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.
WAYLON WOOLCOCK, Elite category racer, road racer for 14 years
What attracted you to mountain biking? A new challenge to start with. Mountain biking suited my strengths as a rider better than road did, in this country anyway.
What has been the toughest part of making the transition? Cross-training – on the road one could get away with the lack of cross-training, but mountain biking quickly brings out one’s weaknesses.
How have you managed this? As a road rider I lacked badly, getting a coach to help me add the correct cross-training to my training program and at the correct times too.
From a bike and gear perspective, what has been the biggest challenge for you? I never really had to many serious issues from that perspective. I felt right at home on the MTB. When I began I got good advice from fellow MTBers first time round, which helped a lot.
What bike do you currently ride? I’m riding a medium Trek Superfly 100 29er which is a dual suss bike. It’s specced with full SRAM XX group set, top of the range Bontrager RXL wheel set and Bontrager 29-1 or 29-2 tire models.
One a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), where do your rate your MTB handling skills? I feel I can better myself a lot. So I’ll give myself a 6.
Do you have plans to change this? I relocated a year ago to Stellenbosch from Johannesburg in search of better training grounds. Training here has done loads for my skills already.
Which has been your favourite MTB race so far? Old Mutual joBerg2c – it’s a special race for me. It was my first major stage race win with my partner at the time. It was also our first real debut into mountain biking.
What one piece of advice can you give to roadies thinking of crossing over? Think carefully before doing it. It’s not as simple as getting on a MTB and riding, but if you do and get the hang of it you wont look back.
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