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.
HANCO KACHELHOFFER, Elite category, raced road for 16 years
What attracted you to mountain biking? I always had a MTB growing up, I loved doing trails, hopping on my back wheel and having fun. I raced all over the world on my road bike, I had great opportunities, but the fun aspect attracted me earlier this year while doing the Old Mutual joBerg2c. It was awesome being on trails I never knew existed, but also challenging at the same time. I love a challenge, and the bug bit me!
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? I believe if the engine is there, it’s about learning the skills of trade. MTB and road have one thing in common, you pedal. The rest of it is all different. From the torque you use to pedal, to your weight when cornering, almost everything is different. The toughest part is that its a very unforgiving sport, everyone is exposed, there is no place to hide in a bunch.
How have you coped with/managed this? I have managed to do a lot of racing in a short period of time thanks to EAI South Africa. This has helped me make the transition quicker. Experience is more valuable that any book you can ever read. I also changed my training, and do more focused work that MTB demands in certain areas.
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has to be getting mechanicals in races, from fixing punctures to breaking wheels etc. You learn to ride ‘light’ over rocks, trying to not get flat wheels and breaking stuff. For the short period I rode with Max Knox, one piece of advice has really stuck with me was: “don’t try to be fast, try to be smooth”.
What bike do you currently ride? I ride a Specialized S-Works Epic 29’er with Roval Carbon Wheels, Sram XX1 Groupset, XTR Brakes and every other bit carbon.
One a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? I rate my skills good enough to ride with the top pro’s in SA on a Ultra Marathon course. But I don’t have much experience on a XC track. Would have to give myself a 7/10
Do you have plans to change this? I will get better the more I ride, I learn new ways to be fast and ride jumps etc every week, and will keep working at this over the next few years.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? My favorite race has to be the Joberg2C. From the absolutely fast trails and breath taking scenery, to the race village every night. It’s an unbelievable experience, and one I would one day love to win.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over? Train hard, expect to be surprised by the level, its more than just pedaling, you also run! Get the right bike and start rather sooner than later, you’re missing out!
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