Since the actual goal is for Cade to clear the big road gap at the end of the Grootfontein Flowline, we headed there to meet Barry Crouse, the guy that’s offered to help Cade (and I) to improve our jumping. It turned out to be an unexpectedly key session.
By Sean Badenhorst
I was in between test bikes so Barry, who works for Pyga, brought along a Pyga Hyrax Demo/Prototype bike for me to ride. Shew. Quite a bike! All the bikes I’d ridden at Grootfontein were marathon or light trail bikes. But this Hyrax, with 130mm of rear and 140mm of front travel, was a little more playful than any I’d ridden here.
I found some superb jumping confidence on the Pyga Hyrax that day.
After three months, Cade was now very settled on his Specialized Stumpjumper Expert with 140mm of travel at the rear and a Fox 36 150mm-travel fork up front. It’s a size Small, which is perfect for him currently (he’s 162cm tall).
We spent the whole session riding only the Flowline. It’s 800 metres long and quite wide. If you’re not familiar with the term Flowline, it’s a descending trail with large berms and jumps. The jumps are usually built so that they’re low-risk and can be ridden by almost anyone with a reasonable level of confidence. In other words, a Flowline is can be fun for everyone with skilled riders jumping the jumps and newcomers able to roll over them.
The plan for this session was for Barry to see Cade’s progress in jumping ability and to help him build his confidence to enable him to start preparing for the big day when he would finally hit the big gap.
Barry explaining the take-off of the road gap to Cade…
The Grootfontein Flowline has 19 jumps, most of which are tabletops and the last of which is the road gap. We did six full runs. It’s tiring doing many more, especially in the middle of summer because the ride back up to the start wears you down. According to my Garmin Edge 530, the ride back up from the base of the Flowline is 630 metres in distance with 48 metres of vertical ascent at an average gradient of 7.5%.
Barry followed Cade down to see his form, which he was happy with; and then led Cade down. In order to clear the road gap, a rider needs enough speed and enough height. Barry had worked with Cade on both of these elements before and the main challenge for Cade, being just over 50kg, is speed. Whereas a bigger rider just rolls to maintain speed, Cade, who is 15 years old, often needs to pedal to maintain speed, especially if there’s a headwind.
…and discussing the landing.
That day there wasn’t much wind to speak of – just a light breeze from the left as you’re charging towards the road gap jump. There’s a windsock on the side of the road gap to give riders an indication of wind direction and speed.
I was clearing most of the jumps without too much effort, which means I was getting my technique right. It wasn’t just me though, the Hyrax was just so balanced and stable and really boosted my confidence and my ability to relax more in the air, something I haven’t quite embraced consistently yet on bigger jumps.
Cade was jumping really cleanly, which is always a good sign if you want to tackle something new. In my experience, if you’re fumbling or a little off on your basics at the start of a ride, it’s best not to try something new.
“I’m feeling good,” announced Cade after having followed Barry down, just fading to the left in a cloud of braking-stirred dust as he watched Barry hit the road gap. “I might give it a try the next run.”
Barry only learned to jump in his early 40s, so is able to understand, explain and demonstrate the process really well.
That was a big thing to say. Although Cade was easily clearing the penultimate tabletop, which is 10 metres long, and which indicates he can physically jump the nine-metre distance of the road gap, it was the mental gap he needed to clear next. That gap between thinking about giving something risky a bash and actually giving it a bash.
With a big road gap, it’s all or nothing. You have to commit to the jump 100% or not at all. “I might give it a try the next run”, was what Cade had said. The word ‘might’, being the important word here.
The next run was different for Cade because he’d put some pressure on himself. He followed Barry down the first half of the Flowline smoothly and held his composure for the second half, each jump taking him a little closer to the big challenge at the bottom. I was waiting at the road gap ready with my camera to capture the moment should Cade go for it.
They came into view – two dark specs growing with each second. Over the sharp-lipped jump, then over the big tabletop. Barry cruised straight to the entrance of the road gap and for a moment it looked like Cade was too. Barry hit the jump and soared over smoothly, but Cade pulled to the left and skidded to a halt.
“I felt better the last run. I should have done it then,” he said.
It wasn’t quite Cade’s day to give the road gap a go, but Barry makes it look so easy…
“You just know. You get a feeling just before the jump and you know whether to just hit it or not. I just didn’t have the confidence at the right moment. But at least I’m thinking of hitting it now. It’s now a mental challenge. It’s not going to be too long before I go for it,” he said.
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