Molly Fitz-Patrick has decided not to ride the Houw Hoek MTB Tour. So what now for Molly’s Challenge? And what has she learnt from her six months as a mountain biker?
I started to get a really uneasy feeling in my stomach whenever my thoughts went in that direction. I’ve barely been able to clock up 50km through all my rides; I struggle to imagine doing 50km in one go.
The other day I was having quite a pleasant ride and I came to quite a steep incline and impressed myself by being able to stay on my bike for a couple of minutes, which covered about 20m maybe. Through the drips of sweat and the stabs of pain in my thighs, I simply thought: There’s no way in hell I’m going to do 800m to 1km of climbing. No.Way. Of course it’s not just about not being able to do it physically, although my fitness still isn’t up to scratch, I realised I didn’t want to do it. Initially the idea of doing a stage race sounded daunting, yes, but exciting too. I thought: If I really work hard I can make this happen. I’m still a firm believer in that. After all the issues that arose, all the back and forth and the money that was spent, all the money that still needed to be spent, the excitement started to wane and was replaced with dread. As I have mentioned several times over the columns, you have to be really dedicated and I simply was not, the fear got the better of me and I realised that I’d have to push myself too hard too soon.
Don’t get me wrong though, I still thoroughly enjoy riding; the Trek Superfly FS is a dream, and there are few things that are as lovely as riding your bike in the crisp morning air – but anything beyond the weekend cycle is not for me. During the ride I mentioned earlier, I came across many devoted riders. They were all in full kit, skidding around the trails, kicking up dirt in their wake. I couldn’t help but cast envious glances their way. But when a passing rider uttered: “is this a social group?” as he passed my mother, her friend and me relaxing on the side of the trail. It’s an irritable attitude displayed toward beginner riders from established mountain bikers I’ve come across too often. And it doesn’t help a newbie like me progress in the sport. There are enough barriers to entry in mountain biking without mountain bikers making it socially awkward to be a learner rider.
So what now for Molly’s Challenge? With the Houw Hoek MTB Tour beyond my current mountain biking skills the Full Sus team has decided to hand the entry and the column over to fellow newbie mountain biker Estelle Truter. You may remember Estelle from her report on the 2015 Wines2Whales for Full Sus. She’s a far more competent rider but she’s had to go through many of the same beginner issues I did, so she’ll be able to provide you with hard earned insights to the frightening and exciting world of mountain biking. I hope you enjoy the journey with her as I step aside.
Sus Estelle’s Specialized Airnet Helmet Review
My first (typically blonde) thought on reviewing the Specialized ladies specific Airnet helmet was: “Gosh, I really hope they don’t expect me to go out and purposely try and fall on my head!” Luckily not.
This helmet is an absolute treat – the longer I rode with it, the more I realised how much thought has gone into what ladies would want from a helmet when the Airnet was designed. It has a slim, quirky look, but not at the expense of functionality. The detachable cycling cap built into the helmet (in full compliance with Velominati Rule #35) is classically stylish and a feat especially appealing to the ladies as it provides a little extra sun protection for your face. The vents allow for liberal airflow while still providing maximum protection, keeping your head cool to focus on the journey ahead. Another nifty feature, not often found in helmets in this price range, is the rubber sunglass grippers fitted to the vents – front and back. The only inconvenience with this helmet is the fact that the straps on the side of your face are not adjustable, only the chin strap is. However, the Mindset dial adjustment system provides for a snug and comfortable fit. Once I fitted the Airnet and fastened the clip under my chin I literally forgot I was wearing it – it’s so light and cool.
Lastly, the Airnet sports the Specialized Hairport feature which is a space for your ponytail to be pulled through the back of the helmet. Our friends at Specialized really think of everything when it comes to perfecting your ride – they did a test where three different hairstyles – a ponytail, a bun and a plait – were tested for aerodynamics in their wind tunnel. (Yes, they actually did that.) The plait was found to be the most aerodynamic, gaining 14 seconds over 40km compared to the other styles.
So ladies, from now on, the Airnet and a plait is the only way to roll!
Estelle Truter is a lawyer on sabbatical. She recently started the ladies specific cycling apparel brand Dirt Diva and will be providing a regular column for Full Sus on the trials and tribulations of finding her way as a woman on a mountain bike. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellodirtdiva.