Sans Suspension – Lesotho

Lesotho Sky on a purple monster

Dylan Chilcott was one day into the amazing 2013 Lesotho Sky when disaster struck, leaving him without a rideable bike for the remaining five days. Until local MTB legend Tumisang Taabe helped him out with a bike, but it wasn’t exactly what Dylan had expected…

Lesotho Sky is an amazing experience that has managed to re-capture what mountain biking is truly about, which is what some of the first pioneers in the industry instantly knew the very first time they started testing the limits of their bikes when they took it down a mountain.

Darol Howes and his sky-team have put together an amazing route whilst showcasing the beauty of Lesotho and the local people whilst providing the biggest event for the local riders to compete in. Google it! Put it on your action list as I can certainly say this is one of those “must ride” events you want to be able tick off , if you really enjoy mountain biking. That’s exactly what I did, entered and pitched up at registration all excited to be riding again.

Lesotho Sky on a purple monster
Lesotho Sky on a purple monster

Dinner and briefing set the stage for what was to come. Six days of fun! The only thing standing in the way was an eight- hour nap before Day One’s time trial. The time trial: It started with a group ride down to the start through Maseru. Everyone was in high spirits and waiting to be called into the starting gates. Then it was our turn, 10 seconds, 3,2,1 . . . Pedal, into a 90 degree turn, though a donga and then up out the saddle sprinting along a foot path dodging rocks before the drop-off . (And this was only the fi rst 200m). I was having fun on my dual suspension as the course fl ew by, then later, hard on the breaks into the fi nish, after a wicked descent. Day One in the bag! After prize giving we transferred to Roma where Day Two would start and to where we would return on Day Six.

We cleaned the bikes and were getting ready for the next stage when I saw a crack along the chainstay. #*@~! That is a nasty curveball to be dealt, so I made a few calls, started networking and begging. Eventually Tumisang Taabe was able to help me out with a bike. I was so relieved to actually get a bike that I didn’t notice until later what I actually going to ride… A rigid GT (No shocks), 3×7 Alivia groupset, with a 24 tooth for first gear and cantilever breaks. Oh, and it was purple. Was this a test? Was there something better behind door umber two? All I knew was my bike was broken and sitting out was not an option! The alternative, the GT… Challenge accepted!

Purple Monster
Purple Monster

So how were five days of riding rugged terrain on the Purple Monster you may ask? What many cyclists fail to comprehend is that the spoked wheel is round and with that, riding the correct tyre pressure can further enhance your riding experience than the latest technology. (No, I’m not starting a wheel size!)

Riding rigid is not like kicking back in a lazy boy watching the weekend game. Because you have direct feedback, you are constantly looking for the “smoother” line, which might be longer or diff erent to what you logic tells you, but guaranteed it will always be the faster line. You are constantly working harder both mentally and physically than someone on a full-suspension, as you keep popping/lifting the front wheel up to assist it over the rock/obstacle and then immediately shifting you weight up out the saddle to assist the back wheel to smoothly roll over it. Failure to do this will only result in unbearable riding conditions as impact and vibrations are transferred directly into your body. This is basically what a full suspension bike is already doing for you.

Top speed on downhills is also limited due to the vibrations going through your body. The type of terrain on the downhill plays a huge roll. We are talking rugged 4×4 Jeep track, cattle track or motorbike paths and you know your eyes take strain trying to keep focus as they rattle around your skull. Rock types largely determine your speed as the wrong angle and your rim is toast. 90% of the time you are not on the line you pick as you are constantly fighting the rebound of the bike to keep it on course whilst throwing your body in the direction you want to go and only then correcting the front wheel. At times you are literally hanging onto the back of the saddle with your teeth whilst picking out the safest crash zones, or rolling with it but looking for a smoother patch to let some blood flow back out of your hands and feet. Suspension doesn’t make it safer, just smoother.

My respect goes to all the legends from the 80’s and early 90’s who raced rigid bikes day in and day out without the technology we now take for granted. Those ladies and gents really worked hard to make it look easy. In the end I am no diff erent from any rider who partook in the event. We all finished although riding the Purple Monster has defiantly refined my technical skills, however if you do enter in 2014 you will find me riding a dual suspension.

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