Questions

Some of us have seen this article before. Either way it is worth paying attention to again.

What it illustrates is that we make assumptions all the time. We are wired that way. Our brain creates gaps in perception to free up space. We don’t notice the blanks because we fill them in. The problem is that these filled in blanks are sometime simply not true. Ultimately we make an assumption. A statement of sorts.

We assume a truth and do not consider for a moment that this might not accurately represent the situation. By stating “the road is clear” we must, on some level have asked “is the road clear?” However few of us consider that question. “Is it really clear?”

Actually we should be asking questions. Of our own reality and how others perceive theirs.

What a strange assumption to think that our “reality” is true for others too.

Without drifting too far from the cycling theme we could argue that the “gap” we require to navigate a given road safely may have completely different dimensions to that perceived by a driver.

Maybe instead of the statement: “The roads are unsafe”

We should rather ask: “How can we make roads safer”

Even better still: “What can I do to make my ride safer and more pleasant for all concerned”

That is taking responsibility and therein power.

Spring time is here.

This is the season for insurance. Somehow it always happens. Somehow despite previous experience I always get caught out. No other season is like it. Summer is summer, it is hot and sunny and we know to put on lots of sunscreen when we go out. Winter is wet and cold and we accept this and layer up. Autumn is different too.

The weekend forecast looked good so I took out insurance. I put on sunscreen for our early morning ride. I hesitated with the windbreaker but put it on more as an afterthought as I stepped through the front door. I should have known. Cruising along the Red Road to Blouberg the double rainbow was a sure sign but I did not pay attention. It was pretty while it lasted. My partner has been pounding the power so I was happy to sit in and enjoy the cruise.

Minutes later the skies opened and not in the way I wanted. “Oh this won’t last” I thought.

My riding buddy kept pushing the pedals. It was time to put our heads down and pretend to be Dutch hardmen. Luckily he was wearing a bright coloured top and so I could see him. I could vaguely make out his back wheel too. My glasses were the only things keeping my eyes open from the spray from his back wheel. Stinging with sunscreen by this point. It was a fine balance of sitting outside the wind and getting soaked you see. I knew which one was worse so I sucked it up.

There was always the advantage that I did not need to drink at all. Just open my mouth.

At moments like this my shoulders ride up and I want to withdraw my head like a tortoise.  Luckily this did not last too long. He called the turn around saving me from begging.

As we entered the café filled  with warmduschers – all dry, having the big breakfast on the small ride we could hold our heads high in the knowledge.

A tale of a journey

“Who are we, where are we, why are we, what are we” – Muse

Day 1: George to Oudtshoorn via Old Montagu Pass 69 km, 1000 m ascent, 4h18

day 1 routeMel went for a swim at the Virgin Active while I hopped on my bike.

Keen to start my journey. Around the circle and up the road to the turn off not far away. Quickly onto dirt and then the uphill starts. A familiar theme for the rest of the week. The drizzle does not get much worse so I wind my way up and up the Montagu pass. Lost in the mist and in my thoughts. The incline steepens and the road narrows. I listen to trucks on the highway not far away. A ruin, now monument to previous forms of travel. I recognise the railway track from photos on Google Earth. It is too cold to stop for a coffee with Harold (that most dangerous creature: a clever sheep) so I push on and try to maintain a good pace while keeping my HR in check. (It was easy to get too excited I the first hour of riding of every day and have my effort go anaerobic) later in the day as I tired this was not really an issue as my effort stabilised with fatigue.

Google maps worked really well here to give me easy directions which were easy to follow by looking at my odometer on my GPS. Note: it would be useful to have the total mileage as a reference so that you don’t have to do constant addition. This was amazingly accurate. This and the Google Earth profile gave me a good idea of what lay ahead.

day 1 profile

I arrive in the rainy ostrich and crocodile capital of SA and check directions with M who is singing praises of the Africa Inn cottage.

The final right had turn of the tar road and up the steep hill at the restaurant burns the legs. This is an awesome spot and we have already booked our return.

A hot bath and Concentrace gets me back to normal. Lunch is wolfed down.

We even manage a walk along the beautiful trails through the Klein Karroo scrub. I try to lighten my load as best I can thinking of tomorrow’s big day then dinner and bed.

‘Never let them see you cry’

Day 2: Oudtshoorn to de Hel via Otto du Plessis drive 90 km, 2190 m ascent, 7h40

day 2 mapThe stats are no joke and I am about to find out why.

day 2 km markersI count km markers on the tar. An Anatolian sheep dog just sits under a bush and stairs as I pass his flock. I sneak past doubtful if I could out sprint this monster if he got defensive. I pass the restaurant at the start of the pass. In winter this could pass for Kleine Scheidegg in the Eiger Sanction. With a bit of imagination thrown in. The Swartberg Pass in all its glory.

 

 

 

day 2 swartberg pass

A quick breather and I continue my upward quest. A couple of cars pass me only for me to pass them again while they take selfies and take their poodles for walkies. Over the top and I am in top gear actually overtaking some stunned Danes in a rental before I turn left.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2882Otto du Plessis drive is an understatement if there ever was one. The downs are some of the best riding I have done on a road. I am faster than the few cars. The ups are murder. The final descent should be on each cyclist’s bucket list. De Hel is an anomaly worthy of a Cohen ballad.


Mel does a great job of driving into middle earth. We check into ‘Die Stalletjie’ I lite the fire and get my kit ready for the next part of my trip. I am sure the steak will make Mr Middlekoop salivate.

 

Day 3: De Hel to Wagendrift Lodge via Die Leer 64 km, 1399 m ascent, 6h20

IMG_2892 (1)We wake up before dawn and part ways as it is getting light. We both have big days ahead.

Five minutes later my feet are soaked, my HR skyrocketing and I am pushing my bike. Up the most brutal jeep track yet.

Rolled by a wild descent into a hidden gem of a valley at the end of the Gamkaskloof. I recognise Die Leer immediately.

(To do Die leer you will need to overnight at Boplaas and just confirm access arrangements. You will also need permission from Boschluyskloof) Bike shoes off and walking shoes on for the portage. 45 minutes later I found myself in succulent vegetation with great views into the valley below.

‘I crossed the line but nevermind’ Leonard Cohen

IMG_2890Onwards into the unknown. Endless uphill past the outlook and the melted water tanks.

IMG_2902Unexpected mobile signal urged me to make contact.

Down to the road and through the gate.

On to the top of the Seweweekspoort Pass. But that will have to be another trip.

After 4 hours of constant effort I have to stop and devour the tons of lunch. Viennas and rice never tasted so good.

The uphill is constant. I hit the tar and after 1 km turn left to Wagendrift Lodge. I chose to stay here as this was the furthest down this valley and would hopefully make the next day to desperate.

I snoozed for the afternoon interspersed with the usual bike and laundry chores.

‘Dance me to the end my love’ well almost Cohen

Day 4: Wagendrift Lodge to Montagu via Anysberg and Ouberg Pass 123 km, 1390 m ascent, 8h46

The forecast was pretty much spot on. I want to start early in order to get into the day before the rain hits.

IMG_291830 km in and things are getting interesting. Waterproof jacket on and tucked into the most aero position I can to deal with the headwind which was my companion for the next 50 km. Type two fun for sure. But my day is a long way from being done.

Lunch was somewhere on the unrelenting jeep track.

Spitzkoppe is a welcome landmark. I struggle to hold 14km/h into the Moordenaars flakte. Aptly named.

IMG_2916The turn is left! My map, GPS argue that I have an endless uphill road leading RIGHT. Reluctantly I follow. The weather closes in and I have run out of water. The windpump teases as I can’t work out how to extract much needed liquid.

Raoul told me of a 30 km downhill. I am at 90 km now and about to disappear up into the clouds forever. Then just as suddenly I am flying down on a muddy roller coaster. It is far from a cruise as I get bogged down repeatedly but it is better than climbing.

I enter Montagu and leave a wet and muddy trail through every isle of the SPAR in search of sustenance. This is actually the only time on this trip that I reached out to the sugar gods for temporary salvation.

De Bos is familiar but under new management it is in serious need of repair.

I get into the shower half dressed in order to clean up and get warm.

The wall heater does overtime in order to get my bibs dry for tomorrow.

I decide my waterproof pants add a level of sophistication to my attempt to integrate into town living in search for supper. I wear them over my tights and they do the trick. A burger and beer is wolfed down.

I manage to boil some eggs. Hot cross buns, cheese and eggs turn into my breakfast for the next two days.

Day 5: Montagu to Greyton via McGregor: 78 km, 1322m ascent, 8h35

thought I had something more to say – Pink Floyd

I leave at 7:30 and enjoy the tar through the Pass underneath Castles in the Sky. Further down I wonder why nobody has climbed those fins! Where are the rebel rousers? I guess it is just too easy to follow the crowd (or a line of bolts or the dotted line on the asphalt and never venture further).

Robertson and then I turn left at a bunch of horses. This is super pretty and my google maps directions are spot on. I bump into a farmer and some bikers prepping for the weekend’s MTB race.

I roll into Mc Gregor and almost get side tracked by advertising. A figure at the coffee shop stands up and puts me straight and shows me where the locals stop for post ride breakfast and coffee. A fantastic feast with a double black brew is put in front of me and I love the company.

A little heavier but happy I roll out of town like a lone traveller into the sunset. Up, up and more into the hills.

IMG_2926

I do my best hiker impersonation and shoulder The Whippet and portage. This turns out to be far slower than I thought. The river was pretty but turned into the technical crux of the route.

 

 

 

I overnight at the Greyton Ecolodge. The craft beer and brand new (on the menu) burger is delicious. I can only recommend All-bar-non in town. Thanks for making me feel welcome.

 

I sleep like the dead.

Day 6: Greyton to Franschoek via Villiersdorp: 98 km 1672 m ascent, 6h38

IMG_2951Another breakfast of hot cross buns, cheese and boiled eggs barely gets me out the door. Tar and road construction forces me to detour. Finally I arrive at The Hill. I have been thinking of this for three years. 21% gradient turns out to be exactly that. Hard work with regular stops to manage fatigue. Down the other side and I almost get bogged down below the dam wall. Then more down at full speed to the Theewaterskloof Dam.

 

Coffee and braai lunch in Villiersdorp and tackle the Franschoek Pass.

IMG_2952I pay my respects on the way. It can happen to any one of us. All we can do is grab each day and make the most of it.

A little later I take in the best view in the world (down the other side) before descending to Gedden’s shop. A bike wash is in order. And as suddenly as that my trip ends. Mel picks me up.

 

Thanks for M for your full support, to all friends for following and sending well wishes. Thanks to Mark  and Liz Beard for your hospitality, Keith of Langeberg MTB and his lovely crew for breakfast and company. Thanks to all those before me for your inspiration.

Will I do it again? Well actually that was not the point. I went to find something, to explore and discover something about myself and a part of our province I did not know. Yes I will continue to explore but the next time will be different, it always is.

 

What is your purpose?

bone gamesSounds a bit cocky does it not? but in this day and age everybody has some angle. But is this truly what we are or are we trying to be (or become) something else? A butterfly perhaps?

I see too many hashtags

#hopingforabigbrandtoretweet

#hopingtobenoticed

#hopingtobesomebody

So what is yours?

Either charity, or conquering the world by pushing the boundaries of what is possible or some other weird media spin? 720 degrees? Really? are we not dizzy yet? At the end of the day do you end up with No Poles?

The dragging a sack of potatoes up a big hill and calling it climbing is so yesterday. I thought that died in 1996 but clearly it has not.

Andy Kirkpatrick hits the nail in “When Hell Freezes Over“. Are you looking for a paid holiday?

Is it not important at this stage to re read Hunter S. Thompson’s words?

What are you trying to become?

What are you?

I live in society and hence am shaped by those around me. Some inspire me and hopefully I take from each what might serve me. What resonates.

The temptation is to want to be like them but that is too easy.

You are what? is probably more appropriate.

A few years ago I had coffee with Raoul. His story of Epic Unsupported Tour occupied a spot in my dreams. I am not brave enough to go truly unsupported.

Then Eric did the Cape2Knysna. The initiative is inspiring. I could not take the pressure however.

I hope to explore some uncharted terrain on the map and in my mind soon.

Hopefully I will be able to find some rhythm and beauty even if I don’t quite look pro.

Call it Walkabout or Bone Games I am not sure.

bibs vs baggies

The pre-teen kid looks at me. Actually he is staring at my crotch and pointing. He is about 2 feet away. His dad is trying to ignore one of those moments all parents must dread and pay the 7 Eleven teller. I am too embarrassed to look. My hands are full with a red top, biscuits for later and a sandwich. I try and hold them in front of me and turn away. My mind is fried and I am clad in lycra. I realise that something needs to be done.

But first I must get glucose into my blood so that I can make it to a hot shower and a change of clothes and think. I am in Knysna and the MTB ride was harder than I thought and so I suffered.

A few months later:

Cliffy is plying me with whiskey when he presents the solution. As long as it starts with a J then I am happy (I never did acquire an appreciation for red wine). I learnt to drink whiskey somewhere between a climbing trip to Mutorashanga with Ed February and Tinie Versfeld  to figuring a way through the lower Milner Amphitheatre. (Is the name dropping helping give this story an air of authenticity?) Back then a bottle would not last more than a night between the two of us (and it cost under a hundred bucks). We were fit back then.

Tracey is busy in the kitchen when I take off my pants to try on the Atom baggies by One Industries. Mel is more discreet.

I realise that I need new attire to go with my brand new carbon full suss whippet. A few whiskeys later I am sold.

Splashing through mud and grit in Hemel en Aarde the next day we sit down in the café which could easily fit in at the end of a country lane in the Lake District. Here they serve coffee and not pints but it reminds me of wet days running around the fells with Dave and Mary rescuing sheep (you see more name dropping of famous okes). Ok no jokes about Mary and a lamb. We did actually rescue more than one sheep in the pouring rain. Well Dave rescued and we watched and generally shouted encouragement.

I half-heartedly tried to keep the cushion dry on my chair. Sitting proudly and comfortably in the Atom. Comfy and stylish enough to almost blend in with the Sunday morning breakfast crowd.

Half the battle is looking the part or at least feeling the part. I recall some self-help text that claims that rehearsing an activity in your head for 10 000h you become proficient. Hence having the right kit must go a long way to proficiency. How can Malcolm Gladwell be wrong?

Looking the part gives me better kung fu to flow down the trails and better baarp!

That is enough for me!

A little regroup with #liquid gold before heading home

A post shared by Leo Rust (@leorust) on

Sunday I am out for a big session. I get some admiring whistles (like the one your backyard mechanic does when he looks are your car’s engine). Some directed at my new black carbon steed but some must be for looking the part. I tack to starboard up Plumpudding Hill. Oncoming traffic responds with “respect!”. Wow, I don’t even have to get up this thing to earn it. Intention is everything these days. (But that is for another post aka rant)

If you have managed to get this far without clicking the little cross or scrolling past then let me give you the deets:

The Atom Shorts by One Industries are quite tech in materials and finishes used. Click on the link for specs. Stretch panel in rear yolk gives you superb freedom of movement. The removable inner chamois liner is comfortable and stayed in place and elastic Velcro cuffs made waist adjustment a cinch.

I was concerned that the crotch of baggies would get caught on my saddle. After about ten seconds on the bike I completely forgot about this issue. The Atom is truly superb and I would be way comfortable wearing it post ride to the next Bantry Bay pool party this summer as soon as the invite arrives!

Actually would be confident wearing the Atoms to the 7 eleven knowing that pimple head would behave.

Etiquette / Non- Consensual Integration

As spring makes an appearance and  The Cycle Tour aka “Argus” entry date comes around we see our roads swell with cyclists. Here a story from a while ago. resurrected from “unpublished”
We were riding out on the “red road”, north out of town. The tail wind meant only one thing for the way home. As soon as we turned in the pre dawn black I had the wind on the nose. No problem, keep the pace steady and make sure M can stay in my slip. This will mean that we get back in good time and both have a good ride.
It does not take long until we creep up to and pass a guy on a mountain bike. I slide past and greet him but then it happens: He tucks in behind me and leaves no space for M. She is forced to swerve and drop back. I slow waiting for “the natural order” to be restored. It takes a couple of minutes and then things go on as they were. I have absolutely no issue with mtb dude sitting in our draft but please take up the last position.

Overberg cycle tour 21 to 24 Dec 2013

The idea of doing a cycle tour has been in my head for a long time. I did not find the right degree of challenge and manageability for our plan until a few months ago.

M and I were cycling in Grabouw and loved it. A plan was coming together for our December holiday. I love this time of year when you can forget your work routine and return to the basics. Bike, eat, sleep, repeat. In many ways last year’s big bike week was prep for this adventure.

Villiersdorp, Groenlandberg, Grabouw

Villiersdorp, Groenlandberg, Grabouw

Day 1: Groenlandberg 60 km 7h
Villiersdorp was the obvious staging point. We left at first light and followed the tar road to Twaalfontein: Our access point to the big green mountain. It was crucial to get navigation right here in order to avoid unnecessary effort on our first (and most likely hardest) day. A short push through soft sand led onto a long straight jeep track into fynbos fields. Sean greenberghad warned us of a portage section

higher up due to the path being washed away. But soon enough that was behind us and we knew we had cracked the worst. A celebratory snack at the top and down the long jeep track to the top of the Viljoen’s Pass.

More sunscreen was applied and we

bike clean and braai action

bike clean and braai action

headed through the forest. With filled up water bottles. Into the heat of mid day. Thankfully it was mostly down so we did not have to work too hard. Exit the forestry gate and roll into a town stocking up on festivities.

Refuel at Peregrine and cruise to Belfield wines just down the road. Our hosts were superb and the Acorn Cottage offered the perfect shelter for two tired bodies.
The owners had sourced braai packs for us for dinner and those went down a treat. We quickly had to readjust our energy consumption as there were no left overs for the next day.

Grabouw, Higlands road, Arabella, Sandbaai

Grabouw, Higlands road, Arabella, Sandbaai

Day 2: Highlands 60km 5h
Starting with fresh filter coffee is always a treat.
The morning was not too hot and we made good time to the base of the pass. Views were spectacular. Iona farm on top has the most stunning position and a very inviting looking dam. We will be back.
The long down towards Arabella. We practiced building sand castles on the new single track starting at the Arabella gate. Well done on the resort to set this up. Certainly improves your sand riding skills! Lunch under the trees. (We won’t be that leisurely when we do the Total Sports Terra Firma in a few weeks time). Tar into Sandbaai. Shop at the Engen and roll down to the coast and the Sandbaai Country House. Luckily they had tv and this kept us amused.
An early night.

Sandbaai, Hemel en Aarde, Tesselaarsdal, Caledon

Sandbaai, Hemel en Aarde, Tesselaarsdal, Caledon

Day 3: Chocolate and Beer is all you need: Hemel en Aarde 70 km 7h
Our host had packed us sandwiches to die for so bags were heavy as we signed in the the logbook at Euodia Cycles. Up the black route we went into the super pretty valley. Can only recommend this! At the top we hit the district road and continued through dust clouds. A lucky water stream by the side of the road and we continue on to Tesselaarsdal. The hidden gem.

highlands road

highlands road

Super pretty surroundings but the hamlet is a bit disappointing. We find a bottle of liquid gold to refresh and we are off on the last bit to Caledon. Watching blue cranes a plenty.
Little Lotta Cottage was certainly spacious and the cracked tiles add to character.

Caledon, Villiersdorp

Caledon, Villiersdorp

windmills

leaving Caledon with windmills in background

Day 4 Sonderend 60 km 5h

We leave the windmills behind and head for the hills. Chasing herds of sheep and guineafools. Finally down to the Sonderend Rivier. Huge and impressive. The heat saps our energy as we climb the final pass. The freewheel all the way into Villiersdorp. Celebratory coffees and cake!
Well done to M who rode really well and always smiled even when things got hard.

Thanks to Sean McGuire of Eco Adventures for info.
Thanks to Mel and Mike of Belfield wines for superb hospitality. We will be back.
Thanks to Antoinette for the fantastic packed sandwiches.

Thanks to all other friends and supporters who encouraged us along the way.
The only logistical glitch we had was at Nature Conservation who only accepted exact cash for permits on the day. This is just infuriatingly annoying. Especially more so after we phoned several time to confirm details and visited the office the week before.

I can only recommend this trip to all. We had an absolute blast and it is very doable with minimal logistical headaches.