Winter training

Normally winter is the time of year when the cold and dark get the best of me. Now with the Trans-Afrika on the horizon and remembering what happened last time. I had to put on the layers of clothes and get on the bicycle. Must say the cold in the morning at 3 am to push for a long day almost beat me.

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There was the trip past Potgitusrus and Vaalwater. The one to Belmoral and lots of short trips.

The regular training included testing out gear and getting their set up right. Then there has been the lighting problem. Have had rechargeable batteries pack up and battery pack go flat. The other night the rechargable battery died, back up two battery pack ran flat and third backup was my led head light which had to take me home.

Have had more flat wheels than have had in my life. Must add that is what happens when you go from tubless Maxxis cross mark tyres to road tyres with tubs. Also using old Maxxis that are getting smooth with tubs. Have decided to wear out all the old tyres that are hanging around. This has given me lots of practice at patching tubs.20140531_133336

Then water systems have been adapted and tested. Nothing like running out of water on a hot day. Plans to get cool water are under way at the moment. Will test that out when days start to get warmer. Nutrition and rides have also changed. Have been testing out few different ideas. Last time my mouth tasted terrible. Cannot live on rehydrate,energy drinks and carbs for so long. The body can only handle so much carbs. Well off to do some riding.

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Riding Trans-Afrika part 2

20151010_104422Just for those that do not know Lesotho. It is not called the mountain kingdom for nothing. Check point 2 is at top of Moteng pass (2820 m). I was very lucky to have a tail wind to help me up. However near the top it turned into Gail force.

This meant the decent was into the wind. First 100 m I had to push to get past the gap in the mountain as it was making the wind blow faster as the wind was funnelled between the nick in the mountain. The wind was so strong that I had to pedal downhill. Everybody was saying you will need a new set of brake pads after decent. Well that is not my case.

Out of the pass riding along the valley where there is a ploughed land along the road the wind got so bad that I got off because it felt like I was not making progress. I then decided that this wind could carry on for a long time as some of the front riders had complained about the wind. I started pedalling again finding that the sand was sand blasting me. Thank goodness for sunglasses or I would not have been able to see for all the sand that was flying. At one point the wind was so bad I had decided to get off. Just at that moment the wind blew me off my bicycle onto the road. Laying in the road I looked up and saw a roof coming in my direction looking like it was going to touch down where I was laying in the road. The sharp edges looked like it was going to be on my right. So I rolled left swinging my arm to try deflect the sharp side away from me. My bicycle was laying on the road between me and the roof with its handle bar straight up. The roof landed on the bicycle with the handle bar braking the force. Causing the bar end on the ground to brake. Only after I finished the race did I see that the carrier was also bent. When the roof landed it got dark and light again as the wind picked it up and blew it further. 20151010_154148The wind slowed down just after that then I pushed my bicycle behind the house where the roof came off. FB_IMG_1446841627523Here out of the wind I had to put my front wheel back on. Finding the wheel was not totally straight. However it was good enough to go on till I reached a place where I could work on it. The back disc break was also touching a little. Released the wheel and tightened it a little off centre so that the disc pad did not touch. This held out quite well. Got a scratch down the arm from the roof.FB_IMG_1446841622854

My aim was to exit Lesotho at the Fickesburg boarder post. So I pushed on into the head wind. Stopping to eat KFC at Butha-buthe. Hit the road in rush hour traffic as the sun was setting. There was a high level of traffic and there was no shoulder to the road. Stopping for a little just hopping the traffic would slow. It is interesting to note home traffic then the rush home for supper. After that most roads start to get more quite. Fatigue was starting to get the better of me so I was getting a little wobbly. There came a good Samaritan about 10 km from the boarder. He rode his car behind me with his hazards lights on and head lights on me. I was glade to exit Lesotho at about 11pm. I found a Hotel to sleep and shower. In the hotel I used spoke spanner to try make the wheel run true. Adjusted back wheel again as brakes were dragging again.

Headed out at sunrise to find breakfast and supplies for the road. From here the road is much friendlier. With less traffic and most roads having some kind of shoulder. Finding progress to be much faster. However fatigue started to set in and to keep the eyes open became the biggest challenge. Stopped at Wepener and slept at the Lord Fraser hotel. Rolling out into the dark at about 3am. Making good progress and then finding myself very drowsy having to stop a few times to sleep for a few minutes along the road. The temperature reached 2.6 degrees without wind chill at this time. From this time all the way to the end of the race I could not feel my left thumb. Making it difficult to know if I was changing gears. Had to keep looking down to check the thumb was in the right place. Had a healthy breakfast at Zastron. Filled all the back pockets up with food so that did not have to stop so much.

At Rouxville stopped at a workshop to get a washer to put on my back axel so that the brake would stop dragging. Tough working against brakes. Nice tail wind down to Aliwal North. This road had road works giving me a full lane.20151012_104043 Stopping at Aliwal north for an early lunch at the wimpy. During lunch the wind turned to a hot head wind making it tough work down to Burgersdorp. Along the way my water got so hot it was making me thirstier.  Mid-afternoon there was a nice windmill with a reservoir full of cold water. Nice to splash and full up with cool water. Arrived in Burgersdorp at sunset just in time to book into a hotel and do some shopping for next day supplies at the spar. Went to bed early so could start riding at about 3am. This was a very nice stretch of road to ride. About 10 am took a photo to brag at good progress by the sign for 60 km to Middleburg. 20151013_082528From here the wind came up and it was a fight against the hot wind. Finally my water came to an end. Lucky to find a small reservoir to full up on water again. Arriving about 2 pm for lunch at Middleburg.

This is when supporters from all angles started to motivate me to go on. So up and over the Lootsberg pass I went. Summiting the pass just as the last sliver of light disappeared. Well thank goodness to down hills that rolled me all the way into Graaff-reinet. Rolled me all the way on to Aberdeen. Only problem was the eyes that could not stay open for the last 50 km. This resulted in many sleeps along the road. Thank goodness there was very little traffic. This put extra time on to the journey. Only arriving at 2am for this reason. Let me tell you there is a B&B called Pagel house. Andy told me to phone a head. Well she woke up for me and put a microwave in my room to warm up supper for me. This is a must sleep spot. Nice beds and hospitality. Also good spring board to push all the way to Prince Albert.20151014_08063020151014_080712

Had good sleep and eat breakfast with the other guests. It was a meal fit for a king( Eggs, mushrooms, potatoes, yogurt, fruit, fruit juice). All comes in a three coarse breakfast. Eat so much that I had a stomach ache until 10am. She will even make you a pack breakfast and lunch if you request. Thought she was a bit pricey but when you look at the food provided and the effort that goes into it, she is under charging. You will get pampered into another world and find it hard to get back on your bicycle. From here the road is friendly until just before the climb up to Willowmore. The road is the straightest I have ever seen. The person painting the yellow line must have used a GPS.  If you look into the distance and put a ruler up it will be straight. 20151014_095358Make sure to stock supplies before facing this road as there are no food or water stops. As became the norm I was having trouble staying awake so this cut down the speed. This is when a companion would be nice to talk you awake on such a straight flat road.

At Willowmore I chose to take the dirt road of 100km towards Prince Albert. Nice road with good scenery and only a few places with stones or sand. In my mind this is much faster than taking the tar road around. A farmer along the road stopped me to have a chat. Finding out I was a farmer he really wanted to get talking. We farmers can talk about all sorts of things the town people would not think of. Things like grazing capacities and breeds of animals that survive in different environments. Night came quick and I had not reached the tar yet. This is a nice stretch of road fairly flat with gentle ups and down.

Tar road to Prince Albert is a real dream. The only problem is that it started to rain. I found out later that it snowed on the Swartberg in some places that night. It did not feel to cold. Then fighting off sleep became a big problem. Falling asleep on a downhill cold be very dangerous. On a few occasions almost fell off the bike. I had phoned Johann Rissik for help with my technical problems on my bicycle. He had gone to bed early so that when I arrived in Prince Albert he would help me out. There are amazing people in this world. He really went out of his way to help me. He met me at 2 am and made sure the Denehof B&B food was ready and waiting for me when I came in. He then went off with my bicycle and repaired it when I was sleeping. He replaced a snapped spoke, stripped hydraulic back brake cylinder that had jammed causing it to rub all the time causing drag. This is why I had put a washer on the axel to stop the drag.  He worked on my jockey wheels that looked like they were going to wobble off at one stage. He put some reflectors on peddles to increase visibility. In the morning when I woke up there was a message on my phone to say the bicycle is outside weighting for me. He saw I was sleeping so well he did not want to disturb me. Denehof also had a wonderful breakfast set in a cape Dutch garden. With herbs which look so fresh they must have just been picked from some garden. The B&B has thick walls build by the Dutch over a 100 years back.20151015_08324820151015_074236

 

The push up the Swartberg pass is amazing. The rock formations are crazy. Starting at the bottom in the heat with the sun shining down.

As I progressed higher up the clouds started to cover the top of the mountain. Eventually entering the cloud near the summit of the pass. At the summit the wind was blowing very hard with the wind blowing rain sideways. Some of the rain drops drifted almost like sleet. 20151015_140330Now was the mega downhill with rain and wind. Stopped for food and to warmed up at a fire in a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. Then took the route with the most sand road.

This is some of the most beautiful area of the whole race. Really enjoyed this ride down hills and valleys with small dairy farms and irrigation ditches.

Sleeping in Calitzdorp and riding out well before sunrise. Route 62 is a nice road with lots of interesting tourist places. There were a lot of motor bikes out on breakfast runs or tours. Route 62 is not flat but has passes and farms along the route with small towns where you can stop to eat or purchase home industry goods.

At one point I thought to try make it all the way to the finish in one ride. However the sleep started to play with me. So stopped to sleep in Worcester and made ride up Bainskloof in the morning. This is child’s play compared to the other mountains.20151017_091326

 

Just before Durbanville Marias met me and then Andy and his team. They escorted me all the way to Bloubergstrand, Eden on the bay.

Finishing in 13 days 9 hours and 17 minutes.IMG_0471

Steff the winner of the race who finished in 8 days handed me my troughy and lantin for been the last in.IMG_0474Writing this makes me tempted to ride next year. Hope to see some of you riding.

 

Druiwefees fietswedren

It was the Druiwefees festival in Modimolli this past week. To close the festival off there was a road cycle race and a mountain bike race. I did the longest road race which was 105 km. Am quite happy with myself as I raised my average speed to 24 km/h. This was done on my mountain bike with Maxxi cross mark tyres.

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I also did the mountain bike race of the longest distance of 50 km. The results are not out on the internet yet. However I am very pleased as it was my second mountain bike race. This was quite a technical ride compared to my first race.

Mountain bike race was at Bosfontein caravan park. I was very pleased to find a well run little out of the way caravan park. Bosfontein is nestled next to a mountain that is covered in trees and has been stocked with game animals. 20150111_062121They have also laid out a mountain bike route that you can ride when camping. Very nice getaway form the city. Has a central swimming pool where the children can also have a good time.

The course criss crossed rivers over small wooden bridges. Then there was endless twists between the trees. Not giving any time to fall asleep on your bike. Then there was ‘Martelbult’ which challenged your hill climbing legs. Only way out was on the granny gears. Then there was a rock decent which lead to some carefull riding. At one point I thought an antelope was charging me, as what happened to that one mountain bike rider on youtub. However it was just spooked by a rider coming across the opening.20150111_06224320150111_072849

All in all The road race was painful and the mountain bike race was very nice and enjoyable.

MOMENTUM 947 CYCLE CHALLENGE

Last weekend I rode the Momentum 947 cycle challenge. I really enjoyed the spirit of the course. I must say there was more supporters along the road than I thought there would be. The large number of participants made it a big challenge to get to the starting point. The new venue will have to be improved to cope with the traffic .

Momentum947 cycle challenge start

Momentum947 cycle challenge start

The course has more hills than I thought. When I grew up in Durban Natal we all used to say it is flat in Johannesburg. Well try ride it on a bicycle. I think the hills make it more difficult than the Cape cycle tour. On the other hand it made it very interesting to ride. I found that the hills made it difficult to keep my heart rate constant. After halfway I turned the alarm off for my heart rate target zone. Just glanced at my monitor from time to time.

Sunninghill area

Sunninghill area

Coming from the Springbok flats I am not used to the down hills. Reaching speeds of over 65 km/h can be quite scary. I do not get much chance to pick up speed like that down hill were I live. Then there are other riders that do not hold their line and can crash into you. I saw a few people who had taken bad falls. There was one woman laying in the middle of the road on a steep down hill. Lucky the ambulance was not far away. Other riders behind me said they saw there was a big puddle of blood and the paramedics were stabilizing her with oxygen. Also laying her out straight so they could get her on to a stretcher. That just can take your nerve away.

Well a side from the dangers of road racing with bicycles or should I call it fun riding. If you want to see Johannesburg from a different perspective, try riding the streets on a bicycle. I think I rode through the old centre of Johannesburg faster than you could ever do with a car. Went through all the red and orange traffic lights.  Roads were empty of cars, that was strange. I have never seen Johannesburg  without cars in it. All the road closures for the race made it seem so different. Then there was riding down the M1 highway and M2 highway on a bicycle. If you did that normally the police would come and get you. Or you might be knocked over before they even get to you.

The road passed Johannesburg Zoo and going through Randburg and Santon was just a big street party. People playing music,clapping calling out. Then there was all the braais (barbeques) and camping chairs along the road. There was a man offering his beer to me but it smelled like he was burning his meat on the fire. Looked like he had to many distractions to watch how his meat was cooking.

Heading north out of the suburbs brought some nice long hills to test your stamina. By this time it had reached 32 degrees. Thank goodness they had placed some sprayers across the road to cool off the riders.Then passing the Lion park was a nice down hill. This tricked me into think it was down hill to the finnish. Well not so fast the organizers made sure there were two monster hills coming near the finnish. About 50 % of the people climbed off and pushed up these two hills.

There were riders that did two laps for the day, that makes about 200 km. Then there was Batman. People in Rhino suits and one rider had a Rhino around his bicycle. Others with short skirts on and super hero capes on. Other fund-raising groups helping three wheel bicycles along, dressed in cow outfits.

All in all I really enjoyed the ride.

Some riders after race

Some riders after race

Vaalwater trip

Took a training ride to Vaalwater this past weekend. The aim was to ride hills on tar roads to get fit for the Momentum 94.7 cycle challenge. On top of it was to do a two stage ride. To make sure I am getting fit enough for my December adventure to East London. I covered a distance of 209 km for the weekend.

Left at 09H45 on Saturday and stopped for lunch at Nylstroom (Modimolle). From my house to Nylstroom there are no hills.

From Nylstroom to Vaalwater is in the Waterburg hills. Must admit they are big for me but will be small for those of you that are riding in Europe or in Natal. Must be getting fit as the hills did not seem as big as I remember from the previous time I did this route.

The road climbs up out of Nylstroom in steps leaving the Springbok flats behind in the distance. The hills are fenced with game fencing. From time to time you can catch a glimpse of Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Vervet monkey, Baboon,Wildebeest or a cow. The scenery then opens out to grasslands and crop lands. As you start to descend again into the next valley the peach orchards begin. Peaches are now in season and can be bought along the road at small stalls. Not to mention all the Sekelbos wood been sold for camp fires or braai (barbecue). After this there is a goat farm that has a restaurant and makes goat cheese. This would be a nice little outing for the family.

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To climb out of this valley is the steepest part of the ride. After passing some game farms comes the monster climb. On the way back home I had to make some noises to chase the Baboons off the road, as I was freewheeling and reached a speed of 65 km/h. It would have caused a terrible accident if I had hit one of them. My heart rate monitor started to beep as I was not peddling down the hill. To the mother baboons in the trees this was terrifying. They just dropped out of the trees baby and all. Their feet were running in the air, so when they hit the ground they hit it running.  Fortunately the up hill is not to long in the direction of Vaalwater and then you are rewarded with a nice long down hill to Vaalwater.

First time I went to Vaalwater I had all these romantic ideas of a town surrounded by game farms and pumping with tourists. Well it has some game farms around it. It has a grain silo and a rundown town centre. This town centre could have come out of some middle African town. The buildings are in need of paint the roads are very fill of potholes. There are street vendors selling vegetables. Must say some of the nicest tomatoes I have seen in a long time. Signs everywhere to sell biltong (beef jerky). There are any type of biltong, starting at beef all the way to Eland.

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I camped at a small lodge come camp site tucked away behind the sports bar. The sports bar is a nice neat restaurant come bar that serves very nice pizzas or steaks. Their salads are nice and crisp. They say there are two other places to eat in town. I have not tried them. The local farmers sometime come with their wives and children to eat out. Open people if you start to talk to them. They will enjoy a chat with you. Note big topics are the weather, rugby, crop farming and game farming.

Word of warning there is a night club where the local blacks like to hang out. This place has the music up loud and goes all night. Almost until the sun comes up on Sunday. Then there is the busy road that runs through the centre of town. This is one of the main routes to the mining and game farming towns to the west of Vaalwater. So any place you choose to stay at in town will have the back ground noise of the road and night club. The town’s name is also Vaalwater which means unclear water. This means the water source is caring a high particle load and the local municipality can not clean it up so good. Do not think it will harm you but bottled water tastes much better.

Left Sunday at 7H00 and was home by 11H30. Much more down hills on the way back. Early riding is best as it is cooler. For example on Saturday it went to 35 degrees on my cycle computer just before getting into Vaalwater.

Cycling with my Dad

Not many sons can say that their Dad is their best friend. When I was a teenager we used to do training runs together. In those years he and I built a house from scratch. We stood shoulder by shoulder and laid bricks. This gave us time to talk about all sorts of things.

At the age of 40 he started running to keep fit. He went on to complete three Comrades marathons. This is a world renowned ultra marathon. He got three medals: one silver and two bronze. He kept running to keep himself fit until the age of 70. Where upon his circulation prohibited him from running. This forcing him to start walking.  Last November (7 months back) I gave him my bicycle that I rode in Zimbabwe and Mozambique with. Then he could just ride 2.5 km. This week he came to visit and rode a 21 km gravel road with an average of 13 km/h at the age of 75. So nice to be sharing a sport with my Dad again.

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Nylsvlei

Took a ride up to Nylsvlei Nature reserve this weekend. I left my bicycle at the restaurant and my stepson left his motor bike there also. We took a walk in the reserve to do some birding.

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Lunch rest after a long walk

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Breakfast the next morning.

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Camp from another angle.

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Camped the night at the farm where I live.

Waterberg

Had a good ride in some nice hills of the Waterberg. Did 220 km all together. That is counting 105 km from the Nylstroom side down a fair amount of dirt road. Some stony stretchers and other sandy patches.20140418_054412 20140418_054357

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was about 18 km  riding around the farm.20140420_07165920140419_001207

Came back home past Naboomspruit and Cresy.

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Down hill to Naboomspruit. With Springbok flats stretching out in the distance

Was very disappointed to see the tar road that was ripped up by a contractor who ran out of money or was it ran away with the money. Ripped the tar road up in about 2011 has not even been taken to court or the government has not got another contractor to retar the road. There is about 5 km of dirt road now. It used to be one of the main roads to transport grain, fertilizer and other goods out and in of the Springbok flats. Now transport company’s have to use other longer routes.

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Can see what road looked like before it was ripped up. This piece of road was left untouched

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Road after been ripped up.

Cannot say too much about the fishing. Did not even get a bite. We tried all different baits, worms and lures.

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As can be seen from the pictures it was in a lovely setting. The winter temperatures are on their way in. Night was a little cool (6 degrees celsius) and day time temperature going up to 30 degrees celsius.

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Well there are lots of nice off-road places in the Waterberg. Game farming is reclaiming the bush and cultivated lands are returning to bush.

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Africa is at Gautengs door step. Malaria free and close to the big cities.

 

 

Settler to Belmoral

I did not post a post this weekend as I took a long weekend to visit my sister. I did 332 km by bicycle for the weekend.I will post a few photos.

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Had to cross a few mud puddles. I landed up been covered in mud. Some were a foot deep.

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I will not try my luck going through this fence, if there are lions in this game farm.

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Stopped to take photos

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No doubt they are serious. Just wonder how this sign will help in court if they did shoot a person

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Highveld of South Africa. My view at lunch time.

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Highveld. My lunch time view.

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Bicycle also had to take a rest at lunch time.

The weather was good and the wind favored me. On the way there I managed to cut an hour off my best time and did 166 km in 9 hours 10 minutes. The way back is more down hill and managed to cut 1 and half hours off best time, came in at 8 hours 40 minutes for the 166 km.