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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 .