Don’t shoot the bike messenger

Stirling “Senior” Kotze looks back at what was probably the craziest time of the year to own a bikeshop – luckily for him the March-madness is something of the past.

The cool thing about being a “free” freelance scribe is that, because I write for free (meaning: I don’t get paid for my time or creativity) I can write pretty much what I want so long as my musings are not punctuated with profanities. Conversely, if the editor or publisher of this rag think this specific article is rubbish they can simply refuse to publish it. I have a few observations (brickbats and bouquets) I have to get off my chest in this issue, especially with the Cape Town Cycle Tour, Eroica, the World Cup XCO and the ABSA Cape Epic behind us. For the life of me and for the love of two wheels I cannot see the appeal of a bicycle made for two (other than in that old love song).

I could write a whole story on the disadvantages of these contraptions. But let’s settle for two. If you’re riding in the elite racing tandem group it means you have two hot solo riders and one of them has to sit at the back with the front guy pointing the bike where he wants it to go and braking when he feels like it – absolutely and completely terrifying in anyone’s cycling manual. Things get even worse for social tandems where the back-seat rider (and the pilot) has to endure the regular and not-so-funny-at-all chirp: ‘Your pillion isn’t pedalling!’ As much as I respect the Eroica dudes – young and hip and old to very old and not so hip – cycling in their (strange) retro kit on their old to very old steel-framed bikes on skinny wheels and impossible gearing on challenging gravel surfaces over 50 or 90 kilometres, I have to wonder what happened to the concept of embracing modern technology.

As cool as this adventure is I hear that you don’t want the rule book thrown at you – it can be pretty painful! My first road bike back in 1986 was a Peugeot Rapport and I am so happy I don’t own it anymore … if I did, I could be tempted to participate next year! But then organisers should make sure the staging of the event is not so close to the Cycle Tour and the Cape Epic if they wish to attract more retro-riders. The XCO World Cup held in Stellenbosch was next level in every way: organisation, spectator involvement, live TV coverage and competitiveness. Best of all was we had a new winner which means this year’s series is wide open. “Nino, un-cleated or not, Sam Gaze beat you fair and square with better race tactics and an explosive sprint to the finish line!” But more importantly, the World Cup XCO series desperately needed a new race winner. Well done also to Anika Langvad for winning the women’s event convincingly.

As if sales haven’t already been beyond expectation, the all-new 2018 Specialized Epic mountain bikes were on top of the podium in both of the XCO main events with further victories at the ABSA Cape Epic for the elite men (Kulhavy and Grotts) and women (Langvad and Courtney) teams. Lance, I know “its not about the bike” but I am just a little biased toward the brand. I’d imagine Howard Grotts and Kate Courtney, who both hale from the USA, aren’t expecting President Trump to congratulate them on their victories in “that shit hole tip of Africa”. Regarding the Cape Epic route many riders, both local and foreign, who visited our store after the race were generally a bit disappointed with the route – many expecting fewer long farm and gravel roads and a lot more singletrack (and, for some, less sand!).

Notwithstanding these criticisms riders were mostly impressed with the overall organisation of the event. All these events have been fantastic for bike shop business activity in Cape Town and great for the general economy of much of the Western Cape. It is evident that Cape Town and the outlying Winelands have become a Mecca to bicycle riders from all over the world. Visitors were particularly complimentary of the service level, product offering and the shopping experience at retail bike shops they visited – first timers were blown away as they didn’t expect this in Africa!

One more point. How does SRAM, perhaps the dominant supplier of drivetrains, brakes and shifters (more if you include forks and shocks) to many MTB manufacturers justify being the naming sponsor of one bike brand: the Scott-SRAM MTB Team? Surely this doesn’t sit well with all the other MTB manufacturers who choose SRAM as OE parts on their bikes! Makes no sense at all. Marketing departments make the strangest “strategic” decisions sometimes. Ah well, can’t wait for magnificent March 2019.

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