Friday, December 24, 2010

Desert Vixens Wax the Dash

I've always loved Namibia, wide open spaces, stunning desert environment and a population density of less than two people per square kilometre which means that most of the country seems deserted. When I was asked to second a team on the Desert Dash, I didn't hesitate. Not for a moment.

The Desert Dash is an annual race from Windhoek to Swakopmund, 340km which must be completed in less than 24hrs. Options are solo, and two person or 4 person teams. All riders must ride the first and last 35km and their share of the 70km stages in between. This means that there is a mass of support vehicles at the first stage hand-over, fewer at the next and so on. Water points are in the middle of each of the 70km stages and riders may not be assisted along the route by their back-up vehicles.

The race starts at 3pm, with most teams making the top of the Kupferberg in about two hours.

The FNB Namibia Desert Vixens before the start

The start was accompanied by harsh gusting wind, all the way to the top of the Kupferberg, slowing riders somewhat but also offering some respite from the heat.

Gisela starting the Us Pass stage

Kupferberg is chaos as the designated rider moves on and the others get themselves into the support vehicles for the trek to the beginning of the next stage, in this case the Kuiseb Bridge after the Us Pass.

Louis "Luiperd" Wessels showing how the masters do it

Unidentified rider making like a fokofpolisiekar down the Us Pass

Gisela ripped this stage, with her half candle-power light she never even saw the yawning chasms over the edge of the pass. Way to ride.

Kim attacked the second stage with a sense of urgency unknown in these parts, being familiar with the stage, she had a plan. All I can say is that I'm glad that I wasn't out there on a bike in my present state of fitness. So I stuck to this.......

Kim flew into the Khomas Safari checkpoint, giving the graveyard shift to Sandra. Kim, it appears is unflappable.

This "undulating" stretch seemed to be never-ending dust. By this time I was hallucinating in the dust clouds (did I mention the dust?). The dilemma of passing riders and leaving them in the dust, knowing that you really have no choice, but it still goes against the grain.

The BloedKopje checkpoint was where I hoped to get some sleep, so I pushed the driver's seat back and passed out, regrettably my over-trained team were having none of this. It wasn't long before Tina set out on her stage to the Power Station checkpoint, Sandra having ripped the section in faster than expected time
Tina setting out from Bloedkopje at dawn

Wicked Desert Vixen behaviour
(no sound or video images available)

The Power Station checkpoint was where the entire team regrouped for the final stretch into Swakopmund.

Arriving at the finish the team looked as calm and composed as they had at the start nineteen and a half hours earlier!

Kim, Sandra, Tina, Gisela after a very credible 19 h 31min
(I'm the Fat Bastard without a bike)

PS Mannie Heymans set a new record of 12h13min. Solo. Loco.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brushwork, or rather fine brush strokes

Custom paint jobs on bicycles cover a wide range, but recently I noticed two that stand out.

Horse hair brush stroke finish (lifted this off the intrawebs, source unknown)

This one off an old Hansom track bike;

That sure as hell ain't horse hair....?

It speaks volumes about a very much closer relationship with the bicycle. (or am I missing something)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


OK, so I'm probably showing my age................yesterday I was introduced to Whatsapp for the first time.

Given that the Nokia version of it appears to have been on the market for about 10 days, I'm not too slow.

This neat little app allows you to send text messages via the data system rather than the iniquitous sms rip-off that exists in this country. (In SA the sms business is a license to print money).

Get it here

OK, I'm sorry if you knew all this before

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Funny title for a post on a South African blog, I guess.

It would appear that Thanksgiving in North America is a celebration that is largely unaffected by the crass commercialism that has hijacked the one a month later. Why?

Those who know me will hesitate to say things like "Christmas spirit" and "oh, but it's for the children" or even "it's family time" within earshot. If you didn't know that about me, now you do, consider yourself warned.

While not a Christian, I support the right of others to be Christians, particularly if they support my right NOT to be one with equal fervour.

When I see "Xmas specials" and the related crap oozing into advertisements in September, it confirms for me the abuse of a festival (admittedly one the Christians themselves hijacked) for pure commercial gain.

And oh shit, the heat I take because I will not enter into the "Christmas Spirit"! What is it that the vast majority (who are no more Christian than my dogs are buddhist cat lovers) are actually celebrating? The birth of Jesus Christ? No. It's merely a mindless rush into some unnecesssary and in most cases, unaffordable consumption. How about saying STOP and just for a moment thinking whether we need all the Christmas "stuff".

How about rather saying, "I'm giving up this or that for Christmas"?

I doubt that South Africa is alone in the way this happens, but my eyes were recently opened to Thanksgiving and what it stands for in North America. Hell, even the crew over at DC got quite serious!

While I'm often critical of the way the USA conducts itself on the world stage or the way their country is run, there is much we can learn from them. Thanksgiving is but one.......

It would be appropriate for us in the southern hemisphere to be giving thanks at this time of the year. The end of the calender year.The beginning of summer. The year end break (yup, you Yankees have nothing on us when it comes to this....industry and much of business closes for a month! And in the month before and the month after they are preparing to shut down and recovering from lags in the supply chain) Imagine that, the whole country slips into neutral for a month. FOR CHRISTMAS!! Funny that, in a largely Pagan and animist country.

Anyway, I have much to be thankful for, I am very aware of that.

I chose to celebrate it by making the most of the bounty provided by my apricot trees.

Apricots, with blemishes, with bird damage and even some with worms. The presence of worms indicates that there is no poison, unlike commercially grown fruit.

And through a freestyle process involving a lot of this, and

ably supported by the Buddhist cat lovers,

I ended up with this.

"This" being a large quantity of smoked apricot chutney, apricot chutney with achaar masala and apricot jam with ginger. And still the apricots keep coming.

And in the background? A postcard depicting a bicycle race at the 1903 Athens Olympics.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Man in Minnesota

.....may be hell on the raccoons, but he knows where to find the diamonds.

Gunnar beat me to it on the new Danny Macaskill video, hell, he even beat DC to it too.

Whatever you do, watch that man on his bike (Danny, that is ).............................

Friday, November 12, 2010

Watch, and listen to this.

Gunnar "Don't Mess with my Carp" Berg has just posted something that blew me away.

Look. Listen. Bettye LaVette.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


XtraBag. Frame bag. Frame pack. Call it what you want to, but it's a clever way to carry stuff, particularly heavy stuff.

I originally made this one out of Kudu rawhide (as light as carbon, stronger, not brittle, re-usable, bla bla bla) for the Sishen-Saldanha ride.
It could hold almost 8 litres of water in a series of 2 litre bladders (re-used wine bladders), making the bike seriously heavy. Heavy takes second place to water in Bushmanland.

Thanks to this bag, I never ran out of water, but towards the end I no longer needed to carry as much water, so filled it with food. Accessible food.

No, it's not waterproof (that's not generally required in that part of the country) and when it got totally wet at the coast it lost it's shape. Too bad.

I'd been keen on making a canvas one to replace the rawhide one, with a side zip and even an inner compartment for small things, so it was fortuitous that Di O'Donovan mentioned that she was pretty good on a sewing machine. We set at it with rough sketches, then proper drawings and finally hardboard templates.

Your Salute, Reverend.

Lots of backwards and forwards to make sure everything fitted as planned, even a hole in the template to hang it up.

Afficionados will recognise this as the middle compartment of the XtraBike

The first prototype:

++It's made of bullet proof ripstop canvas
+ Fits the frame perfectly
+ Zip placement is under discussion
- It's off-centre (that will be changed)
- No logo (wait and see, but it's likely to involve a 16t sprocket and a finger)

We're aiming for:

  • As water resistant as possible
  • Lightest/strongest/cheapest
  • Ultra durable bag and zip
  • Customized to each specific frame, no "one size fits all crap"

The Black Mamba

OK, so this is where I am on this one...

Stripped it down the other day, grinding, sanding polishing, priming and spraying. I have parked the idea of the Desert camo Sharki colour for now (it's not available in the Prince Albert powder coating booth, but rattle can matt black is ;) Thanks to the soft focus ability of my Nokia talking camera, you can't even see the high quality welds. Probably better that way.

I have also installed a new crankset and chains, well, chain and a half. Yes, new chain and new cables are half the way to solving a lot of cycling problems.

Also back on is the SLX chain tensioner (thanks to Mechanical Ray, It turns out that chain tension is an issue when you have a crankset with three functional rings. The trick seems to be to set the "middle-rear" derailleur in the middle (strange that) using the limit screws and the ubiquitous piece of tying wire.

The "cockpit setup" is almost edzachary the same as the 29r, so we are off to a good start. In fact they are so similar that I reached out to change gear on the 29r...and a voice from above said "sit and spin *^%**&^%"

All that clutter on the bars? Mary Bars, Ergon grips, Deore brake levers and R40 (about $6) friction shifters, think I have all my bases covered there, except the bell.

So, just the luggage to sort out. Di is making two frame bags (she of XtraBag fame) one for the front triangle (100mm wide) and one for the third triangle (250mm wide). And maybe a pair of panniers for the back.

And then I suppose I'll have to do the long trip this bike was built for.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Greats

Pity about the sound quality, but the spirit is there.

It's hard to make a stand ....that's light, strong and cheap

I might just be disowned for this............

I was sitting here scheming how to make the centre stand for the XtraBike. Trying to fit it into those standard three dimensional bicycle parameters STRONG LIGHT CHEAP when I was distracted by the words of this song.

You said it, Ms Crowe.

....but not impossible.

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's been a long week

It has, with it's ups and downs, been a rough rollercoaster one, this last week.

My friend Graeme went into hospital for an operation, only to be told that he has picked up an infection (in the hospital when he was there for tests last week) and has to be on an IV anti-biotic drip for a week. Fuckin' hard for anybody to have to deal with that.

Bicycle design post a piece on Archibald Sharp's epic treatise, including the direct line to the mother lode. Where to download this wonderful book and many others in a similar vein, for free. Big props to James T and Miles. You were a highlight in the week. Thanks guys.

We (Di and I) are deeply involved in the design of the first three "xtrabags" (trademark applies) for the xtrabike (well, two for the xtrabike and one for the 29r). Di is precisely 10 times more precise than me, I do the centimetre thing whereas she wants it in millimetres ). These are frame bags for the long haul, made of ripstop canvas with take no prisoners zips, they should outlast even a good steel frame. (Not for use on carbon frames, the mere sound of that zip closing could crack that pretty frame ;)

Another big prop to TopCopy in Claremont, Cape Town (Ray, Leila and Jeremy). Nothing was too much trouble in getting Sharps' classic to them via, printed, bound and ready on time. The marvel of modern technology; Download a 20MB file of a digitized 19th century book from the other side of the world, send it to TopCopy via yousendit. They print it and bind it and two good friends make sure it gets to Graeme in hospital. He's blown away.

I proceed to greedily download a host of other 19th century cycling books thanks to BikeDesign, including BOTH volumes of Thomas Stevens "Around the World on a Bicycle". If you haven't done so already, do so now. And that includes you, Steven Thomas. These 1100-odd pages help put things in perspective. Around the world on an "Ordinary". In the 1880's. No kidding.

Xtrabag design now 99% complete, final templates done and Di and I are on the same page regarding angles and millimetres...looking good. We may yet turn this into a business, the only other person I know of making frame bags is in Alaska, so we shouldn't tread on each other's toes too much. Anyway, his snow will have melted by the time he gets down here.

That all-important template, all detail correct and present

Then a call from Graeme to say that he's home hospital has run out of the anti-biotic needed to deal with the infection he picked up in said hospital. Welcome to South Africa, to the land of the World Cup 2010, to the land of fat thieving greedy politicians, to the land that runs out of medicines at it's training hospitals. Fuck these thieving swine.

Ok, so that's now out, so I pull out the singlespeed corkscrew and get to write this all up........this is for a friend up North where the snow only stays slushy for a very short while, until it freezes solid!
A good Merlot and a brilliant corkscrew.

For many reasons this has been a week from hell, but after it's all over, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stretch and the compartment issue

Cardboard mock-ups of potential frame bag spaces.....

Oh yes, motivation for the weekend

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Stretch is taking shape in an "organic process".

Weld, grind, weld.....

This idea scored top points for creativity, but that's all. Hours of careful thinking removed with a grinder.......

A very late night last night has produced this so far.................

  • Rock solid
  • Rides like a dream
  • Carries a load without a problem
  • Would be lighter if made of carbon fibre

Handles very well with the 15kg load, even placed up that high.

Technical detail: Notice the second gorilla (that was acting as a chain tensioner) has gone, not needed.

Elegant solution, still a way to go.
Action List:
  • Fit plywood deck on rear rack
  • Complete sides of rear rack
  • Tidy up the metal-work
  • Strip and paint (Afrika Korp Brown RAL 8020)
  • Install both brakes
  • Install rear gorilla with a friction clicker

Monday, October 18, 2010

A whim, I suppose.

I don't remember what started the search, but I ended up on the homebuilt Xtracycle page over the weekend..........if someone in Western Canuckistan can do it so can I!

I dragged two old steel frames together, in fact I tied them together so that they could commune overnight. Come morning things were looking good. I posted some pics on the thread, hoping for advice and encouragement, but after 30 minutes there was no response so I picked up the grinder and got to work. I mean hell, boy, what time do you wake up in that part of the world ;)

Fortunately (for my level of skill as a welder) these frames are made of steel, back in the days when it was still cheap. They made nice thick-walled tubing for sparkers like me to play with.

I think the extra few hours of thought paid off (as it so often does) and I was able to turn out an XtraCycle frame that rides pretty well (still no technical gubbins...brakes, shifter cables etc) without having to backtrack.

OK, the process in a nutshell:

Put the frames together to see how they work together (actually bolted the donor bike and the "other" bike (the receiver?) together, BB to dropout. That gave me an idea of what and where to cut.

Cut and grind. Removed the down-tube in it's entirety, kept the top-tube, but sliced it to facilitate a bend. Grind the front of the top-tube to mate with the receiver's seatpost.

Weld (yes I know you can't weld this stuff with an arc welder) That's why I just pretended I had a tig welder and got on with it. Looks not unlike pigeon shit, just smaller. Nothing that body-filler and undercoat can't tidy up. (Actually, I'm rather proud of my arc welding ability)

The "meeting point", where the donor bike's BB goes into the receiver's rear drop-outs was simple enough. A 12mm high tensile bolt, drilled dropouts to 12mm, some spacers, aligned the whole lot and welded it in place. Neat, strong, simple.

So far a fun project, the rack detail at the back is going to take more time, it needs a strong, lightweight, cheap, home-made, practical, stylish rack (I don't want to raise expectations at this stage).
So that's her, and yes, I know it's like coming out of the closet, here I am riding those little wheels aided by clickers and gorillas. Standards just ain't what they used to be. Please don't tell anyone.

OK, seriously now. That "parallelogram thing" looks like the business to me. This bike suddenly opens up a few possibilities, there's space to load quite a few litres of water in there (Sishen-Saldanha and another Bushmanland trip are now in reach.) Just a pity about those little wheels, but I could get over it. And the gears.

If anybody has any ideas about racks, please supply.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I don't generally like "concept bikes", but this is real. And I like it. A lot.

ICB 29
Wonder how she sails?

Never Mind The Dog - Beware of the Owner

Harry with with his favourite uncle, Noor, at the range.
That's a first generation Glock, for those know these things
The results? Impressive.

The Irony of it all

I have unashamedly lifted this from

Plumber creates bicycle made for tools to beat Olympic road works

A plumber driven round the bend by Olympic road works has adapted a bicycle to keep his business running.

Chris JonesOn your pipe: Chris Jones dodges road works on his adapted bike (Dorset Media picture)
That's great, but I really can't help thinking that in most of the "developing world" this would be considered perfectly normal and hardly newsworthy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Dangerous Roads" my arse !

I drive this road regularly. 400km along the "most dangerous road in the country". Regular massive crashes, regular double-digit fatality "accidents". Generally the only visible presence of the traffic officials is when they are hiding behind bushes manning (or womanning) speed cameras. Very rarely does one see a moving traffic cop, one that can deal with "moving violations" which must be the major cause of so many accidents..

Arseholes like this one.........ZMJ467GP

Not once, but four times I saw this vehicle pull the same move.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

South Africa -- The Real Threat

Solid piece by Justice Malala, heartening in these times of the neo-kleptocracy.

Justice Malala, The Times, Johannesburg, 4 October 2010

ANC leader Pallo Jordan, writing in this newspaper last week, asserted that because of the struggles of his comrades I am able to write my "wordy, self-righteous columns in The Times, certain that he (I) won't spend that night in prison."

I am not sure that I won't spend tonight or any other night in prison. I am also not certain that the leaders of the ANC won't throw me in jail. Because, as outlined by ANC veteran Oyama Mabandla in an article in African Affairs in 1990, large chunks of the ANC hates free speech and hates people who speak truth to power.

Which is why this same ANC - that Jordan claims fought for me - arrested and detained him for six weeks in 1983.

This is what Mabandla said way back in 1990:

"Pallo was detained on the orders of (Communist) Party member and Mbokodo (the ANC's security department) chieftain, Peter Boroko. . Pallo was accused of exposing the Mbokodo informant network within the Department of Information and Publicity by mockingly referring to department official Francis Malaya and another man named Ace . as Amapolisa (the police) - warning other DIP staffers to be careful of them. On that basis, Pallo was detained and was to spend six weeks in detention.

"I participated in an informal meeting at Green House (Mbokodo HQ) which discussed Pallo's arrest. . During the discussion one Mbokodo officer made a chilling remark which seemed to capture the essence of the entire saga. The comment went thus, 'leli intellectual lase Merika lisijwayela kabi': 'this American-trained intellectual is uppity' - and thus in need of straightening out."

This is the ANC that Jordan now claims I should be certain will not jail me. Either he has been imbibing something strong, has been in a coma or he is delusional. He should ask Mzilikazi wa Afrika what the ANC is capable of.

Wa Afrika, in case that story passed the perceptive Jordan by, was arrested by 20 policemen in six vans, taken to a secret location in Mpumalanga and interrogated at 2am without a lawyer. The charges against him have been dropped. Wa Afrika works in my building.

I am grateful for Jordan's certainty that I will not spend the night in prison.

Yet the ANC I know is the ANC that detained Jordan for saying exactly what I say today in my "wordy" columns. It is the ANC that detained my colleague Wa Afrika just two months ago while Jordan was composing his Floyd Shivambu-esque drone.

The really offensive part of Jordan's piece is that he claims that it was him and the ANC who fought and liberated South Africa so that "today Malala enjoys the freedom to insult them with impunity".

It is time to tell the true story of who delivered the country to the democracy that it is today - and who fights to protect these freedoms. The ANC's useful idiots arrogantly claim that "it was the ANC" that fought to give us our freedom. Rubbish!

While the ANC was detaining the likes of Jordan or torturing young women in its camps, it was people like my young friends and relatives who were, under the banner of the Mass Democratic Movement, rendering the apartheid state unworkable. It was Desmond Tutu who led me and other young students to the beaches of Cape Town to defy apartheid laws.

It was Peter Mokaba who, as president of the SA Youth Congress, harried PW Botha. It was Trevor Manuel and Popo Molefe and others in the UDF, and Jay Naidoo at Cosatu, who led our mothers on marches and stayaways.

Meanwhile, the ANC was detaining and then poisoning the young leader Thami Zulu. Jordan may be interested to know that Zulu's bosses in that ANC, and the people who still won't say what happened to him and many others, are now snugly in Cabinet giving us legislation such as the Protection of Information Bill.

An ANC that can behave so abominably towards its own members, in a faraway place of hurt and loneliness, is not the noble beast Jordan tries to portray. I am empathetic to - and even love - the real ANC, the one Jordan turns his face away from: it is fallible, it is aware that it is open to abuse by people within its ranks and it is humble in its enjoyment of the freedoms that we, the people of South Africa and the world, fought so hard for. This is the ANC that values a free press.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my sleep and write more "wordy" columns now that I have Jordan's assurance that the leaders of Mbokodo, the people who ran the ANC torture camp Quattro, won't jail me. Or Mzilikazi wa Afrika. Or even the rather wordy Pallo Jordan himself.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eukanuba Dog Food Diet ---Thanks Di!

I was buying a large bag of Eukanuba dog food at my vet and
standing in a queue at the check-out. A guy behind me asked if I
had a dog.

On impulse, I told him no, I was starting the Eukanuba Diet again,
although I probably shouldn't because I'd ended up in hospital last
time, but that I'd lost 22 kilos before I awoke in an intensive care
unit with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both

I told him that it was essentially a perfect diet and that all you do
is load your pockets with Eukanuba nuggets and simply eat one or two
every time you feel hungry. And I told him that the food is
nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again. I have to
mention here that by now, practically everyone in the queue was
enthralled with my story, particularly a guy who was behind him.

Horrified, he asked if I'd ended up in hospital in that condition
because I'd been poisoned. I told him no; it was because I'd been
sitting in the street licking my balls when a car hit me.

Stupid fool... why else would I buy dog food?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Monday, October 4, 2010


These are the bastards who ran the rhino killing syndicate.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Blues

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hole-in-Foot Disease

Move over Tex, it looks like El Pistolero may have a hole or two in his feet.

...and yes, I know, it besmirches this blog to post this stuff here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Take that! Pink Singlespeed Triplets.

How many sets of singlespeeding triplets are there in the world? Not many.

What are the chances of a set of singlespeeding triplets on identical bikes walking into Cape Town's top singlespeed bike shop? Less than zero.

Proof that the impossible happens.

Inside the shop window, you might have noticed, is a ten year old boy, deep in thought. Is he:

  • Offering thanks to his gods that he only has one sister ?
  • Frantically memorising their names and phone numbers ?

All we need now is a matching set of 20" bikes. Any ideas?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Animal Welfare versus Human Taste

This poor critter was spotted lounging on the rear window ledge of an indiscriminate vintage Toyota Cressida bearing a CFP number plate. Poor dog has to lie there all the time, occasionally nodding his head at passing strangers. What a life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guaranteed best sellers in South Africa!!!

Every now and then a real gem just pops up to the surface, a bit like finding a diamond at your feet....well almost.
A recent gem was the Voodoo Bantu ( but now, lo and behold we have a real winner.........

Zuma Helmet:
A compact, streamlined design enhanced by a system of 26 vents: Zuma combines the characteristics of a technically advanced helmet with a dynamic, highly attractive look.

Regular Retail: R1300,00

...and that's without the standard shower attachment

Just in case you think I made that up:

I have always wanted to be at the start of a major race, leg cocked over the top tube, nonchalantly chewing gum and sporting the latest Zuma helmet.

Layla, hold me close, I think I'm going to start feeling dizzy. Layla??

Somebody tell me it's a joke. Please.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where the hell have I been?

Layla Zoe laying it down.
And it's all Gunnar Berg's fault.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Junior Brown

Hats off to Gunnar for bringing this to my attention.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Use of Coke

Watch this, right till the end. (OK, I'm a lazy blogger, but this is too good not to share)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Laurent Fignon

Viva Laurent Fignon
31August 2010