South African mountain biking has grown remarkably in the past decade, but in the past couple of years there’s been an increasing number of road cyclists making the switch. It’s obviously grown the numbers but it’s also seen the racing at the front of the various categories become more competitive. Mountain biking has become a new lease on bicycle riding and racing for many who have become tired of the same old routine (the road racing calendar hasn’t changed much in over a decade); or who are scared of the high risk of collision with motorists on the roads. If you’ve just switched, or are considering it, welcome!
WHAT TO EXPECT
There’s a sub-cultural shift that’s required when converting from road to mountain biking. For some, it’s quite rapid and seamless; for others, it’s an awkward adjustment that can take ages. Instead of us telling you what to expect, we asked nine high-profile converts some questions about their experience when making the switch.
BRUCE DIESEL, Veteran category, raced road for 5 years
What attracted you to mountain biking? I was asked if I would get involved in coaching a MTB team, so decided I had better learn more about the sport and it’s demands. I grew up riding a BMX bike, so the idea of MTB appealed.
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? Initially it was the race starts, particularly in the short races, where position into singletrack is important. Later though, skills have become the biggest area that I needed to improve.
How have you managed this? Getting used to the intensity of the starts came with racing and training. I have developed workouts to replicate this. From a skills perspective, I started racing XC (Cross Country) to improve my skills. The important thing though, is to know what you should be doing, then practicing correct technique. No point in practising the wrong way to do things. So I talk to good riders and read plenty of info.
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has been getting an understanding of suspension setup and tyre pressures. They can make such a big difference to how the bike handles, but there seems to be very little true understanding of it.
What bike do you currently ride? Trek Superfly 100, 2013 full suspension 29er
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? Five
Do you have plans to change this? Absolutely. Seek guidance from good riders and read more info. Then practice good technique. There is no point in just practising without understanding what you should be doing. All you are doing is ingraining bad technique. Change in technique takes time to become a natural movement instead of a conscious decision.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? I have enjoyed stage races immensely, such as Cape Epic, Cape Pioneer and Sani2C. I have had wins or podiums in all of them, so they clearly suit me. But XC racing is rapidly becoming a favourite now, because it is a good combination of skill and power.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over? Don’t let the initial few races discourage you. I have never been as exhausted as I was at the end of my first Crater Cruise (which is supposed to be a good race for roadies). The last 20km of that race I thought I was never going to finish. But the body adapts to the different demands quite quickly, and then the fun of the racing kicks in.
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