Natty Newbie episode eight: expanding the mountain biking family

f your bike rack obscures view of your licence plate, make sure you mount an additional one on the outside.

Join Natty Newbie as she tries mountain biking for the first time. Natty’s enthusiasm is contagious and the MTB bug has bitten another family member, which necessitates a shopping spree. A bike rack gets added to Natty’s equipment list and the fabulous competition prize is boosted to R19 000.

Misery wants company … and enthusiasm is infectious. When you start mountain biking, I think there’s a mixture of both extreme emotions. The highs of the ride, tempered by splash downs in big puddles, crashes over roots and – always – those blasted clingy cleats to get used to and the sinking feeling of falling sideways when you haven’t a free foot to stand on.

After weeks of war stories and having to massage life back into my bruised body, which I don’t think was entirely a chore, my fiancé Johan decided I probably needed a bodyguard, or at least company.

His bike, a Cannondale Scalpel purchased second-hand a few years ago when he was a keener cyclist, hadn’t ever been correctly sized or set up and he complained of a sore neck and back.  We started by taking that to Steve Bowman at CycleLab. One expert eye over six-foot-four-inch Johan and the racy little Scalpel and it was obvious no amount of modifications could make the two compatible.

So we drifted over to the new bikes. Well cured of any windgat youthful days, Johan was looking for comfort. A soft tail, with suspension at the back as well as at the front, was the obvious choice. The decision was down to two very appealing brands, a GT and a Giant and lots of SMSing and WhatsApping to and fro between various Ride fanatics and friends took place before an extra-large handsome black, yellow and silver Giant Anthem X1 (R24 999) was chosen. The retailers probably won’t forgive me for saying this, but after shopping around a few Cape Town cycle shops it was clear the price on the tag could be negotiated. CycleLab offered the best deal and threw in a tubeless conversion, one-year service and maintenance plan and a few other little sweeteners. Steve tweaked and fiddled the set-up to compensate for Johan’s large frame (tall, broad-shouldered men and bicycles aren’t easily matched) and he was ready to ride.

Natty’s top three bike-buying tips

1.     Always have the bike professionally set up.

2.     Don’t be shy to haggle on the price a little or ask for a few deal sweeteners.

3.     Buy the best bike you can afford – that way there’s nothing you can do about bike envy when you ride with others.


With two bikes in the family, we would no longer be able to just toss my Merida in the back of the double cab. A bike rack was the next item to be added to our shopping cart. The Thule Hang On 3-Bike Tilt (R1 809,95) just slips onto your tow bar and then you can hang up to three bikes on its rack. It’s quick and easy to remove, which was one of our big requirements as our cars are used to tow the horsebox as well as carry bikes. And it’s light, so even I can set it up and load the bikes and I don’t have to plead damsel in distress.

So with a very happy fiancé and two bikes hooked onto my tail, I belted home up the N7. Imagine my surprise when a traffic officer pulled me over: “You’re obscuring your number plate,” he said. Damsel in distress mode kicked in and I whined my way out of a fine, but the very next day sent Johan off to buy a number plate we can clip onto the back of the rack. Of course, I’ve since seen everybody carries bikes hanging over their back number plate, but it’s better to avoid the fine.

The great bonus for you, dear reader, is that the bike carrier has been added to the Natty Newbie prize increasing its value to R22 000. So don’t forget to enter.

Till next time, pedal on …

Natty Newbie

Contact CycleLab for a great selection of products in the online store, advice, tours, online race entries and details of the stores round the country.


Natty Newbie gets into mountain biking

Natty Newbie starts mountain biking episode two: Bike set-up

Natty Newbie episode three: Six things Natty learned about mountain biking   

Natty Newbie episode four: Mountain biking first spills 

Natty Newbie episode five: Weight watching techniques

Natty Newbie episode six: Stretching her limits in a yoga class for cyclists

Natty Newbie episode seven: How to fix a puncture

WIN Ride, Sanlam Reality and CycleLab are giving one lucky reader the chance to win the full starter kit as described in this blog. All you have to do is follow the series and answer the question below.

Click here to enter the competition. Closing Date is 31 October 2012. The items on the prize equipment list may be exchanged for similar goods of the same or lesser value to cater for individual fit. Click here for the full equipment list for the prize.