Grant Clark queries the fun quotient of mountain biking

‘If I had a rand for every time I asked myself the question, ‘How did I get into this?’, I’d be obscenely rich. The Lovely Jacs (TLJ) says that my focus should be less on how rich I could be, and more on why I have to ask myself that particular question so often.

Mountain biking is one such thing. Starting it was one of my 2016 New Year’s resolutions. But while it was abundantly clear to me that I was never actually getting on a bike, it seems this was not at all clear to TLJ. She appears to have invoked some weird municipal bylaw to the effect that anyone with a mountain bike and mountain biking clothing has to go mountain biking. I always thought the constitution protected me from cruel and unusual punishment, but for some bizarre reason mountain biking doesn’t fall into this category. When I explained to TLJ that someone of my athletic disability shouldn’t be allowed on a bicycle, let alone a bicycle on the side of a mountain, she mumbled something about Darwin (what on earth?) and the hope that I might finally win some kind of award. Generally I’m opposed to exercise, but the possibility of an award was at least some motivation.

So it was that I found myself dispatched to the bottom of the mountain along with another stupid husband, to whom we shall refer as Brett, mostly because that’s his name. Brett, it appeared, was a victim of the same bylaw. But while he wore shorts and a respectable golf shirt, I had been forced into an overly-tight cycling outfit. Question: at what point will the mountain biking industry start taking responsibility for sending out-of-shape middle-aged men up mountains looking like Village People rejects?

If you’ve never been mountain biking before and are thinking it might be a fun way to exercise, let me forewarn you. It’s not.

‘this is not for the out-of-shape, middle-aged man’

What no one tells you is that it’s all uphill. Even this wouldn’t be so bad if everyone who passes as you’re pushing your bike up the interminable mountain didn’t yell some form of encouragement. I know they mean well, but they’re all clearly drug cheats who should be banned from the sport.

The ridiculous thing is that, after pushing your bike up the mountain for an hour, you think it’ll all be better because you can now have a leisurely freewheel back down. That’s until you turn around and find you’ve scaled a vertical rock face. I’m not sure what parachuting is like, but I’m pretty sure that riding down the mountain is akin to it. Some unsolicited advice for first timers: don’t ever follow little signs that say ‘Downhill Track’. These are simply designed to lure unsuspecting idiots to their doom. You only realise you’re in deep trouble when you find yourself vaulting at 60 km per hour over a troop of bemused baboons, courtesy of a ramp that you neither anticipated nor spotted. Quite something for someone who usually only reaches top speed when he has to get his own beer from the fridge.

To top things off, just when you’ve managed to pick yourself up from the dirt and wrestle your missing front wheel away from a cheeky primate, some idiot will come sailing over your head from the selfsame ramp. Shouting something like, ‘It’s all in the knees!’, he or she then lands perfectly, toes pointed, and heads off in a puff of dust. Again I say it, ban the drug cheats!

On a more disturbing note, you really need to be careful out there. Apparently, criminals have taken to targeting cyclists to steal their bikes. It’s obviously not a very big thing in my area yet because Brett and I have been out three evenings in a row this week, pushing our bikes up and down the road, and no one has relieved us of them. If someone doesn’t act soon, we may have to ride again this weekend.’

Grant Clark is an attorney specialising in maritime law.

He’s also a pastor at Common Ground Church, Constantiaberg, Cape Town.

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