Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The TW's first weekend out: Camping at Katse

Three weeks after I got the learners it was time for the TW's first weekend trip. The 2 GSes that would accompany us rode there on Friday, but since the TW is a very new noob, we loaded the bikes on the bakkie and drove to Golden Gate late on Friday night.

The 55 km ride from Golden Gate to Fouriesburg was the longest I've ever been on a bike - and that was just to breakfast. (Die Plaasstoep - go there if you're in the area)

After we filled up (including the jerry-can for the TW's small tank) it was a small hop to the border.

Riding through Butha-Buthe was a bit of a challenge for my non-existing car- and people-dodging skills - but once we were outside town, it was a beautiful ride.

The tarred roads were in beautiful condition -  recently tarred and with little traffic and no heavy vehicles. The roads are quiet. Vehicles from the front are sometimes in the middle of the road, but not too fast - around every corner there may be a few sheep or a donkey-cart in the road. Enter the Bokong nature reserve, and then on to the Mafika Lesiu pass - which surely must be on every biker's to-do list.

Towards the top of Mafika Lesiu the TW was reduced to first gear, because it's so steep and because the top is just over 3 km altitude. We stopped at the look-out point just before the last stretch up the pass.

Soon after this pass you get the first glimpse of the dam. The ride was beautiful, but the day was getting long ... The total distance for the day was around 230 km - way more then the 20 km that has been my longest distance on a bike before this. 

We checked out the campsite above the dam wall, then went to the lodge for sundowners and supper. 

After we packed up camp on Sunday morning, we went back to the lodge for breakfast, then started making our way home.

The GSes had to go all the way back to Gauteng ...

while the Honda and TW just had to go back to Golden Gate.

Already trying to find available weekends to repeat this!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Learning to ride in the Soufth

Making the appointment for a learners' was a mission. I think I went queue about 5 times before I could actually get the appointment. (In November as December, as soon as the system is fully booked for that year, you can't make an appointment before they rolled over to the next year ... but although they only roll over IN the new year, they can't tell you that, so you have to go queue again).

Getting the bike was even more difficult. I knew I wanted secondhand dual purpose. Dual Purpose, because if I'm worse off than with my mountain bike, I'm not switching. And secondhand, because I was going to fall with it, and I don't know if I'm actually going to like biking.

I responded to various adverts for bikes that matched the criteria, but I was always just too late to get the bike - it was sold just an hour ago, but if I come in they can show me some new bikes? In the beginning I did go in .... and then got exposed to various smous tricks. There was the salesman trying to convince me that I actually need an offroad-bike and refusing to even show me some dual-purpose bikes ("No. How do I get to where I want to ride?" "Oh, but we sell trailers too"). Then there was the guy who showed me endless videos of all the competitions he's won, and his baby boy riding, and his wife on podiums ...

OK, so in the end Hardy found a TW in a bike shop in the Soutfh somewhere. It was ancient - 2004, I think, but fulfilled all the requirements: engine in good condition, old enough to not worry too much if I scratch it, cheap enough to sell it a year later if biking wasn't for me, roadworthy, and my feet could reach the ground comfortably. It looked like a tractor, but it was a match :)

Next thing up, I had to learn to ride it. 

Hardy's parents' house is just one block and one busy-ish street away from singletrack and wide open spaces. For the first lesson he pillioned me on the back of the TW across the road, so that I could learn take-offs and landings without traffic around me.

For subsequent rides he connected us with an intercom system to safely talk me across the road. Here is Dirt Vader trying to explain to me why it's better to stand up on the bike.

We've explored the area a lot during JoBerg2C training the previous year, and it was fun doing some of our training sprint 'segments' on the bikes.
And what a wonderful playground the South is!

(At this stage, doing the singletrack segments by mountain bike is still very much faster then by TW - but I will certainly go give it a go later.)