By Amy Ebedes
I’m not what one would call a cycling “expert”. Sure, I enjoy riding, opt to commute on my MTB to work and have taken on a few races, but talk about the technicalities and mechanics of the sport, and my eyes glaze over. And don’t even get me started on Tour de France.
Because of my ignorance (yes, I admit it), I learn something new everytime that I ride: and practice is more applicable than theory, right?
Today I didn’t learn just one thing.
I tackled the first event of the Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5: the 75km mountain bike race. 75km is an entire textbook of riding knowledge, waiting to be experienced.
Here are 9 of the lessons that I learned today:
Just two days ago I finally got around to having my mountain bike set up for me. Today, all my niggles were AWOL and my confidence on single track and descents was in another league.
I no longer rode on my bike. I rode with it.
It really is OK to walk up a section of a monster climb. Take the time to settle your heart rate and stretch your calves out with every step. You’re probably moving faster than the guy slogging it out in granny gear, anyway.
There’s a very subtle line between shattering triceps and fast, easy descents. Find it.
My front brake has spent a year in isolation after using it resulted in a (not so) elegant swan dive over my handle bars, training for this very event. The resulting arm fracture led to a very unhealthy fear of the front brake: until today. A loose shale descent left me with no choice but to use the ignored lever. We spent the remaining 40km working out our differences.
Speaking strictly for myself, simply jumping on the bike again after a particularly gnarly fall is not the greatest idea. As the adrenalin wears off, you’ll fall again… and again… leaving you emotionally gatvol.
Stop. Breathe. Regroup. Then get on and keep trucking.
If you catch a glimpse of the route profile, study it. Giving it a mere glance is a recipe for mental turmoil. You’ll start playing mind games with yourself, and “I swear this is the last climb” will become your mantra.
When your bike mechanic says “your chain is dead”, he’s not trying to make a quick buck. Buy the new components – or spend the entire ride cursing your poor bike’s faults.
Those guys that come flying past you on steep descents? You will pass them, effortlessly, on every single climb.
Smooth, fast single track in a slightly damp forest will make every ache and cramp disappear.
I can’t believe I have to go and do this again tomorrow: 100km of road riding and a myriad of new lessons to be learned.