Category Archives: G RACING

All about races to ride and enjoy.


This post is to update my tools of the trade for trouble free riding.  Depending on the task at hand (ie the ride), your emergency toolkit needed vary.   This is essentially an update and refresh from various posts such as my personal toolkit and the barplug tool.


As evidenced by latest trends (when Specialized got on the bandwagon with its SWAT system, you know its gone mainstream), there are advantages to an intelligent mix between carrying your gear on the bike or on the body (as opposed to a Camel back).  I progressed from carrying body tools in a small neoprene bag to the Pocpac.  Pocpac is a great product for storing tools and other paraphernalia.  I was skeptical at first, preferring the old neoprene bag, thinking that the plastic pouch would easily slip out and get lost.  But, after three, it still keeps working.

Lezyne mini pump:  This replaced the old Scott minipump and with its aluminium body is simply superior.  Goes with me everywhere in the pocket and I hardly ever use bombs.

Bomb & Attachment:  Can’t fit this in the Pocpac, so I just leave it at home when not racing.  When racing, it replaces the mini pump.

The following tools are kept in the Pocpac:
-Spare Plugs

-Derailler cable
-Zip ties
-Stans 2 oz bottle
-Lezyne Multi Tool
-Money (R100 note can be used as a gator)
-Continental Tyre Lever with Duct tape around it
-Park Tyre Boot
-Toughie tyre boot:  6cm strip of Mr Tuffee tyre liner
-Park Glueless patches
-No Tubes valve remover
-Stans Valve core
-Stans Valve stem
-Scott Derailler Hanger bracket
-Leatherman mini knife

On shorter rides I drop the Stans, leatherman and hanger bracket to save a bit of weight. However, most rides I simply go with what’s in the Pocpac and that normally means all of the above.

-Barplug: Tire tool & plug loaded in handlebar (see my post on this great tool)

The barplag is the most effective tool and I constantly use it.  Its simply the best trick around!  More recently, the concept has gone into production in the form of the Sahmurai Sword but I have my doubts whether the commercial concept is better than my hack.

I still ride the Coega Daily Commute and Wells Estate Beach must rate as the best testing ground for tire related products.  Wells Estate has the highest amount of broken glass per square meter of bike path in the world and I puncture at least once a week.  My original tool is still in use and would definitely outlast any commercial replica in terms of durability.  Generally, I repair without even having to pump up the wheel!


CAPE EPIC – 2015

The ABSA Cape Epic (I’ll just call it ACE) is the most prestigious mountain bike race in the world.  While other races may have more numbers, ACE, limited to 600 two man teams, is bigger and better in every other way.  So what makes it ace everything else?

Across the world, it’s the one race every cyclist wants to do.  All ACE finishers get instant respect.  You could have climbed Everest, dived off Brooklyn Bridge, or wingsuited from the Eiffel Tower, but, mention an ACE finishers badge and you’ll get looks of awe and envy.

ACE’s status is all in the name and my 2015 experience reinforced that view.  It has a great sponsor in the form of ABSA.  The Cape is the perfect geographical amphitheatre for mountain biking, and it really is an Epic event – in every sense of the word – marathon, heroic, impressive, grand, ambitious – every synonym applies.

ACE excels by having something for everybody.    From a race point of view, it checks all the boxes.  In my twenty three years of intermittent mountain bike racing, no other event has given a comparable racing experience.  For every rider, class or gender, there is a real race taking place.  As a public spectacle where the leaders compete like gladiators, and backmarkers are battling for precious seconds of advantage, everyone, from rider to spectator are involved in the intense racing experience.  No lonely processions at the ACE!

Through this event, the Western Cape is showcased to the world, having aired more than 24500 hours of television coverage worldwide.  The event airs as the Northern Hemisphere emerges from chilled and depressing winters, providing an instant tonic by juxtaposing the ordered agriculture of the Western Cape, the splendor of its natural beauty and wildlife, with the warmth of South African climates.

The numbers don’t lie.  In 2015, forty percent of the field was international, with the majority coming from Switzerland and Germany.  For them, as for most, ACE is something to aim for, providing hope and inspiration through dark difficult times.  Whether it’s weathering climate or personal circumstance, training for ACE provides a tonic for all the consequences of modern life.  Training for ACE releases serotonin, an opportunity to take on and beat the diseases of affluence – heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer, amongst others.  There’s no hiding at ACE and you cannot arrive in bad condition.  It’s akin to acing the exam – do your homework – and you’ll crack it. Come in under prepared and you’ll fail – spectacularly.

The Cape has a certain mysticism, from Table Mountain to the grasslands of the Transkei – a biodiversity wonderland and an inimitable cultural and spiritual experience.  The ACE view from the bicycle seat leaves an indelible imprint and keeps bringing one back for more.  My 2010 ACE was a personal journey, from fat to fit.  I had hit the wall – fat, forty, flourishing, and blighted by the diseases of affluence.  ACE 2010 left me invigorated, fit, appreciative of health, and of personal boundaries removed.  Genetics play a role in establishing the finishing line pecking order, but, it’s overstated.  ACE 2011 stamped the realisation that preparation is everything.  In work or play, no matter your genetic potential, nothing replaces good hard work.  The human capability knows no limits, and with enough goal directed effort, anything is possible.

G Spot is the essence of my commuting experience.  A carbon rigid fork seeking the sensation of the awesome trails of Stellenbosch

G Spot is the essence of my commuting experience. A carbon rigid fork seeking the sensation of the awesome trails of Stellenbosch. The Amabubesi badge is a great frame protector with serious credentials

ACE 2013 brought a new partner and an appreciation for the power of the commute.  Yes, training for an ACE can be a mind numbing experience.  You’ll find a plethora of training advice for intense shorter weeks of training rides, but, nothing beats good TITS (time in the saddle) and commuting is the way to get it.  Without the Coega Daily Commute (CDC) I would battle to get a consistent 8 hour training week.  The CDC ushered in 15 hour training weeks with ease.  No bland indoor trainers or endless road rides.  The commute uplifts, leaving one invigorated, filled with new ideas for a wholesome work day.  Everyone benefits – your family, employer, clients, environment – everyone.  But, be warned, your ACE partner will suffer if they cannot be in a similar place.  A twenty hour week of singular training yields infinitely less than 20 hours of variegated fun while riding a bike.  Any complacency breeds failure, and no matter how good the genetic pedigree, there will always be a time to eat humble pie.  ACE 2013 was an abject lesson in accepting failure with humour, and success with humility.

ACE 2015 ushered in a whole new set of lessons.  Such is the appeal of ACE, for it knows no bounds in the tuition it offers. ACE 2015 yielded new insights on the interplay between environment, people and prosperity, and nothing showcases it like the Western Cape.

ACE stage venues are set in amphitheatres of fynbos bejewelled mountains, yielding prosperity and protection.    The mountains are inhospitable, rugged, providing the catchments for the arid landscapes through which the rivers flow, and protection for the biodiversity supporting the prosperity of the valleys below.  Rich alluvial gravels, sculpted from the mountains, lay the foundations of the prosperity of the ACE stage venues of Oak Valley, Worcester and Wellington.  Only from the seat of a bicycle, can you truly appreciate the complex relationships between agriculture, people and their environment.  The lifeblood of Worcester and Wellington are the Berg and Breede rivers and success has come from centuries of focussed effort.  Like fitness, productive capacity is not built up overnight.  Irrigation canals feed the parched lands, drinking from meticulously maintained infrastructure built over centuries of carefully considered investment and the toil of thousands of people.   A conservation regime, forged from years of experience, nurture the mountains, dutifully protecting biodiversity, feeding the rivers with life, to yield prosperity for the people in the valleys below.

The role of financial institutions in supporting this cycle of life is rarely recognized.  They provide the capital, the foresight, the stability, for agricultural communities to build prosperity.  ABSA mimics the prosperity which it has brought to the agricultural activities of the area through its ACE participation.  ABSA, a child of the merger of Allied, Volkskas, United and Trust Banks are as old as the irrigation schemes pivotal to the Capes development.  Its lines of finance trace the land, being central to every aspect of the development of agricultural lands, homes, businesses, savings and prudent financial planning.  ABSA is ingrained into the landscapes of the ACE route.  The requisite traits for finishing ACE are no different to those underpinning the prosperity of the Western Cape. Stable partnerships, investments of money, time, effort, resolve, patience, a long term view, focussed goals, planning – these are the building blocks for success, be they in life or the ACE.  Throughout, ABSA is a pillar of support.  Little wonder that it’s one of the coolest brands out there.

So therein rests the true value of the ACE – everyone prospers from the event, supported by the finest financial institution in the country.  ABSA came to being with the new South Africa, and it has a tough task ahead in building a healthy, inclusive and prosperous society.  The ingredients for a successful South African democracy and ACE are the same – prosperity and inclusivity.  The Absa Cape Epic is making a quiet and substantively massive impact in every way.

Two in a Row

So I got lost – two races in a row!  We can all have a good laugh or we can think more seriously about what went wrong and the implications for our sport.

The organizers and Cycling SA are not playing by their own rules and it puts our sport at risk.

Taking a wrong turn in a race is always an uncomfortable matter.  After riding your guts out, the bottom falls out of your race.  It’s always the riders fault, with some riders developing a reputation of being lost souls, geographically challenged and so forth.

LOTCREvent 1:  I rode the Lord of the Chain Rings from 14 to 16 November 2013 – well let me rephrase, I tried to ride it.  In 2010, when I rode the first event of this race, I was inspired to rate it as an event with wonderful potential.  You can view my blog post here

However, the 2013 event was a major disappointment.  It started out promising great things.  I was riding with Norman Boy, an exceptionally strong East London based Master.  We had Paul Furbank (World XC Champ in the 55-60 category) and Chris Brand (SA Marathon Champ 55-60) as opposition and everything was pointing to a great event.

However, four kilometers from the finish on day one, we took a wrong turn, ended up on the Day two route, and hurtled down the mountain towards Alice.  By the time we got back up, we had dropped from fifth to 58th, losing two hours or more on Furbank and Brand.

Bang, that was the event over as a contest.  Yes, Norman and I were the butt of the jokes about getting lost and so forth and all concerned had a good laugh.

Event 2:  The following week, I rode Hopewell trails Amazing Race on Sunday 24 November.  With 2/3 of the race done, I was in a comfortable fifth and thoroughly enjoying it.  Bang – wrong turn.  By the time I got back on track I had lost five positions and the ride induced high became a slog home.

So, us mountain bikers are a care free lot and write these mishaps off – its all in the spirit of the race!  Or is it?

The fact is, at both races the wrong turns were a result of infringements of Cycling SA rules by the organizers.  The Cycling SA rule book is very clear about how courses must be marked (see )

At both the Lord of the Chain Rings and Hopewell Races markings contravened section 17.02 of Cycling SA 2013-1 regulations – and lots of other riders took wrong turns! 

At Lord of the Chain Rings, markings indicated a left turn (which put us on the day two route), and then did not have a marking (in terms of 17.02.010) to indicate that we were on the wrong route.  At the Hopewell race, section 17.02.010 was also contravened.

So, am I being pedantic about the humorous matter of someone getting lost. I don’t think so, for a number of reasons:

1)  The rules are there for rider safety and the development of the sport.  Both races were sanctioned by Cycling SA, and Commissars were present to enforce rules.  We as cyclists pay for Cycling SA to undertake that task through an annual racing licence and a portion of the race entry fee.  The fact that Cycling SA is not applying the rules implies that rider safety and the sport of mtb are being put at risk.

2)  Cycling SA are often perceived as being pedantic.  They worry  about team kit and banning sleeveless tops.  Yet, they continue to approve courses where riders get lost on routes not marked according to the rules.  Is this an Eastern Cape thing, or is it more widespread?

3)  If a rider gets lost on a course marked according to the rules, it is the riders fault.  However, when a rider gets lost on a course not marked according to the rules, it is still the riders fault.  Organizers and Cycling SA need to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4)  Riders spend huge amounts of money to participate in racing events and should expect to ride courses which are consistent with the Cycling-SA regulations.  If courses do not comply, the event should not be sanctioned by Cycling SA.  

5)  Where events are marked according to Cycling SA rules, riders do not get lost.  It costs money to mark properly and event organizers are skimping, whilst charging full price race fees.  Effectively, that means we as riders are getting ripped off.

6)  The majority of races are now run by professional race promoters and they need to play by the rules.  Events are lucrative income streams and its about time that riders take a stand when promoters don’t play by the rules.

So now for the crux of the question.  If I took a wrong turn due to course markings being inconsistent with Cycling-SA regulations, can I ask for a refund on my race entry fees?

I trust the organizers of the two races and Cycling SA will provide an answer.



Competition2408The 2013 World Mountain Bike Championships have been a major success for Pietermaritzburg and South Africa. Thousands of Mountain Bikers converged on the City bringing more than a billion rand of value and economic spend.  The event is run over two weeks with Masters riders (those over the age of 30) racing over the first week and non-age group riders (mostly professional riders) competing over the second week of the competition.

For the first time, the World Championships have been held in South Africa.  It offered South Africans a rare privilege of competing at the highest level without having to incur the massive costs associated with overseas travel.

PodiumMy race preparation for the World Championships involved participation in the 2013 Cape Epic and the South African National Mountain Bike Championships, which were held in Port Elizabeth in July 2013. At the SA Champs, I started at the back of the field and eventually managed to secure a second place.  It was a weak ride following a stomach bug which I had picked up earlier in the week.  You can check the results here.

For the World Championships, I was looking for a test of fitness against the best of the World.   My race had some very strong riders.   There were 67 riders on the starting list, with about 30% of the riders being from abroad and the remainder being South African riders.

Mad Rush at the Start - Tommy Olsson gets the holeshot, with Jimmy Redman up on the inside

Mad Rush at the Start – Tommy Olsson gets the holeshot, with Jimmy Redman up on the inside

The start saw a mad rush of riders all trying to make it through the bottle neck at the end of the main starting area.  One of the South African favorites (Doug Brown) was brought down in a tangle of bikes, but, Tommy Olsson, the Swedish National Champion and former World Silver medalist, shot to the front and never relinquished the lead.

Tommy Olsson - Winner of the Mens 50-55

Tommy Olsson – Winner of the Mens 50-55

Jean-Paul Stephan

Jean-Paul Stephan (501) and Mads Boeker (553)

Second place went to the 2012 World Champion, and French National Champion, Jean Paul Stephan who managed to stay ahead of the Danish National Champion, Mads Boeker.

Mads Boedker

Mads Boedker

The former World Bronze medalist, Patrick Baltazaard, finished 4th ahead of Atle Hanssen from Sweden.

World MTB 50-55 Podium

World MTB 50-55 Podium

Graham Taylor came in 6th and was the first South African home.

The World Championships were a wonderful learning experience.  I was able to test my fitness against the best and secure a 6th place in a strong international field and was the highest placed South African.  The Swedes, French and Danes who beat me are all highly experienced national and world champions and it was a great privilege to ride against them on home ground.  It is one thing to watch such events from a distance, but, its an entirely different matter when one is able to interact with these types of athletes.  You quickly learn your shortcomings and what needs to be done to improve yourself.

Tommy Olsson - Deserved and clear winner

Tommy Olsson – Deserved and clear winner

While we certainly have the skills to match the Europeans, their overall race conditioning was superior.  The Pietermaritzburg experience has shown how South Africans can succeed on the international stage and where we need to improve.  The Province of KwaZulu-Natal and Cycling South Africa must be congratulated for staging a spectacular event which has placed South African mountain biking high on the international agenda.

Graham Taylor 6th placed & 1st South African

Graham Taylor 6th placed & 1st South African

  1. Tommy Olsson (SWE) 1.21.44
  2. Jean-Paul Stephan (FRA) 1.23.22
  3. Mads Boedker (DEN) 1.23.31
  4. Patrick Balthazard (FRA) 1.27.26
  5. Atle Hansen (SWE) 1.29.47
  6. Graham Taylor (RSA) 1.30.18

The full results can be downloaded here or you can go to the event page