When your boyfriend is an ex-pro mountain biker your romantic summer holiday trips tend to involve a bit of riding, as Nicky Gilomee discovered when she took a trip to Knysna with Timo Cooper.
My name is Nicky Giliomee and I really enjoy riding my bike… a lot! For me, riding a bike is a means to be active, healthy and social while exploring the most beautiful places in the world. It also allows me to see and experience things and places that are truly amazing. Over the years the passion for riding and the outdoors has taken Timo and I on many adventures to places we would have otherwise never seen or experienced.
Timo was a professional cyclist for four years, and has many wins under his belt, including the Cape Pioneer Trek, Trans Baviaans (three times), the GR300, GR200, Trans Elands, Dr Evil and the Trans Hajar (in Oman). He started working as USN’s PureFit brand manager last year and though he now has less time to ride, to me it doesn’t seem like he has slowed down at all! So when he suggested we do a long ride in December to get some base miles in I knew I had to agree. I’ve been talked into doing the Epic, so I need those long kays. The ride though was a bit more of a challenge than my usual long slow distance rides, Timo suggested with ride from Wellington (Timo’s hometown, to Knysna (my home town).
I’ve known Timo long enough to know that if he says something is going to be tough, it’s going to be tough, and tough it was! Being the ultimate fun rider I haven’t had nearly half of Timo’s experience, but I had no doubt this trip would be an adventure.
The plan was to cycle from Wellington to Knysna unsupported, with only our bikes and what we could fit in our backpacks. Day 1 was from Wellington to Montagu (160kms), Day 2 from Montagu to Riversdale (145.8kms), Day 3 from Riversdale to George (150kms) and finally, Day 4 from George to Knysna (89kms).
We took backroads and gravel roads where we could. We stayed in backpackers and guest houses along the way which we had pre-booked before our trip. Other than that there was no plan, just get from the town we woke up in to the next town with the help of a Garmin.
Day 1 from Wellington to Montagu was long and hot. It took us about seven hours to do 160kms (including stops). We saw many cyclists along the way and discovered roads that never seemed to end through the beautiful Slanghoek Valley. Needless to say, we were very happy to get to Montagu as the temperatures were well over 40 degrees Celsius.
Day 2 from Montagu to Riversdale was, in my opinion, the hardest. We got lost, ran out of water, trespassed (shhh don’t tell anyone) and saw places and animals we didn’t even know existed. This was definitely our most adventurous day! But one I’d prefer to forget.
Day 3 from Riversdale to George again was not easy. We took back roads from Riversdale and had to do an impromptu route detour to get water because five hours in, nearly in Mossel Bay, we still hadn’t been able to refuel. From Mossel Bay to George we battled a hectic head wind which forced our total riding time to eight hours for the day.
Day 4 was a breeze compared to the first three days. Riding from friends we stayed with in George to Knysna on the beautiful Seven Passes road.
The support throughout our trip from friends, family and strangers we met along the way was incredible. We were even met by our very own “fan club” along the route on our final day. The Garden Route Trail Park owner Rob Dormehl also welcomed us with cold Cokes, yummy treats and cold water to get us through the final (very hot) day, thanks Rob!
Also a huge thanks to Omnico and Red-E for our charging goodies, lights and GoPro brackets, USN PureFit for our nutrition, Columbia for our rain jackets, Skins for our compression gear and to Bespoked Bike Shop for looking after our bikes (free of charge) before and after our trip!
And of course thanks to Timo Cooper for taking the headwind every day!
Nicky Giliomee is a BComm Honors student in Public and Development Management at Stellenbosch University. Timo Cooper is the USN PureFit brand manager. You can follow them both on Twitter: @NickyGiliomee and @TimoCooper.