Thursday, July 16, 2009

Equipment Review

I guess now is a good time to review all the gear and equipment I took with me. It might be useful for someone else doing the ride in the future, as well as a reminder to me as to what worked and what didn't.


I took 2 pairs of CapeStorm Matrix riding shorts. They were great, never had any problems with them, except the last few days when I had lost so much weight that they were quite baggy. I would suggest getting the smallest size possible. It was great having 2 pairs, this way you could always ensure you had a dry pair to put on in the mornings.

One pair of fleece arm warmers and leg warmers were enough. I found the provided enough warmth and wind protection, without being too warm. They are also easy to remove when you get warm. I had a similar problem on the last 3 days, trying to keep them up with my weight loss.

I had one short sleeve riding shirt with me as well as a new one every 5 days. These didn't really work well. I hardly ever used them due to the temperature and I found the backpack chafed my back there the cycling pocket on the back of the shirt. The long sleeve light weight CapeStorm top was all I needed. I would have preferred 2 of these and left the short sleeve shirts at home.

I had 2 CapeStrom Puffadders as well. They were only for the extreme cold and for the evenings. Towards the end I put a Puffadder on when the sun went down and my core temperature would drop and I couldn't get warm again. I think this was due to the lack of any body fat. I used a pair of Polar Fleece gloves which were fantastic, but too warm in the day. I went gloveless most of the time. I should have taken my fingerless riding gloves. To keep my ears warm I used a fleece headband and occasionally a buff when it was really cold, they worked well.

My wet gear was the CapeStorm Monsoon jacket and pants, they were great, except you need to extend the Velcro on the pants to avoid getting them caught in the chain. An elastic band around the bottom also works. Knee length SealSkinz socks were the answer for keeping your feet dry. In very heavy continuous rain they get slightly damp but very acceptable. (remember to put them on the right way Fiona, they only work with the fluffy side in the inside). Now onto my pet hate – SealSkinz gloves – they have a big marking down the length of them saying ‘Waterproof’. Well they are anything but waterproof. Your hands are soaking inside and then when you try and take your hands out the lining comes out with it. They are the most frustrating, useless things I have ever had the misfortune of using.

Evening gear could double as additional cold weather if required. I had a pair of CapeStorm HotRods, a base layer long sleeve shirt, fleece beanie, Puffadder (as listed above), socks and a pair of R50 fake Crocks (these were fantastic to have dry shoes an night).

IMG_0080Shoes!!! Well you probably know the story of my first pair of shoes (Deodora) that just didn't last. Aileen got me a pair of Mavic Cruize shoes on recommendation form the LBS, they were fantastic.


DeuterI bought the Deuter Trans Alpine 30 from Chain Reaction Cycles about a week  before I left. This is the perfect backpack for this type of ride. I had no issues, the only change I would like to see on it is slightly larger hip pouches. It was comfortable throughout and was stable on my back.


I have a previous posting on my bike, describing all the equipment. Everything worked well. The few mechanical problems I had would not be any different any any other bike. My favourite addition to the equipment was the grip shifters, they worked flawlessly throughout, even through the rain, mud and snow. The lights were fantastic although a little heavy, but allowed me to ride some relatively technical single-track in the dark.


I have been using a Bell Delirium helmet for years and love it. Shortly before the race I damaged it so thought I would get a new one and up-spec the the Bell Variant. This was a very uncomfortable helmet, which may have been because it was new. It also came apart at some stage so I had to duct tape it together. My preference is still the Bell Delirium.

If you have any questions on gear and equipment, let me know and Ill give you my opinion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 21 - The Final Push

This day is what we have all been dreading for the last 3 weeks, the notorious Stettyns Kloof. Those who saw the TV episodes that Andrew King did of last years race showed some very broken riders finishing Stettyns.

We started at 4:45 from Trouthaven and had a 20km section to do in sand roads in the dark. we then exited and started hiking around the dam. We then came around into the kloof and could see in the distance where we had to exit over the saddle. I remember thinking that this shouldn't take too long, we will be out before lunch....

Well, it is amazing how wrong one can be. The further we go in the more difficult it got. I tried carrying the bike, but then you hit trees and bush and have to try and push through the bush. The first river crossing I took my shoes and socks off. Before the 2nd one I had fallen in the river so trying to keep dry was history. There were times when you were fighting this terrain meter by meter to make progress. It was really a test of endurance and patience.

Eventually at 16:00 we summited the saddle. There was a long farm road to come out near the bottom of Du Toits Kloof Pass, Which we had to cycle up to the top over the next 11km. What a nasty way to end. From there it was a short downhill to the finish at Dimersfontein Wine Estate

Fiona and I finished at 19:30, which is 21 days 13 hours and 30 minutes to finish the race. We got presented with our Lesotho blankets in the tradition of the race by race director David Waddilove.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sat Day 20 04 july

As I write this I am hoping that Doug and Fi are close to Trouthaven – their last support station on this mammoth event.  I spoke to Doug about 13:30 today and they were leaving their lunch venue – maybe Kasra (??) to cycle 80km to Trouthaven.

I fly to Cape Town tomorrow and meet up with Jean – Fiona’s sister and we will go do the can-can tomorrow at the finish when they get in – with Kayla doing her own victory dance!  They are only likely to get in after 19:00.  The next entry should be a celebratory one.

image All in one

image Kasara

Fri Day 19 03 July

The Karoo

I always thought the Karoo was flat. This myth has been dispelled over the past 2 days. Yesterday we had a total elevation was 3200m !!!!  No wonder I was so trashed.

We left Rouxpos today at 6:00 and arrived at Anysberg at 13:30. They had a huge lunch waiting for us.

We left at 14:00 for Montague. The weather has become a little cooler and the wind is starting to pick up. This made going slower than expected. The biggest problem we are both having is 'sore asses'. Our legs, knees etc are prefect it's only the numbness in your butt. We have to get off and walk frequently to let the blood return to the butt.

We arrived at Montague at 6:15 after a 20km downhill from Ou berg pass. That certainly made the last bit a little quicker.

Neither Fi or myself felt we had it in us to do another stage today. We are staying at the Montague Country Hotel. Certainly many steps up from what we have been used to.

We are going to try a triple tomorrow. If we can do it we are due to finish on Sunday otherwise it will be a Monday finish.

Note from Aileen – I spoke with Doug last night.  He was in much better spirits than the previous 2 nights.  His body is taking strain in that he battles to get warm even after a bath but wakes up in the nights with the sweats.  I just want him home now.

image Swartberg pass

Friday, July 3, 2009

End of ride!

Hi Doug and Aileen,

I’ve enjoyed following your travails on the blog – much easier than trying to ride along!  I must say, your crazy trip looks like a fantastic adventure.  Hiking in broken cycling shoes, however, seems a bad idea.

I trust the finish will be enjoyable, and that the trails have been worth the trials.  Enjoy the post-ride celebrations.

- Mitch

Thurs Day 18 – 02 July

Written by Aileen

I spoke with Doug last night – they got into Rouxpos at 20:30 – 14.25 hour day and 138 kms.  He was absolutely exhausted and energy-less.  It was a long flat day but he was just so tired.  He did not want to eat which is a bad sign of exhaustions for him. 

If they still want to finish on Sunday night they need to do a triple day today (Friday) or tomorrow.  On one of the days they need to cover 250kms.  They have approximately 380kms to cover and the last day is a set day in that they have an approximate 8 hours of climbing and they must have passed Touthaven between 22H00 and 08:00 otherwise they are not allowed to continue as it is too treacherous to do a section in the dark.

Send lots of strength and positive thoughts to Doug and Fi and sms’s are always good.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wed Day 17 01 July


This entry is written by Aileen – my Doug was too tired last night to write.

They left Willowvale yesterday morning and set off for Prince Albert some 170kms away – the same distance as the day before.  The route was absolutely flat and fast.

They averaged 18km per hour for the 1st 100kms or so and just cruised. 

Lunch was at a farm called Rondavel.

The bum and legs took strain.  Doug listened to his audio book – I think this is the 1st time he has been able to do this – I guess you have to concentrate too hard on technical stuff.  When they thought they had about 40kms to go they came across Johann Rissik. Apparently he is famous for popping up all over to help riders, he had set up a coffee/tea spot under the trees. Soft chairs and tea and coffee were the order.

Doug and Fi rode the last 30km or so very content and with good strength and arrived at the Dennehof B&B.

Doug called me in the early evening and was soaking in a hot bath – he loves his bathes and this was the 1st one on this trip.  I am sure it soothed his tired legs.

Vasbyt my love – 4 more days left.  Kayla and I are sooooo excited (well she is always excited by life so when she sees her Daddy again I think she will go into overdrive!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pictures – Wed 01 July

image Fi having lunch on the way to Prince Albert

imageDoug also having a break and some nosh.

day 16 – Tuesday 30 June

Yea my shoes arrived.

What a long day. We started from Cambria at 4:45 this morning. As we left the, the mountains rose up to meet us. Within the first 20km we had already done a 400m climb. This was the scene up until lunch time at Dam se Drif at about 80 km. We opted to skip that support station and push on to Willomore.

We eventually arrived at 21:00 this evening after having done 175km and 2500m ascent. Both of us were buggered but the arrival of my new shoes made up for that. Thank you my darling wife for all your organisation

Note from Aileen – I spoke with Doug on Tuesday night – they were both exhausted and in need to good rest.  He remains in great spirits.

Some more pictures – Mon 29 June


Shame these shoes have really had it.  The new shoes will be with Doug on Tuesday night.

image Yip this chick really loves her smoked oysters!

image Beautiful scenery and weather

Mon 29 June – Day 15

Fantastic weather today. We left at 6:30 today but for the first 90 minutes we rode in very heavy mist.  Today was a day of up's and down's with a total ascent of 2150m over 110km. The toughest was a 9km hike up the old 'Ossewa Trail'. It is hard to believe they used to drag of wagons over this mountain. At the top of this is the most spectacular view. You can see the sea near Jeffreys Bay from the one side and the Biviasns Kloof from the otherside. Photos just don't do it justice.


We then rode down the Biviaans kloof reserve. This is some of the most technical downhill riding I have ever done. It was about 4 km of downhill... Awesome!!!!

We estimate that we must have walked almost 15 km today. In spite of that we won the 'immunity challenge' by coming in first again.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day as we are going to try a double again.

Sleeping in Cambria tonight

Monday, June 29, 2009

My good buddy jack….. (Sunday middle of the day!)


Sunday 28 June Day 14

Another day of rain!

We left Toekomst this morning in the dark at 6:00. We had to head out through a large flat land area (part of the Sundays river valley national park). We headed off in the correct direction and within 45 minutes found we were riding over our own tracks again. Navigation in the dark is not easy.

After the park we headed out according to the maps. Fiona had an uneasy feeling about the route the rest of the group were taking so we stopped an rechecked. We found that the route the others were taking was completely wrong and we found the correct route. This saved us about 3 hours.

The day was generally cold and wet with very little view because of the low cloud. There was an intermediate support station listed but when we got there we found no one home. All we wanted was a hot coffee to help us warm up. We continued on the route and about 30km from the end we came across a small shop with a restaurant attached. We dashed in there and ordered some toasted egg & bacon sandwiches with some coffee. I had a Jack Daniels that we didn't drink last night so took that out as well. It went down a treat and warmed us beautifully.

When we got outside again the rain had stopped and the rest of the ride was fantastic. Arrived at Bucklands at 16:30 with time to do some maintenance on our bikes. This is a beautiful place, nestled in the base of the very imposing Perdeberg.

Today I tried to tape up my shoes with duct tape but this only lasted about half the ride. When Derek came on this evening he said he had the ultimate solution. Cut up a bicycle tube into a long strip and wind that around the shoe to support it. I found some rubber based glue which I used to stick it on with. Tomorrow will confirm if this will work.

Total distance covered today, 110km

Tomorrow we go over the Perfeberg

Note from Aileen – only 6 more sleeps til I see my hubby – yahoooo!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sat 27 June Day 13

We left DeDoorns at 5:20 this morning. We skipped a day ahead yesterday so we had the group ahead of us hanging onto us. The route lead us up and over a mountain and the a hike down the gorge on the other side.  This would have been classified a difficult hike even without a bike.  Well this seems to have completely trashed my shoes. By the time we  got to the bottom the group had split up so Fiona, Sean and I continued on alone. We reached van de Venterskraal at 13:15 and had a quick lunch. At 14:00 we left to skip another day. We had an 11 km technical downhill through a nature reserve. At one spot we came across heard of Giraffe.

Today was the best day of riding we have had so far. The weather conditions was also perfect. We arrived in record time at 17:30 after cycling at total of 140 km today.

Note from Aileen – not such a fantastic wife – the shoes did not arrive this morning so i need to try find away to forward them onto the next available post office.

26 June Day 12

Today we left Elantsberg at 6:15 and Fiona, Carl and myself setoff at at blistering pace while there was no wind. The temp at the start ok the ride was -5 Deg C, but this was not at problem as we were generating a lot of heat. In the distance we could see all the snow covered mountains, not realizing we would be crossing right over the top of them later ok the day.

We arrived in Stuttart around 11:30 which is a support station. We decided to have lunch there and continue.  The next support station is De Doorns but there are two large portages and an estimated 7 hours in good conditions. The approach to the Skurweberge wes very slow going as there was thick clay that was un-ridable an un-pushable. We struggled on this 5 km section for around 2 hours. We the started the ascent of the mountain covered in snow. We made steady progress an eventually reached the top an had to descend the other side. The snow on this side was much thicker, about 300 mm deep. In the beginning it was quite difficult but with a little practice I was using the time of my life flying down the side in this deep snow.

The next portage we reached just before the sun was setting so we could find the start of it. The rest of it was quite challenging as it is very dark out there, no moon at the moment. Our navigation was faultless and we arrived at the support station at 19:45 13 hours our today.

My fantastic wife had organized new shoes to be delivered tomorrow so everything is going fantastically well at the moment.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thurs 25 June


image Pie shop in Hofmeyer

image About 20 seconds of sun – looks like Doug is trying to catch a tan so that when he gets back he looks like he had a fun holiday!

Messages for Doug and Fi – 25/26 June

Thank you so much to everyone who sent messages to Doug and Fi.  Doug can’t read his blog along route so I emailed him the messages – I am posting them all on this blog.  He is able to read all the comments that you guys post tho.

Hi Dough & Fiona,

Good to see you guys are hanging in there! Respect from all of us back home. Sorry to have missed you on the road to Rhodes. Did the chaperone thing this year - even that was hard! Surprise-surprise!  Take care & hang in there, even though conditions are clearly horrendous.  If you quit now you will come back to do it all again (ref Mark Fussel)

Ben de Lange


I rode with Doug and Fiona to Rhodes. Please pass on my very best wishes to these 2 extremely brave people. I am following their progress as much as possible on the website/blog. The conditions seem diabolically atrocious and I admire their strong will and spirit. Sitting in an office it is easy for me to tell them to hang in there but I am sure they know by now to take each section at a time and they will get there in the end. Tell Fiona with her photographic this adventure will be imprinted on her mind forever.

Ray Farrenkothen


Hi Aileen

We pray that God keep Doug safe and help him to succeed in his Journey .May God guide and protect him every step of the way .And May you all at home be safe and may God look after you too while your husband is away.

Kind Regards Phidelia Cornelson Debtors Clerk

GO DOOGLE!!!!!!!!!!!  You’re making us all very proud of you!!!!!!  See you soon and ride safe!!!!!!


Sue Eddey


Hello everybody,

As you all know our Famous IT director  is on a journey of a lifetime some of us have been following his blog , as you all may of heard that the Cape Town weather is at it extreme and Doug has to do this challenge in these conditions I thought it would be great if we could send some motivational messages to encourage him on his journey and wish him safe travels , please forward these on to his Wife Aileen and I am sure she will pass them on



I told you a it would have been easier on horseback-horse would do the running!

Just keep up with the guy in front and you will finish!


Nigel Pilling

Dear Doug, Fiona and the other heroes

You have finished the most difficult bit (except for the little stroll near the end). You are doing brilliantly. Just hang in there. The weather is changing for the better, you are going to cycle through fantastic areas and the Boks are again going to beat the Lions. Take it day by day. Tomorrow is likely to be much better because of the wonderful Terreblanches. You have to meet Johan Rissik ( not negotiable) and get to Oestervanger for estelle and Alda's fantastic food and hospitality, and then you are only 2 days from the end. Hell, even I made it in 2006. If they had trackers then I would have had days and days of penalties.

Fiona, Myprodol (plus lots of water) worked wonders for me.

Gerrit "Agteros kom ook in die kraal" Pretorius


Just a Quick Hi from everyone here in the IT dept.

Keep it up, our thoughts are with you guys. J

Lee Zurcher


Thinking of you all from behind my desk. Keeping you in my prayers

Keep warm, Keep stretching, keep eating!!!!!!

The Monk

I tried to use the blog but I’m soooo blonde and it’s not working .. I’ve sent Doug a sms and will again sometime today .. Rory and myself are thinking about him and Fiona in their great trek across the country and we pray that he is safe and comes to no harm .. please relay our love to him and we know he can make it we have all the faith in him …

All our love to you too .. how are you holding up, your nerves must be finished … If you need anything at all please don’t hesitate to call us ..

All our love ..

Nats and Rory


image This is from Sue Ngema – there is writing on but it won’t transfer across

Thurs 25 June Day 11

I have lost track of what day it is.

One of the things that makes this race doable is the hospitality of the families we stay with. They are absolutely fantastic, they pre-prepared huge delicious meals, do our washing, and essentially give us all the support we need. (dankie Stephanie an familie).

Today Fiona, Greg and I started from Romansfomtein at 6:00. It was bitterly cold, snowing and a driving 40kph wind. We couldn't do the portage over the mountain because it was in the clouds with no visibility. We had to detour around the mountain on the road (50km) We stopped in Hoffmeyer at 14:30 and had some lunch, they are famous for their pies after the Freedom Challenge Tv show. I then bought some plastic gloves from the co-op. The famous SealSkinz gloves are a load of shit. They get soaked after an hour of riding in the rain, then when you take your hands out the inner liner comes out and you can't get them back together easily.

After Hofmeyer we left for Elantsberg. This has a portage over the mountain but due to the strong winds we only got to the start of the portage as the sun was setting and the snow started falling. We had to navigate the mountain I'm the dark. We eventually made it with only one mistake and arrived at 21:00 this evening.

Early start tomorrow as we are going to try and skip a support station.

My cycling shoes have eventually packed up from all the hiking in them. I will be calling tomorrow to arrange for Aileen to send me some more, and a space blanket sleeping bag and may be some waterproof gloves.

image  There were no notes attached to this picture from Doug but he is smiling and not being rained on!

Note from Aileen – I managed to get shoes and the space blanket – there is no such thing as water proof gloves.  I also put some choccies and fudge in the parcel.  It should hopefully be in Jansenville tomorrow morning and the farmer will collect it from the town.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pic from Tue Goevlei


They were all trying to dry out and thaw out.

Day 10 – Wed 24 june

It's interesting how priorities change on this race. It's no longer important how long it's going to take rather, how am I going to finish.  We have opted to take the unofficial route to get to Romansfontein today. We will have a time penalty tomorrow but we just needed to get to an official support station to try and recover.

After spending last night out in the cold with very little sleep, we were unable to make logical decisions. Another one of our group has withdrawn from the race after last night.

After some strategy planning later we will decide on the way forward.

Note from Aileen – to anyone following this blog please feel free to send messages to Doug.  All strong positive thoughts are needed.  If you are not signed in to this blog then email me on and I will post them on the blog.


Fi and her smoked oysters – she was really looking forward to these.  She also needs lots of positive thoughts please.

Day 9 – Tues 23 June – extreme to the extreme!

What a day. We had a late start at 9:00 due to Fi's time penalty. We headed out into 60kph wind with rain and extremely muddy roads and 1 degree C. At times we had to push the bike down district roads because of the wind.  We were hoping to get to Brostalea but 20 km before we hit a storm of mammoth proportions and had to find shelter. We found an abandoned farm an stayed in the shed. Later we found a small room with a carpet where we slept. The temp was extremely cold. We hardly slept at all At 8:00 the owner from Bordtslea came to look for us. He took us back home and fed us some breakfast.

This was the most extreme day of my life.

Note from Aileen – there was no cell phone contact so I had no contact with Doug from yesterday morning.  We spoke today (wed) and as usual he has bounced back to his normal levels of resilience and humour.  Respect to you my great husband – you are an inspiration x

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 8, Mon 22 June – hard days in the saddle

Today we left Slaapkrantz at 6:45 to have some light to do the

portage. It was a 24km technical portage, but because it had been

raining all night it was very muddy. We couldn't push our bikes

because the mud stuck to the wheels and they wouldn't turn. We had to

scrape them clean an carry the bikes on our backs. This took us 5

hours to complete. After this we were on farm roads and ran into 2

thunderstorms with hail.

I stopped at Moordenaarspoort for some coffee and to try and warm up.

Three of is then left for Vaalbank 40km away and arrived at 22:15. The

last part of the ride this evening was the best riding of the day - no


Fiona has a 2hour time penalty tomorrow so we can only leave at 9:00

which will change our plans slightly.

Note from Aileen – I spoke to Doug this morning – there is a 60km wind blowing with a 1 degree max temperature expected.  It is likely to be a slow day and they may not get as far as their plan. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Follow Doug in Netstar

The following is a link to follow Doug.  It is also in the side bar of his blog.

Day 7 Sunday 21 June

Left Rhodes at 5:45 this morning in the rain. It was really cold as well in the morning. I rode the entire morning on my own which was fantastic. We had lunch at Chesneywold. The owners were fantastic hosts gave us a huge meal. We then had to go an see his pub where he has a collection of 1400 caps. They tried to get us to spend the afternoon but we managed to extract ourselves after 30 min.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly fast riding except for a 1 hour portage. We are staying on the farm Slaapkrantz this evening.

Fantastic hospitality again. These farmers know how to entertain.

Thanks to my fantastic wife, kayla and Michael for the fathers day wishes and cards, it was very special.

Mark Fussell has withdrawn from the race due to a foot injury.

Note from Aileen – spoke to Doug last night and he really loving this adventure.  Kayla also spoke to her Daddy and gave kisses and hugs to the phone.  She is missing him – we both are.

More from Doug on Day 6 -

Had a leadirly start at 7:00 from Vuvu. The climb up Lehana pass took

about 3:30 hours of hiking with bike over the backpack. It is really

slow going climbing 1000m over 4 km. The view from the top was

breathtaking however the wind was gusting so hard that at times that

it blew us backwards.

We then stopped at Tinahead Lodge for some coffee before doing the

last 30km into Rhodes. There is a spectacular 1200m decent through

some very gnarley switchbacks.

We have just had a fairwell supper for the Ride to Rhodes riders that

are leaving us. Tomorrow is a 6:00 start to Slaapkrantz

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rhodes – day 6 Sat 20 june

Doug and Fi made it into Rhodes about 14:30 yesterday.  They received the parcel with the spares in it and Doug felt like he had a new bike.  They said their goodbyes to the RTR (ride to rhodes) folk as they finished yesterday.  They got in just before the cold weather – but is will get them on the next part of the journey.

Day 5

Subject: Day 5

Left Malekhaonyane at 5:30 this morning to do the newly opened route.

Found the narrotive was wrong ( turn right in stead of right) a whole group of riders went the wrong way. We fortunatly went the right way.

The route to Black Fountain was perfect and we were the first to arrive. Had lunch at Tinana Mission. Then headed out for the dreaded Vuvu valley. After spending many hours last year scrambling on the low grass lands we opted for a higher option. This proved to be a brilliant option as we got on first at 17:00 today.

Tonight we are hosted by the locals in Vuvu. After dinner at the school we will spend the night at their homes.

The attached pic shows the absence of the razor


(note from wife – having some computer problems so only found this post today)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Doug and Fi at Malekhalonyane – june 18 Thur

Doug and Fi got in about 5ish.  The tyre and breaks were fixed and Aileen has sent down more spares via courier to get to Rhodes for Saturday morning.  Some treats were packed in the courier package.  Fi is still struggling with her knee.

Having lunch somewhere around Springkana

image Doug called – having a good day.  This pic was taken today while having lunch is a huge grass plain.  Some angel arrived this morning with spares to fix his brakes and tyre.  They seemed to do a good job but another angel somehow needs to find a way to get his brake bleeding kit and tyre to Rhodes in less than 48 hours.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lunch at Banchory 17 June


Day 3 Masekala June 17

Doug and Fiona had a fabulous day - one which had flawless navigation. They are at Masekala for the night and got in at about 18:30 or so. Fi is still battling with her knee and Doug with his dodgey tyre. Doug also has no front brakes - eek!! They are both in high spirits and enjoying themselves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 2 16th June

Doug and Fi decided to stay at Ntsikeni for tonight.  Fi is having some knee issues and it is a long way to go.  Doug is having some problems with one of his tyres.  The wife is really hoping they get the tracking gear in order soon!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 1 - 15 June

Fi and Doug have reached Donnybrook after 128kms in the saddle and 13 hours. Doug fixed a gash in his tyre and was pleased he had bought the new wheels.  His words of wisdom for the day are “my pack is too f….!!##ng heavy”.  Note from the wife and friend – you go you good things!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fi is being a guinea pig

Wife is testing out the system. Blog posted by iPhone and edit by wife becoming a gadget geek

The Real Hero's

The preparation for this race has been intense to say the least. I have a full time job so the majority of my training has been over the weekends. My fantastic family have been the ones who have paid the price, especially the past two months have consisted of a long 8 – 9 hour ride on both Saturday and Sunday. Most evenings over the past weeks have consisted of preparing maps and getting boxes and equipment sorted out.

There has also been a substantial cash investment in getting the right equipment for the ride, replacing broken derailleurs and saddles, x-rays etc.

I would like to thank Aileen, Kayla and Michael for their support and love during this time.

This blog post is from my phone as a test to see how blogging along the route will work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Bike

So I have been getting a lot of questions about the bike that I am going to be using for the race. Well it is a 2007 Specialized Stumpjumper with a couple of modifications. The first thing I did was put a SRAM X-0 derailleur, after my last bike the most important aspect was to have reliable gear shifting. I have also replaced the SRAM X-9 trigger shifters with SRAM X-0 grip shifters.Last year on the Ride to Rhodes I had numerous problems with mud in the trigger shifters and not being able to change gears. Similarly in the Sabie Experience in December, with all the rain and mud on the 3rd day, I rode as a single speed for a lot of the time. So we shall see what the grip shifters do this year.

I have also replaced the saddle with a Selle Italia Yutaak. When you are spending so many hours on the saddle, you have to have something that is comfortable (OK that's a relative term). It looks quite 'porno' but is a fantastic 'ride'.

In preparation for the ride I have just replaces the crank, chain rings, bottom bracket, chain and cassette. I wanted to buy new chain rings from the LBS (local bike shop) but found it was cheaper to buy the full cranks with chain rings from Chain Reaction Cycles in the UK than just the chain rings locally. They also included a new bottom bracket in the kit. I replaced the cranks with Truvativ Stylo (as per the original that came with the bike). I was really happy with them.

I have just bought a new set of wheels, which should arrive tomorrow. They are Mavic Crosstrail tubeless wheels. Those in the know say that the wheel can make the biggest improvement on a bike, all to do with rotational mass. For me one of the biggest attractions is having a tubeless ready wheel and without the hasstle of fightting with rim strips and tubeless tyres that you can't easily fit over a standard rim.

Lights are another area of concern. I battle to see in the dark, never mind trying to ride down technical single track in the dark. The solution I have come up with is to put two high powered LED lights on the bike. The best value for money was the Black Diamond Icon lights. After removing the headbands I cable-tied them to the handle bars and secured the battery pack to the bike frame. This seems to work fairly well. Nothing like Derek's 'landing light' but a fraction of the cost. I have also put a small Petzl Tikka headlight on my helmet for reading maps at night.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Only 52 Litres

There has been a lot of hurried preparation over the last few nights. Our 26 2 litre boxes are being shipped down to Cape Town today, for distribution along the route. These boxes contain everything we might need other than the meals we are given. Everything else has to be carried in our backpack's.

My major concern was preparing the maps. I have managed to cut the total number down to 52 maps including the narrative. Each map has the relevant narrative stuck on the map in the appropriate place, and also smaller inserts of 1:50 000 maps stuck onto the main 1:150 000 map, where there is a section that requires more detail. I have also cross referenced each point on the narrative back to the map for quick identification. Once this exercise was complete I folded the A3 map back-to-back and laminated it in plastic to waterproof it. These all had to be ready to be packed into boxes as well.

Aileen helped me by filling the boxes with all kinds of interesting luxuries. My Mom and Dad also packed some boxed with surprises. I had the task of trying to estimate where along the route we will need batteries, brake pads, chains, bike lube, bum lube, spare socks and a few spare shirts (to try and reduce the smell) and of course the correct maps in the correct boxes. I also packed bags of Hammer Perpetium (Energy Drink) and a recovery drink for each stop.

I see all the boxes also have a message written on the inside lids. I'm sure these messages will be an inspiration to me along the route. Some of the goodies that I saw that had been packed in the boxes for me include: chocolate, nuts, biltong, fruit bars, energy bars, tinned fruit with custard, condensed milk, Jack Daniels (only small 50 ml bottles), etc. Cant wait to get started so I can get to the boxes.

It is amazing how much you can squeeze into 52 litres.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The training continues...

This weekend we got some decent training under our belts. Saturday we headed out to the 'Ruins' and practiced some portaging up the mountain with bikes slung over our backs. This upper body fitness certainly helps to make the long portages easier. Last year on the Ride to Rhodes, I checked the difference in heart rate between pushing the bike over very rocky terrain or carrying it over the back. There is a substantial decrease in heart rate carrying the bike. It is going to be interesting to see how the Nutty Professor is going to manage portaging the 'Starship Enterprise' (his tandem). After this portage Fiona found a fantastic cheese shop with a coffee shop attached where they serve light snacks. I had a Russian and chips which went down sooo well.

This ride ended up being just over 80km. On Sunday we went out with Anton from Summit Cycles to Irene. We decided to leave from home at 05:30 to test our bike lights as well as our backpacks. Fortunately it want too cold this morning, in the region of 7 degrees. I have been experimenting with various lighting options, but they still need some fine tuning. I have 2 x Black Diamond Icon lights which are mounted on the bike. The battery packs are separate so they are strapped to the frame, but the lights were mounted to handle bars but there wasn't enough space. Derek suggested I mounts them to the headset, which I did, only to find the don't turn with the handle bars, but with the frame. I am still trying to get used to this.

We ended up doing a fairly quick 110 km ride on Sunday morning. This is almost a total of 200km riding this weekend. I feel that the fitness levels are OK for the ride. I am now busy with the maps and the logistics of packing my boxes. More about this in another posting.

(Karate Kid) The long hours of riding certainly take their toll on your sanity at times.

Stopping at the local general dealer for some refreshments.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

All this so close to home!

We have spent the last few weeks doing fairly intensive training. As part of the acclimatisation I have been carrying the kit I need to the Freedom Challenge. This includes my camera. As far a possible I have been taking pic's, but it is only now that I have downloaded them I get a full appreciation of the stunning rides around Johannesburg. Below are some examples:


Bridle Trail

Braamfontein Spruit


Hartebeespoort Dam

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Believe I can Fly

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly

For this of you who have been following 'Liewe Hexies' blog, will know this story already, but here is my interpretation. Last Saturday we a group of us went out to do the Magaliesburg ride again. It starts off with a slog up he Krugersdorp hill and then off into the veld for some fantastic single track. There is a very technical 'gnarley' downhill section that takes a lot of concentration. Anyway about 50m before this downhill section it rode through a small tuft of grass only to find myself air born a split second later. Now flying isn't the problem, its the landing that is the problem. Well I somehow landed on my hand (as well as other parts of my body). The pain was intense, but after a few minutes I managed to continue virtually one handed. When we got back to the main road I opted to end the ride and go back. Liewe Hexie came back with me and I had it x-rayed, but fortunately nothing was broken. For the next few days I had a very blue hand and wrist.

This week has been very hectic, as I have had some guys out from the UK for business, but we managed to have our 'bike club' meeting on Monday evening. At one stage we were all standing out in the dark with our various tourches checking who's was the brightest. Well Gadget Boy won hands down with his 960 lumen tourch. That Exposure MaXx-D is amazing.

I need to do some serious training the weekend. Only 4 weekends of training left...

Hopefully I will be able to include some decent pics on the next posting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time is running out

Sorry for the long gap in publishing this post. It has been a combination of lots of public holidays in the past few weeks and then catching up on some work.

The time is getting short and now the panic is starting to set in. Not so much from the physical fitness side, but from all the other preparation that needs to be done. Getting 26 two litre ice cream boxes sorted out so they can be delivered to the support stations. What do I put into them? This is a list of some of the items I have thought of so far (in no particular order):

  • Torch batteries (every 2nd box)
  • Chocolates (every box)
  • Biltong/nuts (every box)
  • Socks (every 6th box)
  • New Chain (about 2000km into the race)
  • Shirts (every 6th box)
  • Bum cream!!!
  • Shampoo
  • Razor (every 8th box)
  • Maps for the next day
  • New pair of legs???

Please send me comments if you have any other ideas.

So what's happened over the last few lone weekends from a training perspective? Well Fiona was away organising her Panorama Tour last weekend, so we had to use our memories and try and remember some of the routes (we did surprisingly well). We also went on some fantastic rides with Mike W to Magaliesberg. We managed a route of about 120km on Friday around this area. (I say about, as between the four of us no one had anything to measure speed or distance).

On Sunday Fiona and I decided to do a quick 90km rode ride into the Cradle. We were having a great ride, passing all the runners doing the Cradle Marathon, when going up a hill my derailleur got caught in the spokes and snapped off. Of course being 'road cyclists' none of us had a chain breaker to convert it into a single speed, so we did the next best roadie option and phoned Dave to come and fetch us.

We downloaded the 1:150 000 maps last week and I printed them out, 25 A3 maps. Now that is terrifying, 15m of maps with the entire course laid out end to end. There are also about 170 1:50 000 maps coming.

Now to start thinking what needs to get packed in my backpack and trying to keep it at a reasonable weight.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

...and then there were three... (almost)

This type of training makes you realise how difficult the race is going to be.

Last week on Saturday morning a group of 5 of us braved the cold to go on yet another long ride through the unspoilt beauty of Broederstroom and surrounding areas. All 5 of us are RASA entrants so we need to get miles under our belt.

We parked our cars at the Home of the Chicken Pie, and set off down a sand road that we have ridden many times before, and then hopped of onto some single track and continued at a fair pact down into the valley. At the bottom we noticed we were only four. Steve went back to see if he could find the missing member of the group (Steve has far too much energy so he offered to go). A few minutes later he returned and said the 5th member had decided to go back home...

So we continued further trying to find a new route onto the ridge that we had scouted last week. The ever alert Fiona spotted it from the back, and we slowly climbed up the ridge. The views from here are absolutely amazing. It is hard to believe that Johannesburg (the largest city in the world not built on a river or at the coast) is less than 20km behind us.

As we start off again we see a lone warthog running through the grass in front of us with its tail in the characteristic vertical position. A little further on we spotted some duiker in the more dense trees. This beats sitting in a car driving around a game park.

The rocks in this area are extremely sharp and have a habit of slashing tyres (and arms). Steve managed to get a gash in the sidewall of his tubeless tyre. Fortunately he managed to plug it which lasted for a while but kept on deflating. Steve had numerous 'pump' stops.

We'll head out on the same route as last week (now we know where the first path is) and when we get to the big gate, we will head to the right instead of the left. Wind our way to Harties Dam, head back to the Bridal Trail and return through the veggie farm and saddle again'...

These were the instruction from Fiona sent on an email describing the route. Well, that sounds very simple except which gate was Fiona referring to. In my mind it was very clear and it didn't require any further questioning, I could visualise in my mind the exact gate she was referring to. Well guess what we had different gates in mind. That is what makes the Freedom Challenge so challenging when you are trying to navigate from someone else's narrative. It is very clear in their mind what they are referring to but that does not always translate into how I interpret the text. Fortunately we didn't get lost, but it is an interesting reminder how we perceive things differently.

We then ended up cycling on the southern side of Hartebeesport Dam, going up a gentle climb up the side of the mountain. From here we had spectacular views of the dam as can be seen from the pic.

After a quick stop at the local Spar, for a calorie top-up, we headed back, leaving Steve behind, who opted to head directly back to the cars to get new tyres for the next day's riding.

The three remaining riders now head back thinking everything is all sorted and not much else could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ...... Derek broke one of the support rails that holds the saddle to the seat post. The seat, now minus a support rail was leaning at a 30 degree angle to the left. About 10km later Derek was in agony trying everything he could to make the ride more comfortable. Eventually he had to 'sit it out' and just finish the ride. I'm sure his rear end was not a pretty site by the end of that, put I wasn't volunteering to check it out for him.

I am sure there are a lot of lessons we can learn from ride like this which will make us mentally stronger for the real thing. So after this very eventful day we just managed to get 3 of us back together.