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Monday, 20 July 2015

Freedom Prep

How it all started

So after watching this race for a few years now and always saying to myself ,  "That looks awesome" ,  I have finally entered !! Comments so far ranged from you are totally insane ,  to did you fall on your head as a baby . I have done lots of stage races ,  a few Trans series and the Desert Dash solo . Most of these races was done with no ,  to very little training . BUT doing 2300km with over 36000m in elevation in 26 days will change all that . I have read every race report I could find out there and they all had the same message : ”Come unprepared and you will fail” . 

I have already entered and secured a spot . Only 60 riders accepted every year . Now I got a whole year to prepare for this . I already got a lot of tips on training and that will start beginning of September once my wife is back from her bike trip in Europe . Navigation also plays a big part in determining how well you do in this race and if you are going to ride around in circles . I can't even find my car in the Sandton city parking lodge but are more comfortable out the stick finding my way . Fortunately there are a few people that give training and also a lot of self help info available . 

Preparing the Bike

I have already started on prepping the bike . I want to train with the bike loaded and packed ready to race . It's worth mentioning that I will attempt this on my rigid Single Speed with a gear ratio of 32/18 . Still in two mind about putting a suspension fork on it . Was also looking at maybe put a front Dynamo hub on to keep lights etc charged but I have also canned that idea . 

Here is the map holder I made from a Youtube video . It will still be cut to size at a later stage .

After talking about a few people about saddle bags etc I decided to make my own version of a saddle bag . Apparently the side mounted bags will be a problem when you want to carry the bike or go through tight places . That's why I decided to rather put the bag on top of the carrier . This will keep the center of gravity low and if I move some weight to the front of the bike the bike should be nicely balanced .

This is not the final product but will look the same once I find a way to secure it properly .
Chunky thick grips arrived last week as well as a set of 2.25 Arden tires . I hope the higher volume tires and the grips will also help a bit with suspension . Now have to wait for the XT wheelset , don’t want to install tires on my current MT55 rims as I think they a bit narrow and will most probable burp the tire on rough trails .

About 5 minutes after I published my first attempt at a blog my main sponsor Mandy send me a message on FB . She said that my attempt at a carrier bag does not look to shabby but how many bottles of rum do I think I will be able to fit it in there . I had to admit that most probably a half-jack and then I will have to mix it with water . Let me first tell you about Mandy . She knows how I race and what fuels me ! She was the team captain and support  for a few of the AR races I did . She also knows that we cycle because we enjoy it and has herself done a few cycle tours . So without to much going forwards and backwards it was decided that I will not be able to carry a lot of racing fuel . 

A carrier and handle bar bag was offered for above purpose . I was so excited that I finished my Rum and coke and rushed over to her place . I left all the groceries in the car and got the bike out and started to fit the goodies .

I will modify my map reader to fit over the bar bag and still be able to swing out of the way when I need to get a fag or piece of biltong out . 
I know the expert will say to much packing space !! Maybe ,  but that's the way I will be rolling . I think it is more important to balance the bike than the actual weight and as soon as all the other goodies arrive will work on that . Anyway still got a few months to see how well the bike carries ! 

Tested the 2.25 tires on current MT55 rims . Does not work very well , 19mm width of the rims does not give a lot of support and had two burp flats on a 40km ride . Only option for wheelsets seems to be the ZTR Flow or MT66 . Think I will go with the MT66 since the MT55 have been bomb proof for the last 3 years . Also tested the Chunky extra thick bar grips . Think it is something that I will have to get used to and cannot really say if they offered any added padding to the hands . 

After spending a lot of time with the new tires on those MT55 I eventually got them to seal properly . Got some sealant from a supplier in Boksburg with the instructions to test the stuff . Well it worked and I will post details about the product later once I had a chat to supplier . 
Eventually finished my Google Earth map using tracks I got from people who have done the race before .  Thanks to Jansen , Carl and Marnitz for sharing info .

Info session in JHB on the 6th November . Things are starting to happen . Order from CRC arrived in country yesterday so should have all spares sometime next week . 
So we had our race briefing and I met the other nutters there . Got a lot of ideas from previous race finishers and even ran into a few Dark&Dirty riders . 
Collected all my spares today . Wheels looks awesome but they are going to hang on the wall for the next few months

Also got my Sealskin goodies , lots of tubeless valves and other spares . 
Not a lot of riding was done the last few weeks but I did put in some miles running around the Langebaan area and also did a lot of walking . This weekend I will start shopping for nice shoes to go with my flat pedals . Been reading a lot about the oooh-aaah on The Hub about special shoes for flat pedals . Been cycling for 4 years with the same old tekkies on my flats and even did a few races like the Magalies Monster without any issues , so I will not fall for this little salesman talk and will get pair of Salomons Speedcross . 
Went to see the experts at Hiking Paradise yesterday and the lady was very helpful . She supplied me with all the winter (lightweight) goodies that I might need and R4k later I walked out of there with a very small bag . I packed all the winter gear into the carrier bag and it weighs in at 3kg , that bring the bike weight to 13kg now but that will come down once I start replacing the wheel set and a few other weight weenie spares . Also had a look a the Salomon shoes on display and the hiking shoe was recommended . Very light and protection for ankles . No stock in my size but on order . 
So got my shoes , CAMO colour !! Also got first set of preliminary maps from the race office , looks a lot like the maps I have created in Google Earth . 
It is official , start date is 8th June . Just a bit over 3 months left . I am happy with my bike now . I managed to balance the weight front and back and it is possible to pick the bike up by the saddle without tilting either way . My 90km test ride a few weekends ago did sort out a few issues with my map board and that was fixed this weekend . Also had to put connectors on the speedo cable so I can remove my map board without to many hassles should I need to turn the bike on it's head . Bought a new Bell and fitted a LED Lenser H7 . I am waiting for Dark Moon and will then join a night ride to see if I really do need a handlebar and headlight . Also changed ratio from 32/19 to 32/18 . With 32/19 I can easily do 20km on the flats but that's about it , getting to 23kmph takes some serious spinning and I don't like spinning . Will see what speeds I get out of the new groupie . 

Training rides

Mandy arranged for me to have a ride with a previous finished of RASA , at North Farm . I decided to load everything on the bike as for Freedom Challenge and test all my modifications and see how the bike handles . Met Stephen at NF bright and early at 6 am and Mandy joined us 5 minutes later after missing the turn-off . 
About 9km into the ride I punctured my front tire but quickly plugged it . Unfortunately due to a lack of proper maintenance there was not sealant in the tire . I had to stop every 30 minutes just to re-inflate .
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike handled fully loaded . I did not even know I had stuff on the back and blasted through the single tracks and down the drops . 5 km from the finish some strange noises came from the rear but I could not really see what was wrong . I thought maybe one of my carrier brackets have broken but decided to push to the car park and have a look there . 
Turned out my rear hub was busy loosing it's bearings one by one .
Put the new rims , tires and pedals on bike and took it for a test at Groenkloof .  Front tire not sealing to well , think I damaged the rim tape putting the wheel on , but very slow puncture and I manage to finish a lap every time before re inflating . 
Carried bike on back up Onion Hill . Balance is perfect and went easier than I thought . Even managed to hike past a 4x4 up the steep section after Onion hill .  
After a few changes I took the bike to Leeuwpoort for the last shake down . By rear carrier rack brackets again did not last . Although it did not stop me from riding , I just don’t like the idea that the rear bags might move to the sides in technical bits . The rest all stayed in place and again carrying the bike on backpack was easy . Tested balance of bike on a few steep rocky hills up and down as well . I need to be very careful when going down rocky hills , without shocks snake bites can be an issue even with the tubeless setup . I managed to put a few smiley’s in my front rim .
Also tested out my race food and I am happy that I will be able to dish-up a hot cup of soup anywhere on the trail

Also tested out my race food and I am happy that I will be able to dish-up a hot cup of soup anywhere on the trail


Received maps two weeks ago , all 83 of them . Took me good part of three days to folds them into A5 size . Now to make the notes etc on the maps . Also thinking of cutting maps in A5 size and then put each into a plastic folder and maybe use it as a type of flip chart . Will play with that idea this week a bit and see how it will work on the bike . A bit over a month left and I am still playing with the maps . Done the route about 6 times on Google earth with maps in hand and still get lost !

Cockpit redesign

I thought I would get away with a map board that cannot rotate !! WRONG !! If the road turn right and after you have turned your map still shows the road to the right things gets very confusing . So to Builders Warehouse to get another plastic thingamajig . Took me 10 minutes with the second one and now it swivels !! Had to move speedo and handlebar light but in the end the cockpit looks a lot neater . Did the work late last night so will post pics later .

More Spares

Received my order I placed yesterday with Rapid today !! New 32 front and 16/18 rear rings , new ring nuts and a proper spacer kit . Been using the spacers from a old 9 speed cassette I broke up years ago . 

2 Weeks left
Ice cream tubs shipped last week and I see it was delivered as well . Started to repack bike and throwing a few things out . 

Thank you

To Mandy my only sponsor and the guys from Squirt . They going to supply me with the lube and chafing cream for my 21 Ice cream tubs . Their chafing product will hit the shops sometime towards end of April this year and I will give it a proper test run . Thanks to Paul Cordes from Epic Cycles Centurion for receiving the goodies on my behalf
Out of the blue Lee-Anne Niemand the very famous chopper pilot from Dubai  ,  also came on-board . My Rum and Coke supply is sorted now . Will have to take a few energy bars out of the boxes to make place for my 2 x tots and small coke . 
I was busy planning my trip to Pietermaritzburg and asked Mandy if there was an airport in this town . Don't worry about getting there she said , I am going to take you there myself !!! Everybody should have a manager to do all their cycle races . She was amazing and arranged everything , even the bike box in Cape Town . 


Friday, 8 August 2014

Freedom Challenge 2015

Me, Freedom Challenge and a Dassie

Day 1&2 - Allendale

After a few Rum before and during race briefing we went to bed early in preparation for what would turn out to be one hell of a ride the next day. Was up very early Monday morning unable to sleep and did final kit check. Was not feeling very bright and it was not because of the moderate amount of Rum I consumed the previous evening. As most of my racing partners know, a bottle of rum before a big race is how I like to get the ball rolling.

 There was something brewing in my tummy and it made my legs feel very heavy. I thought it was just pre-race nerves and did not pay much attention. But even on the ride to the start I could not keep up with the group.

When the town hall clock sounded at six we headed for Bisley. From the start the group split with a few people taking a different route. Again I got left behind and almost got lost getting to the official start point of the race. Eventually got to Bisley and I was waved goodbye by Meryl and Glen. About 3 km in I knew that my first bush visit was eminent, but my decision to pull over came about 30 seconds to late. I will skip the details but any cyclist will tell you that you do not get out of a bib quickly.

I knew I was in trouble because I could not get up even the smallest inclines and decided that I needed to stop more often to “smell the flowers” and just try and make it to Allendale. Things got a bit better and I was moving along nicely. But soon my navigational problems would start.

 I missed the turn off to the radio towers and instead went all the way down the hill. Once at the bottom I could actually see the towers way in the distance and there was a road to the right heading in that direction. Another nice downhill up to a forest station. Here a found the station manager and he invited me in for a Sammie and a Coke. After looking at my maps it became clear I was way of track and had to go all the way back to the quarry where I missed the turn-off.

Back on track I got to Minerva a bit late and after a soup and quick chat headed for Byrne and the valley. Got down into the valley as the last bit of daylight was fading. I found the track just before dark and starting heading in the direction of Hella-Hella.

 But as it got darker I lost the trail. The next best thing I thought would be the follow the river until I can find the power lines. But navigating at night did not prove to be very easy and I decided to rather stay put until daylight. I found a spot where a lot of cattle must have had a get together at some point.

 Gathered all the dry cow dung into a big heap I made myself a bed for the night. When sleeping out under a tree when it is very cold it is a good idea to try and get as high of the ground as possible . The dung really made a big difference but cutting glass also helps as I discovered at a later stage .  Out came the emergency blanket and all kit in bags was put on. After some soup and a coffee I jumped into “bed” for a good night’s rest. 

But sleep does not come easy when it is that cold. I did however manage to fall asleep sometime in the early hour of the morning and was woken up by the sun at about 7am. First thing I noticed was that there was an old building about 10 meters from where Í decided to camp out and the trail another 10 meters away.

It was a nice walk up Hella-Hella and I made it into Allendale at around 14:00. After a nice meal and shower I had a bit of a rest till about 17:00 when the first riders from the next batch caught up to me.  I knew Stephen was also in that batch and decided that I will stick with him since he knows the route and I can keep to his pace.

Day 3/4 – Ntsikeni

Next morning we left Allendale just after 7am heading for Donnybrook . Frost was lying thick on the ground but it was not to cold . With Stephen leading the way I had no navigation issues and we made it to Donnybrook in good time .

 After a coke at the Spar we headed out towards Centocow mission . In the forest I got us lost but Stephen quickly picked up on the fact and after warning me that a big stick will be used on me next time I decided not to give to much more input regarding navigation . Soon after my mistake Stephen made one of his own and again we had to back-track to get onto the trail .

 Once at Centocow I tried to eat as much soup as possible while Stephen nursed his chest infection . The lady at the mission told us that another rider left about 10 minutes before our arrival . As we about to leave a rider pulls up to the gate . Steve Johnson has decided to return to the mission after doing the 6km climb towards Ntsikeni .

 We convinced him to join us and he started the big climb all over again . But at the top he had second thoughts and phoned the race office . They must have convinced him to rather stay at the mission . Downhill he went again to stay over while we continued .

We did not find the right point to cross the river at first but after walking down the bank we did manage to cross and pick up the track on the other side .

At  11pm we decided to try this power-nap stuff we been reading about . After staring at the start for 20 minutes we decided to continue . At this point I just followed as I cannot see anything at night . We got to the village where we had to leave the main road but at this point could not see any land marks or pick up the trail .

 We decided to find a place to sleep but not a lot of people to be found that time of the night . Stephen went looking for somebody down in the village while I walked around at the top of the village trying to pick up the trail .

 He had better luck and found us accommodation in a hut . At least our home for the night had a roof , walls , ¾ bed , Xmis tree and lots of blankets .  Did not sleep too badly but the fleas had a royal feast on me and I looked like a tea bag the next morning .

 Breakfast got served in the round mud hut and consisted of Marie biscuits and tea .

Day  5 - Glen Edward

We found the trail quickly in day light and headed for the lodge again sometime after 7am . Once we arrived at the lodge Stephen said he was going to lie down a bit as he was not feeling too well . We would leave again at 14:00 . I sat around and chatted to the lodge manager and studied the maps a bit . I have heard a lot out Politique kraal and knew that lots of people got lost here .

We left a little bit after 14:00 and the going was easy and relaxed . After a few fence crossings we got to the famous kraal . We had a little bit of a hiccup once down by the river but Stephen found his way quickly and we steadily made our way towards the tar road . 

As we got closer to Glen Edward it started to drizzle a little but we got to the farm before anything got really wet . Was around 19:00 and there was already two riders there that was going to stay over . We never saw them as they had an early night and left very early as well . Stephen was not looking very well and the cough did not sound very good . Next morning Stephen was down and out and decided to cash in his chips .

Day  6 – Masakala

No real navigation in the first bit and once I did hit the tricky bits I found being able to see certain beacons made it much easier . Once I spotted the old farm house I just cut straight through the veld and knew Masakala was not that far away .

 Once back on the district road I almost got taken out by a bunch of kids pushing their car tires down the hill . After a group photo I headed up the hill to finish another awesome day . About halfway up the hill I could see a rider closing in on me from the top of the hill .

 Jacques caught up with me as I got to the top and we cycled together into Masakala . He said that there is another 5 riders on the way about 30 minutes back . About an hour later the rest arrived with one snapped rear triangle on a BMC .

Arrangements were made to get another frame and a 6 hour penalty came with the frame . Steve Johnson was part of the group and I was happy to see that he made up so much time and was still in good spirit despite the fact that he has at this stage snapped his chain 3 times already !!

Day 7 – Malekgolonyane

I started with Steve as soon as the sun came up but because of my bad habit of racing downhill’s I missed the school completely . Luckily I did see my Speedo was telling me that I passed the turn-off so I turned around back to the school . Steve shouted at me to turn around but with ear-warmers on I did not hear anything .

 I caught up to him again just before Martin’s drift and could see two riders about 200 meters in front of us . Steve said this was Jacques and Anthony who left early that morning but got lost a bit . I wanted to close the gap on them and left Steve behind when he decided to stop and take of some kit . BIT MISTAKE !!

 Again I got to the point where my odometer said I must make a left turn but I followed the two riders in front anyway . The front two upped their pace and I lost sight of them . 15km down the road I get a call from race office , “where are you going ?? “ . The road I was on did go to Queen Mercy’s shop but was out of bounds and if I continue a 6 hour penalty was heading my way . Cutting straight across to Springkana also was not an option as that would be a 3 hour penalty . I made a u-turn and cycled back the 15km to the correct run-off .

I made a few small navigation issues in the wetlands area but after an hour saw the village I was heading for and made my way to Queen Mercy . After a quick Coke and a chat to the shop assistant who happened to be as drunk as a sailor I was on my merry way again . The gap between next to the school turned out to be a very narrow gap and I provided the locals with at least 10 minutes of entertainment trying to get my bike through there .

The narrative said to keep the radio tower on your right but my map showed that there is a tower on my left . I could see the tower on the left but no tower on the right and decided to follow the map . At 4.5km I needed to lookout for the track off to the left but because of a few portage sections 4.5km came after the turn-off . Another stupid mistake made .

 While I was standing on the edge of a cliff I saw two cyclists making their way down the mountain about 50 meters below me . Jumped on the bike and took the tiger line (Phrase Lee used to describe straight down) towards them shouting “wait for me , wait for me “. Gary Preston got one hell of a fright when I popped out of the bush in front of him . He shouted to Lee to stop so he can show him “look what I have found “ . Thanks to this two gentleman I made it to Malekgolonyane just as the sun started to set .

Day 8 – Vuvu

Stu Brew and his merry crowd were also there and I decided to join them the next day . I have heard that the way to Vuvu wasn’t easy and who better to show the way that a chap from New Zealand !!!! Everybody started at daybreak .

 The elastic soon broke and I ended up with Lee , Jacques , Gary and a few other riders . Lee tried to give us some navigation lessons but I think in doing so he also lost the route and we took a bit of a detour . Back on track we caught up with Stu and his crowd again just before the hanging bridge at Tinana mission .

 Lee took one of his tiger lines and I only saw him again that evening in Vuvu .Stu took the lead guiding us to Vuvu . Steve broke his chain twice , Neville Higgs took a tumble in a river and ripped out his valve and Stu took one hell of a tumble . His finger was not pointing forward anymore but in a westerly direction . Before anybody could faint or try and help he gave it a good yank to straighten it again . Tough as nails this chap !!! He did not cry  or shout for his mommy , he jumped back onto his bike and continued as normal .

 Not to be outdone I also came undone on a rocky section , destroying my map board , trip meter bracket and breaking one of my bar-ends .

We arrived at Vuvu just after dark and after a nice meal and a shower we got escorted to our home for the night in the local village . Me and Neville Higgs sharing a house .

Day 9 – Rhodes

Again I joined Stu and his group for the trip to Rhodes . Steve was having problems with his Achilles heel or something in that area and he was starting to show the strain and pain . We decided to go over Lehana but about 100 meter in Anthony and Stu thought that it would be better for Steve to rather go around . Steve shared this idea and turned around .

 I decided to join Steve and we went back to the main road . Our portage over to the other side went smooth and we started our long climb up the pass .

 This is the first time I experienced winds that will take you right of your feet if you not prepared . It took us very quickly to work out how this wind actually works . When the grass next to the road start to stir you better prepare yourself for a gust of wind from hell . I stuck close to the cliff side and every time I saw an incoming gust I would pull myself and bike up against the cliff . Seems Steve did not have the same problems , maybe because he weighs a bit more than me .

It was slow going up but we made good time and soon had a few nice downhills . At the next big uphill Steve was in big pain . A few riders caught up with us and just behind them was a vehicle also going to Rhodes . Steve managed to get a lift into town . 

I got into Rhodes again as the sun was setting . My map board and Speedo was still in my backpack and I knew I had to fix this since I suspected that Steve would not be able to continue .

 After a few Rum and Cokes with Stefan Kellerman we had supper and the Whip presentation for the riders that stopped at Rhodes .
Steve wanted to continue but had to return to the point where he got picked up and start from there . Stefan offered to take him there the next morning . 

The next morning I fixed everything that broke off and was ready to go again on my own .

Day 10 – Chesney World

This trip looked fairly easy without any navigation issues for me . But I did not take into account the wind that picked up during the day . Does not matter which way the road turned the wind always seemed to come from the front .

 Got to Chesney World fairly early and despite the warnings from Stephen not to get to comfy because you may not want to leave it happened . There was a member from the Jeep club who have just completed the Bobejaan pass and once we started talking there was no stopping , so I ended up staying the night . Next morning I woke up to a different looking Chesney World . Everything was white !!

Day 11 - Goedehoop

There was quite a bit of snow outside and I started to get a bit worried . But once back on the gravel road I discovered that the snow was not too deep and I could easily cycle through it . The snow all but disappeared as I went up past the lonely car garage in the middle of nowhere . But looking up at the mountain ahead I could see that it looked very white .

After a quick soup at Slaapkranz and some directions from the locals I head around the back of the farm house up into the mountains .

 At this point it started to snow heavily and soon the tracks that I was following from the group in front of me disappeared and I was left with a very white mountain without any roads , footpaths or MTB tracks . Getting to the shack with the bicycle painted on it was not too difficult but beyond this point the snow was getting very deep and I had to load bike on back to keep going forward .

It was on this stretch that I manage to lose my phone in the snow . After a few ups and downs I could see the road with the big speed bumps in the distance , but I was on the wrong mountain by now and there was no easy way down . I went down anyway and with my rope had to lower my bike over a few higher bits to get to the bottom .

 I got to the road as the sun was ducking behind the mountains . Down here the snow have already started to melt turning what I assume is a nice smooth dirt road into a nice slick muddy dirt road .

 On the 2nd corner of this downhill me and the bike parted again with the bike going into the bush and I sliding a few meters down the road . After collecting all the bits that went flying around I set of again .

As I started my climb up to Moordenaars poort a farm worker jumped out of the bush with a two-way radio and somebody shouting on the radio “stop daai man , stop daai man !! “ . I thought I was in deep trouble now , must have trespassed or step on his pumpkin seeds . The farmers want to talk to me the worker informs me . I know radio protocol 

Me : “maakie vir ‘n praatjie jy is deur ,  stuur maar boodskap oor “
Farmer :  “Waaa de#@# is jy heen op pad die tyd van die aand ?”
Me :  “Nee wat gou hier oor na Moordenaars Poort  “
Farmer : “Nee jong jy is bef@# , dit gaan vannaand -13 word daar bo en as jy verdwaal sal nie eens Ragel DeBeer jou gat kan red nie , Wag net daar ek kom haal jou “

So I explained to him that I cannot accept his lift but he still insist to come up there and he will follow me back to his farm where I shall spend the night . And so I came to meet the farmer and his wife from Goedehoop farm .

 Because of my roll around in the mud I looked like chocolate coated stick and he send me off to the shower . While washing my clothes and myself the farmer went outside , cleaned my bike , bags and water bottles .

 We sat around the fire drying my clothes solving the world’s problems till late . Next morning after a lovely breakfast  I got on the bike towards Moordenaarspoort .

Day 12 – Kranskop

Uneventful trip to Kranskop and pull in at around 17:00 . Again I was the only one there staying over but they had a full house with visitors . It was also an early night for me as I had plans to leave very early the next morning . 

My only problem was that without a phone I also had no alarm to wake me up but the farmer’s wife said that she will wake me up , no problem . Unfortunately she also did not wake up the next morning and I did my normal 07:00 start .

Day 13 – Brosterlea

Easy navigation to Brosterlea . Two riders caught up to me (one dude was American ) and I followed them down the hill . We made turns opening gates up to the public road where they left me in the dust . After a bit of soup and a tour through the garden I headed in the direction of Romansfontein . After a bit of coffee at the block house I decided to give this night navigation stuff another go and push on towards Brosterlea.

First I missed the turn-off to De-Rust and had to turn back and find it in the dark . I found it easy enough and once I got to the gate to turn right I started looking for the signs that the farmer has put up to guide us . In the dark I took a left turn and headed into the mountains .

 At 10pm my headlight died and an hour later the bike light started to flash red . Things did not look to good and I already realized that I am lost and will most probably spend another glorious night under the stars .  Because it was very rocky I covered a shrub with my space blanket and jumped onto of the bush . Not a very good idea because it was a thorn bush and it totally destroyed my blanket . 

After some warm soup , I tried to get in some sleep . Most probably got about an hour of sleep when the wind pick up and it became clear  very quickly that at my current position I had not protection from the wind and if I did not get moving soon I will turn into a popsicle very fast . Feet already started to go numb from the cold and I had to act fast .

 I decided to use my last bit of light from the bike light to try and go back down the mountain the way I came . Pushing was going to be to slow so I loaded the bike on the back and started to walk really fast towards a light I could see in the distance . Once I started my decent I got out of the wind and started to warm up quickly .

The light I was heading for was the farmhouse where the correct track started from . Much to my surprise the bike light lasted all the way down . It was now about 4am and I was not going to knock on the farmer’s door that time of the morning .

 There was a nice big storm water pipe under his gate and I made that home till 6am when I crawled out and did my morning stretches . As I walked back to get my bike that was lying behind the entrance wall I saw a sign on the gate !! A Freedom challenge goat looking down the road !!!

Day 14 – Hoffmeyer

I was about 15km away from Romansfontein and with all the signs placed on route I could now see I was on my way . I picked up some clear mtb tracks and followed them , down the wrong road !! I was on the old colliery road .

 The dam on the map and the dam I saw was not really the same size and I suspected I was going the wrong way . I turned back to the t-junction and checked the map again . But what I could see and what was on the map looked right . So I went down the road again to see how far from the T the dam was . Ok so this is the not THE dam and I turned around back to the T .

 I then got the correct track and was on my way to breakfast at Romansfontein . Got there just in time for some nice hot oats , bacon and eggs . I had to charge my lights because I was sure that I will be riding into the night again . While my light charged I had clothes washed and the farmer took me outside to show me where I will be heading and what I must look for .

There was a big climb ahead and at about 12:00 I headed out taking the short cut from the farm house . I had to get over this bit asap and for the first time since I started went into race mode . I was not going to stop to take pictures , talk to the trees or smell the Proteas !! And besides that this sign on the gate did not encourage you to stop .

 It was out of the saddle most of the time as I raced to the top . With the directions from the farmer , maps and narratives I got to the new dirt road at about 14:30 and enjoyed the nice downhill that went on forever .

In the Groenkloof farm area I was joined by a huge herd of Springbok that jumped around the road in front of me . From here I knew there as about another two or three turn into Hofmeyer . 

 At 18:30 on the last stretch a farm bakkie came past me going in the opposite direction . I could hear that it slowed down and turned around . A young farmer and his wife pulled up next to me for a chat . Again they wanted me to come to their place for a Branna and Coke but because of my 6am deadline I had to decline but we sat next to the road and chatted till about 19:30 .

Got at the Lodge just before 20:00 and was in high spirit . I made the cut-off and the welcome at Hofmeyer made me feel right at home .

Day 15 – Stuttgard

Again I had the problem of not having an alarm clock but did wake up very early and decided to get on the road . The ride towards Elandsberg went very smoothly and I was getting confident that my Navigation skills are getting better .

 I even spotted the windmill from the top of the hill and headed straight for it to pick up the trail . After a quick stop at Elandsberg I was on my way again . I was looking forward to a coffee and some sort of creamy pastry at the Karoo Coffee shop but in this area Sundays are not classified as business hours and the shop was as closed as a Barbie Dolls nostrils . So stopped at the Spekboomberg entrance instead for a quick bite to eat .

Beware of Buffalo and Rhino !!! Seriaaas . Ok we not stopping here for anything . The last 15km to Stuttgard was for some reason very difficult and I really had a hard time moving forward . A quick shower , nice meal and few Old Brown Cherry’s it was off to bed . Next day was going to be long with a big climb up a mountain pass .

Day 16 – Grootdam

Back to my normal 07:00 start . The climb up was awesome and I had to stop often to take pictures .

 After about 3 hours I got to the top and saw that there was another steep downhill that seems to go on for a very long time . The downhill did not disappoint but I could hear that my brake pads was getting near to their end and decided to try and save them until I can get to Toekomst where I had a new set .

 Getting air with a bag on the rear carrier felt very strange at first but I soon discovered that there’s no need for me to pull on the bars to lift the front . I just needed to take the jump the rear comes down all by itself .

While going up the little Schurfteberg climb the Talbot couple sneaked up to me from behind . After a quick chat they left me with the warning that there is a group of 4 riders behind me .

 I did not want to Grootdam just to discover that there is no more hot water or beds left so again I jumped on the pedals to see if I can outrun them . I caught up to the Talbots a few km later after they stopped for nature call . It was nice to know that there were other riders around me and I tried to stick to them for a while . Well to be honest about 500 meters !!

I pulled into Grootdam at 16:00 and there was nobody else there . Because of the big group expected they are sending some riders up the road to another farm 8km away .

 I could stay because I had no phone and race office could not let me know of this arrangement . I also found my new cell phone on top of my snack box !! Thanks to the effort of Meryl at race office I was back online . Well sort of , not a lot you can do with a R129 phone but at least I could send SMS’es and receive calls .

 The group of 4 arrived about 30 minutes later but they also had to move onto the next farm .
At 18:00 another two riders pulled in and Tim James arrived at 02:00 . Now I had a alarm clock and don’t have to worry about sleeping late .

Day 17 - Gegun

After a quick chat to Tim the next morning I left before the rest of the group . They caught up to me just before the Grootvlakte turn off and Tim took some time to explain to me exactly where I am going now and what route I must follow .

 As they disappeared down the track I could see where they going and followed . I lost sight of them before we got to the large stone shed that was my next beacon .

From here the white rocks started . As I was following the white markers I kept thinking what a nice person this farmer must be to mark the route for us . It took a while to go down this track as it got very steep and narrow in places and putting the bike on back was not really an option .

 As I got to the bottom Andrew pulled up behind me and also took some time to share some of his wisdom with me .

What started to worry me at this stage was that every time I meet another cyclist their first words would be  “Aaaah you must be Pierre “and that was followed by some advice on the route . Because I have lost contact with the world and Twitter I did not really know why I have become so “famous “.  Helene from Kudu Kaya would later tell me all about it . She said watching me on the tracker was better than any soupy on the TV .

At the tar road I saw a farm worker with his bicycle standing at the cattle grid smoking one of the biggest joints I have ever seen . He did swear to me that he was smoking cow dung and nothing more . He had a puncture in the front and the farm was about 5km up the road .

 No quick release on this bike !!! No problem he assures me , he can get the tube out if I can fix it for him . 5 minutes later I had a tube in my hand that had more patches on it than Marnitz’s RASA awards .

 While we puffing away on his cow dung joint (I was out of my own fags at this stage)  he started telling me how he is the poor bugger that painted all those stones white . The little bond we had at that stage changed to instant brotherhood and I gave him a big hug and a piece of biltong .

We eventually had to go our separate ways as it was getting late and his joint was almost finished anyway . I got to Gegun at 17:00 and decided to call it a day as I had plans to put in a big stretch the next day .

Day 18 – Bucklands

Very early start to get to Toekomst hopefully for breakfast . On this stretch I ran into a few game fences that were higher that any others I have seen before and also not very stable . The first one was easy going underneath at the river but the next two wasn’t that easy . 

There was no ways I could climb over with bike on the back and to high to throw the bike over . I tried to hoist it over with my rope but that did not work to well .

 Then I had a brainwave , one of few , I would throw the bike as high as possible up the gate and hope it get stuck and hang there . Very first try the bike hooks perfect to the gate with handlebar and pedal . Climb to the top , reach down and pull the bike over . Same at 2nd gate , now problem at all , I was very stoked about how easy it was .

 Only got to Toekomst at 11 but there was still plenty of oats left . Spend another 10 minutes of the loo with the view before jumping on bike .

With the route changes around the left side of the dam there wasn’t any navigation to be done . But at the top the Narratives mentioned a pedestrian gate and there was not a pedestrian gate within a 100 miles .

 I turned to the maps and figured that the gate must have grown to a full size gate and turned left through the gate . Luckily I found the dead centre of town soon and knew I was on the right track .

After crossing another few fence I got to Kleinpoort after 19:00 . The town was asleep and I just decided to go straight through on to Bucklands . Got to Bucklands at 01:00 but happy that I had such a great day out on the bike .

Day 19 – Hadley

After changing brake pads and having breakfast I was on my way again . I thought it would be wise to just go to Hadley  , take a bit of a rest and then tackle the Osseberg track the next day .

 All was going smoothly up to the Tretyre area . I was going down a rocky downhill section taking it easy across the rocks and doing about 30kmph when a Dassie decided that just running in front of the bike like the rest of his mates is just plain boring .

 He had to see if he can make it between my front and back wheel to the other side of the road . He however made a huge mistake in calculating his latest stunt . He did not take my chaining into account !!

 He got hit on the head so hard by the ring that he must have lost direction and speed . My rear ended up going over the little bugger and it all ended with my lying on the rocks .

Again map board was laying this side and my Speedo was gone . I did hurt a bit but did not really give it much attention as I was busy getting everything together so I can continue . After almost 30 minutes I found my Speedometer . I could not find the little critter to give him a kick in the nuts so decided to continue .

10 km outside Hadley there was a farmer standing next to the road at his vehicle . 

As I stop to have a little chat another farmer came running out of the bush , rifle sling across his back . “Disappearing Kudu , disappearing Kudu , you got a @#$@# disappearing Kudu on your farm “. I decided to stand back a bit and watch this unfold , could be interesting .
 It turned out that this dude had a Kudu in his sights and as he was about to pull the trigger the thing vanished . He knew that it was flat in that area and the Kudu could not just run away without been seen like that .

At this point I suspected that the water they had might be contaminated with something and this poor bloke was hallucinating .  But he came running back to fetch the vehicle so he can go and see into which rabbit hole this thing jumped .

 Just as he was about to pull away another vehicle came crashing through the bush and out jump two gentlemen in full camo gear armed to the teeth . They needed help with a Kudu they just shot just over there .

 Seems they been hunting the same animal and the Kudu fell right at the spot flat on the ground when it got shot , hence the disappearing act .

I thought it better to leave them to go and find their Kudu and continued up the hill . Got to Hadley just after 16:00 . Fixed map board , Speedo and then got some Perde salf from the farmer for my back that was starting to make life a bit uncomfortable for me .

 The farmer’s wife said that if this stuff does not make it better you got problems . It did work wonders and all pain went away even before we sat down for dinner and a small Branna’s and Coke .

 One of the hunters also came by to recount the story of the disappearing Kudu .

I planned to leave very early the next morning so I can get to the Osseberg track at sunrise . The farmer insist that he gets up at 3am to make me breakfast but I assured his that will not be necessary and that I want him to sleep in a bit .

Day 20 – Cambria

Woke up before my new alarm could wake me and was out by 03:30 . A few km in my back started to hurt a bit but because I knew I started earlier I took the decision to alternate between walking and cycling .

 This did not really solve anything and I found that cycling was the better option . Got to the osseberg portage session a bit early and quickly whipped up some coffee with my sammies .
This was the last photo I took before drownings my camera .

I enjoyed the start of this section and made steady progress towards the old camp site . At the old camp site I looked for the easy route down to the river but missed the first one at the camp site .

 Took one a bit further bit down the river and immediately saw a nice place to cross the river . Another stupid mistake . There is a big rock in this part of the river and I decided to just go around the rock out the other side where there were very little reeds .

Close to the rock the river floor just disappeared under my feet and the bike was pulled from my hands and started to float down the little stream . I watched it float away and then get stuck in the reeds at which point it started to sink !!!!

 It took me about 30 minutes to get out of the hole onto the bank and to my bike through the reeds .  After the recovery I discover that my maps and narratives have been washed of my map board . I quickly opened up the rear bag to see if everything at least stayed dry .

The dry bag was not that dry anymore and everything was soaked . No cell phone (again) , camera destroyed , IPod unresponsive and Speedo blank .

 This was the first point in the race when I jut sat down and waited for a chopper to come and pick me up . But I soon realized that not going to happen so packet all the wet stuff back and started going back to the old camp site .

 On the way back I picked some MTB track up again and followed them down to the correct river crossing .  Dragging the bike through the reeds became a problem and no amount of Horse salf going to sort this out .

I followed the trail and looked for mtb tracks everywhere . Another night out was on the cards and with everything being wet I knew I will have to make a fire at some point .

 I don’t like the idea of making a fire on somebody’s else property that’s why I did not do it on any of my previous night-outs . I decided to push on and see how far I get as I knew Cambria cannot be too far away .

 But in keeping with the story-line I lost the trail/tracks somewhere close to what I thought would be the last river crossing . It was 16:00 and I was going nowhere fast .

I found a nice spot with a dead dry tree close by and started to build a fire place . Although the wood looked dry it was in no mood to spontaneous ignite . By 17:00 I had a fire going and started to dry my clothes .

 One item at the time they got dry and as soon as dry I would put it on . By the time the last sunray ducked behind the mountain I at least had all my jackets dry . The thermal stuff too a bit longer .

I was on my last packet of soup and decided to save that for sometime early in the morning . In my attempt to dry everything I destroyed one pair of socks , burned a nice hole in my thermal shirt and also shortened a shoelace by quite a bit .

 Made a bed out of grass that I cut and with the fire going I fell asleep sometime after 23:00 . Woke up at 02:00 with a fire that’s almost burned out . Took me a good hour to get it going again . 

Did not really feel like sleeping again so made the last soup and then sat under the tree and starting planning my next move when the sun comes up . Sleeping on the grass bed did absolutely nothing for my back and it was a struggle just to get up to water the plants .

 Day 21 - Cambria

Eventually the sun came up and with it came heavy mist . I could still not see anything around me . The mist did not clear and I made the decision to put my compass on the map board and go west . I remembered somebody singing something about " going back west " and that seemed like the logical thing to do .

 As I headed west I picked up a few trails going in my direction and followed them up to a point where they came to a dead-end at the foot of a mountain . I pushed through the bush westwards up the mountain .

 At about 09:00 the mist started to lift and I could see that I was not far from the top . Hopefully I will be able to see something from up there . At this point I started to hear gun fire . This was a bit concerning as I could not really tell where it came from and it was a lot of shooting .

Not wanting to be mistaken for a baboon I crawled over the top and took cover behind a tree looking down . I could see lots of orchards down there with a vehicle parked at the orchids and the shots also coming from that direction . Good ,  it was safe to stand up and have a look around for a track down the mountain .

 While walking up and down the edge scouting for possible routes I hear somebody shouting at me .
“hy tjy , wat demoer doen jy da bo “  . Down at a game fence I spotted a gentleman waving his finger at me . “ek wil af kom onder toe “ I shouted back . “kom reguit af man #@$k “ , at this point I had to smile because this dude obviously never been up here . 

Straight down all I could see was thorn trees and bush . “Hier is nie ‘n pad af nie “ I informed me . “die donnerse bobejane kom daar af “. I was about to shout back , ek is nie ‘n donnerse bobbejaan , but decided against it . He was after all just trying to help in his very special way .

So straight down it is . I grabbed the bike and went straight down . When I got to the bottom I had almost no gloves left on my hand , my longs was totally ripped to pieces and I was bleeding like a pig from a thorn or something that did not want to let do and cut open my elbow .

 But the main thing for me was that I made it down to the bottom . Face to face with my soon to become best friend I could see he was at least a bottle and a half ahead of me .

He informs me of my options to get on the other side of the fence . I either climb over or go a bit down where there is a pedestrian gate . I decided the climb sounds better but he failed to tell me that the electric fence actually does still work . I walked down to the gate .

Jan Karavaan introduced himself to me properly once I was on his side and immediately too me to his pataat garden . He pulled one out of the ground and asked if I have ever on my life seen such a magnificent specimen . I wasn’t really in the mood for chit-chat at that point but it would be impolite to tell him to stuff his pataat and give me real food .

 When he eventually stopped to breath I asked him to please tell me how to get to Cambria . At this point I knew that I would not be able to continue and just wanted to get to a place where there are other (sober) people . “my fok meneer , jy is op Cambria , daar is die plaashuis ander kant daai bult “old Jan informs me .

Another hug was in order and I decided to go to the vehicle to see if I can find the farmer . I asked Jan what the farmer was shooting . It turned out the farmer had air cannons all over the place to chase the birds and baboons away . He also parked the vehicle in the field so the baboons think he is in the area .

On the way to the farmhouse I stopped and had 4 oranges . When I stopped at the farm ,  Helene wanted to know what happened to me . She said I was so close to them yesterday and she even started to warm up my food , but I never showed . I promised to tell her all after some food and a shower  .

 Also asked her to inform Meryl of my arrival and withdrawal from the race .  While eating  Mike Glover and John Exley arrived . We all went for a quick shower , ordered a few beers and started a fire in the lounge . I gave my tracker to Mike because his was not working and Glenn said he will do the changes on the system . 

John did his best to convince me to continue but I knew I was done for .

I am not going to catch a plane in Cape town but in PE  now . So how do you get to PE from Cambia . I was so lost I thought Willowmore would be the way to go  ,  but Meryl explained to me that I would be going in the wrong direction and needed to go the other way.

 Helene suggested she goes to the campsite and find out if anybody was going in the direction the next day . Nobody had any plans of that sorts . Plan B would be to get a taxi . We phone a taxi service and they said they could take me to Patensie from where I can get another taxi towards PE . No problem , we book the taxi for Monday morning .

Mike Glover was listening to all this and asked me how do I plan on getting to JHB . The very first plane I can find once I get there was the short answer .

He then got his phone , phoned his office , Red Cherry Adventures in PE , and asked them to arrange flights for me to JHB , get a bike box ready and arrange to take me to the airport once I got there . I was taken aback by this . We not used to people doing nice things for other people anymore . A great thank you to Mike for doing this .
Sunday morning Mike and John left early for their push to Willowmore . I took my bike apart ready to be boxed and packed everything away for my trip on Monday . Had a nice braai with Petrus and Helene that afternoon and so the adventure came to a premature end .

What I learned on this trip

Lee  Fuller told me “maps don’t lie “ . Navigation course already booked . Navigation is the KEY , It’s on the website and in everybody’s blogs  and I said  it as well  , but next year there be another Pierre running around the bush clueless  , ok maybe not as bad .

Look around you . We are missing half the stuff going on around us because we don’t look around anymore .

If unsure stop , take helmet and gloves of , sit down , and take out map and narratives . Read narratives over and over and try and get what’s on there onto the map . Then decide which side will be your left on this leg of the trip and remember that right will be on the opposite side . Then proceed to turn left even if the narrative and map say turn right !

Don’t just blindly follow other riders or their tracks . Trust yourself .

Brown bread will not kill you . If you hungry it is edible and actually very filling.

But after having said all above I realise that it was because I got lost almost everyday ,  that’s why I  enjoyed it so much . Very few dull moments . So I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is , Enjoy the experience .

 If you think you may not enjoy crossing cold rivers , battling through reeds , thorn bush , wattle plantations , snow , mud or sleeping under the stars , rather stay at home and enjoy watching the rest of us on the tracking system .

My Kit and preparation on this trip 

I had a few comments that maybe spending some more time with the maps would have helped a bit , but I have spend many hours making notes on my maps , creating routes on Google earth and studying the narratives . Once you in the bush everything changes . You got to learn how to actually read a map and be able to recognise features that’s on the map on the ground as well .

32/19 , but SS stays for next year .

The carrier idea worked well but with all the portage and bike pushing ,  I will go the backpack route next time .

I will return with the exact same winter kit . It worked very well , especially those seal-skin socks . Those things are just amazing . The extra bib and cycling shirt will not make the next journey , the rest will all stay .

I cannot imagine what this experience would have been like without my tin cup and fuel-tablet stove .  It’s amazing how a cup of warm soup or a hot coffee can just pick your spirit up and see you through to the next morning .

My wife did a great job of getting all the goodies for my 2lt tubs . I did not waist anything and just left empty tubs at support stations . Sorry to “the Hyena “ but I am sure you found enough after I withdrew .

I will update the site later with a complete list of kit I used on this trip , had a few requests for this .


The Bike

1 x On-One steel Single speed 32/18
On-One Carbon Fork
Arden 2.4 Tubeless tires on WTB I25 rims with XT hubs
Nuke Proof Flat pedals
Brooke Saddle
Chunky Grips
Topeak Handlebar bag
Topeak Carrier bag
1 x Water-bottle cage
Duct-tape around seatpost
Map Board

2 x Falke MTB socks
1 x Sealskinz Mid knee length - Awesome
1 x First Ascent Apple jacket
1 x Solomons Waterproof jacket
1 x First Ascent Thermal long shirt
1 x First Ascent Thermal long Johns
1 x First Ascent Thermal balaclava 
1 x Waterproof ski gloves 
1 x long finger gloves with set of First Ascent inner
1 x Kraft Bib
1 x long sleeve cycling shirt
2 x Baggie shorts
1 x T-shirt
Oregon Hi-Tech Hiking boots - Not really waterproof but awesome boots .
Toothbrush , paste and soap
1 x Roll of white gold
If I wasn't wearing it all went into the carrier bag .

Carrier Bag
Above clothes 
Fuel tablet stove and cup
Charging equipment - Got a cable that allowed me to charge everything of one USB adapter .
About 5kg

Front Bag

Camelpak Mule
2l Water - ran out a few times
Topeak Multi-tool
1 x Tube
1 x Tubeless repair kit with gators , needle and nylon .
1 x Leatherman
1 x Half-link
Cable Ties 
Insulation tape
250ml sealant
About 3kg

2lt Containers at Support stations
250g of either Biltong , Droe-wors or nuts . 
Nature Valley Bar - got 4 different flavors
Coffee Mix
Recovery and Re-hydrate drinks
Vitamins - No idea what was in the little bags
2 x Rennies
2 x Fuel Tablets
1 x Squirt Lub
1 x Squirt Barrier Cream - This stuff was really amazing 
Set of brakepads at the Toekomst stop . Next time I will put another set into a tub after Rhodes . Mub from snow destroyed my pads . 
3 x AAA batteries in every 2nd box .


On bike I used the older Model Xtreme Light that is about 900 lumens at full blast . This thing would last through the night at medium setting if fully charged . But waht really impressed me was the fact that I had it under water for about 30 minutes and it still worked when I had to use it later . 
On the Helmet I had the Led Lenser P7 and although it gave plenty of light , it was very heavy on batteries and spares had to be carrier with if you going to do a few hours in the dark .
Red back light , very important as I discover on the road to Hofmeyer . Lots of traffic on that road after dark . This light unfortunately did not made the unscheduled swim in the river .

Big thank you to ....

My family for understanding that I needed to do this and also have to return next year to complete this journey that I have started . 

Freedom race office for your support and patience with me . I just loved those SMS message that said "You need to pick up the pace a bit " . 

All the riders that passed me on the way and spend a minute or two to give advice or just to encourage . 
Special thanks to 
Gary and Lee for showing me the way and to Lee for trying to give a 5 minutes Nav course the next day .
Stu for getting me to Vuvu .
Neville for talking until I fall asleep at Vuvu .
Steve Johnson for riding with me through to Vuvu .
Mike Glover for organizing everything in PE for my return home .
John Exley for entertaining us with your ingenious way of turning a 20 day ride into 19 days ! I still cannot figure it out but am sure you had the formula correct .
And then to Stephen Kellerman for the 3 days you pulled me along . Got me through the infamous Politique kraal without getting lost , making sleeping arrangements at a top class B&B in the middle of nowhere and helping get my bike over fences even after you almost lost all you teeth from my handlebars .

All the people I met on the route , farmers and families , farm workers and many more . I cannot even begin to tell you what everybody did to make this trip into such an enjoyable experience . Hope to see them all again next year and pick up the conversation where it ended once the Brandy ran out ,  I fell asleep or they had load-shedding . 

Till next year .

A few Pics that did not make it into the blog