Monday, 10 April 2006
S.A. Extreme Sport How To's: Downhill Mountain Biking
By Jacques Marais
Mountainbiking, in its many shapes and forms, must rate as one of the most accessible activities in the world of extreme sport. Whether you opt for a punishing endurance ride, an adrenaline-fuelled, duel-eliminator race or a hard core downhill run, saddling up your bike is sure to get the endorphins flowing.
Various MTB events are presented around the country under the auspices of the PPA (Pedal Power Association), MTB-SA and a growing number of private adventure organisers. Problem is, if you’re keen on plugging into gravity on a classic ride, you first need to put in the work to get to the top of the mountain. Don’t let this put you off though, as the SA MTB calendar is filled with challenging rides that deliver dollops of after-action satisfaction.
Many of these events incorporate either downhill components, or have a separate downhill course where the DH dogs can run amok. Swartberg’s Hell & Back, Giants Castle Challenge in KZN, Rhodes MTB Challenge in the northern Eastern Cape and the Montagu MTB Classic in the Western Cape are all top-rated cross-country rides.
If however you want a taste of true downhill, rock up at one of the many MTB festivals where the DH crowd gather to test their mettle. Dirtopia, near Greyton, and the Ceres MTB Festival draw the Cape crowds, while the fat track tribe from up north head for Sabie in Mpumalanga.
You don’t need an organised event to do your DH thing, although it is a lot more fun with your buddies in the mix. All you need is scout the area around your town or city for a suitable spot, invest in the right gear and let gravity take its course.
A good downhill frame (think a Mountain Cycle Shockwave 9point5 – from R12 500) with kick-ass rear suspension and long-travel front forks is great if you’ve got bucks, but you could get away for half the price. Good components and the prerequisite safety gear (Azonic does sliders, chest protectors, gloves, elbow guards and the likes) plus a hard core helmet is a must.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the contact details below or saunter into your local bike shop - the guys here are a friendly bunch and will gladly share their riding secrets.
Bike and Gear Sales (Gauteng & Cape): Everything you and your bike need - www.cyclelab.com
DH Bike and Gear Sales (W/Cape): brilliant stuff from the bike asylum gang - www.bikehut.co.za
Bicycling Magazine: The best bicycle-related magazine in SA - www.bicycling.co.za
Pedal Power Association: Western Cape-based organisation controlling cycling - www.pedalpower.org.za
Trails Resource: Web site offering info on MTB trails country-wide - www.mtbroutes.co.za