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.
DARREN LILL, Elite category, road racer for 10 years.
What attracted you to mountain biking? The interaction with people from all walks of life at Joberg2C in 2011, as well as mountain biking providing a fresh new challenge all round.
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? Technicals/sliced tyres/punctures costing me races.
How have you managed this? I’ve just kept plugging away, ha ha!
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you? Fortunately I’m sponsored, so it hasn’t really been a challenge. I get to try out a lot of things and figure out what works for me. One of the biggest factors in MTB is tyre choice and what pressure you’re running.
What bike do you currently ride? I have two Cannondales, a Hardtail (Flash Ultimate) and a Dual Suss (Scalpel Ultimate), both are 29ers. The Flash is specced with SRAM XX and the Scalpel with Shimano XTR. Both bikes have had their stock ENVE carbon wheels replaced with Easton EC90XC wheels, which are fantastic.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? After riding with and in comparison to the likes of Nino Schurter and Manny Fumic, I would say around seven.
Do you have plans to change this? I try ride technical in training with guys who are better than me. I say “better” rather than “faster” because some guys are fast, but they aren’t smooth. There’s a big difference. If I’m training on my own, I try focus on being smooth.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? Tough call, because so many have been fantastic. I would have to say Joberg2C 2011, which was my first real MTB race. There were less teams in 2011 than there are now and it was a really nice sized event. I enjoyed meeting so many great people and the whole race felt like I was on an adventure.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over? Take the plunge, get dirty and see if you have what it takes!
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