A Hard Tail: Because Life's Not All Downhill!

Anthony Long
May 17, 2018

Our Head of IT Development, Nick Kohne and I teamed up recently to compete in the 2018 KAP Sani2c challenge. 3 days of mountain biking from the base of the Sani Pass, high in the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, down to Durban and the sea.

The race consisted of 264km, including 3,627m of ascent. Over 6,000 competitors took part in all; a logistical triumph for the organiser, Farmer Glen, and his 2,800 volunteers. We rode, camped, ate and drank like clockwork.

Day 1 started on a beautiful morning high in the Drakensberg at Glencairn Farm, with breathtaking autumn colours, distant views of the mountains and beautiful rolling farmland all around. It was a day to ease us in gently (with much tougher things to come) but after 82km of riding and over 1,183m of climbing, Nick and I were more than ready for our first beer when we arrived at Mackenzie Club to camp for the night!

Day 2 began at dawn with coffee and breakfast in the marquee. This day is what makes the Sani2c so special. It is a long, arduous day, with 96km of riding and over 1,500m of climbing. The route took us down through the mighty Umkomaas Valley, and is some of the most spectacular riding imaginable. It is impossible to describe the feeling and the photos simply do not do it justice, but it was definitely two of the best hours of riding ever.

However, for every downhill, there is an uphill too! The Iconic and Haaibo climbs were simply brutal, so by the end of day 2 we were both exhausted. More beer, a massage, two steaks (each!) for dinner, with wine (of course) and we were sound asleep by 8:00pm!

Overnight, I could swear that we were both run over by a tractor, and at dawn the next morning, although the mind was willing, the body screamed ‘no more!’ Mountain bike technology has progressed a long way over the last fifteen years, and my old faithful 26’ Hard Tail, which I bought for the Isle of Man End2End race in 2004 is now old tech! Whilst it still works perfectly, with no suspension system, it also hurts constantly… and didn’t I know this when I got back on the bike at the beginning of day 3!

Everything hurt, from my head right through to my tail! Even Nick was hurting, and he had built his new bike especially for the sani2c, with its 29’ wheels, full suspension system and carbon everywhere. Nevertheless, with some painkillers and a lot of coffee, we headed off for the start of the final 86km down to the sea.

It turned out that Day 3 was a glorious day of fast sweeping single-track trails through sugar cane farms, plantations, a game reserve, and distant views of the sea getting ever closer whenever we crested a hill.

It was three days of the most spectacular countryside, with some of the most breathtaking and arduous cycling imaginable! Three days of brutal endurance riding, but what a prize to have completed it, and I could not have had a better teammate to ride with.

With his twelve-year younger age advantage and much better technology, there is no doubt I held him back- But we rode every kilometre together, climbed every hill together, crossed every river together, and we finished together; because that’s what great teams do.

Thank you Nick, thank you Farmer Glen, and thank you Sani2c for one of life’s most memorable adventures.

Anthony Long
Capital International Group

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