How not to annoy that Cape Epic rider during the festive season

The Cape Epic is tough enough. Don’t make it worse, for friends of family, who are training. (Photo: Sam Clark)
The Cape Epic is tough enough. Don’t make it worse, for friends of family, who are training. (Photo: Sam Clark)
  • When everyone else is chilling or partying, Cape Epic riders, are training. That includes the festive season.
  • If you are sharing your vacation space with one, who might be a friend of family, we can help you keep the peace.
  • There are some useful rules to follow, to avoid having conflict between your vacation behaviour and the need for a Cape Epic rider, to be 'in-the-zone'.

Festive season and family. It’s a noble idea, but often intolerable. And when you add a family member, or friend, in their Cape Epic training phase to a crowded holiday home, things become even more challenging.

During the festive season, we all have our requirements. Sleeping in. Binge-watching series. Swiping right. Getting an awkward tan. And arguing about which average lunch venue to visit in that adjacent coastal village. But for Cape Epic riders, the festive season is different. And worse.

With the race scheduled for March 2023, late December and early January is the point of no return for Cape Epic training. If you miss your hours, intensity or riding volume, it becomes almost impossible to recover in late January and February.

mountain bike
Kids are often in awe of that family member or friend, riding a Cape Epic. Their ‘bike touching’ enthusiasm must be managed. (Photo: Simon Pocock)

Why they are so edgy

Riding the Cape Epic is a significant financial and physical investment. Team entries are R105 000, and if you aren’t averaging 10-14 hours of training a week, you might not finish.

Mountain biking psychology is an even greater obstacle to overcome than finding the hours in your social schedule. An all-pervasive doubt ghosts all amateur Cape Epic riders, making them mistrustful about their training volumes, intensity and riding commitment.

During the festive season break, it’s almost impossible to remain committed to a Cape Epic training programme. The implied socializing with friends, family and random encounters, can rapidly overwhelm your riding schedule, triggering stress.

As the friend, spouse, partner, child or any other family relation of a Cape Epic rider, you can make things easier. We know how mountain bikers think. To help preserve the peace in your vacation home during the festive season, we’ve got a guide on how not to annoy that family or friend, who is a Cape Epic rider.

mountain bike
Cape Epic mountain bikes are precision machines. Don’t adjust things on them, unless you know what you are doing. (Photo: Nick Muzik)

Don’t fiddle with the bike

The average cost of a Cape Epic capable mountain bike is upward of R100 000. And beyond the monetary value, each Cape Epic rider will have their mountain bike individually set-up.

The brake-level position, shift triggers, saddle height and orientation. All these touchpoints are within a millimetre of where they need to be for Cape Epic riders to spend hours on the bike, without unnecessarily cramping or suffering lower back or joint strain.

Although you – or your kids – might be hugely interested in that uncle or sister’s Cape Epic bike, don’t fiddle with it. Touch it. Move it. Or try and sit on it.

Mountain bike gears, especially the rear derailleur, can be elements of deep fascination for young kids, who can’t resist touching and toying with them. But remember, it only takes a small finger or hand intervention to misalign gears. And trigger the ire of that Cape Epic rider.

Unless you are a professional bike mechanic, forget about remedying ill-aligned gears on a modern 1x12 drivetrain system. Best leave them be and own up, if you’d knocked that derailleur out of position.

mountain bike
Nino Schurter is the world’s best sprint and endurance rider. And even he gets disrespected by South African thorns. (Photo: Nick Muzik)

Leave those thorns where they are

One of the best-intentioned (but worst) things you can do is pull thorns from a mountain bike’s tyres when parked.

Summer off-road training riders in South Africa mean thorns, but the latest tubeless mountain bike tyres can cope with multiple thorns, without deflating. That’s because the tyre sealant plugs any thorn-sized hole. But it only works when you are riding and the wheels rotating.

When a mountain bike is parked, and you pull a thorn from the tyre, there’s no rotational wheel motion and centrifugal force to spread the tyre sealant around and cover that thorn puncture point. Again, it’s a case of kids having the most innocent intention of helping and pulling thorns from an uncle or aunt’s Cape Epic bike. Only to discover, a few minutes later, that the tyres have flatted.

mountain bike
When Cape Epic riders finish a training ride or event, they really don’t want to chat about it. (Photo: Dom Barnardt)

Don’t ask about the ride

The festive season is a period of peak stress for everyone. And any Cape Epic rider sharing a vacation home with you will not enjoy detailing their training ride.

Don’t ask a Cape Epic rider how their training ride was because they’ll find something wrong, in the retelling. In this respect, Cape Epic riders are a lot like farmers: it’s never raining enough, or in the right place, at the rain time.  

Negative reinforcement is perhaps the only safe response to any narrative about training. If they return from a morning ride and complain about the wind, affirm their point of view. Even if there aren’t any branches moving, outside.

mountain bike
Cape Epic rider food. Looks good. Tastes weird. Not to be snacked on by others. (Photo: Dom Barnardt)

Don’t touch their food  

Dietary discipline suspends during the festive season. We all indulge in an acceptable amount of gluttony. But Cape Epic riders must remain lean and be mindful about their eating.

That doesn’t mean you must have that pizza or second serving of braai meat around the corner, out of view, but it means not sampling their food. Those strange-looking energy gels, nutrition bars and all other quite unpalatable performance nutrition items should be off-limits to everyone.

We’ll all attest that some of the most explosive festive season family fights, are due to unsolicited snacking. You’ve been warned. No matter how curious you – or the kids – become about that family or friend Cape Epic rider and their bike snacks, don’t try and sample one.

If you snack on that energy gel or nutrition bar, forget about finding their exact brand and choice of performance mountain biking nutrition in a small South African coastal town. There’s no opportunity of replacing it. So don’t have it, in the first place.

mountain bike
Shoes and socks are very personal items, for Cape Epic mountain bikers. Don’t wash or clean them, without asking. (Photo: Dom Barnardt)

The socks have special powers

Mountain biking is a strange realm for non-riders. And one of the things worth knowing, is that mountain bikers have a disproportionate obsession with socks.

If your socks aren’t comfortable, you can’t ride for many hours. Cape Epic riders will have a selection of socks which work for them. Don’t let kids or dog, hide these. The placebo performance effect of socks might sound ridiculous to non-riders, but it’s a real thing for mountain bikers.

Socks might be the stereotypical Christmas gift of indifference, but for mountain bikers, a new pair of riding socks are always appreciated.

mountain bike
There are clever ways of channelling the Cape Epic rider adoration, that kids exhibit. (Photo: Sam Clark)

Don’t wash their bike

Mountain bikes are paradoxically robust and fragile. Although a modern mountain bike can roll over the harshest terrain, landing drops and jumps without damage, water is its weakness.

The most expensive bits on a mountain bike feature unique lubrication requirements. Chain. Gears. Hub bearings. Suspension seals. All these components are designed to be adequately weather-sealed, which means they can deal with a stream crossing and lots of dust.

What a mountain bike’s most intricate components can’t deal with, is overzealous pressure hosing. The damage caused by incorrectly used high-pressure washers can be enormous. Forcing moisture past seals and causing bearings to rust.

No matter how dusty and dirty that Cape Epic bike in your vacation home looks, don’t be proactive and wash it. It’s the worst thing you can do. Incorrectly washing a Cape Epic rider’s bike, with the wrong cleaning agents and pressure hose technique, can easily cause R5000 to R10 000 worth of damage.

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