Saturday, 3 January 2015

Introducing Tango Cycling to Jonkershoek!

Some of my cycling Besties!

I'm not sure why you ride your bike, but I ride my bike because of the people I ride with and the fun I have when I ride my bike.  
On 3 January I had the privilege to ride in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, South Africa with 3 of my besties, Christiaan (MC), Elisca (Dolla) & Liezl (Pokkeltjie). (Listed in no particular order. :-))

I've studied in Stellenbosch for 4 years and cycling was my mode of transport to lectures but that is how far it went. I knew guys who cycled in Jonkershoek & washed their bikes afterwards but to me that was a weird concept and something I never heard off before. 

I remember how I chased down the hill in true last minute TC departure style to try and be on time for my lecturew. My granny flat was in Uniepark and there was a shortcut down a grass field towards Stellenbosch High school. The people that were on their way to work had to skill fully jump out of my way because my green mamba had no brakes, it was metal on metal and one hell of noise going towards them. With a bit of luck and grace I managed to get my bike to stop in time at the pedestrian crossing. Maintenance of my bike was not high on the priority list or included in my budget. Hanging out at Tollies on a Wednesday & Saturday night were more important!

10 years later I returned to Stellenbosch, older, wiser and knowing what fun I had missed out on for not riding my bike in Jonkershoek. 

The plan was to borrow Steph's bike, but unfortunately we were not able to ride together due to logistics and timings so I contacted Specialized & Ride In via twitter and found out that I can hire a bike from Ride In cafe for the day. I've been following the cafe on Twitter and many a day wished that I could rather be there than sit at my desk in London

To my delight they rented out SpeciaIized bikes. I requested a small hardtail for the day. Gavin contacted me in reply and said unfortunately they don't stock small hardtails, but he had a small full suspension bike for me to rent.  I've never ridden with a full sus before as I know that I would want one if I did ride it and that I won't be able to afford it so it would be best to avoid the temptation. 

Upon our arrival at Ride In Cafe I spotted my favourite women's mountain biker, Ariane Kleinhans. Liezl met her the week before and wanted to say 'Hi' to her, but I was too shy so we didn't go over. :( She is phenomenal and a mean Swiss Cycling machine!

My hired bike wasn't just a full suss, it was a Specialized Camber, full suss, 29er! I was sceptical and overwhelmed and the same time.

With the awesome Specialized cycling machine!

We set off to Jonkershoek from Ride In Cafe. We climbed up the Canaries which is an ascending & descending trail. This climb reminded me of the first climb in Afan from Clyncorwg Trail Centre. Rocky, twisty & technical. I was worried about my fitness when we set off, but soon learnt to my surprise that this bike was just too willing to roll over everything without too much effort. 

Selfie time in the fog.
Typically TC I kept the rear shock locked so that I won't get used to it too much, but after some stern words from Christiaan that I paid to ride this bike I might as well enjoy it to its full potential. So I started playing with the suspension settings. Hard, trail and soft... I don't like it when you sink in too much at the back when you go over an obstacle. I don't like that lagging feeling. It is like you are halfway down the trail but the bike is still following you. I prefer the medium or harder setting. 

Going down the first singletrack I crashed in the first switchback turn as I didn't concentrate on what I was doing and corners are a lot more tight than on a 26" where a late response is very forgiving. 

Trail side support
On the last section I was following Christiaan's wheel. This is always a dangerous move as he just flies down the hills. I was not too far behind him until almost at the end of the trail where I missed a corner and travelled about a metre parallel to the trail. Don't fear with the tractor wheels it didn't seem to turn into a crash thankfully. The bike just continued rolling whilst I was laughing in amazement. I did slow down though for my own good as it is better to arrive alive! 

Beautiful Stellenbosch!
From there we went across to the other side at The Quarry. This downhill was the favourite for the others, but not that much for me. I think I was getting tired and didn't know the trail and were a bit more weary. 

Happy times, awesome ride with great friends. My cup is overflowing :-)

We rounded off our ride with lunch at Ride In before heading to Cape Town for a kuier with my favourites! I am so thankful that I finally got the chance to ride in Stellenbosch and that I was able to check out Ride In Cafe. As mentioned in previous blog post, "Call me Maybe" I think that running a café like this would be my dream job; ride my bike, share cycling stories, serve nice food, share the trails ... what more can you ask for?! The food was great! Most of you know I love my meat, but I actually went for a salad with roasted aubergine & off course feta cheese (my meat replacement) and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Filled me up nicely and I didn't have too much food envy over the others burgers. :-)

Lunchtime at Ride In Café
TC's Observations of riding a Full Suss 29'er: 

  • It can roll over everything without any effort and as Iain said its like cheating, I can not agree more! 
  • It is fast going uphill 
  • And equally fast going downhill
  • I loved the 2 x 10 chainring - the transition wasn't too much from a 3 x 10
  • Downhill switchback turns are somehow an art to be mastered
  • Lifting the 29er for a little bunny hop seems to be harder or not yet possible for me (Christiaan had the same trouble when he hired a 29er)
Myth buster: 
Small/Short people can't ride 29ers - They can! 

I can conclude that I would DEFINITELY consider a full suss when I buy my next bike. In terms of wheel size, I will definitely consider a 29er and not just 650b! 

Ps. As we got ready in the car park people asked us about Tango Cycling... we were just too happy to tell them more. We also overheard others asking who we were, but left them hanging, they can figure it out or just think we are the newest MTB Racing Team in South Africa on training camp. ;)