There are many, many rules in golf. Not just while playing, but off the course too. And even corporate golf days can’t escape these rules, which are sternly upheld by the course management and stoic club members. But enter a corporate mountain bike event and you’ll see just why mountain biking is the new golf. – Sean Badenhorst
It’s the suffering that does it. When you endure some kind of suffering, hardship or even survival, with someone else, you develop a bond with that person that’s stronger and more permanent than any bond you’d build with someone who you’re trying to beat in a game.
And that’s what corporate mountain bike events are all about. Four riders, one mission – finish the race together and with as few injuries as possible – preferably none. Speed is not essential, but skill is. Crashing is part of mountain biking; it’s what brings in the fear factor, the adrenaline pump that puts mountain biking in the extreme sports category…
Okay, the corporate challenge routes are relatively tame and wouldn’t qualify as extreme, but when you’re new to mountain biking, thick sand, rocky descents, deep ruts and exposed roots in dry and dusty conditions, or sometimes mud and rain, can seem pretty extreme. It’s certainly challenging; a bit like a bunker on a golf course, but way more of a threat to health and wellness. One mistake on the golf course and you add a shot or two to your scorecard, one mistake in the mountain bike event and you can clear your medical aid savings gap in one go!
Just as there’s a usually a fourball in golf, there’s a four-rider team in corporate mountain biking. You start together and you finish together. If one rider cannot complete the event for any reason, the team doesn’t get an official placing or time, adding a Musketeer-like all-for-one, one-for-all edge to the event. See, there’s that bond-building element again.
“There’s a saying one of my clients gave me about building relationships with clients: when it comes to golf, you play together. When it comes to mountain biking, you ‘kak’ together, and this builds stronger bonds,” says Rob Jackson of The Leverage Corporation, the company that organises the Samsung Business Corporate MTB Challenge.
You don’t need to be fit or even 100% healthy to complete a round of golf. Heck, some even use a golf cart…. A 40-kay mountain bike ride on the other hand is quite a different challenge. In the 21st Century, where wellness is encouraged and rewarded by medical aid schemes, smoking is being increasingly marginalized and stress reduction awareness is at an all-time high, mountain biking ticks a lot more boxes than golf. And at a corporate event even more so.
“I use the same idea as a golf day – you can pay your R3500 and go and have a golf day on your own or you can pay the same and have your whole family join in the fun with their bicycles,” says Jackson.
An entry fee of R3500 may initially seem a bit steep for four riders, but when you consider that covers everything for the whole day (the race itself and drinks, food and entertainment for the whole family), it’s not that bad. And if your company pays it from an entertainment or team-building budget, it really doesn’t seem that much at all.
Mountain biking has become the ultimate family activity. At a regular event, you’ll find at least three, sometimes four distances on offer, making it possible for every member of the family to participate. At a corporate mountain bike event, there’s always a kiddies race and extensive family entertainment for non-riding family members. It’s just not possible to replicate this with golf. Some prefer it that way – spending a few hours away from the family can, after all, be a good thing for all; but not too often.
“We did an in-depth study into our target market for Samsung Business in 2010 and discovered that a lot of our market, namely champions of industry, are either already involved in or getting into mountain biking. In fact, I was one of those, so could see it myself,” says Piers Proctor, Samsung Business Development Manager.
“We wanted to engage them through something they’re passionate about, namely mountain biking, but subtly and in a social environment that includes their family and friends and colleagues or business associates. Like golf, mountain biking requires time and time is precious. But if you can include your family, as you can at our Samsung Business Corporate Series events, it makes it so much more worthwhile,” adds Proctor.
While golf courses can be found within urban areas – in abundance – mountain biking venues are mostly in the country and require some travel. As a result, corporate mountain bike events need to make the trip worthwhile. The Leverage Corporation puts on a full range of activities and entertainment for riders and supporters, including a three-course lunch, numerous children’s activities, live music, post-race massages and more. This is all included in the team’s entry fee.
Teams can be made up any four riders, but are usually employees from the same company, or a combination of a company’s employees and their mountain bike-riding clients or suppliers.
Every second bloke – and woman – you come across these days has a mountain bike. A decent bike costs a lot more than a set of golf clubs. But while the latter promises hours and hours of frustration, the former promises hours and hours of freedom.
When we first learn to ride a bicycle as a kid, it’s our first real taste of freedom. That feeling of freedom never really fades, we just become less aware of it as we grow older. But when you feel the warm sun on your back as you breathe in lungfuls of fresh country air while pedalling along steadily with your buddies, you rediscover a piece of your childhood and it feels so damn good. You don’t want it to end; and when it does, you’re already planning how to get back there. You just don’t get that on a golf course.
To be completely fair though, golf does offer its own unique moments of joy and satisfaction. An easy swing, followed by a sweet-spot strike tee-shot; a perfect chip shot, a third successive birdie; outdoors with likeminded friends or playing partners… But when you really look at golf, you see just how selfish it is. And selfish isn’t an awful thing, but it a lot of selfish is. And then there are all those rules…
|Cardio||Muscle||Mental stimulation||Adrenaline rush||Competitiveness||Camaraderie||Family||TOTAL|
Originally published in TREAD Issue 14, Sept 2011 – All rights reserved