Fear is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Those that are filled with fear will avoid risk. Unfortunately, they’ll also never know their limits and will never understand the incredible satisfaction and personal growth that comes with conquering your fear and achieving what you once thought was impossible. It’s the same with jumping a mountain bike…
By Sean Badenhorst
When we started with Mind the Gap as a project, the goal was to follow the progress of my son, Cade in his quest to go from a good jumper to a great jumper. The formidable looking nine-metre-wide road gap at the end of the flow line at Grootfontein was the goal. And still is…
The objective was to follow his progression through a series of lessons with Barry Crouse, a very good jump instructor based in Pretoria, and document these. I too would learn to jump better in the process because Cade is 15 and can’t drive himself anywhere yet…
Cade’s confidence has improved recently – he’s now doing some basic tricks while in the air on his Specialized Stumpjumper
It’s almost a year since we started with Mind the Gap. The intention was for it to take a maximum of six months to achieve the goal jump at Grootfontein. But this Covid-19 virus – and the government’s reaction to it – has no respect for time and we have bobbed and weaved our way around it to get to Part 5.
In that time, Cade has matured immensely – physically (he’s my height now), mentally and emotionally. He’s also become really comfortable with jumping. We live more than an hour’s drive from Grootfontein, so trips there require some planning and are infrequent. But we live about 15 minutes from a jump spot in Bryanston called the Scout Hall Dirt Jumps and Cade is there with his Specialized Stumpjumper almost every Friday.
Cade’s early jump sessions were also at the Scout Hall Dirt Jumps, with a plank to allay the fear of the gap…
Neil Evans was actually Cade’s first jump coach. Neil is older than me (mid-50s), but looks like he’s in his 30s! He’s a multiple winner of the Dusi Canoe Marathon (in the 1990s) and in the past couple of decades he’s become passionate about mountain biking.
Neil is also the guy that used to be known as The Spruit Fairy, a guy that ‘anonymously’ built and maintained trails along the Braamfontein Spruit greenbelt in Johannesburg for years. Now that this recreational trail has become more formalised, he focusses his time on fine-tuning the fun sections which have jumps and berms along The Spruit, which have become the informal educational facilities for a generation of highly skilled young Joburg boys.
The Scout Hall Dirt Jumps are not entry-level jumps. They’re mostly gap jumps with steep lips to deliver some decent height. Neil takes large planks along from time to time to close the gaps on the first two jumps to allow youngsters a feeling of safety as they embark on their journey to be fearless humans.
Cade began there almost two years ago with the planks under guidance from Neil and progressed to doing the first two gap jumps without planks before we started the Mind-the-Gap Project. Since then, Neil has created a lot more jump line options. It’s now a very established dirt jump venue that can attract up to 30 or more boys (and men) on a Friday afternoon. I’ll write more about this venue soon.
We took this pic of Cade at the Grootfontein road gap in September 2020, the day we decided that would be his goal.
Cade’s jumping confidence and progression has been forged largely at the Scout Hall Dirt Jumps and as we prepare to wrap up the Mind the Gap Project with him clearing the road gap at Grootfontein in Part 6, I can confirm that he’s ready, largely thanks to his progression sessions here.
Once he’d become comfortable with jumping various gap jumps at the Scout Hall, Cade started to teach himself a couple of jump tricks. The first was a T-Bog, which is where you grab your saddle with one hand and turn the handlebar with the other hand. While in the air. Obviously.
Once he’d mastered the T-Bog, he started to teach himself the Suicide No-Hander, which youngsters have shortened to ‘Su-wee’, which is easier to say and doesn’t instil fear into their parents when it comes up in casual discussion. This is where you take both hands off the bars and clap them behind your back. While in the air. Obviously.
You don’t get to this level of jumping ability with fear. And you don’t do these tricks without a high level of confidence. When we first rode the Grootfontein flowline around August 2020, Cade and I skidded to a dusty halt at the bottom, avoiding the road gap.
“Would you give it try?” I asked him.
“No, it’s too scary,” he replied.
Fear, it’s natural. You can let fear control you or you take control over fear. For the past 11 months Cade has been taking control over fear and says he’s definitely ready to tackle the goal he set out to tackle almost a year ago. So now, all we need to do is find a low-wind day, charge the GoPros and meet Jump Coach Barry at Grootfontein for the finale…
If you missed the previous editions of Mind-the-Gap and want to catch up on the progression, you can find them here:
Follow Cade’s Mind the Gap progress on Instagram: @cade_bad_rides