Tyres

I ordered some tyres for the road. I normally use Maxxi cross mark. This is a good solid tyre that I feel confident in Africa. I have done over 14000 km touring and training and never been up the creek without a paddle. However  there are touring tyres more suited to the type of tour cycling I do. Now that I have written in for the Trans-Afrika I decided to try a narrower tyre more for paved roads. Most of the trans-Africa will be on paved roads.

Off with the Maxxis and on with a 38 mm slick. Thinking this was going to up my average speed. I chose a 47 km route that I had just recently done. However there was a little rain and wind. Using my heart rate I set out to compare the times. Much to my disappointment my average speed dropped by 1 km/h. Thinking this over I upped the tyre pressure to 75 Psi or 5 bar. Next night with conditions near perfect. Did the same route to find my time 1 km/h faster than with Maxxis.

Conclusion: Found handling little more difficult on gravel road up to house. In my mind I thought I was doing way better but in real terms there was not much difference. The weather conditions could make the difference. However if the tyres give 1 km/h better, that will result in just less than one day saving by the end of the Trans-Africa. Only the 38 mm tyres are not so rugged and may result in having to stop for tyre repairs along the way. There are times here in South Africa when the other road users are not so considerate and force you to exit the paving and ride on the gravel, stones and bushes along the side of the road. This my result in some damage to such a narrow tyre. With my Maxxis I will not even think of a problem.

Settlers to Tzaneen and back again via Hoedspruit

What a four day Easter weekend I had. I quickly slapped together a route that should take me about three days if fit enough. Made sure to take all the back roads to avoid the holiday traffic. Only using main routes when there was no other way round. Packed very little in my bags. Only packing a jacket, T-shirt, sweat pants, first aid kit, chargers, solar panels,new sleeping bag, tent just incase I did not land in the right place at the right time.

Starting off on friday with a nice low heart rate making sure that I would be able to maintain it for a few days. First heading in the direction of Marble Hall along my normal training route. Swung left on a gravel road to wards Roedtan.20150403_104154 - Copy

Stopped at Roedtan for lunch. Not really a town. It has more than one petrol station and a few shops. Village is over shadowed by a Grain silo. From here I sped along a flat road towards Zebediela.

As I passed Lebowakgomo people started to pass comments of surprise to find a white man on a bicycle.

Once the sun had set it was quite clear as to where the villages were and the cattle grazing areas lay. Here I picked a nice bushy section that was surrounded by thorn trees to set up my tent. There was a wonderful full moon that made it not necessary to use a torch. Laying on my back with the tent door open, watching the clouds moving in front of the moon and stares.  This made me drift off to sleep with such a relaxed feeling.20150404_063840 - Copy

This is the sunrise next morning back on the road. Slept in the bush on the left of photo.The hills started to rise so that the road had to snake through them.

Coming up one rise I realized that this place is Moria. The place which the religious group ZCC pilgrims to every Easter and Christmas in their millions. The week after I spoke to a fellow worker who went there. He said there were over 13 million people in attendance for the weekend. 20150404_075101 - CopyThe smoke from the cooking fires was drifting on the wind down the valley. The night before I had thought there might be a run away fire as I could smell the smoke drifting on the air. 20150404_090657 - Copy

From here the road rises to the Haenertsburg.

This was the highest point before dropping off the escapement down the Magoebaskloof pass to Tzaneen.

Tzaneen is a very tropical part of the country. Been one of the high rainfall areas of South Africa with a mild temperature. There are lots of road side farm stalls selling the fruits that are grown here. Here is a short list of some of the fruit: bananas,mangoes,pine apples,oranges,avocado pears and grape fruit. See there is a very large tea plantation.

Stopping for lunch at KFC in Tzaneen. Took a little time out and fulled up on water to cross the lowveld. There were more down hills towards Letsitele, Gravelotte and mica. This stretch had lots of orange farms and then the game farms start. 20150404_150104 - Copy

At Mica I found this sign post. If you go down that road you will be entering the Kruger National park in about 60 km. This is one of the world renowned national parks. Home to Elephants and Lions or should I say Africa at its best. 20150405_071058 Also found this sign for Foot and mouth control. This is a disease that is controlled by the government. They try to contain it in the areas were there is a lot of wild animal movement. The movement of wild animals makes it very difficult to control. They need to control this disease otherwise other countries will not import meat products from South Africa, if there is no controls in place.The road down to Hoedspruit is lined with nine foot game fences. Making it feel like you are passing down no mans land at a country border.

Rolled into Hoedspruit not long after dark. Here ordered a pizza and booked into a Hotel. It was good to have a hot shower and scrub two days of sweat and dust off. Washed my cycling clothes, as the cycling kit I had on was the only set I had. Nice to put a clean set of clothes on the next day. Must say I slept just as well on the hotel bed as I did the night before on the ground in my tent, even with out a mat.

Rolled out of Hoedspruit finding there had been a light rain in the night. This gave a sparkling new feeling to the day. Passing fruit orchards and fruit packaging plants with names that I recognize from the supper markets all over South Africa.20150405_070839

Crossing the Blyde river on the way to the JG Stridom tunnel.20150405_073918Looking at the mountains of the escarpment I was getting that hollow feeding in the stomach knowing that I  will have to climb them to get home.20150405_093531 Wondering if I will be able to conquer them. It was a good thing I started early as the road to Ohrigstad had a long climb.  20150405_092105 At the foot of the hill before the JG Stridom Tunnel is the place to stop and take your sun glasses off and wear a pair of gloves with a supper absorbent back, so as to wipe the sweat out of your eyes. This hill is not recommended for beginners unless they plan on pushing for 20 km. I used all those granny gears most of the day. Pushing is not an option if you are training and that was the purpose of this tour.

Just to pop your bubble of conquering the climb (400m to 1200m) the road makes a very steep decent the other side down to Echo caves (700m).Then started climbing again untill reaching Jane Furse the next day at 1350m.

Back to the road. Took the road to Burgersfort just before Ohrigstad. Stopping to take a look at the Voortrekker graves. They must have been some tough people to stop and farm in these hills. Getting their wagons over these hills must have taken some nerve. They were wise to stop in these vallies away from the Malaria and Tsetse fly that killed their oxen and horses.20150405_131538 20150405_131545

Stopped at Burgersfort to have a late lunch and get some supplies for supper as it looked like I was going to sleep in the tent again.

On to Steelport. Well it shows how little I know about my own country. This is a major steel mining area. There were so many trucks transporting steel to the smelters that I had to ride on the sand shoulder of the road. This stretch of road is not recommended for cycling.

Turned off to Jane Furse just as the sun was setting. Could see there had been some protest marches in this area as there was burned tyres that had been pulled off the road. Not far up the hill it was getting dark and seeing I was not going to make it safely along this road I stopped for the night. Crossed some farm lands and found a nice ditch with trees to set my camp up. Had another nice wild camp and set out at sunrise the next day. This was the view at sunrise.20150406_062826

On the top of Dihlabeng mountains I found a real gem of a sight. There were these rocky boulder mounds with bushveld plants that I have not seen in a long time. It was like a rock garden. With a paved road that snaked through the bush like on a game drive farm. Felt as if an elephant was going to step out in front of me at anytime. Must say the wild animals have long last roamed these bushes.20150406_085137 20150406_091039From here the pave roads ended and turned into a loose gravel. Passing two more new dams the government has built to supply water to these rural communities. 20150406_092734From the last dam it was back to paved roads all the way to Marble Hall. Lunch was in the saddle after stopping at the supermarket in Marble Hall.

Last stretch from Marble Hall to home is my normal training ground. Got home at 15H30 monday. With 720 km and over 5000 m ascents. It turned out to be just the training ride I needed for the Trans-Afrika race. May have to do it again sometime.

New Cycle Tour recruits

Last weekend I went with two couples on their first mini cycle tour. They had just got their bicycles and gear together. Now this was their first test to see what they need to carry with them on a New Zealand tour. They did 45 km to Nylsvlei where they camped the night and rode home the next day.

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Must say I think they did very well on a day that reached 42 degrees celsius. The evening finished well with a very enjoyable braai (BBQ). All brought along something to eat. It turned out to be a very enjoyable meal with even a cup of cinnamon milk before bed.

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I wish them well on their tour and hope they find the wonders of the world out there.

Father son trip

They say part of a holiday is the planning . The next is getting there which in our case will be the holiday. The destination will be the smallest part. Last the way back is also part of the adventure.

I have been keeping touch with my dad regularly. He sure is living out the planning and training for his cycle holiday. He is working hard and has been on a exercise schedule. He is now on to the cycling every day stage. His exercise has effected his blood pressure. He is normally on blood pressure tables. He monitors his blood pressure and has had to stop taking tables as his blood pressure has come right. As with age there are lots of other things you have to look out for with your health.

He is concerned that his health will hold out for the whole trip. I just keep on telling him we are going to go at his pace and if he has any problems we can rest or if worse comes to worse we can find a bus home.

As with all first time tour cyclist, he has a long list of questions.

Gear is one question:

I just keep saying that you do not have to have the most expensive gear.

Take time to find the things you need and do not buy the first thing you see.

Normally we buy too much gear and cannot pack all. Land up having to leave some behind.

Find what you have around the house and modify it if you need to.

Bicycle requirement:

Should he get a more comfortable saddle or riding pants. Well I say that if you going slow and doing sight seeing. It is up to you. Which ever you feel comfortable in.

Should he put slicks on. Well he is not going to go heavy off-road. It will probably help to get a more easy roll.

Clothing to take with:

Hard to say to a person that is used to been set in their ways to leave most things at home. Time to rank needs and wants. Summer tour will always have rain in this area. Then there are the night time mosquitoes to keep off. Wind chill when it rains. The scorching heat at mid day and afternoon. Then something to swim in. Light backpacking towel.

Well back to me. I have stopped training and now resting for the Momentum 94.7 this weekend. Will let you know next week how it went.

 

Bicycle repairs

Put bicycle in for major repairs. Put new cassettes,Bottom bracket, bearings on wheels and back disc brake pads. They went through the bike and tuned it. Did this because there has been all sorts of sounds coming from the bike. Every time I ride it feels like the bike is not going to make it.

Got it home and did a ride to see how it is going. First put my panniers on and put 3 litre water in it to get some weight training again. Bike went like a dream. By the end of the first 10 km dirt road it started to creek again. By the time I got home 77  km later it was not sounding so good. I am sure it must be the bottom bracket again. Looks like I will have to get an expensive bottom bracket. Need to be able to clean them and lube the bearings. Looks like these sealed bearings just cannot take dust. I did not even go in the water or rain, it was a dry ride.

Is there some advice from one of you followers? @mtbdiyshed says I should look at some stainless steel or titanium or platinum bearings.

Waterberg road trip(Nyl zen oog)

Thought to do a few long day rides this long weekend. So off I cycled to Nylstroom and purchased some slime, knowing my back wheel was dry. Using some insulation tap strapped it to my carrier. Next stop was the biltong shop (beef jerky shop) to make sure the stomach had something to work on. Planning to ride for a full day with no stop for lunch. Then a little extra water just to fill up the water used to ride to Nylstroom.

I love the signs I find along the road. Take a look at this.20140614_120209 Every winter there is run away fires that are very difficult to stop in these mountains. They sometimes burn for days. Normally fanned by a strong wind. They often burn down game lodges and farm houses. Not easy to get into the hills with fire fighting vehicles so they have to fight on foot. Due to the trees and wind these types of fires are best put out by fire fighting vehicles and helicopters. However cost of helicopters is prohibitive.

 

 

There were some nice climbs with some good solid gravel. I can see in the rainy season the road gets washed away in places. May get a little slippery. So if you want to try the Nyl zen oog road winter would probably be better.

Interesting to watch the farms and lodges along this road. Most farms were small and can be seen that their economic viability has been pushed to the limit.20140614_122546 Most turning to a mix of guest farms and agricultural practices. Others going all the way over to game farming. These tending to be up on the hills where irrigation water is limiting.

Coming near the top of the mountains my water started to get low. I thought to get some water from the streams. As water is seeping straight from the mountains. At every stream I thought no let’s get at the next. To bad as at the top of the hill there was no nice clean streams to drink from. The top of the hills opened up to open cattle country. 20140614_132140The road became very sandy with big corrugations making going very slow. Just had to ration water and eat some biltong to get the mouth wet.

Came across the main water supply dam for the town of Nylstroom. What a nice deep body of water between the hills. Having steep cliffs coming up to wall it in.

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Name of dam is Donkerpoort.20140614_140737

 

Round about here the bicycle wheel bearing started to give the same feeling as two weeks  back. That time one ball bearing had worn flat on one side and had to be replaced. Put wheels back together after greasing them and all looked good until now. Estimated to be about 60 km from home so had a look and decided that I could not do much. Wind had come up and fortunately turning to ward home it helped. Knowing the condition of the bearing I set out on the tar road home from Nylstroom. Making it 132 km for the day with average speed 19.6 km/h.

Stripping wheel down at home found the axil cone has developed some rough spots. Will have to make a trip to town, to get some spares. Looks like Jimmy cycles is seen a lot of me lately.

Heart rate monitor

I took a ride up to Nylstroom (There and back 82 km) last Saturday. Stopped at Jimmy Cycles to get Shammy cream. I said to Jimmy that I would like to get a heart rate monitor however have not got my head around the price yet. He went behind the counter and started scratching. He pulled out a heart rate monitor and said take it. I asked how much he said no, some customer did not want it any more.

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Bion BN-A350 watch and a Cateye belt

Well I must really say thanks. I am planning on doing some training so that when I do hit the long roads. I will have enough in me to do the distance planned without injury or pain. The idea is to get pleasure out of adventure touring.

New gear

Well as with all things in cycling you need to make life comfortable for the way you like to ride. Some people ask me about gadgets they should get. I have come to realise you can be swindled into buying all sorts of expensive unnecessary gadgets that just make the ride heavier. There was a blog I read that the husband and wife have resorted to making their own panniers and bicycle bags as it is cheap and does what they want it to do. I like Velcro straps. I use them to hold things on to my bicycle, they are like ropes that never come undone.

At the Cape Argus tour they had an expo. It is plain to see there are all sorts of gadgets. Trying to keep my head I did purchase a few gadgets.

1) Shimano saddle bag for the extra standby tube, if my tubules tyre gives in and to put in a small tool kit.

2) Cycling shirt so can put my cell phone in the pocket at the back when doing small rides. Now that feels real good. They look so uncomfortable but really they are not.

Well it was not a long list but that is how it should be. You need to grow your gear carefully and slowly. Then discontinue the less effective gear to make sure your ride does not get to heavy. It is easy to build up a lot of unnecessary items.

I was once told the most important areas are: Hands, butt and feet. All the places the body comes in contact with the bicycle. When first started ridding I refused to wear those cycling shorts. Well now I know they are the most important item. Then I discovered cleats, what an improvement. Gloves a must have on a long trip. Water bottles no question, now I have upgraded to two. One for water and other for energy drink. Cycle computer helps to get directions, can tell when the next turning is coming up and if you are going to make the destination before sunset.

Well the more I think the list can grow but that is enough for now.

Titan sport 29er size XL

Saturday 30/11/2013 I went to collect my new bicycle. A new Titan sport 29er size XL. Had my cleats moved over from my old Mongoose. Put some bar ends on. Moved cycle computer over. Mounted two bottle holders and my pump. By this time it was dusk and was fixed on taking it for its maiden voyage. Got geared up and took the photo.Digital Camera

Think I will have to call it the Titanic.  It was 14 km into the planed 35 km round trip when it started to get dark. So I was putting on my head lamp just as I hit a big rock at the start of the road works. I took a good roll, surprising just a few scratches on the back. I was going about 25km/h. The Titanic however got a puncture, saddle came loose and the chain came off. In the light once I got home it looks like it did not get any further damage. Will have to check the wheel alignment, to see there is no dent in the rim.

In the dark, patched two holes and knowing that they did not look like they were going to hold I turned back the way I had come, as it was the shortest route home. I had to stop three times to pump the wheel in the 14 km back home. Then there was the snake I nearly rode over and a porcupine that crossed the road in front of me.

When I was looking at the bicycle in the shop, I had said to Jimmy the owner, that I will have to change the tyres. I did not think they would hold out in Africa. Well, there you have it, on the maiden voyage they gave in. I would like to put Maxxis crossmark on. This is what I have on my Mongoose. They did Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Not even a puncture on that trip and back home the thorns have given them a good go (I live in the African Savanah, lots of thorn trees).

Anybody got some comments on the best tyre they have used?