Sunday, May 29, 2011

Overberg Overjoy

It was 8:20 on the clock and 7 degrees on the mercury when we left the BP garage in Klapmuts. I was the only fool who rocked up with a summer jacket, but I was sure that my three T-shirts were going to give me enough "layers" to survive. In any case I was hoping for sunshine, but clearly forgot that Mother Nature follows her own head when it comes to dishing out "the elements". Dave was in front and the rest of us were playing follow-the-leader like usual. I had two objectives for the day besides sharing my fun with like-minded people. The first was to do around 400 kilometres so that my bike would be on 20 000 when I take it in for its service on Monday, and secondly to try out my fresh set of Heidenau K60's which I only bought two days ago.

The road was wet and the wind was cold and pretty soon after departure I wasn't sure whether the Heidenau's and/or the summer jacket were good choices. Before we reached Franschhoek hypothermia had already set in and my back was sliding on the wet tar 5 times more than what it ever did on the Anakees tyres. When we stopped at the bridge over the Sonderend River it was freezing cold. I looked back in the direction of the Franschhoek Mountains and were wondering if turning back would not be a better option than heading on towards a certain death. Some guys let down their tyres for the gravel ahead and I still haven't yet tried the Heidenaus on the gravel, so I decided to stay put.

After yesterday's rain we were a bit worried about the condition of the gravel roads we were planning to ride, but it was surprisingly dry. It was only after a few kilometres on the gravel that I realized that my decision to get a tyre with more knobbly was not a bad choice after all. I'm definitely not as technical as the athlete who claimed he came close second because he used 4 millimeter spikes instead of 5 millimeters, so I wasn't expecting to feel much of a difference between a dual purpose tyre and a knobbly, but I was amazed. It was in the turns where I realized that the traction was just so much better and I was really having more fun on the gravel than ever before. All I had to do now was to get the traction on tar sorted and then Bob's your uncle.

Just before Greyton our ride was shortly interrupted when Nick got a puncture in the front wheel. Thanks to Graham's "First Aid Kit for Bikes" and the invention of the tubeless tyre it didn't take long to sort out that problem. The sun was also starting to show its head and I was glad that I didn't turn around at the bridge. Herman started complaining about feeling "thin" and I think we all were pleased when we stopped in front of the Oak & Vigne Restaurant for a well deserved breakfast. It was here where we met up with Brent who joined us for breakfast.

After the usual discussions on bikes and accessories and how overinflated some  KTM riders can be, we were ready to leave with more wisdom and fuller stomachs. We headed on in the direction of Riviersonderend but stopped where Brent showed us the farm he is working on. John was discussing the possibility of staying over there some time in the future and exploring the area from there. If that is going to happen you can count me in. Jonathan who was doing remarkably well on his first gravel ride with his new 1200 agreed. He is also taking his bike in on Monday for a service. His 1000 km service.

We left the farm and headed further south towards the N2. We took the N2 towards Cape Town and later turned off onto the R326 towards Stanford. When we hit the tar again I felt like an ex-alcoholic who does not want to hang out with his mates at the local pub anymore. We passed several gravel turn-offs and I was getting anxious to get back onto the gravel again where I now believe my bike with its Heidenaus belong. I don't want to do tar anymore. We did eventually get back onto the gravel again but it was about here where I lost track of where we exactly were. I was just following Dave who was still leading us better than what John Smith could ever have led the Bokke. My GPS just said "Driving on Road". After riding through some spectacular scenery eventually reached the R320 coming down from Caledon. By now I was so used to my new tyres that I wondered how I ever managed gravel without them. We drove down through the Hemel and Aarde Valley and stopped near Onrus where some guys filled up and some were planning their routes back home to Cape Town.

At Onrus the group dispersed and it was also here where the fun also basically ended. I decided to take the scenic route via Kleinmond but the weather was turning nasty. Nick and Alex joined me. Just outside Betty's Bay I stopped to remove my GPS and cell phone from my handle bars because the rain was starting to close in on us. The wind was getting really miserable and was klapping my helmet around like a bouncer klapping some sense into a drunken schoolboy in an over-18's nightclub. Alex got a bit impatient when I put on my rain gear, but after that it was the first time since we left Klapmuts that I actually regained feeling in my upper body again. At this point I just wanted to get home and completely forgot that I had new slippery tyres designed mostly for "gravel-ous fun". They were performing just fantastic. Just after Gordon's Bay I waved goodbye to the other two and headed towards the N2. Strangely enough the N2 was as dry as an NG predikant on a Saturday evening and I rode back with only the wind still trying to klap some more sense into my head. When I reached home is was seriously suffering from whiplash and frostbite, but I arrived with a feeling of great satisfaction. Not only did I achieve my two objectives for the day, but I also learned and confirmed two things:

1) Summer jackets are made for the summer, no matter how many layers you wear.
2) Knobbly tyres can do sharp bends on tar too, you just need a reason to ride fast and try them out.

This was quite a good ride. Next time I am going back doing it at my pace to leave ample time for taking photographs as well. The Overberg is really beuatiful at this time of the year.

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