Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Dash that was

The Road to Nam is long...and straight.

The last training ride, Sandra, Adino, Kim, Kosima

The day finally dawned, with everything planned, prepped, cleaned, serviced, packed, checked, if it was our last chance. Even re-doing a friend's "homeless choobless" setup, adding a bigger safety margin.

From this... this. Don't cut that tube too close.
 The forecast said 30 degrees with a gentle breeze in our faces for the climb up to the top of Kupferberg, but at the start it was clear that 30 degrees was optimistic. Four hundred-odd riders can huddle into a small patch of shade when they need to.

Michelle pretending 
Michelle, our backup driver did a sterling job. Thank you Michelle for your calm, collected handling of your team. We might just snap you up again unless some young buck gets in ahead of us ;)

There was none of the usual pre-event stressing and hassling over loose ends, they were all taken care of. Which left us to do our thing without excuses.

Kim and Kosima : Brave faces indeed!

Up the hill in the heat is something we've done before, but usually at a more relaxed (read "lazy") training pace. At one stage I was convinced that my heart rate monitor was malfunctioning, and then it dawned on me that the combination of heat, race tension and the hill was pushing me harder than I'd planned. Looking back on it, this is where the intervals helped enormously. (Dankie Maryke!)

I was hugely surprised to find that we were at the top of the hill an hour faster than our (admittedly conservative) schedule. In my rush to hit my first long stage, I forgot to drink the first bottle of recovery mix. Too bad.

Sandra at the end of the first stage

On stage 2
Overlooking the Kuiseb at sunset
The next 70km stretch was a grind, with the wind making everything harder, but at least blowing the dust away.

Near the top of the Us Pass is the memorial to Nico van der Merwe, who died of a heart attack while taking part in the 2006 Dash. It's a sober reminder to those of us with heart rate monitors heading for the double century mark. I stopped here briefly just as the sun was setting .

Don't be fooled, the downhills of the Us Pass are not the end of the stage, there are a "few" hills before that very welcome sight suddenly meets you at the Kuiseb Bridge. My time was somewhere under 4hrs (completely forgot to push the buttons on the BiPolar)

Sandra set off on the stage to Khomas Safaris, by the time we passed her, she was well into the stage. This is a difficult one, primarily because of the hills and the dust caused by backup vehicles (and the lack of wind to blow the dust away). Michelle and I arrived at Khomas in good time, ate, rested, drank coffee and even tried to sleep. I had set my alarm for 01:30, but fortunately woke up at 12:45 and rode up to the check-in. Sandra had finished minutes earlier, much earlier than planned, so our timing was perfect.
Bloedkopje in the sober light of day

Khomas to Bloedkopje. This was the stage I had been fearing. How would I cope with the next 70km, having just done 100km hard km? Greatly helped by Sandra's earlier than planned finish, I set off on the long downhill which is the start of this stage. Thanks to a route change, we only had to share the road with cars for the first 13km, after that it was just the odd light up front and a few far behind. This was classic night riding (no idea of speed or distance, I just put my head down and hammered). The short detour past the Ganab water point was another welcome addition to the route.
Before long it was the lights of the checkpoint, again in way less time than we'd expected. ( I guess riding in the dark I'm not tempted to stop and sightsee ;) 70km in 3hrs.

Sandra set off on the dreaded stage to the Old Power Station. Dreaded because it was another route change which involved getting off the road and onto a 4x4 track and then onto the pipeline service track. In this part of the world that means one thing. SAND. Fortunately it was dark and then heavily misty, making conditions better/less bad than expected. By the time Sandra finished this she was still smiling, but I think only just. Not bad at all because I saw and heard some large-mouth men whining like stuck pigs about not being allowed to ride on the nearby tar road. Form, gentlemen, form.(South Africans often have skewed ideas about what mountain-biking means ). Go big or go home these same guys often say.....

The morning after.
The Pipeline Track that caused  all the fuss
From there it was the short "team-building" hop to Swakopmund and the finish. The finish and those 500ml Windhoek Tafels.

At this point it's fitting to stop and think of the people who make this all possible. The organisers (Aiden, JC and the rest of the team), all the admin people, the people who run the water points, the marshalls. The sponsors, the traffic department, everyone who contributes to an event that is so well run. I sometimes feel that the people who make this kind of event happen don't know quite how much they are appreciated. The person who took my bike from me at the Ganab waterpoint at about 2am with the words "Let me take your bike, get yourself something to eat and drink"
People who put months of hard work into something that's all over in 24hrs (well, the race is, their work goes on long afterwards).
As with any event of this nature, it's the organisers, the workers and the volunteers who are the thread that keeps it all together. "Thank you" seems inadequate.
Know that what you do is highly appreciated by so many. Know that for sure.

Highlights for me...
  • a handmade, personalised finisher's medal for solo finishers and a handmade, personalised "dog tag" for the two and four person team finishers.
  • the fact that Sandra and I were the first (and only) mixed masters team.

Lessons learned?
  • Get fit (I did 13 solid weeks of intervals, even more next time)
  • Plan the ride, ride the plan (Know what to do when, it's much less stressful that way)
  • Have fun, that's why we're here in the first place.

And yes, of course DC was there.

My BiPolar Heart Rate Monitor says....


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This is not "the next post"... that will be next week.

It's a link to Kent's blog.

Good reading from a man who knows a thing or two. Kent has been a source of inspiration for me.

The Impending

For some months now, the primary current in my life has been the Desert Dash. Now that the 16th of December is a few days away, the current has become a torrent, all the mental and physical preparation is coming to a head.

Last year I was the back-up for the Desert Vixens, an experience which convinced me to do it myself. The thought of doing it on my singlespeed GT Peace 9r was a bit daunting, so that in turn set in motion the process which became the "The GoldenBike". That's a Niner S.I.R. with a carefully thought out, tight-budget build and a setup which is an exact replica of the Peace. (Mary Bars, Ergon grips, Murray Orthoped sadlle, Thudbuster seatpost, tubeless).

Then of course came the main bit, getting properly fit so that the Dash would stand a fair chance of being an enjoyable event rather than a bad memory. Is it wrong to go into an intensive interval training programme in order to avoid shitting off in the race? Maybe, but it worked for me. Sixteen weeks ago I got hold of Maryke Verster (more on this later) to work out a training programme for me. I supplied her with the necessary info and she provided the interval training programme, six days a week, on average 7-9 hours per week.....

In the first four weeks I lost 4kg without even noticing it (not that weight-loss was a priority, just a nice to have, but that in itself is a story, I guess)
Maryke had me sussed, the programme was just hard enough to make me work, but not so hard that I felt like ducking out. So it started, day in and day out, hour long interval sessions with longer weekend rides. Sometimes freezing cold, often windy, rainy (when in Tokai) but always enjoyable, the rides just seemed to get better and better.

It wasn't long before I began to notice a difference, feeling better, sleeping better, even eating better. No more desire to eat junk or to gorge after a hard ride. I attribute this to eating properly before rides and exercising within managed ranges.

There have been some memorable rides (into the howling south wind, icy cold winter mornings, and more recently heat). Certainly one that sticks out is the 118km night ride that Sandra, Jan and I did about a month ago. With some careful planning based on weather forecasts, we hammered a fast ride in a time that surprised us. (That was also the night I learned, not for the first time, the effects of badly designed padding in cycling shorts). Maybe someone will one day explain why (in this case, Cape Storm) put the crease in the padding directly under one's seat bones. That night I heard the distant voice of Graeme Murray, saying not so politely that I should be riding in un-padded shorts. So I have gone back down the unpadded shorts route again.

Now if only I could get the same sorted out for my feet. I have wide feet, like many, but cycling shoes generally seem to made for long skinny European feet. Not Nike, not Shimano, not Olympic. Once there was a Sidi that worked OK. This is all leading me to a more dialled setup which may just include platform pedals and comfortable trail shoes. (And NO, I do not wish to engage in the "clips are better debate", but thanks for offering anyway ;)  At my elevated level of cycling, clips have one huge advantage...they keep me attached to the bike......and help me feel more secure. I guess that's a bit like over-tightening ski-bindings and doesn't help one develop technique.The Peace already has platforms, and I must admit I really like that feel. This option will be investigated after the Dash.

Back to the Dash, we are now into the last few days of the taper phase of our training, in fact only two gentle rides left. Now it's into the final preparation and detail planning (food, drinks, and mechanical ). I have had to deal with a fair whack of pre-race "just in case" replacements and also some unacceptable ones.
New chains and cassettes and in my case a new headset. (FSA= Full Speed Ahead into the recycling bin). Sandra's fork (which caused drama by packing up just before last year's Dash, did so again this year)
Many thanks to Damien at Cycle Wholesale for the prompt, professional response and the loan of a Fox fork.
Support your lbs and they'll return the favour.

The race works like this:

Sandra and I start in Windhoek in an expected 29 degrees Celsius and a headwind of 20kmh up the Kupferberg hill to an altitude of 2000m. (35km). Thanks   Maybe we didn't need to know that!
At the end of this stage, Sandra gets into the support vehicle and I ride on to the Kuiseb bridge (70km). When I get to the Kuiseb bridge, Sandra rides the next stage to Khomas Safaris (70km) while I get moved to the end of the stage.
From Khomas, I ride on to Bloedkopje (70km) where Sandra takes over for the stage to the Old Power Station (70km). Here I join her and we ride together into Swakopmund. To the finish.(35km)
That all needs to be done in under 24hours to qualify as a finish.

Reading between the lines you can see there's lots that can happen, so we are getting ourselves well organised. The idea is to enjoy the ride, not to struggle as a result of bad planning.

Hence the meticulous attention to mechanical detail, no chances, no shortcuts. Not even any tiny irritating squeaks on the bike. Lights, back-up lights, reflectors, spares, ........

Meals cooked, packed and ready to be eaten at the end of our stages. Bicycle juices (Hammer Perpetuem and USN Recover Max) in bottles, just add water.
Stuff to wash yourself with.
Warm clothes(it can get cold in the desert in thesmall hours of the morning!)

This afternoon is the second last pre-Dash ride, a gentle taper ride with full kit. Batteries charged, ready to roll.

The next post could just be interesting.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Die Hel

'twas a rough weekend down in The Hell.......

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Not stirred, not shaken

Someone posted a comment on Kentsbike  about how small rear blinky lights last so much better if not mounted on a rigid mount. Not exactly rocket science, but something that seems to have been overlooked by most light manufacturers.

Generic blinkies, ready to fall apart.
I have seen numerous of this kind of generic LED light fall off, simply because they can't handle the vibration of being rigidly mounted on the seatpost. The solution is to mount them on your helmet, shirt or backpack (where they also happen to be more visible).

Having recently invested in a front light, I want to prevent it being shaken to pieces on the corrugations. This is the prototype. Hardly rocket science either. Boogie Board re-purposed.

Two storage holes for spare batteries, this torch uses one 18650 at a time, giving more security of light on all-night rides.

Now for some creative routing of the foam, could maybe save five or ten grammes off the weight ;)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Not user serviceable hell!! Or as Oldfool says: If you can't open it, you don't own it!

I have been lent a rather nice Polar CS200 heart rate monitor to aid in my training for the Desert Dash (thanks Jan)
Anyway, it turned out that the speed sensor was not working well, giving intermittent readings and getting distance and speed rather wrong. After some investigation I worked out that the sensor's battery was probably nearly flat, problem is the sensor is not "user serviceable". In other words you throw it away and pay through the nose for a new one. That's bullshit, particularly from a company like Polar.
A quick call to the agents confirmed this. Send it up to us and we'll replace the unit for $$$. Don't they get it? Downtime, the cost of sending the thing backwards and forwards across the country? I'm guessing that they simply use an RFID unit to scan the frequency of your old one, programme a new one and send the new one to you once you shelled out. Bin the old one when all that's wrong is a flat battery.

One of the most useful tools in my workshop is Google. In no time at all I found that these specific sensors are problematic and that you CAN open them and replace the batteries. Admittedly, one needs to use some delicate brute force and a Stanley knife, but voila and it's open. Replace battery (R15.00), increase tension of contact springs (i.e. bend them up a bit). Apply a small amount of Pratley epoxy to re-seal the unit and Josephine's your Uncle. Seal it properly.

That's it. Battery under the clip on the left. It's a CR 2035. The chest strap uses a CR2025, the CS200 unit  uses another CR2035.

The lesson? Just like the external BB bearings that say "Do Not Disassemble". Stuff 'em.

To be entirely fair to Polar, the rest of the CS200 is a dream. Easy to use, large display, downloads a treat. Even the mounting bracket is cleverly thought out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Holy Cow meets it's maker

I came upon the shoe article while reading an interesting piece about riding slower . Read the "riding slower" one first, then check out

Given the hassle I am having getting a pair of cycling shoes to fit my (not above average) wide feet, I might just give this a try.

I can't wait for the "Do you think 29ers are here to stay" brigade's indignation.....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

SSWC2012  in SA !!

Are there really people out there who would open this?

Dear Email Owner/Fund Beneficiary,
Open the Attached Letter for your Fund Payment
Dr. Edward Fox.
United Nations.

If it were not for the risks involved, I would be tempted to enter into a spurious communication with Mr Foxfullstop.

Perhaps he is a long-lost relative of my old acquaintance Mr Eduardo Zachary?

For Old Fool

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Asie Payton

This will work on the hills just before the Kuiseb bridge.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm trying to imagine how this would translate into cycle-speak

Every now and then one enters a space that reeks of bad energy, sometimes it's just because the veneer is so thin, really just a transparent gloss. That's being harsh, but I couldn't help wondering what the previous sign said. I can only guess that it may have been a little more specific in terms of race, creed, gender, etc.

This I share for your bemusement:

Clearly standards have to be maintained!

Not acceptable on course.
"T-shirts, denim jeans, elastic or draw string trousers or shorts, combat trousers or shorts, rugby-type socks, secret socks, rolled down long socks, sandals, thongs or 3/4 lenght (sic) shorts"

"Not acceptable in clubhouse and verandah
Track suits, T-shirts, bold advertising on garment, overalls, no hats or caps to be worn in bar."

My mind boggles at the thought of someone trying to play golf in rolled-down rugby socks, a thong and a polar (sic) neck designer golf shirt. **@Hurben: They appear to have dropped the mandatory black plastic comb in the sock ;)

At least in the world of cycling the fashion police operate at a different level, but believe me, they operate.

PS Please don't assume I entered these hallowed premises to play golf!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

There's a riot going on over at DC

Real people. Real racing. Real fun. Real DC

Have you...

.......been to Church recently? Well, you should, because you would have heard this..........

Compare the two versions, the other from Ali Farka Toure's "In the Heart of the Moon" album.

And how was my Sunday morning, I hear you ask? Fiddling with the p.o.s. that is the cable fixing bolt on a SRAM X9 2X10 front derailleur. Fundamentally a crap design. Full stop. Nothing that can't be drilled, tapped and re-built if you have the tools though.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Papsak in Iceland. Really.

You just have to see this, again thanks to Guitar Ted for the lead.

At least I know I have an ally in the papsak crew. The man deserves honourary Dikwiel Kommando membership!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fun on bikes

This is how it should be till the very end.  Thanks to PinkBike

ProGRT How To Cheer on

I might just make a few of these if I get enough orders

Really, it's become a bit like born-agains preachin' to the converted. Who ever thought it would come to this ?

And, no, I'm not suggesting that 29 inches is anything like a religion....except maybe for the oh my god bit at the end.

I want one of those.

Local orders taken in the comments section.

We're not alone.....

Thanks to Guitar Ted for the link to this:

I like their Golden Rule.

Real people, real riding.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A man whom I have never met, but have great respect for....................

When asked about battery-powered digital readouts on bicycle pumps, gave this answer:

I think I alluded to my attitude on anything with batteries and LCD readouts. A wooden stake through the CPU should do the trick. Wrap a rosary with a silver cross around your fist as you drive the stake home. Some things just dont have to be electronic.

Well put JB!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Top Bike, Down Under

If this is/was the original commercial, then hats off to them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

This is too good not to share

OK, so He Who Shall Remain Nameless has finally seen the light and bought himself some big wheels. Finally. Now he's like a kid with his first bike, all smiles and even wants to go out on frosty Karoo mornings.......long may it last. So it happens that three of us are now like kids with new bikes and it's infectious (much needed as I'll be putting my toe on the Desert Dash line in December)

And then Gunnar posts this, further inflaming the passion

Ride on.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Life

No bicycles involved due to the presence of large predators.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a particularly soulful time of the year for me

Freedom Challenge 2011 has come and gone, it's become a huge part of my life. I'll write more about this later.
Suffice to say that it has been an honour and a pleasure to play a small part. Thank you all for the chance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sudden increase in demand for tubeless plugs and the importance of saddle noses

Paul Gripper and Colin Myers caused a national shortage of tubeless plugs with this move. Strongly recommended for triple sidewall cuts over 20mm in diameter.

This man, or rather, the rider of this saddle, got frostbite.

Was it possibly divine retribution for trying to imitate this?

Clearly, dark forces at work again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Freedom Challenge

If you're not following this, , you're missing some serious stuff.

Follow it on twitter!/freedom_trail

This ain't no showy weekend warrior "multi-stage mtb race", this is the soul, the very core of the matter.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Days of the Dead Moon

This outing was originally supposed to have happened on Commissioner's Salt Pan, but the recent heavy rains made that a non-starter.

Commissioner's Salt Pan
 Second option was Inkbos Pan (sibling of the more famous Hakskeen Pan),

but in the interests of a smaller carbon footprint (and more riding, less driving) we opted for Mirabib in the Namib Desert in Namibia.

That's how the innocent doddle around a pan at full moon turned into a subversive cross-border raid under cover of a total lunar eclipse. I suggest you fly your own tour of this area in your private Google Erf Jet, it's a magical landscape of  gravel desert and red sand dunes.

Part of the plan was to check out the Desert Dash route in preparation for December this year. Another part of the plan was to see the Namib desert after the best rain in a very long time. The main part of the plan was to ride under the total lunar eclipse on the 15th of June. The other part of the plan was to recruit riders for the Dikwiel Kommando. Not surprisingly, the parts all came together.

Shortly after arriving in Windhoek, I was treated to some local after-dark single-track by the locals, if the plan was to see me invest in some of their real estate, it worked. On one of the tighter, windy bits, I bought some farm courtesy of a large rock in the long grass. Due to the late hour, I was the only one who saw myself fall, so they'll just have to take my word for it.

Preparations for the Namib outing were thorough, as we had been warned of extreme cold in the desert. Being well-experienced hill-climbers, we graciously opted out of riding up the Kupferberg Hill on our way out (have to save something for later). Kim and I will be riding the Us Pass in the Dash (probably in the dark) so we recce'ed that. Like all downhills it also involves some some uphill, funny that.

Spot the Cyclists

Small herd of Wild Namibian Buffalo impeding progress
To see the Kuiseb river flowing strongly in winter is something else. It had to be swum in.

That night's stop was at Niedersachsen Guest Farm. Interesting experience. They've had six times their average rainfall so far this year, so it wasn't surprising to see the spiderweb tree phenomenon a la Pakistan.


View from the poop deck porthole of the good ship Niedersachsen
Day two started with Sandra and Adino riding into an increasing headwind, not fun on these "narrow, winding desert roads". (Rumour has it you can land a microlight sideways on them, so there's nowhere to hide from the wind.)

Deserts conjure up all kinds of different things for different people, this is not exactly what I had expected.

Adino struggling through the desert

Sandra doing it neatly
We turned south and headed down into the Namib, things often look deceptively close in this vast landscape with few points of reference. Mirabib was deserted, as we'd hoped, our campsite chosen for it's view of the setting sun and the rising moon. Mui perfecto.

It wasn't long before we had to contend with this....
..and then this

Somebody took better pics than us. Pic courtesy of the intrawebthingy.
We saw this, but then it went almost black.
At which time we set out around the rock...
Two bright Troute lights, one very dark moon

Shield Nose Snake
Next day the sun came up just after the moon set, we had been over-indulged in matters lunar. The day's plan involved riding down to the Kuiseb river near Hoameb. It's hard to explain the generally downhill ride, through the desert filled with knee-high grass, towards the elusive red dunes. This is what it looks like from above..

On the ground it's a whole different story, those red sand dunes stopping abruptly at the river. Go and Google Erf it, or better still, go there.

Route planning

More route planning
If you look very carefully, the red dunes are on the horizon.
Promise of an oasis

Kuiseb River 16 Jun 2011

I bailed, leaving Kim and Adino to complete the ride down to the river and lunch.
Yours truly feeling a bit like this guy but my nurse was nicer
Back at camp, it wasn't long before one of the local shepherds came by, kindly offering medication for a suffering cyclist. He even claimed to know someone in the pharmaceutical trade, so we latched onto him.

Friendly shepherd

The friendly shepherd forcing sheep dip on us. We were not immediately convinced. Last time I saw something in a container like that, it was sheep dip. This was ginger brandy sheep dip.

Whatever was in it, it worked.

The Final Morning
Good coffee, warm sun, home made rusks fantastic company. The life.
On the way home, we detoured past the Kuiseb Canyon. This is one of the spots where Henno Martin and his friend hid during the Second World War. (They were Germans who feared internment due to their nationality and set off into the Namib, where they hid for a long, long time. Their book, "The Sheltering Desert" is a classic. Read it. ) While here, we hatched a new plot, this one involves a walk down a section of the Kuiseb Canyon. I have been told I have to leave my beloved Niner behind and walk. For days. Now there's a challenge.

In conclusion I leave you with this.................................
The view, boys, the view.