I’m not saying don’t do stage races. They offer a great experience and are normally highly rewarding to complete. All I’m saying is R2400 for three days of the most interesting, stimulating mountain biking is a very reasonable price to pay. And maybe replace a stage race sometime with one of these mountain biking experiences you can’t get anywhere else.
This is a conversation we have had a few times in the past year. Passing on the gospel of fresh mountain biking experiences to, well, those that seem to get into an annual mountain biking pattern based mainly around stage races.
We (the TREAD crew) have just returned from our second RockyFest. A three-day mountain biking experience at Afriski, a ski resort in Lesotho’s highest mountains that’s been transformed into a mountain biking paradise for eight months of the year when there’s no snow.
By Sean Badenhorst
Photos: Dino Lloyd
RockyFest, organised by Hullabaloo, the company that imports Rocky Mountain bikes, is an annual opportunity to travel to a different country, with your bike (any brand – they don’t discriminate), with your loved ones or friends (or both), stay in very comfortable accommodation, eat exceptionally good food and try Maluti beer, which is excellent and well priced.
I’ve now made reference to well priced a few times. That’s because one of the most incredible things about RockyFest is that it costs a lot less than most three-day stage races. Yep, R2400 gets you two dinners, two breakfasts and a lunch – top quality restaurant food to boot. It also gets you two nights accommodation in a chalet and access to all the mountain biking trails and the ski lift. And we each got a goodie bag that pretty much puts all goodie bags to shame.
If you’re intimidated by travelling to another country, don’t be. It’s Lesotho, not Zimbabwe. Yes, you need a valid passport. It takes five hours to drive there from Joburg and Pretoria and six hours from Durban. But you have to drive to most stage races too, right? Or fly and then drive…
Lesotho has many similarities to South Africa, but enough differences to remind you that you are in another country.
The Afriski resort doesn’t look that interesting when you arrive. It’s the lack of trees that does this. Because the resort is at over 3000 metres above sea level, trees can’t grow there. So it looks sparse and exposed. But once you’ve unpacked and begun to ride, you develop a relationship with Afriski that is difficult to describe. Actually that’s a cop out. It’s possible to describe, but lets be honest, you’re way more interested in the photos.
So I won’t waste any more time making you read this… Check out the pics! Remember them and make sure you don’t miss RockyFest 2018! For details of this and other mountain bike weekends at Afriski, visit www.afriski.net
DAY 1 (Facebook Gallery)
On Day 1 (Friday) a group of riders, including the TREAD crew, hit the ‘Lowlands Ride’. It starts at around 1700m above sea level, so is lowlands for Lesotho. It incorporated some of the best natural trails we’ve ever ridden. We climbed some big climbs but were rewarded with incredible descents. The kind of descents where you’re not sure what’s around the next turn and you have to choose your lines carefully to avoid losing your rhythm. The last hour or so we rode along the banks of the Khukhune River, crossing it several times.
DAY 2 (Facebook Gallery)
On Day 2 (Saturday), the weather was overcast and cool, but that didn’t stop us from tackling the slopes. There was a fairly large group that did the 4-hour Escarpment Ride too. But they’re all preparing for the upcoming Cape Epic. We held a TREAD skills clinic followed by repeats of the slope trails using the T-bar lift to maximum benefit (it takes you up 300 metres in about six minutes).
If you’re a confident, fit rider with a reasonable level of skill, the slope trails will simply blow you away. The are various descending are challenging, yet fun. There are moderate lines, challenging lines and ridiculous lines down the mountain. You get to choose.
We started on the moderate lines and then moved to the challenging lines, able to ride them with reasonable composure on a 100mm-travel marathon bike.
DAY 3 (Facebook Gallery)
On Day 3 (Sunday) we had sunshine. With a 13h00 departure back to Joburg, we didn’t waste any time. After a second TREAD Skills Clinic, we hit the ski lift and slopes, this time repeating the steeper, more gnarly lines and getting in some cool photos with Dino Lloyd in the process. To be able to ride descending trails repeatedly does wonders for your confidence. You aren’t fatigued from a long climb so you can focus on the details of being smooth and holding a good rhythm. It’s one of the things that makes Afriski truly unique in Southern Africa and something that every mountain biker should treat themselves to – at least once.
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