Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Baggies or No Baggies?

Most mountainbikers wear shorts over their cycling tights apart from most of the South African racing snakes, myself and a few others. I have never owned baggies or wore any until this past weekend. 

My main objections were that I am short so I am going to look short & stocky. It is also another expense when your tights are already serving the purpose.

I started thinking about getting a pair since I've been on this MTB-Leadership course. 

The weekend before last Albert and I went out for a ride, it was so muddy and we were such a mess on the train back home. People didn't just look strangely at us they moved away. Back home I had to get changed downstairs and that is when I thought I am going to start to look for a pair.

One evening whilst I was searching for stuff on Amazon, I started falling a sleep and when I woke up after dosing off I saw a pair of Odlo baggies available at £8!!! I thought I was literally dreaming... These usually cost £75. I immediately hit the buy button. 

They arrived and fitted comfortably, not pulling in places where they shouldn't be pulling. 

This past weekend was the 1st time I officially wore them and my conclusion is as follows. 

1. They are comfortable 
2. It didn't obstruct me when I went behind the saddle going downhill
3. It is another layer that helps to keep your bottom dry & warm
4. You look like a real mountainbiker apparently (in my case at the cost of looking shorter & stockier) :) 

1. It makes me look shorter and stockier than I already am
2. It is going to be warm in summer

This is the link for the pair that I bought.


Don't ask me how the pricing structure work as now they are £15 or £75 again and I bought a second pair at £6.95


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Essential Spares

Everything you need on every ride – ALWAYS

All the Essentials
1. Spare tube

Check what valve your inner tube has, you get 2 (Schrader & Presta). Schrader is fat, Presta is skinny & have a little screw top & is more compressed. If in doubt ask someone who knows or just buy Presta as it will fit through any valve hole.

You won’t know how lost/stuck you are with a flat wheel until you get a flat & don’t have the right stuff with you. Spare yourself that feeling of helplessness

2. Tyre Leavers

These are to help you lift off your tyre from the rim so you can access the tube quickly

Recommendation: http://www.evanscycles.com/products/bontrager/tyre-levers-ec019385

3. Patches
Patches - quick fix & small

Recommendation: http://www.evanscycles.com/products/park/p02c-glueless-patch-kit-ec005508

4. Pump

Any small powerful pump, make sure that you know how to use it. I've recently purchased this one from Topeak as it is the only one I seem to be able to use without deflating the tyre first.

Recommendation: http://www.topeak.com/products/Pumps/MiniMorph

5. Hanger

This is a small piece of metal that connects your rear derailleur/drivetrain to your frame.

Each bike has a specific hanger so make sure that you order the correct one, they cost around £8 - £12. Your local bike shop should be able to advise which one you would need

Purpose: To protect your frame from cracking when a rock or any other obstacle might bash against your derailleur and damage it

6. Multi-tool

This is personal choice, but make sure that you have a range of a few allan key sizes at least

Purpose: To be able to make small adjustments to your bike

Mini-tool kit with 9 functions - I lost mine

This is the big daddy of multi-tools. 17 functions all in one tool. Personally my favourite all time tool!

7. Quick link

This is again is bike specific so make sure that you get the correct link

Purpose: A quick way of fixing a snapped chain

8. Saddle bag

This is your personal choice, but you get different sizes of these & they fit nicely under your saddle & could potentially keep all of the above apart from the pump nicely in one place.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Putting your SAFETY first!

A few hints, tips & links to put your & your bike’s safety first!

We always think I won't get hit by a car, I won't crash, they won't steal my bike... It can happen to any of us! The things I mention are not a guarantee, but in the unlikely event of a crash or theft they might come in handy.

1. ICE-Card (In case of Emergency Card)

Always make sure that you have your personal details with you. It is best to include the following information:
- Your name
- Surname
- DoB
- Emergency Contact & their telephone number 
- Allergies

There are companies now specialising in making durable wristbands with this information on them, one of these companies are local to us and called OnelifeID.

If you register with British Cycling as a member, one of the benefits include insurance for unlikely events like getting hit by a car. It is worth looking into this especially if you are commuting. It also includes certain discounts with some of the retailers or bike theft insurance (3rd party & deals on bike insurance)

I got my bikes marked by Bike registered a few years ago, they mark your bike with a unique number and special paint that can't be removed from your frame and then they keep your details on record. If your bike was to be stolen and retrieved by the police the police would be able to identify the owner by tracking your bike back to you, they will re-unite you with your bike then. This is also a good deterrent for thieves as they will know that they won't be able to sell your bike second hand if it had the bike register markings on it.

Immobilise offers the same service as Bike Register, but on any type of product, so you can upload all of your valuable items and get it traced back to you if they were to be stolen, all you need is the serial number for each. So it is a bit of admin, but rather do it now before it is too late.

4. How to lock your bike

One of the two only good things about Evans is that they taught me how to lock my bike properly in 4 easy steps.

You need:

-          A good U-lock/D-lock and a cable

Step 1: Find an immovable object

Step 2:  Put the U through the rear wheel making sure it goes through the rear triangle of the frame around the immovable object

Step 3: Hook your cable through your front wheel & fork (if you have a mountain bike) & loop the cable through the other hook on the cable

Step 4: Put the cable hook through the U & lock the U-lock securely

You can get more creative with this practice as I often add my saddle & helmet into the mix as well.

5. Helmet always wear a helmet!

I always ask myself the question, what will you do if you do get hit by a car & you didn’t wear your helmet? Will I be able to deal with the consequences or not? I often find myself quickly running back into the house to get my helmet.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Peaslake MTBO 2014

I originally had other plans for yesterday, but it got cancelled so Pokkeltjie & I decided to go for a fun ride on Sunday instead. Simon then suggested this event, Peaslake MTBO that I sent out in my recent newsletter & we decided to support this local race instead and entered as a team.

Simon sent out links with tips for us to read/study before Sunday, we soon realised that our fun ride might be a little bit more serious than what we had in mind originally.
For those of you who know us, the team dynamics were more than interesting, 1 gadget map reading loving male, 1 female who rides on memory & another female who are happy to follow most of the time. :) We are all good friends and knew that this event might put a test to our friendship. I prayed that I would be 'not' myself just for a day & just follow the lead. :-)

On Saturday we had a quick catch-up meeting to talk strategy & to just get an idea of how orienteering works.

Shucks my head wanted to explode with all the route options, there were too many decisions to make.

On Sunday Simon continued to quiz us in the car. One of the questions was, if it is mid-day and the sun is on your right which side is North? I continued driving and left Liezl to answer the question. Needless to say we all knew who the weakest link in the team was before we even started ME! I can't even tell left from right, how would I be able to work that one out.
Albert joined us as a last minute add-on. He is fitter than most of us so we decided it would be best to make one female and one male team.

Simon kindly made us all some DIY perspex map holders by drilling holes into plastic photo holders which we then mounted on our bikes.

Pokkeltjie plotting points
At registration we received our maps with all 21 check points marked. We sat down and transferred some check points over to another bigger picture map of our own. This was exciting, I recognized most of the points were near areas we knew and have ridden before.

Unfortunately we didn't keep a closer look on the time and had only 15 minutes left to plan our route, decide which check points are not worth going to etc. There were 21 check points & we had 3 hours to get to all of them.

Team work, Si plotting points & Albert working out their route
Simon & Albert offered us their sequence of points and due to the lack of time we decided to go with that. Unfortunately we missed the first turn off and had trouble finding our first CP. Eventually we saw others with maps flapping around their necks and got our first CP.

I was confident that the next check point could've not been far away, it was almost in a straight line from there. But this one was the elusive one. We wasted so much time cycling up and down in the same road not finding it. So close, but yet so far. We then decided to give up hope to find that one. We have ridden for an hour already and only had one CP. We went over to the summit of Pitch Hill where we quickly got the next point. The next point was located on single track, now I know a few single tracks on Pitch Hill and didn't want to go down the wrong one as then we would need to climb back up. Thankfully Pokkeltjie was able to tell which way was North so we bagged this one quick-quick. We then hit it over to the bottom of BKB to grab some points on Holmbury Hill.

Here we bagged one of the big ones very quickly BEFORE getting horribly lost in our search for number 10. We were desperate to find 10 as without 10 we won't be able to find 11 & 8. After many junctions Liezl suggested going up a steep rocky climb. In my head I hoped that it would be worth going up there. It was! Not too far away we saw the tiny grass triangle with the bunting on marking CP10. We blitzed down the wide fire road to pick up 11 before going left in search of 8. I knew 8 was potentially going to be near one of the other memorable trees that I get teased about. Thankfully I saw some people to our right and we found 8. We took a single track section we know and did with Richard from All Biked Up back to Peaslake and got back with 8 minutes to spare.

The winners of this event have done it plenty of times before and we can tell that there are some really fit people out there that are able to combine their fitness & map reading skills very well. The Men’s Winner cleared the course in 2:10! #Machine!

I am glad we were able to support an event hosted by the community of our local weekend playground. In all honesty I think I prefer a way marked route, but it was good to do something outside my comfort zone & I am walking away knowing that I can learn the following from this event.

TC’s Tips & lessons learnt:
1. Buy the same map for each team member so both are on the same page
2. Keep an eye on the time before you start
3. Plan your OWN route
4. Teach yourself the difference between left & right, then NORTH, SOUTH, EAST & WEST :-)
5. Then LEARN how to read a map correctly

Links Simon sent that might be useful if you ever wanted to an event like this:
Some good tips in the "Techniques" section of this pdf:

Simon’s Strategy Advice:
1. Accept that we have zero chance of visiting ALL checkpoints, so weigh up which are the "least bang for buck" and cull them early

2. Long uphills come at a price, so plan our route to minimise them and do them on road where possible
3. Decide on your plan A CP grouping - "definites"
4. Decide on your plan B CP grouping - "ambitious maybes" if you still have the time after done with A

5. Start with plan A and then re-assess along the way if B going to happen or perhaps a scaled down version of it
6. Key knowledge is familiarity with the fastest and easiest routes between checkpoints, which will often be at the tops of hills. Obvious, but worth thinking about.
7. Make sure the stronger person at least even if they are apparently slower with being unwell :)) has a good map and holder. This will allow them to plan the route while they wait for their partner(s) to catch up at the top of hills after clipping the checkpoint card.

All done & ready to go home!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pedal to Paris - 2014

As my grandmother always said... NEVER say NEVER as NEVER is a very long time. Many of you would know that I was rather vocal about my dislike of road cycling etc, but I've always had a tendency to suffer under peer pressure or maybe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) will be a more fair comment.

At our Christmas Party back in December 2013, David  told me that I WILL be riding Pedal to Paris this year and that I will also be involved in the organisation of it, including the design and creation of 600 shirts in five different designs. I didn't have much choice other than to oblige and agree.

Our company, Manpower, has been involved with the Royal British Legion (RBL) for a number of years and have sponsored all 300 riders shirts again this year. Our team was 56 people strong and the biggest since Mark Cahill & James Levey rode their first Pedal to Paris.  

Team Manpower
RBL provide practical, emotional and financial support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present, and their families. 

This year’s ride was the 19th ride organised by RBL from London to Paris and was particularly special as it is the commemoration of 100 years since the outbreak of WW1, and the ride included visits to War Memorials along the way, whilst the route passed through battlefields and WW1 and WW2 cemeteries, culminating in a spectacular finish at the Arc de Triomphe.

As a team we pledged to to raise £48 000 but exceeded that and are currently over £70 000 already! Over £25 000 was raised through generous corporate sponsorships including Pera Training, IQ Navigator, Sky, Steljes, Trailfinders, Lex Autolease, Broadbean & Career Transition Partnership. If you would like to contribute to this great cause you can do so via http://www.justgiving.com/companyteams/TeamManpower2014

Getting ready - Kit provided by Le Marq
Co-ordinating 5 different shirts with 3 different purposes was a challenge at times but great experience. At some point it did feel that riding 445km would be easier than arranging 600 shirts. Everything arrived on time and looked fantastic!

My training plan didn't really turn out as I planned as I got a cold in July. Thankfully I did a MTB-race in the Dolomites in June & I was hoping that the training I did for that would pull me through. I did one training ride with my friend Steph & bonked one kilometre to go from home & we only rode 87km, confidence levels were low and I really didn't know what to expect. David however had been to many spin classes coming in & out of the office gleefully asking me what I have been up to. On which I replied with either no training, or that I did an off-road triathlon 2 weeks before the event.

In all honesty I didn't have many expectations as it was road cycling which is not my first love, so I can truthfully say that I have been pleasantly surprised by everything. Firstly I would've never considered doing four days of road cycling and secondly I never knew that I would be able to do this. I have only once ridden 120km before, let alone 4 consecutive days of that distance. 

Day 3 - Fun fun fun!
1. Day 1 - jumping onto Gus' wheel early on and staying on it till the lunch stop
2. Day 3 - most fun I've ever had on a road bike, working together & pacing as a team with David, Adrian, Will, Gus, Gary, Antony & Hugo who also looked after me as if they were my brothers/fathers on & off the bike
3. Also teaching Hugo how to do drafting
4. On & Off the bike team work & banter
5. Turning right onto the Arc d' Triomph and sprinting to the end of four days of amazing road riding
6. Meeting other people from across the ManpowerGroup made me feel proud to be part of the company

- Stopping & Starting all the time on Day 2
Team Manpower road cycling legend
 & ride captain,
James Levey with whom
I got to work with on the shirts
Favourite quote/moment:
- You stole my wifi (pronounced weee-feee) - Gus Watt

Things I learnt about road cycling: 

You can also read this as, "Things I learnt about James Levey :-)"

1. Everyone should off course have 4 pair of gloves, a pair for each day
2. Wet wipes are better than any bike wash
3. To give your chamois a hand wash is not hygienic enough
4. You need to wash your water bottles out with warm water every evening

* Whether we all took that on board is a different matter :-)

I got to do three of the things I love most in life; organise, riding 'a' bike & meeting people. I can only thank David for not giving me an option to do the ride or not. I feel a huge sense of achievement and am even looking forward to do more road riding with my new acquainted friends.

Thank you to RBL for organising this great event, the closed roads, mechanics & physios contributed to a very memorable experience.

Day 1 - London Greenwich to Dover
Day 2 - Calais to Abbeville
Day 3 - Abbeville - Beauvois
Day 4 - Beauvois - Paris


David & Gus cycling through one of the WW1 battlefields

We all made it!

Thanks for pushing my road cycling boundaries!
Final remembrance ceremony at the Arc d' Triomphe

Catherine & Claire - hopefully we will be soon hitting some Strava leaderboards together in the Surrey Hills ;-)

More photos can be found on this link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.851747484843213.1073741873.587996214551676&type=1&l=d6cdc27887

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

It's my birthday and I can TRI if I want to‏...

Exactly what I had in mind...
So on Sunday I did my 2nd ever triathlon. You will remember that last year Steph van Niekerk taught me the breathing technique of swimming for the event. This year my aim was to swim without stopping, ie no resting, no head above the water, doggy pedal or breast stroke.
I swam three times in preparation for the XTERRA not because I planned it that way, but I got a stupid virus a month ago and haven’t been able to train so also downgraded from entering the Championship originally to do the Sprint again this year due to my health & fitness.


Killing time before the swim
Photo: Julie Meyer
Dropping my stuff off & getting ready for transition was so much different from last year, last year I was still putting my wetsuit on at the race briefing, this year it felt like I forgot something as I had time to spare to take photos with Jules & muck about with other athletes. 

I came 2nd last out of the water, but I didn’t stop once and that is all that mattered to me.

Onto the bike, now this was going to be fun. Zane put word out on Saturday that the bike course was a lot more technical than last year and it made me slightly nervous, but more excited.

Pokkeltjie pulling me through on the bike leg
Photo: Zane Smith
Somehow I didn’t have jelly legs once I started out on the bike, it is probably down to the fact that I hardly kick when I swim, my 2 legs are just a heavy weight dragging along with me.

The bike course had so many twists, turns, bunny holes which I almost discovered the hard way as I tried to overtake someone on the single track. I quickly started picking up a few people. I think years of riding awesome trails in the Surrey Hills & the ultimate Sellaronda Hero training ground in the Dolomites this year helped a lot. It felt like every switchback turn was towards the left. My left hand side is my dumb side… got to improve! My brain started getting tired towards the end and I knew it was time to finish the bike before I crash doing something silly.

The bike was so much fun and I started experiencing FOMO having to still run whilst all the others had been able to support me, I also wanted to be able to hang out, but I still had 5km to run.

I didn’t escape jelly legs, they were there as soon as I started the run leg. I knew that the ditch jump was waiting for me and unlike me, I didn’t want to get my new shoes dirty. I also have a bit of vertigo and although it isn’t that far down into the ditch, I didn’t look forward to it. The course is great, but the fact that your legs are tired makes it a lot harder. I felt like walking, but said to myself I’m not allowed to because I know I’ll be beating myself up about walking. I did walk a bit just because I could and didn’t want to run. After the water point and back over the field I thought we would’ve covered 4km already, but I then saw a 3km marker, I prepared myself to still go back into the woods where we were last year and thought I still had 2.5km to go so saved some energy for that. I got to the tree trunk crossing and thought yay I have an excuse to walk again, but no-no the ‘bossy’ photographer from Lighttrapper (who I now know as Rob who is a friend of friend) encouraged me to climb over and carry on running. J Before I knew it, I was out of the woods and onto the finishing straight. I was a little bit confused and felt like I cheated as I then felt that I still had loads of energy left.

Sprinting to the Finish line
Photo: Zane Smith
As I approached the finish line my friends started singing Happy Birthday to me, all of them & Carl & Terry from Squirtlube gave me high 5’s as if I was a celebrity in town. It was a special one & I will savour the memories for a long time to come. Thank you I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the day in any other way.


Hanging out with Carl @ Squirtlube and
The Winning Specialized Machine!
Photo: Zane Smith
We also had the opportunity to see Conrad Stoltz, XTERRA legend, 7 time World Champion race in this race. I’ve known Conrad from back home when I was still in university. Two of the things I can remember about him is that he was always riding his bike in Jonkershoek and washing it, I thought he was a little bit crazy. Little did I know that I would join this crazy hype of mountain biking & XTERRA a few years later.

I was so excited when I heard that he was coming to race in the UK as I’ve been following his career via his blog & other social media postings. Conrad & Liezl stayed with Carl from Squirtlube who we got to know through XTERRA England 2013 actually. Squirtlube has been sponsoring Tango Cycling since last year’s race. Carl also took Conrad out on our local trails and it is so nice to hear that someone who has ridden all over the world think that our local trails are fantastic.

Conrad smashed the bike course and like we would say in Afrikaans, he rode the rest of the guys kas toe! He won with a lead of 5 minutes over his next competitor and also won 50thXTERRA title in his 22 year long career.

Caveman winning his 50th XTERRA title!
Photo: Zane Smith

Liezl, Simon, Jason, Willem, Paula, Lee-Anne & Myburgh
Photo: Tharina Cronjé
Jason, Lee-Anne, Liezl, Myburgh, Paula & Willem represented Tango Cycling in the Championship Distance. It was so great to be able to support all of them the same way they supported me. I have to say the Tango Cycling Support Crew made such a noise whenever we were not all together we just had to listen to the noise to know if one of our members went past.

Paula receiving her spot for Hawaii
Photo: Zane Smith
As preparation for Half Ironman World Championships Paula entered the XTERRA as a mountain bike newbie. Underplaying her mountain biking skills she was a complete wild card. She completely smashed it and proceeded to not only just complete her first off-road triathlon, but to win her age group category and qualify for XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii in October.
Congratulations Paula, we are so impressed and very proud of you. You are one of ‘us’ now!
1.     Ear plugs – for the swim. Myburgh told me about this, it was actually the first time I swam with them but it worked because it doesn’t sound like you are going to drown all the time.
2.     Turn up on time & set up your transition at your own pace and well in time before the start of the race
3.     Don’t carry heavy stuff around the day before the race or over commit yourself

Thanks :
1.     All my lovely friends for supporting me.
2.     The man who said ‘you don’t have far to go’ from his canoe when I started to battle towards the end of the swim – you got me there!
3.     Sam & Richard for an awesome bike course, thank you for taking the ‘hornet sting’ out of it as well (Sam I hear you took one for the team J).
4.     Richard Campbell for his memory of an elephant & being so complimentary towards me & the rest of the gang over the announcers microphone.
5.     XTERRA for putting on this event amidst all of the uncertainty, I will continue to come back for as long as I live on the mud island.




The face of Tango Cycling, Zane Smith took a back seat this year and moved in behind his camera lens to take some awesome on the day event photos for us.
Click here to view the photos.

Tango Family (minus Simon & Milli), Conrad, Liezl, Yolandi, Carl & Terry!
Photo taken: Carel du Plessis with either Paula or Zane's camera