Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Free at Last!

Today I was released from my cardboard box - the same box I was unceremoniously dumped into after finishing at Diemersfontein, the same cardboard box that all Skinny's smelly riding kit was also dumped into after the finish! I endured a bumpy ride home by road while Skinny got to fly home like a rock star, not fair!

But today after he freed me from my smelly cardboard coffin, he also finally gave me a good wash and because it was a cold day, he even used warm water and soap! Then he told me that this unusually special treatment was only because I am going to be photographed for an upcoming issue of a local bike magazine - so now I feel like a rock star too!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 14: Trouthaven to Diemersfontein, 50km/8h

After the now customary oversleep, Skinny and Garth got going at 8am and we were ready to start the infamous Stettynskloof portage just before 9.

For a bike, this was a rather cushy day as I got to spend most of it taking in the scenery from on top of Skinny's shoulders. He did put me down a few times to drag me through some thick bush or dunk me in a river but on the whole I got to take it easy as he huffed and puffed his way up the valley.

After the kloof came the washed out downhill and then the cement track push up to the tar road of Du Toit's Kloof Pass. Skinny had to stomp on the pedals to get up the tar road pass and then waited at the top for Garth so they could ride into the finish together.

We dodged forestry workers and machinery in the plantations on the way down but in daylight, the route in was pretty straightforward and we rolled across the finish line in glorious sunshine.

Garth had a cracking ride, going off the front for 10 days on his own - well done, an impressive first ride!

Skinny Legs had a great ride despite all the hardships along the way and was relieved and satisfied to cross the line after 13 days 10h and 37min.

He should probably get a prize for the rider who neglected his bike the most but luckily I'm quite tough and didn't need that much attention.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 13: Anysberg to Trouthaven, 180km/16h

Late start, overslept again! Not the first time but Skinny's a bit tired these days and his alarm clock is pretty ineffective.

So well after first light, we rolled out of Anysberg and got the legs ticking over and four hours later, we rolled into Montagu. A quick snack and on to McGregor but the wind picked up and made it hard work! Skinny needed to stop for a coffee break which seemed to revive him and we charged off over the Coeniesrivier portage, arriving with enough light to spare. Alda and Elsa's good food at Kasra had to be skipped though because there was another portage waiting... At the top of this portage, we bumped into Garth 'Flying Flanders' and continued on together to Trouthaven. The last hour was a drag, with both riders battling fatigue and regular snack breaks only prolonged things - these guys eat a lot - and often!
We got to Trouthaven at 12:30pm and then they raided support boxes and ate some more!

It got a bit muddy out there and Skinny left me outside in the rain for the night to clean myself up.

Tomorrow it's just Stettynskloof and then we're done!

Fw: Day 12: Prince Albert to Anysberg, 180km/22h

Day 12: Prince Albert to Anysberg, 180km/22h

A long slog! Skinny had to walk up most of Swartberg Pass and was falling asleep as he went! Power naps got us through and once we dropped into Die Hel, the temps plummeted so out came the warm layers. At the top of Die Leer the sun was blazing so out came the sunscreen!

The road to Rouxpos was another slog into the wind, avoiding the dongas from flood damage along the way but the food once there was great. We scurried through Wagendrift before dark and then decided to pop in at Mrs Fourie for a quick coffee before going into Anysberg - bad move, we must have caught her on a bad day because Skinny got an earfull about riders arriving at all times of the day and night and how she's too old for this nonsense... Anyway, after an hour of quiet diplomacy and lot's of use of 'die Taal' he had managed to calm her down and we were able to carry on.

Bedtime at Anysberg was further delayed by struggling to find the right hut in the dark. Supper was a pot of gruel with rice to be heated up and there was only half a liter of milk, so needless to say, Skinny was a tad grumpy by the time he flopped into bed at 11pm. (At least there were some good boxes to raid for interesting snacks in the morning) I was allowed to sleep in the kitchen so no complaints from me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 11: Willowmore to Prince Albert, 170km/10h

What a superb day! Sunshine, dry roads and someone switched the wind off.
Skinny had been dreading this stage because too much wind would have meant a long walk and the corrugations are a nightmare without suspension - but none of that, the roads had been graded after flood damage and there was no wind.
Coming off a 23h previous stage, he got an hour's sleep in front of the fireplace at Willowmore and then suited up to go out again. A few urgent power naps got us through the morning. He had to spin like crazy - this is big blade territory - so towards the end he was tired.
Now we're at Dennehof guest house, he's already on his second glass of milk with his supper and I've been spruced up by Johan Rissik, getting a proper wash, a chain tightening and a lube - both ready to tackle the next stage!

Day 10: Hadley to Willowmore, 225km/23h

After a good recovery sleep at Hadley farm, we headed off to tackle the infamous Grootrivier Poort into Cambria.
After recent floods left debris lying rvrywhere, finding the road through was hard and the going slow. On the upside, I got a long overdue bikewash!

Lunch at Cambria was a quick, self-service affair before pushing on to Dam se Drif. The Baviaanskloof road has also been washed away so is very rocky in places. The weather was quite warm for a change but it rained on and off during the day.

Supper was at Dam se Drif, as well as a quick tumble drying session for wet socks. The road to Willowmore was wet and sticky and around midnight, the wind returned. Skinny has developed a bit of a wind allergy, so his reaction was to dive into the bushes for an hour's sleep! When we got going again, the wind was gone but the sticky mud remained. The slog ended at 05h30 in Willowmore where he is now stuffing his face again and then going to sleep a bit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 9: Toekomst to Hadley, 130km/14h

Wow, what a tough day! Left Toekomst at 01h15 with Sean W and made our way slowly and cautiously around the tricky Darlington Dam section in the dark. By first light we were just about through the never-ending Gwaas Valley and Sean wasn't feeling good, so we pushed on while he stopped to rest.

The relentless wind picked up and blew into our faces all morning. Those skinny legs were spent by the time we stumbled into Bucklands and he was in two minds about going on.... Some soup and bread and a pep talk from hosts Hannes and Rinnie helped replenish the reserves and Skinny decided to go on as it was only midday. The next hour drained all the topped up reserves however and by the time we got past Tretyre Farm, we had slowed to a crawl.

So Skinny had popped and with the difficult Grootrivier section looming, things were looking a bit bleak! Physically, this was a definite lowpoint so far and the only real option was to stop and rest up.

So we pulled into Hadley Farm where Benni and Anina asked many questions over tea and food and offered Skinny a place to stay and the deal clincher, a hot bath! So he's recovering slowly (and relieved to be out of the wind) and I'm parked outside waiting to see what happens next...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 8: Grootdam to Toekomst, 110km/10h30

After totally oversleeping at Grootdam (those beds are just too comfy) and having to patch a slow, leaking sidewall cut, we only got going just before 7 - not great!

The wind was a big factor today, first going up the back of Struishoek mountain and later again down on the flats of Pearston. It had the amazing ability to always be blowing into your face, despite many directional changes.
Skinny nearly ripped his legs off on the short tar stretch into Pearston and again approaching Vandeventerskraal. I felt all my welds creaking but held it together.

We rode a bit with Tim van Coller at Struishoek and also met up with Sean Woolnough licking his wounds at Toekomst.

We arrived just before dark. I got some TLC when Skinny replaced my chain! Yay!! This one should see us through to the finish. He's stuffing his face with soup and bread now and then it's prep time for an early start.

Day 6: Brosterlea to Camp Elandsberg, 200km/19h

What a day! Minus 9 to start with at Stormberg and later warm and windy!?!

Skinny Legs a.k.a Sickboy came very close to turning back to Brosterlea today, his stomach issues were particularly bad in the early hours before sunrise. But fortunately he didn't.

The roads were quite muddy and rutted which made the riding harder than it should have been. We both got covered in mud and were stopping to rinse off in streams along the way.

After a quick snack stop at Romansfontein, we scuttled up the back of Aasvoelberg and then held on tight for the wild ride down the other side. He complained of needing new arms after that, I was glad we made it down in one piece.

We pedalled on to Hofmeyr, with a fresh breeze from the front making a it a challenge to get to the pie shop before closing time. The wind switched off suddenly and we arrived with time to spare. The pies looked good but Skinny's stomach pulled rank and he settled for milk.

Onwards to Elandsberg... Got to the start in good time but things went south from there. He couldn't find the first track so started walking along a fence line. This worked well but was slow. The second track is the crux but here he got it wrong - he did find a track but it turned out to be the wrong one which dropped into a valley. So we walked back out to try and find the right track but after stumbling around in the darkness for over an hour, I was informed that we would be camping out!

He cleared an area under a small tree and put some grass down for warmth. On went the extra clothing layers and waterproofs and out came the space blanket. Everthing was great until the wind picked up in the early hours - it grabbed at the space blanket and pretty soon it was getting ripped to shreds on the surrounding thorns. The last few hours before sunrise were cold.

Amazingly, we were camped less than 100m from the right track, so once packed up, we strolled down to said track and rolled off to Elandsberg for breakfast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 7: Camp Elandsberg to Grootdam. 110km/12h

It took less than 30min to ride down to Elandsberg farmhouse from our camp spot on the mountain - but not getting there last night effectively cost us about 6 hours and put us on the back foot.

After breakfast at Elandsberg Farm, Skinny took out his frustration on the pedals and we time trialled it across to Stuttgart in under 4 hours! My bottom bracket ached afterwards and I was glad we at least stopped for 15min. Next came the Schurfteberg portage and Coeterskloof which were straightforward but dragged on a bit.

The new stopover at Grootdam is luxurious (most beds are compared to sleeping out) although it is 6km off the route.

Basically had to take today as a recovery day. Tomorrow its back into battle again and it looks like the weather may have the last say...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 5: Slaapkranz to Brosterlea, 152km/15h

Skinny Legs might need to be renamed Sickboy - ever since pigging out on the fine food at Chesneywold, his stomach has been holding him ransom. Any hint of sugar and it balloons up in minutes ,d cramps... He's now running on bread and water and drinking gallons of milk on the way through support stations!

As for the route, we left at 3:30am with Andrew and Martin, stumbling over the first two portages in semi darkness. Skinny chose to keep his shoes dry by taking them off for a river crossing at minus 10. Stupid!

On the way to Moordenaars Poort, our race nearly ended when Skinny came over a blind rise at speed, straight into a rock garden posing as a road! He barely maintained control and ended up in a drainage ditch with big eyes andd a pounding heart. I thought it was quite fun.

After a quick snack (and more milk) at Vaalbank, we pushed on through the swamps and got to Brosterlea after dark. The we met Joan, Avril and Craig (another singlespeeder). Early night though as rest was needed. I got parked outside, covered in mud to fend for myself as the mercury began it's plummet to minus nine...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 4: Vuvu to Slaapkranz, 150km/15h30

(The day's not actually done yet but we're on track to finish at Slaapkranz and here on the ridge we have signal but not down at the farmhouse)

An early start again at 2am, this together with Martin and Andrew. Lehana's by moonlight was at first warm and spectacular but near the top an icy wind was blowing. I got carried up on Skinny's shoulders most of the way - what a treat!

We reached Rhodes at 08h00 for breakfast andd chain lube and a repeat again at Chesneywold for lunch. I think Skinny at too much because afterwards he slowed to a crawl and complained about stomach cramps...

Anyway, Slaapkranz is just over the ridge and he's looking forward to a hot bath. Who knows, I may even get a bike wash!

Day 3: Masakala to Vuvu. 147km/16h30

An eventful day which started at 2am. Before arriving at Malekholonyane for breakfast at 8, we spent an hour lost on the Knira River floodplains and Skinny dumped us both in the river when he slipped near Mpharane!

The day belonged to the wind though. Twice he was blown off the bike and a few times I was pulled from his grip while he was pushing me along a path! Mostly it was a crosswind but sometimes it came from behind and actually pushed us up the hills.

We're sleeping at Vuvu now and leaving early to get over Lehana's pass by first light.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 2: Centocow to Masakala. 145km/15h30

After a shortish night at the zooty new Centocow lodge, we were on our way again around midnight. Anton came with and together we arrived at Ntsikeni Lodge at 06h30, just as a very tired Tim was leaving.

Anton knew the way, so we took the new route out of the reserve which was quick. But both guys were complaining of heavy legs so the posse opted to stop at Glen Edward for some of Sheila's famous soup. This did the trick as Skinny's legs started firing again and we made good time to Masakala, arriving at 15h30. (Anton opted for a more leisurely cruise as he wasn't feeling too well)

With a bungalow to ourselves, I got to sleep inside and bags were prepped and ready before 7pm bedtime.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 1: Pietermaritzburg to Centocow. 150km/11h

We got off to a flying start, the intention being to get to the bottom of the big Hella Hella climb with plenty of time to walk up it (remember, he has skinny legs and only one gear..) Despite some leg cramps and lot's of heaving breathing, Skinny maintained a decent pace, passing through Allendale support station by 2pm and eventually reaching the Centocow stop just after 5pm.

Along the way, his cellphone jumped out of the front pouch - a minor catastrophe as it was also the alarm clock - but thankfully, a farmer found it and notified David, who drove through to pick it up and then delivered it to Centocow after 11pm!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Counting down

It's a bit quiet in here, all the riders have gone for supper and the race briefing. Some big names around the dinner table tonight. Most have been here before and it's clear that most are back with intent....  Camera crews will be in tow and they say they want to try and get inside the rider's heads this time - that could be interesting, maybe even a bit scary!

Not sure yet what's on the cards for tomorrow, are we going to ease into this or go hard from the start. The first two days are really tough with only one gear, even if it is slightly easier than last year's. Skinny legs may not be the best weapon for the first battle ahead but that's all we've got, so roll on sunrise....

A few crazy days

Wow! All of a sudden things have been happening really quickly. From having enough time to fiddle with gear and do some last minute training, to suddenly having to pack up, get to Jhb, meet sponsors, some TV time, a telephone interview, some more last minute gear fiddling and then a quick plane trip down to Pietermaritzburg. Everything has been a bit of a blur and Skinny Legs hasn't quite known what hit him!

Being invited onto Supercycling together with Tim James was an unexpected bonus. Then flying down to the start in Tim's plane the next day was a real treat. While Tim snacked on some lunch and took in the view, Skinny got to earn his real pilot's stripes. Of course I just got bundled into the back of the small plane together with Tim's highly strung carbon racing steed and all the baggage - charming! I was a bit worried when Tim told him to line it up on the runway as we approached PMB but thankfully he took over the controls in the nick of time.

So now we're at the start a day early and will probably head out on the route tomorrow to see some of the other riders as they tackle day 1. Only one more day to go then we're off!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Final tweaks

With only a few days to go to our Friday start date, the pilot has been fiddling with his gear and making some final tweaks. I now have a dynamo powered light mounted, a rear flasher, a trip computer and a top tube bag for on-board charging operations. Everthing looks neat and tidy and all wiring is properly wrapped in tape to keep it away from any aggressive bush we may need to go bashing through!

We did a quick test run yesterday and I got carried to the top of the local mountain. The new shoes passed the portage test and the sunset views from the summit were great. He'll probably still be tinkering with a few things this week but I think Skinny Legs is actually starting to get excited about this ride.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Allow me to introduce myself.

I am Sir9, pleased to meet you. I'm a rigid, steel, Niner mountain bike and I'm about to embark on an exciting adventure!

The task at hand is to 'Make it Snappy!' and try to better the singlespeed record for the Freedom Challenge. My engine/pilot, Skinny Legs, thinks he can go a bit faster and thanks to Snapper Display and a few other sponsors, (more about them later) he's been given the chance to do just that.

I'm still getting dressed up for the big event and Skinny Legs has been building me up with various components, trying to make things more comforfortable for himself and ensure a smooth and trouble free journey.

He seems to know what he's doing (since he's done it before) but I'm not convinced.....for instance, he's decided to leave the spare tyre behind in favour of an extra layer of clothing! Sure, it's going to be cold but my warm, soulful steel frame can handle a bit of cold! What happens though when when we shred a tyre in the middle of nowhere and can''t get a spare? He says he has a plan - guess I'll just have to hope we don't need it.