Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Fish River Lighthouse Ride

Fish River Lighthouse

Over the weekend, the family dragged me off to one of my favorite riding spots, Riet river.  As far as great mountain bike trails, there is not much in terms of classic singletrack.  However, if you know the area well, you can ride yourself into a coma on the countless gravel roads in the area.

The trick is to spend as little time as possible on the R72, the coastal road between East London and Port Elizabeth.  The road is extremely dangerous, with no shoulder and many potholes.  If you cycle on this road, you must ride on the dirt verge and ride into oncoming traffic – its the only way to stay alive.

I started the ride on the Webb Family farm of Tharfield (you can view the full ride on Garmin connect).  The farm dates back to the 1820’s when it was owned by the Bowkers, before being purchased by the Webbs in the 1920’s.  The Webbs still live in the old Bowker homestead and still farm cattle the traditional old way.  Jan Webb runs the 3 Sisters horse trails which is a must do institution in its own right.

Once on the dirt road there is a nice climb up past the Webb / Bowker homestead (for an overview of the historical farm look at the Bowker website), past Rocklands and the Nyala Valley game farm and up to the St Francis Health Centre which I can vouch for as a place that genuinely fixes health problems.  Its run by Mrs Cowley (mom of Paul Cowley – the noted aquatic scientist), whose ability to diagnose is uncanny.  However, there is a long waiting list so book well in advance.

The next turn to the right plunges you down into the West Kleinemonde Valley and then on up to Shaw Park, a classic Albany cricket club.    From Shaw Park you take a right and follow the dirt road to the Lower Spanish Reeds turn which takes you through the Kap River and on to the Fish – Kap Nature Reserve.  This is one of the true conservation gems, but, has been badly neglected of late. Twenty years ago, the conservation stalwart, Derek Landman, showed me the area and pointed to its potential for mountain biking.  That potential is still there, and there is lots of it.

I dropped down onto the Fish River flood plain and from there up and out of the Reserve.  The Kap river has one of the best canoe trails in the country for birding and it is well worth a visit.  Currently the road is closed due to flood damage, but, you can slip in the back way on the route I have described.

From the Fish Kap, I went back up the hill along the R72, before going down to the coast at the Fish River Light House.  From the Fish River lighthouse you can ride down onto the beach (you will have to push for a few hundred meters) and then its a 10km ride on the low tide back to Riet River.

Beach riding is great fun and training provided you (a) hit the beach one hour before low tide and (b) wash your bike straight afterwards.

A lovely ride and highly recommended!  Enjoy!


The Gräfenberg: Coega Daily Commute Weapon 


The Gräfenberg has landed on my new GTrails site.  Over the past few years I have commuted on trusty 26″ bikes, but, with the purchase of the Scott Pro 29er, the advantages of 29″ based commutes are compelling.  However, maintenance costs are high.

I purchased the Scott Pro in January 2012, and within the first month the Rock Shox fork was returned due to a defective damping chamber.  The fork had to be attended to twice after that with the remote lock out sticking.  Then in March 2013, in the run up to the Cape Epic 2013, wear to the stanchions was identified.  Cape Cycle Systems, the South African based SRAM distributor, refused to honor the warranty and I did not have service records to prove it had been serviced in the past year.

My reaction – well Rock Shox obviously cannot withstand the rigours of the Coega Daily Commute and that led me to develop a low cost project bike for commuting to work.

The first step was to purchase the Gaea blank frame from Carbonality, one of the on line suppliers selling “cheap Chinese carbon frames”.

The Gaea 1180 gram carbon frame from Carbonality.  Looks suspiciously similar to many of the branded bikes being sold at three times the price.

The Gaea 1180 gram carbon frame from Carbonality. Looks suspiciously similar to many of the branded bikes being sold at three times the price.

One of the biggest costs was postage, which made it more cost effective to include a carbon Handlebars, Headset, Stem and Seatpost.  Given my experience with the wear on the Rock Shox stanchions, it does not make sense using a suspension fork on a daily commute of 22km (one way) where only 10% of the ride requires suspension.  

Great Fork, Great value

Great Fork, Great value

I therefore opted for the Carbonality Fork, which looks suspiciously similar to the Niner solid fork.    

The customer service from Carbonality was brilliant.  They answered all my questions and made sure that I not only got a good price, but, great postage rates.  Within three weeks of placing the order, the new frame had arrived.  I had ordered the plain UD Matt Finish with the idea of spraying up custom colours.  However, my Cape Epic partner, Craig Lindeque from Digital Dynamix, suggested that I use his Vinyl Cutter to create decals.  This was an inspired move, and for a fraction of the cost, the Grafenberg was born.


The Grafenbergs Gtrails Steerer Tube Decal

The Grafenbergs Gtrails Steerer Tube Decal

The vinyl stickers were easily applied and the effect was stunning.  The ride, well simply sublime!  

After two weeks of riding I can scarcely put the bike down.  Its just plain awesome and I really need to get it onto a scale to get a handle on its weight.  The front fork shaves off about eight hundred grams off the Rock Shox and time will tell whether the carbon will hold.  My experience with the purchase left me with alot of confidence in the level of service coming out of Hong Kong.  Great people, and hopefully, if the time comes, they will provide better support than SRAM!