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.
JOHANN RABIE, Elite category, raced road for 10 years
What attracted you to mountain biking? The amount of races and stage races throughout the year, as well as the racing itself. If you are a strong rider, you will get good results, whereas in road racing, there’s lots of space to hide.
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? MTB has so much more technical aspects than road, equipment wise as well as skills on the bike.
How have you managed this? By asking lots of questions! I think the guys at Evo Bikes must be tired of them all ready! Ha ha. And a few close calls around the bends, by testing myself!
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you? Just choosing all the right equipment, tyres, wheels etc… There are so many light items out there but you also need something that will last the race. For example with tyres, I use Schwalbe’s Snakeskin version. They are a bit heavier, but you know you’re not gonna be stranded on the side of the road with a sidewall cut.
What bike do you currently ride? A 29er Giant XTC SL hardtail with SRAM XX1 groupset, FRM bar, stem, seatpost and wheels.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? For fast, flowing trails I would say about a seven, but for rocky stuff about a five. I think it has a lot to do with confidence in trusting your speed through corners and over jumps. Also the balance is a tricky one over the rocks!
Do you have plans to change this? By riding stuff I struggle with, as well as riding with more experienced MTB riders. It’s so much easier and quicker to learn from them.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? I liked the Knysna Oyster Festival route, but the Nissan Trailseeker Diamond Rush was my first win on a MTB, so that is also special.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over?
Do it! It’s not for everyone but I enjoy it a lot. I still enjoy my road riding as well, but MTB was like starting to ride all over again. So many new roads and lots of excitement.
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