for me at the finish line.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you know.” And yes, we should ALWAYS remind ourselves of that.

 

 

 

“Life isn’t a race, and even if it were, the winners would be those who enjoy the journey the most.”

 Recently, this saying has become increasingly relevant to my life, to the extent that I decided to quit my job and take a few months off to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, but never have time for. Constructive things that have meaning to me. Obviously I had to be prompted, but that’s besides the point. I am incredibly excited about the few months ahead and in true dirt diva style my sabbatical starts with Wines2Whales, which will hopefully set the tone for the months to come.

So this past weekend, my diva sidekick and I went exploring some trails in Table Mountain with The Secret Adventurer. Sometimes in this life, we are lucky enough to stumble upon the most unique and refreshing individuals – The Secret Adventurer is one of them. His diverse interests and off-beat approaches make for interesting conversation, all while navigating super technical single tracks along the mountain face. And he has patience in abundance.

I managed to land this special guided trail ride when I saw one of his Facebook posts, showing off an insane section of single track somewhere on Signal Hill.  In a comment, I quite audaciously advised him that he has plans for the coming Saturday, and sometimes being audacious pays off.

We rode from Bo-Kaap to Blockhouse, climbed for days, rode over rickety bridges and rocky staircases, had a mini portage, rode through shady parks (while almost literally crashing a wedding) and ended our ride exploring the vibey Saturday streets of Cape Town.

With over 1200m ascent over 25 kilometres it was definitely a training ride, but it was also so much more than that – I fell in love with the beauty and adventure this city offers us, all over again – by experiencing it from someone else’s perspective and by taking the unconventional route.

As much as I am driven and ambitious, there are things I want to do and experiences I want to have that I would never be able to while I have a professional career.  “If not now, then when?” the voices echo. So here’s to exploring more, starting a passion project, learning more about myself and to falling in love with life all over again!

It’s a story about emancipation. Come along for the ride!

There I was, in a deep dark sad hole, in a season of my life that can only be equated to a life-threatening storm if you wanted to be fair. My career was a great disillusionment, I just came out of a 4 year relationship and, just to make the general atmosphere of my life more ominous I was going through some awful family drama.

women

At the time  I was pretty poor (due to said career) but I realised that I had to do something about my mental state. I wasn’t happy and I was way too young, beautiful and (usually) full of energy to be miserable. If ever there was a reason to buy a bike, this was it. I took all the money I had saved and bought myself the cheapest entry level mountain bike on the market. It was 2013 and it had v-brakes. Enough said.

I was warned that “you should first see whether you like mountain biking before you buy a bike” (do you hear the whiny voice saying that?). To me it wasn’t a matter of whether I would like it or not, I just needed something to get my mind off all the negativity. Little did I know how quickly and vastly my life was about to change.

At first my technical disabilities allowed for much entertainment, with scars and bruises, week in and week out, to highlight my lack of ability. But it didn’t matter, because for the first time in a really long while I was having fun. In my first race, a 20km mountain bike race, I was sixth last… and I loved it so much that I entered a 100km off-road marathon ride which was only 3 months later. Around which time I got a new job. And a boyfriend, who recently became a fiancee. My life did a gnarly, cheeky switchback.

Now, I’m not saying I got a job and a boyfriend because I bought a bike. But I guess  that buying that first bike (hehe.. yes, I have upgraded since) did so much to bring a positive energy and a healthy attitude back into my life that I could attract the things I wanted. I often say “cycling saved my life” and then I get looked at funny. But really, it did.

So like all the good things in life, I want to spread the word. I want to share my experiences and hear about yours. I want to give back to this wonderful hobby in a way, and at the same time, become more immersed in it. So I decided to start my own brand of lady specific cycling apparel. Whoever said that we shouldn’t look pretty while riding our bikes?

It’s a story about emancipation.  Come along for the ride!