Dad, says seven-yr-old Tom, I’m tired of the 5km and 10km races with Mom. I wanna go on a longer race with you, please.
So we enter the 18km race starting at the Eston country club and meandering thru Tala game reserve. Days before, it starts raining; and it rains; and there’s mud – A LOT of mud. I pushed, I shoved, I carried, I dragged. I went ahead, dropped my bike, went back and pushed their bikes;
We watched people bail left and right. Tractors and trailers were available en-route to offer rescue, and the trailers got piled high with bikes abandoning the slog. But we pushed on, stopping every few metres to scrape sticky mud out of the brake calipers.
And they made it! Not many did. On the way home they recuperated:
Not one pic of the mudslog! Aitch had the camera; Anyway, my hands would have been way too muddy!
On finding out that Aitch had belonged to a ladies mountain bike group, a friend said (in Sept 2013) . . “I didn’t realize she was such a keen bean cyclist – seems there were not many things she did not try her hand at?”
Maybe we can fathom why Aitch got so keen on pedalling . .
“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands. And, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the whole community” – quote attributed to Ann Strong
“Marriage is a wonderful invention. Then again, so is the bicycle” (and – the bike comes with a far simpler repair kit)
– quote attributed to Jacquie Phelan
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”
” . . before mountain-biking . . (and electric biking) . . came to the scene, the biking scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm”
“Work to ride – and ride to work”
“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul”
“If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride”
“Don’t ride faster than your guardian angel can fly”
(Quotes written on a blackboard at Aitch’s “Angels Mountain Biking Club” coffee shop)
Here’s their guardian angel – who could ride MUCH faster than all of them . . He led their trail rides and looked after them. I never met him but she told me his name. And she’d kick me for not remembering it!
Hey, I went haring around on my bike on Sunday – first time in a long time! A friend took the kids on the 10km fun ride, so I had no-one to shepherd and could indulge meself.
This was just like the old days. Single track, through pine forests, up and down rocky paths, across streams and along game trails. Flat-out downhill, bones shaking apart and quite often thinking Oh, sh*t, now I’ve gone a bridge too far and I’m going to see my rear end!”, but I only fell once and then in slow motion down a very steep rocky path when my front wheel jammed against a rock and I slowly went over the handle-bars to land safely in the grass.
On some of the tight turns they had banked corners, so you could hit them leaning right down and squeeze your back brake and skid round and jerk upright just in time for the next corner. Lekk-aah!
The trail started near the Umtamvuna river and the high point was on the cliff-edge overlooking the gorge in the wildlife reserve with the white-water rapids far below – stunning! (see feature pic – not mine)
Uphills, though “r not us”. I get off and push and enjoy the scenery. Everyone granny-gears their way past me, then I whizz past many of them on the downhills.
Gravity likes me.
Gayle, who had accompanied the kids gave this report: At the top of the first long climb, not 2km into their 10km ride Tom turned to her and asked:
Gayle, how much did it cost to enter this?
Twenty Rand Tom, she replied.
Well, I think I’ve had my Twenty Rands’ worth, he puffed.
The next year we did it again, the kids old hands by now:
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Tom puffed to Gayle after the first hill: How much did this cost? “R20” Well, I think I’ve had my R20 worth!
The Great Occasional Downhill Bike Ride to Lilani Spa – GODBiRitoLS.
Named after the fashion of the more famous GABRAN (Great Annual Bike Ride Across Natal), this one is much better! All downhill; Only 17km: Ends at a hot water spring with spa baths! Getting back out is done with kombi power, not pedal power. Easy!
This time Aitch drove the kombi, stopping frequently to take pictures.
So we enter the 19km event at Karkloof on our pushbikes. Me n Jessie.
Aitch n Tom are going to do the 10km.
We head off and Jess does well, stays on her bike on some gentle uphills, no pushing.
Riding up one hill after 4 or 5 km we hear a whooshing sound, and a wheezing and a loud shoosh and huh and a muttered curse and I realise its not a train or a wind turbine, it’s an oke saying “Spekkies – howzit?”. Young David Hill, peaking this early. He’s let himself go, as they say, since last season when he did Tuli in Botswana and was a shadow of his former self, and is paying the price. Finds his bike has lost all its former zippiness.
We rode together a while, but then gravity took over and off went Hill downhill at an ever-increasing speed on his high-tech multi-shock softail plenty thousand Rand special just when Jess ran out of steam and decided to chill a bit.
After another few kays I realised I was probably leading my category and was in for a podium finish and a prize: First SLOBO home (Seriously Lazy Old Bald Optometrists division). Jess was OK on the downhills (if rather cautious) and slow on all uphills – including some sections of “Dad, come back and push my bike for me”. Even so, I thought I had the win in the bag and was rehearsing my acceptance speech when, with much creaking and panting, an OLDER, BALDER optometrist pulled up next to me and called out “Swanepoel!”. It was young Graham Lewis, who, although MUCH older than me, was probably competing for my crown! I tried to delay him but he was eager to move on, so – although I could have blown his doors off – I let him go (on his twenty year old, unsprung bottle store delivery fiets, with his knees whizzing past his ears his seat was so low) as I had to wait for Jess. Ah, well, silver medal, I thought.
Meantime, back at the 10km, Aitch was waiting for 24yrs of trouble on six legs – Tom and the Bainbridge twins Peter and Philip. And waiting, and waiting. Hordes of cyclists passed her as she looked back in vain. Fifty, sixty of the slowcoaches they had been ahead of went past. “Have you seen three little boys?” she eventually started asking. Someone had: “I saw three little guys lying down in the grass near the drinks table chatting away” said an observant soul. Back went Aitch to roust them out and get them back on their wheels. “We were talking, Ma” was the explanation.
Just before prize-giving I had a thought and scurried over to have a quiet word with the officials. “First SLOBO home: Swanepoel” came the announcement over the tannoy system, and I stepped onto the podium to receive gold – to tremendous applause. Lewis had been disqualified, and quite rightly so. He’s running the Comrades ultra-marathon again this year, which quite clearly ruled him out on the important “SL” part of the category. Justice had prevailed.