Updated: Jul 30, 2019
April was a pretty good month for my training, in fact the furthest I had ridden in a month according to Strava at 1361km. I was really happy with that considering I have to fit it in around work and life. But then I remembered that must ride another 500km more on the Adventure (which is what I am calling it for shorthand) and do it in half that time. so the training must go on.
One of the biggest challenges many of us face in life, is just fitting the training in. When my family were younger, it was just plain selfish to disappear off for hours on end at the weekend. (I did it anyway when I got into triathlon, something I don’t look back on with pride). It wasn't until my late 40's when my four kids had grown up and moved out or had their own lives that I had more time to train. For a couple of years my focus was more on running in the first six months of the year before switching back to the bike. Rachel and I trained for and completed The Race to the Stones 100km ultra marathon. We would run together for 3-5 hours on the canals between Stratford upon Avon and Warwick every week. I loved these runs. They were by their nature at a slower pace where we could chat and catch up on the week. I completed the first race in under 14 hours and the next year looked like I would take a huge chunk out if that, but broke a bone in my foot two weeks before hand running in the woods in a park in California. I managed to complete a half marathon on it on race day, but had to withdraw as it had become incredibly painful (and stupid) to go on.
My work over the last 10 years or so has taken me to 43 countries and I have tried to run or ride everywhere I go. It's a great way to get to know places. Membership of the Rapha Cycling Club has helped as it means I have used their clubhouses as a base and hired their bikes, often riding with locals in organised or impromptu groups. Through RCC I have ridden in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Sydney, Amsterdam and Mallorca. Ironically I have only once ridden with RCC London, my 'home' club.
Outside of those big cities though, the challenge is finding somewhere to hire a bike and of course bring all your riding gear with you.
Which brings me to Johannesburg and three more challenges. One there is nowhere to hire a road bike in the entire city. Two, the roads are in shocking condition and even a mountain bike would struggle here with the potholes. Three and worst of all, it isn't safe to ride alone. Literally every person I have talked to in advance and on arrival have said don't do it, because you will face the very real prospect of being in a hit and run or worse, mugged for your bike. When everyone you meet is so forceful about it, you take it seriously.
However this is also a country full of friendly people who are keen to make visitors welcome. So much so that a total stranger turned up outside my door on Friday morning with a bike for me to borrow for the weekend. His wife had been on one of my courses this week and they decided I shouldn’t miss out. I also have the help of my business partner down here, Carmen, who drove me out to The Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site about 40kms outside of the city. The roads are quieter and they actually have cycle lanes. Judging by the number of bikes on the road, it seems that half the cyclists in the city use the same loops around the site. I was treated to some fantastic views as I pedalled around in slow tourist mode. It was amusing to see so many locals in full winter gear though as it was only 14 degrees…..
Sign of the day was definitely the warning ‘crocodiles’ ahead; not something I see on my regular Saturday rides.