One of the best surprises about being in South Africa: "I've fallen in love with mountain biking." This happened last fall (2010) when the better half and I went to South Africa for job.
All my cycling life, which isn't really that long all things considred, I've been what's called a "roadie": On the road, skinny tires, breez'n down the highway with 2,000 lb steel boxes. Ok, the last part isn't fun at all, but you can find as has been quoted "..the road less traveled..".
When I got to northern Johannesburg and explored the roads, my thought was: "This does not look promising." I joined a club, googled websites, talked to other cyclists who cautioned me not to ride alone or I'd risk a "bike jacking". Bike jacking? For real? Yup, shortly after I was here read about one on a local bike site.
Joined a local club and was told: "Our rides start at about 6:15 to 6:30." Ummm....ok. So that first Saturday I decided to go with my car to see where they ride. OMG!! It's a fairly busy road and looked like it was carved right out of the rockies. Just didn't appeal to me, especially since I can ride almost any day and why the hay do I want to get up at 5:30 on a week end??? So I decided I'd ride my bike a bit around the apartment complex contemplating my navel....er.. my next option.
Luckily I was put in touch with a retired cyclist who showed me an area where I could do 10 mile loops with him. NOT my idea of what I love about cycling: Just get on the bike and explore. Loops isn't exactly discovering new terrain, eh? When I said: "Great, I can come out here and ride" he replied: "I wouldn't ride here by yourself. You can get "bike jacked". That phrase again.
Sue was also checking around her school for teacher cyclists for me to contact. She met a couple but they were mountain bikers. Ummm...I've never done that and at my age and with a bum back...I dunno.
The couple invited me to use their daughter's bike and ride with them one week end day. Ride? Somewhere not in a loop? Actually explore new terrain? New sites? I'm there!!
The Johannesburg Mounting Bike Club (JMBC) has different levels for riders and I of course went with the slower group. Glad I did. Just my speed: Slow and Steady. A couple of falls and I had my "red badages" of honor otherwise known as gashes and scrapes but man was I smiling.
So happened I had to go to the states for work and you know what I was doing: Researching mountain bikes galore. With all I read I figured my best bet was a hardtail 29er. The 29er's were just coming onto the market and from what I read they made a LOT of sense. The best deal I could get was online at BikesDirect. From what I could read at some mtb forums, buying one of their bikes wasn't so "in". But at the price, one of the 29er's had my name all over it: A Montebecane Phantom Pro 29er.
First ride with the JMBC and of course I got comments and just about all of them good, especially when asked the price of the 29er. Whatever price you'd pay in the states, you can easily up that 30% to 50% here in South AFrica. Small example. In the states I can get GU packets for about $1.25 Joburg? $3 easy.
So for the past year I've been enjoying mountain bike riding in Joburg. Definitely Saturday and Sunday, plus there's a mountain bike park to which I can bike during the week. Other option is throw the bike on the rack and head to a really big mountain bike park about 30 miles away.
South Africa IS the place for mountain bike.
So what's this "Fat Tire Begets Fat Bike"? I've been reading a thread on Bike Journal about the Fat Bikes. Mountain bikes have "fat tires", often about 2" wide. Well Fat Bikes were originally designed for riding on somewhat hard packed snow with tires of about 3.5" to 4" and low tire pressure, somewhere around 10 to 15 psi or less.
What the Fat Bike owners have found is that Fat Bikes work in all kinds of weather and terrain, easily rolling along sandy beach and with the larger tire and less psi, the traction has been found to be tremendous for rolling over ruts,roots, loose soil, gravel, up loose terrain hills, etc.
When I get back to the states I want to continue mountain biking but will most likely be living the winter in central Oregon where there's lots of snow, but also where there is some of the best mountain bike trails anywhere.
With those living conditions, I see a Mukluk in my future by early next summer when I'm back in the states. Heck I ride a recumbent. I can take the gawking and questions for sure!!
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