Tuesday, 24 August 2021

"Peaches!" | by: Oliver Greaves

As I pluck the final Hakea thorn out of my finger, I find myself ready to write this. While out on the trail, I kept reminding myself, during the many hard moments, that “This is type two fun”. As each day passes, I find it easier to forget the hard moments and appreciate the value of the adventure.  

Something I have come to love about endurance events, is their ability to challenge one. To an extent, you can decide how hard or how easy you want your experience to be. The groups I found myself in, rode hard each day with the intent to have... READ FULL POST HERE

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

RASA 2021 Daily Voice notes | By: Sandy Inglis

 A collection of daily voice notes as sent by Dr Sandy Inglis to his personal whatsapp followers group during RASA 2021. These wonderfully descriptive narrationstell a beautiful story of his journey accross South Africa. Thanks to Steve Burnett for compiling the voice notes into 4 files (one for each 4-5 day portion) for ease of listening. 

Knowing Your Limits | by: Andrew Cromhout

Knowing Your Limits | RASA 2021

I recently shared Mike Roy’s last report for RASA 2021. It makes some good reading, however I

found the stats most interesting. Needless to say I had some complimentary feedback on my humble

achievement, however one of the comments I received was from a school colleague a year or two

behind me at school. I via return comment suggested that he should be next up for the challenge.

During a conversation at the Rhodes stop over, Mike confirmed that he knew the person from his

East London days, and had also been suggesting to him that he should be doing RASA.

Let me undoubtedly state that the person in question, was, and I am sure still is, a much more

talented or gifted person than I was or will probably ever be. (Physically and intellectually). I was at

best an average sports participant, having achieved some nice milestones, but never really coming

close to the top echelons of my sports activities. I won’t bore you with these; however it is safe to

say I have stretched myself on numerous occasions.

This person’s comment back to me on my suggestion that he participate was “I know my limits”. (I

need to mention he clearly put an emoji next to it with a wink!). That however made me think and

snigger at the same time. The question is this; do we really know our limits? I can quote numerous

sayings that would challenge that statement, however it can also lead to another few discussions. I

will give my humble opinions on two points: -

  1. Firstly and most foremost, and it has been stated more than once before in RASA blogs,

RASA is not for everyone. Whether you are racing the event or a tourist, (completely the

wrong description!), RASA is extremely tough. Hard Core tough! Each day is hard, some days

are easier than others, but still tough. A lot of days are extremely challenging and extremely

tough. Forget about the challenging weather we had at times this year. Even on the most

suitable of days to ride your bike, you are going to dig deep, very deep at times. Memories

are short, but you could dig deeper than you have ever done before. Ask the contenders for

the top place finishers how the race went. They will have done meticulous planning and

preparation, but nothing stops your inner demons from testing you. The same for the

tourists such as me. Whilst I am classed as a “tourist”, having completed the adventure in a

little short of 21 days, I consider myself as a racer. Laugh at me if you will, however I tried

my best and beyond every single day out there. I completed the event in the best possible

time I could. For me, I “raced” RASA. Ask me after the event if I would ever do RASA again,

and I don’t have to give you my comments. At 61, I do think my extreme events may have

come to an end; however my awe of this event urges me to suggest that RASA could be a

sort of pinnacle of an adventure cyclist event for a lot of people.

I would strongly advise that anyone considering doing RASA, and even the individual legs of

The Freedom Challenge, think really hard as to the reasons you want to participate in this

challenging but rewarding “adventure”, as someone who is a podium finisher named the

event to a colleague and me. If you are simply looking for some fun and adventure, I can

suggest lots of other alternatives, which are great fun and adventure activities. Yes, amidst

the at sometimes pain, exhaustion and tough times, there are numerous fun moments. You

will see parts of our country that most people will only see snippets of in their life time. Here

you will experience beauty and sometimes poverty and the simple existence of life, like

others will never see. Stetteyns has to be one of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas I have

been to. Some of the fynbos areas outside McGregor have to belong in God’s back yard.

Flowers, sun birds and sugar birds abound in all sorts of colours, shapes, sizes and sounds.

How the young herders towards the top of Lehanas exist leaves me astounded. These are

memories in my head that don’t need photographs to explain or remind me of.

However, the big warning, RASA is not simply a fun adventure. You must think about your

participation more than over a glass of wine. Think hard and deep, and if your innermost

reasons for wanting to do RASA are compelling enough, what are you waiting for?

Remember, like me a lot of other participants are Mr/Mrs/Miss average, so dare I suggest, if

you have the very strong desire to participate in RASA, you can probably complete it. Yes

you will have to train extremely long hours and hard, (another topic), have a strong mind, be

stubborn at times, tenacious, however the psychological experience you will encounter of

completing it, will only be known to you across the finish line.

The issue of you probably completing RASA does lead to my second opinion though.

    2. Do you really know your limits? REALLY?! I can promise you one thing, I dug deeper than I

have for a long, very long time, and if not the deepest I have ever dug in my life. Yes age is

not my friend anymore, as I stare down my best before and expiry date more regularly. But, I

am unequivocal in my opinion that I grew tremendously during RASA.

I won’t get too religious here, however one of my colleagues during the race suggested that

he knew I my convictions may be slightly religious. That was true, however during and by the

end of RASA, I was way beyond that. There were times on my bike when no one was around,

that I cried with big tears. I shouted into the wind where nobody could hear me. I cried in my

bed. Maybe you don’t relate to the religious part, however I can assure you, at times, your

inner demons will test you beyond measure. If you succumb as many do, as was put to me

by an experienced and podium finisher RASA participant and blogger as I have stated before,

you are possibly normal. (Not judging their personal reasons!) But overcoming those

demons stretches and expands you to new limits. Remember the sayings, you cannot grow

in your comfort zone, and challenge your limits, don’t let your limits challenge you.

The growth I have experienced during RASA is something I could not have imagined. The

growth and bonding my family experienced leaves me speechless. I won’t bore you with the

details, but I can promise you, each and every RASA participant knows what I am talking

about. Not one will challenge my opinion.

So, in closing, I have new limits. Limits I never knew and probably most other people I know,

share the same opinion. They asked why I am doing this. Are you mad? Are you stupid? Have

you forgotten your age? Why? Why, why, why…? You will possibly endure the same

questions, but if like me you have a little rat inside you that needs to be fed with adventure

and adrenalin every now and again, I suggest you strongly check in and see if you really

know your limits? As Nelson Mandela said, “It is impossible until it is done”

(And by the way, does anyone know of a decent rat poison that will sort this rat inside me

out for ever!)

Monday, 10 May 2021

Chasing a Moment - a Freedom Circuit Story by Llewellyn Lloyd

Chasing a Moment is a short film following Adrian Saffy as he takes on the 700km Freedom Circuit. The Freedom Circuit is a self-supported bikepacking race in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. 

Riders have 120 hours to complete the exceptionally challenging route. There are 5 checkpoints along the way which riders must visit whilst using GPS to navigate through the harsh terrain including cattle tracks, jeep tracks, gravel roads and foot paths. A truly African MTB experience. 

The soul of mountain biking. Not for the feint hearted.

 More info: www.freedomcircuit.com 

 Film by: Llewellyn Lloyd //Reblex Photography

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Freedom Circuit 700km Recce Ride by: Chris Fisher

In February 2021 we test rode the new Freedom Circuit 700km bike-packing route in the Drakensberg , South Africa. This was a reconnaissance ride for the inaugural Freedom Circuit 400km/700km semi-supported bike-packing race taking place 27-30 April 2021. 

We were trying to simulate the average rider experience and the 700km ride took us 100 hours to complete with a little more sleep than you might afford yourself if racing. 

More info : www.freedomcircuit.com 

Special thanks to Carlo Gonzaga for 'first person footage' and Francios Van Vuuren for drone footage. 

Edited by Chris Fisher.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

In search of freedom by: Carlo Gonzaga

In February 2021 I got to be part of small four-person team, led by race director Chris Fisher, that did a reconnaissance of the race route for the inaugural edition of the Freedom Circuit scheduled for April.  

Words: Carlo Gonzaga

Good photos: Llewellyn Loyd/Reblex Photography 

Bad photos: Riders

“Kuphi isipaza? Kuphi isipaza!?”  Warm greetings aside this will be the most often asked question of locals during the inaugural Freedom Circuit bike packing race scheduled for April 2021.   This begs the question, ‘why do I need to know the whereabout of a shop for a bike race?’

The last 20 years has seen South African main-stream mountain biking culture grow up on a diet of multi-day stage races.  These are world class events where a riders’ every need is catered for.  I’ve seen inflatable swimming pools and pizza ovens in locations so remote I could barely get my bicycle there.  Riding ranged from damn hard to easy, and almost always on well-maintained routes and tracks.  Stage race fatigue birthed gravel riding events and its favourite tool, the gravel bike.  These events are similarly well organised:  manned waterpoints; 100% ridable routes and large fields.  Great camaraderie and a real test of pure lower limb horsepower.  Given the relatively fast riding speeds and numerous support stations, 100mile (160km) and 150mile (240km) events are within reach of average riders.  

The Freedom Circuit is none of these events. 
The Call
I got the call from Chris Fisher in January asking me if I wanted to do a reconnaissance ride of the race route in February.  My reply was simple – “count me in… for whatever”.  

Read full report here…

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Freedom Challenge - RASA 2020

In this beautiful film, two of the stalwarts of the event, Tim James and Mike Woolnough tell us a bit more about what this event means to them and the massive impact it has on the lives of all those who experience the Freedom Trail.
All footage was shot during the 2020 Race Across South Africa in October 2020.
Film by : Andrew Muckart // Sledgehammer Studio