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.
CHERISE STANDER, Elite category, raced road for 10 years
What attracted you to mountain biking? Burry! I loved riding with him and he motivated me to do some training with him on the MTB. I started really enjoying the vibe at the events, and the scenery on the MTB was incredible.
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? The fact that a lot of the time, my previous team didn’t allow me to participate in all the MTB events. Being off the MTB for long periods of time really made it hard to get comfortable on the bike, both from a set-up and skills point of view.
How have you managed this? I’m no longer with that team. I now have my own racing schedule. My technical skills are still my weakest point, so I’m just trying to spend as much time as possible on the mountain bike to improve them.
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
Knowing how all the different parts work. On a road bike, it’s pretty simple but there are so many parts on the MTB that I never knew before. Even something as simple as how much air to put in the tyres is so important. Learning how to change a tyre – on the road you have a back-up car that hands a spare wheel to you. On the MTB you need to do this all by yourself and if you can’t fix a puncture, it can end up costing your race. So it’s important to learn how all the parts work and, if you get a mechanical, how to fix it. I’m still not 100% clued up in this department, but I’m learning.
What bike do you currently ride? A 29’er Specialized S-Works Epic dual-suspension with Roval carbon wheels and SRAM XX1 groupset.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? Six. I am still very nervous on the MTB. I struggle with the simple stuff like lifting up my front wheel over an obstacle.
Do you have plans to change this? I will be doing a TREAD Skills Clinic with Sean Badenhorst. Also just spending time riding with people more experienced than I am and trying it, even if you end up walking a technical section. You just have to at least try it otherwise you will never know if you can ride it.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? Joberg2c. I loved the more relaxed vibe and hospitality of all the staff working there. The food was incredible and every person that I met was friendly and had a smile on their face. The route was also spectacular and had some really testing parts.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over? Start off enjoying the vibe and nature. On the road scene you get a kind of seriousness about you and always want to race. In MTB, it’s all about self-control, you need to flow in the singletrack and rest when you have the chance, you can’t always push your self to the limit. Start off doing easier trails!
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