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

Join Natty Newbie as she tries mountain biking for the first time. The first solo rides raise a few giggles, a gasp and a couple of lessons to learn from. Enter our fabulous competition to win your own start-up mountain bike kit.

Lesson 1
Nobody in cycling has the same opinion. Getting used to popping cleats in and out of the pedal clips is a vital step. Tim says, “Prop yourself between a wall and the couch at home and clip your feet in and out.” Jazz says: “Just get on your bike and ride.” At home I try Tim’s advice first, forget to hold the brake (because one hand is on the wall and the other on the couch) and roll forward into a bookshelf. The complete works of Charles Dickens falls in a heap at the Merida’s front wheel. Oh sod it, cycling’s not for the lounge anyway. Outside, the first freewheel down the driveway is terrifying. “Oh my gosh I can’t remember how to ride a bicycle,” I gasp. But it comes back pretty quickly and clipping in is easier on the move. Soon I am looking for poles and gutters to ramp over – to the amusement of the dogs. My technique is desperately wobbly though.

Lesson 2
“Don’t look down when you’re clipping in,” Steve Bowman at CycleLab warned me. “Then you’ll be sure to ride into a tree or something. Look where you’re going.” A week into this I am still obsessing over my feet. Lesson not yet learned. Please don’t let a tree be the thing that hammers it home.

Lesson 3
The cleats are your friend. With the right bike set up thanks to Steve, I find I am pedaling far more efficiently than I have been on my exercise bike, and the security of the cleats means I can put power into both the upward and downward stroke. The springs are still set loosely so I won’t be standing on the pedals and powering up the Pyrenees like Chris Froome (on the cover of the latest Ride mag) – not yet.

Lesson 4
A big puddle of muddy water WILL make you dirty. We have hundreds of hectares of farmland interlinked with gravel roads and jeep tracks bordering Kalbaskraal in the Swartland where I live. Heavy winter rain has left some monster puddles with no way round. There are no mudguards on a mountain bike. “Speed is your friend,” Adele had told me. So, determined not to fall in, I send it through a big black puddle and am rewarded with soggy feet (brand new Giro Reva shoes at R1 419 now fully inducted) and an icy wet bum and back to be endured for the rest of the journey. At home, I discover mud on my helmet and the new white Ride shirt is pristine no longer. At least it washes well.

Lesson 5
Grassy verges make soft landing spots. If you get on a bike, you must get off it somehow – just ask Daryl Impey! My ‘domestique’ for company and security on the remote farm trails is Leo the Rotweiller. With tongue lolling to the side, he tucks into my slipstream (such as it is) able to keep up because I am wobbly and rather slow. But a fresh mole hole distracts him and I notice I’m riding alone. Brakes on, unclip right foot, swing head over right shoulder to yell for Leo, lean left, forget to unclip left foot. Splat! Fortunately the grass verge and my generous left thigh cushion the landing.

Lesson 6
Contact lenses don’t like midges, especially at speed. This time of year the flowering canola is midge heaven. A true Capetonian poser, I too believe looking cool is more important than cycling prowess or practicality. Leave nerdy glasses at home, cruise at speed with contacts in. Bad idea. The midges zoom straight for my peepers and pepper the contacts. So I end up tackling potholed and puddly roads with teary eyes. Might as well close them for all I can see. What I really need is a pair of Oakleys – they look super Capetonian-spec cool, fit well and their lenses are tough with brilliant optics. Jawbones or Radars are the ones to look at; and CycleLab carries a wide range.

Next it’s off to Tokai Forest for my first technical lesson. I’ll hitch up the GoPro camera and post a video clip, but be prepared for a granny version of The Faerie Garden! In the meantime, send in your entries to win a replica of my full kit worth around R19 000, compliments of CycleLab, Ride magazine and Sanlam Reality.

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

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.

  • Neef

    OMW, its like a 4 year old riding a bike…

    • Natty Newbie

      Thanks – these words still haunt me. After 8 weeks practicing, there’s been some improvement, but I am just praying I can stick to my line on race day – would hate to knock someone else off their bike. Luv Natty

  • You getting there Natty…Well done.:)))

    • Natty Newbie

      Thanks Vivien. It’s lots of fun! – Luv Natty.

  • Johnathan Fourie

    Looking good Natty! 😉 well done!

    • Natty Newbie

      Thanks Johnathan – don’t forget to enter the competition, if you haven’t already. The prize is now worth R22 000.

  • Hey Natty good luck with what you are doing, in looking to start cycling soon. Cant wait for the rest of your stories!