Friday, September 27, 2013

Maslov's Hierarchy of (Biker) Needs

The objective was simple to answer. Cover as many gravel roads in 5 days and include one night at "Die Hel". The question I get many times probably not that simple to answer. "Why do you do it?" Here follows a possible explanation....

It was raining and cold when Jacobsroodt and myself took off from Cape Town on our way to Reebok. The idea was to go via Elim and Malgas seeing that I have never crossed the river at Malgas before. At Hermanus we drove into the Whale Festival, got chased away from the pavement in front of the Wimpy and ended up in a dainty pink cake and tea shop called Yves's Pudding & Pie. Inside we paraded like two bulls in a china shop and Jacobsroot's request for a stronger chair did not help in our effort to act more inconspicuous. I don't know if it was Yves herself that served us, but the lady sincerely apologized for the pink marshmallow and glitter on the cheesecake which we had ordered along with coffee...and yes, tea. I tested her by saying that we are gay and appreciated the finer detail in cake decoration. Her response was rather unexpected "No way, I have already noticed the wedding ring on your finger....."

After Jacobsroodt missed a turn-off we only reached our first gravel after Gansbaai. It was not a hundred meters on to that road when the first challenge was presented to us in the shape of a flooded road. Being the short-shit I am with little option of putting my feet down from my gigantic beast I managed to cross the water sitting like a little puppy dog who has yet to master the technique of lifting its leg. How does the saying go? "If you want to run with the big dogs you have to piss like a big dog". Anyway, I was not ready for that yet and after that still had to cross a few muddy patches looking like a dork. Jacobsroodt on the other hand was marking his territory with confidence.

Close to Elim we were forced to take a detour. Road constructions. Strangely enough on the detour route we reached a flooded bridge. A friendly Capetonian impressing his wife was already testing the water when we arrived and he convinced us that crossing that river was not a good idea. After comparing his wet jeans next to Jocobsroodt's bike pants it turned out that the water was knee-deep. For me that would be waist-deep. He turned around with his X5 and we decided to follow his lead. No need drowning on our first day. 

When we reached Napier rain started falling again and we realized that if we wanted to reach Reebok at around 4, we need to reconsider the rest of our journey on gravel. With the current road conditions we decided  to call it a day and headed via Swellendam to Reebok. Not much gravel for the first day, we never saw Malgas but we got the appetizer we appreciated for the rest of the tour.

Our plans to spend our second night in Gamkaskloof was put on hold when Cape Nature put a proverbial spoke in our wheel. They told us that "the Hell was fully booked". I have now doubt that Hell must be a crowded place, but the one we were thinking of could in my opinion never be full. We did alter our plans however and decided to do a circle route instead. The friendly "guest house" where we were staying was providing the best in food and entertainment so two nights at the same place was not going to hurt our reputation as hard-core travelers who doesn't stay long in one place.

The next morning we took the first gravel road just outside Reebok, filled our bikes at Blanco and made our first ascend onto the Montagu Pass. I don't know how many times I have been over the Montagu Pass, in different vehicles, bakkies, mountain bikes and on motor bike, but every time I go there I am mesmerized by the beauty of the pass. We did the occasional stop for a picture or two, but in general the pass is rather short and not very difficult to ride. 

After the pass we crossed the R62 and continued on gravel roads via Perdepoort and finally towards Uniondale. I was impressed with the road and the beauty of the area. Here Jacobsroodt was going all out and I realized that I am now finally starting to keep up with the big dog. We adjusted my handle bars the previous night to improve my standing position and it worked much better. We also adjusted my suspension on route as I was hitting it hard on some bumps. When we reached Prince Alfred's Pass we were glad to hear that the road had already been opened for traffic behind the Karoo-to-Coast cyclists who were making their way to Knysna. Unfortunately for us we did meet up with the bunch that should not have entered the race in the first place. Some were bitching and shouting because we left them covered in dust but we were cautious all the time and smiled as we passed the poor buggers who have not discovered the pleasures of off-road motor biking yet.

We covered a good section of gravel on day two, but when we reached Knysna we yet again decided to head back home and skipped the Road of Seven Passes between Knysna and George. There was braai and some cold beers waiting for us in Reebok and the hunger set in. Where gravel was concerned we were much more successful and felt more in contempt than the first day.

The third day was going to be the big one... the Swartberg Pass and Gamkaskloof. As usual we left at 8 am and decided that we will do Montagu Pass again, why not? We crossed the R62 again but this time headed straight on towards Dysselsdorp, all the way on gravel. This gravel road I guess could fall under "very good condition road" as we easily could reach speeds of 120 or more while still feeling in control. Standing up was becoming second nature to me by now because I used to be slightly skeptic of this riding position in the past. I realized on the one or two occasions where I did sit down that I was more used to my adjusted handlebars now while standing than what I was when sitting down. It also felt to me like my bike had become smaller each time I sat down, which was rather weird as my legs could still barely touch the ground. It was also on this leg that Jacobsroodt discovered that the ATG soft luggage bags are not strong enough to withstand continuous ramping.

We traveled on to De Rust, filled up and then headed onto the Oude Muragie road towards the Kango Caves. Yet another stunningly beautiful road with enough twists and turns to keep you awake all the time. Jacobsroodt was still at times leaving me behind but I guess this time it was more my decision to stay out of the dust and enjoy the scenery at the same time. This gave him enough time to check the map at the next stop and take the occasional picture of me arriving a few seconds after him.

Then came the mighty Swartberg Mountains with the most impressive pass in the Southern Cape. Even though I have crossed this one a few times as well, I always get a shiver when I hit the first gravel. The road conditions is really not bad, but I just had this image of this huge difficult to cross mountain for many years since I've been a child. Going up I can only imagine the look on the poor people's faces who had to build this pass with the equipment they had those days. Had they only known back then how much pleasure it would give us today. The view is also spectacular and no matter where you stop, you always experience some kind of amazement. The best part however is passing cars with poor dads coping with restless children and the family dog at the back thinking "Dude, I understand the commitment to your family but hell, you need to get out here and try this on a bike some day".

When we reached the turn-off to Gamkaskloof we did the traditional photo session next to the warning sign and carefully started our way towards "Die Hel". For me the road to "Die Hel" means loose rocks, a few sandy patches here and there, sharp corners, a few humps that resulted in a bend rim on my last trip there and the one dreaded water crossing that only has loose pebbles on the bottom. I have mentioned this before, putting my feet down is not an option because I am very likely to drop my bike. With all my electronic equipment in my topbox and my iPhone in my pocket I was not looking forward to any event that could result in me getting soaked. But, like my father always said to me, "We will cross the bridge when we get there". In this case, I was patiently waiting for the drift to cross.

The ride towards the bottom went relative well. At a stage Jacobsroodt said to me he was expecting much worse, but I guess everything is relative depending on your level of skill. Personally I only feared the water crossing for the reason mentioned above, but for the rest of the road, I have to agree with him. Long and tedious with the only real skill tester at the end when it gets really steep and sharp. The water crossings I did perfectly. Jacobsroodt put his foot down which made me feel very proud of myself, but in the end I never said anything about the jelly legs and skipped heart beats I endured on the way.

When we arrived at the bottom there was no sign of any campers at the Cape Nature camping area. Why we were told the place was fully booked is still a mystery to me. Maybe it was because there was no-one from Cape Nature on duty that weekend and they didn;t want to embarrass themselves. We headed on to the end where Pieter gave us a camping site for 50 bucks each, cold beers and enough wood to braai and make two bonfires had we wished to do so. There were still some campers who clearly returned from the Karoo-to-Coast event. Fortunately none of them ones who got dust in their eyes on the previous day because we did make quite an entrance...standing of course. For us it was a day well spend on gravel.

The next morning at 8 we left for the top again. Yet again three drifts to cross, loose rocks and whatever makes gravel biking fun, but we managed well and decided to head to Prins Albert to fill up again. The plan for the day was to go towards Calitzdorp and then on to Warmwaterberg Spa near Barrydale, so we completed the Swartberg Pass from the Gamkaskloof turn-off and and crossed it again on our return. This time it was plain formality and Jacobsroodt  who lost all restraint at the end rode his bike down like he was on a 250 scrambler.  Me again with no option to put feet down took the gentler option down and arrived at the tar a few minutes after him. 

The best discovery of my trip was the gravel road towards Calitzdorp. I have never been on that road before, but I was intrigued by all the little B&B's, farms and beautiful scenery along that road. I could not imagine that there are still so many parts in the country which I have never seen before and probably never will unless I quit my job right now and start riding tomorrow until I fall over....or run out of cash. From Calitzdorp we headed towards Ladismith. At this point I realized that I was suffering from not only throttle cramp, but also from rider fatigue. Jacobsroodt still wanted to include more gravel, but I eventually convinced him that I am too tired to concentrate any longer. He might be able to throw his 800 around like a plastic bike, but for me it was a heavy piece of machinery and safety comes first I guess. I have learned the hard way before and I was not planning a repeat.

When we arrived at Warmwaterberg Spa, we headed for the hot baths immediately. It feels a bit like climbing into someone else's warm bath water still half-way dressed, but it was really a perfect way to sooth the sore limbs and stiff necks.  In the water we met a chap who brought his wife and two kids for a week's vacation. While he got really interested in our travel story his wife was clearly upset that he was making small talk while she had to control two little kids. She reprimanded him in front of us and he submissively had to let go of his dream to travel the world on a bike one day. As Jacobsroodt said to me later: "He said he also still wanted to do this bike thing, so I only gave him the first 5 minutes introduction knowing that there are quite a few steps he would still have to take before he gets there. Besides, I didn't think his wife will ever let him out of the house..."

The last day was going to be a very short one. Besides the rider fatigue which was much better the next morning after another swim at 6 am, I also had a conscience to deal with. Two little kids of my own at home waiting for their adventurous father to return. We did a last section on gravel towards Montagu and although the road itself was pretty boring, we did get one or two surprises along the way. At the gate of Sanbona Game Reserve we were told to hang on for a while because lions were spotted close to the road and we were not safe on bikes. I am pretty sure my F800GS could outrun any lion, but it was the cornering I was worried about. We waited twenty minutes before we were allowed to proceed through the gate. The main road runs through the reserve, so we were allowed to pass as long as we didn't take any turn-offs. We were riding slow checking for wild animals but only saw some giraffe and tsetsebes. Of the lions there were no signs. 

I have to admit that by day 5 I have improved my stand-up riding tremendously up to a point where I felt more comfortable standing up than sitting down. I realized at times that I stood up in town while I was always thinking that anyone doing that looks rather stupid. What the heck, at this time I was covered in dust, my bike looked like it was used in Operation Desert Storm and I was on top of the world. Maslow said that their are six basic needs for man's motivation; physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization. I am pretty sure that I have reached and satisfied all those needs in one trip. So if the question of why we ride are not answered then I guess it's time to join a trip and experience it the way we did.

Photo Gallery

Pictures by Justasurferdude and Jacobsroodt