- By Oli Munnik
Without sounding over-dramatic, my life as I know it might have changed forever this past Sunday! I didn’t have a conversation with Chuck Norris, I didn’t meet the girl I am going to marry, I wasn’t highjacked and I certainly wasn’t converted to veganism.
No, I rode my brand spanking new luminous GT Force Carbon Pro for the first time! And oh my incredible greatness, did it unleash awesomeness!
Not being a pure downhill machine nor a lightweight XC bandit, the GT Force, a 150mm Enduro bike, straddles the line between the two extremes. Bikes of this breed have enough suspension and the right geometry to allow for some serious speed on the trails, while its lightweightness allows the rider to climb without too much trouble. Basically, these machines are the perfect mix of gnarliness and nimbleness that adventure-seeking pinners have been waiting for! The secret is out, enduro is upon us!
In the constant battle to keep death or serious injury at bay, it is always wise to get one’s suspension and setup dialed-in before hooking it down the trails at mach-6. Fortunately, in the form of Gary Barnard, I have access to arguably the finest technical (read over-analytical) brain in Cape Town, if not the whole of South Africa. This oke is Mr Technical. For instance, to measure the 30% sag required for the rear suspension he uses, not a ‘fingernail’ measurement like mere mortals, but rather measures to the nearest mm with a tape measure giving him unrivaled accuracy! Gary also has a portable motocross tyre pressure gauge that measures to 2 decimal places! Overkill, I know. In the end though, Gary’s advice and input have been, and will always be, invaluable.
So after much tinkering of suspension and tyre pressures, as well as a few suggestions from the peanut gallery (read me), Gary and I set off to Tokai on what was quite possibly the finest winter day in the history of all winter days. (Euro and North American winters have nothing on us, except snow maybe!)
Our day started quite amusingly, for us anyway. On entering the gate to Tokai, I chose to ride on the right of what was obviously a beginner (read fun-rider). Although descending at a snail’s pace, in a moment of pure panic, he gripped the front brake as I passed, causing his front wheel to jolt viciously. At this exact moment, his brain was thinking (while his eyes were portraying) that he wanted to kill me for getting in his way. What he should actually have been thinking was that, as he was slowing down, he needed to unclip. What followed was oh so typical of beginners! Instead of unclipping horizontally he tugged at his pedal in a horizontal fashion. Rooookie error bru! He thus embarrassingly toppled over, falling to the ground unable to unclip in time. After in fact trying to clear the way for him, I had unintentionally been the catalyst for his right of passage as a cyclist … the ‘can’t-unclip-in-time’ crash. We have all been there, done that!
Gary and I dashed off, not really wanting to become victims of his wrath. From here onwards, the ride was magic! With overnight rain, Tokai was at its best. The damp conditions meant no dust or loose sections, just single track that was crying out to be shredded! And we were up for the challenge.
With Tokai being the single track vibe in Cape Town, we were more than likely to bump into to some mates. Our first encounter was with none other than Gary Perkin accompanied by his knee height daughter, Molly, who looked like she was showing her dad how to roost the Fairy Garden. As we waved them goodbye, our next rendevoux was with a ‘train’ of riders hooking the root stairs. These were no ordinary mtbers! They all had peaks, enduro bikes, gees and of course ear-to-ear smiles! Among them were former DH and Moto SA Champs as well as pioneers of the sport back in the late 80’s and 90’s. For them it was another weekend ride, but for me it was like a high school reunion to see them all. I can get a bit overexcited and I had to do my best to keep my wits about me!
After Gary and I had done a lap of the Bridle Path (where he set a record on Strava!) we ambled up to the top of the DH track, meeting up with good mates, Mark Hopkins and Myles Kelsey, who had lugged their DH rigs up the mountain. This is where the difference between the bikes becomes most apparent. While Gary and I can spend all day riding every type of terrain on offer, DH’ers are forced to push up inclines and XC bandits are often found pushing down tricky technical sections! Thus, like old-school gold Casio wristwatches, enduro bikes are fit for any occasion.
Seeing we’re talking bikes, let me quickly elaborate on a piece of kit that makes an enduro bike so much fun. Along with suitable gearing, dialed-in suspension and geometry, enduro bikes come standard with a ‘dropper’ seatpost. It allows a rider to remotely lower and raise their seat height. With the click of a handlebar-mounted lever, the change in saddle height lets one climb like an XC bandit and descend furiously like a downhill beast.
By effortlessly dropping my seat, while approaching a super steep technical section, I didn’t have the displeasure of a carrot aiming for my arse (as one does permanently on an xc machine)! Then, once the technical section is over, or you enter a road section, the simple push of a lever restores your saddle to its pedaling height. Done deal.
Having this tool at my disposal was a novelty and was a highlight of the ride. If you’re reading this as a sufferer of chronic ‘over-the-bars’ crashes or have a giraffe-length neck, I would seriously recommend fitting a dropper seatpost, regardless of what bike you ride. Using one might just save your neck, and ego!
The ride itself was one of my best of 2012. Dangerously drifting through some turns, comfortably getting air on the jumps, feeling one with the bike, shooting the breeze with the guys, as well as witnessing what seemed like a million other mountain bikers in Tokai, made for a flippin cool outing.
With all this talk of enduro, I am by no means throwing in the towel with regard to my racing-snake aspirations. Rather, I am broadening my horizons. Both Garys (Perkin and Barnard) have been instrumental in getting me into baggies and onto an enduro machine. Without doubt it is they I have to thank for showing me the light. I really believe that through multi-focused training, on different bikes, on different playing fields, as well as at the gunshow (ie gym), one can better sustain and build one’s motivation to succeed. The variety injects some gees into the equation and will certainly mean that cycling doesn’t become dull or monotonous.
Whether in tight ‘n bright lycra or badass baggies, by taking the bull by the horns, the passion will last forever!
Keep it pinned!
Oli is currently living the dream as a professional mountain biker, racing for the GT squad based out of Cape Town. Keep up with Oli on his blog http://olivermunnik.wordpress.com