There is no denying the winter rains have returned to the Cape and with that a host of challenging riding conditions.
From first time riders to seasoned pros, bombing down a winter trail requires a little more knowledge and preparation but the rewards are worth it.
Two-time FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz winner Matt Beers is no stranger to riding in wet conditions, with conditions in last year’s event testing everyone’s skills and bike setup.
Here are Matt’s top tips for riding winter trails:
One of the most important things is to not be afraid to ride in the rain and mud, it’s actually a lot of fun and it will help you in a race situation, just make sure you are dressed for it.
Take a look at Candice Lill’s top winter gear tips here: https://wines2whales.com/seriousgeessunday-with-candice-lill/
Moving onto bike setup, your contact with the ground is the most impact factor to consider when riding wet or loose trails. I normally drop my tyre pressures by 2-3psi from what I normally ride, just to get a bit more grip.
With wet trails the bike tends to move around a lot more, be it from riding through mud or over wet rocks, it’s important to stay calm and not fight the bike, let it move freely underneath you and use momentum to your advantage. Another important skill to work on is your ability to select the right line. Trails can be ridden in many different ways and challenge different aspects of your riding, this means that one section can often have many lines and being able to see them at speed, commit and link turns together will help you ride with more confidence. If needs be, take a moment to ride a section of trail a few times, trying different lines and testing yourself on new sections you’ve never ridden before.
In winter your post ride routine is very important, you want to ensure both you and your bike get clean and dry. Start with yourself of course, it is important to get warm and fuelled up. As for your bike, make sure to give it a good wash, especially if it has been a particularly muddy ride, applying a little extra Squirt Cycling Product’s wet chain lube will ensure your drivetrain runs smoothly all winter long.
Having completed the event a few times, 2018 was my first time partnering with Wessel Botha. Taking the win that year as a new pairing was very cool and the start of a good partnership. Returning last year and managing to defend the title against a strong field showed Wessel and I had something special. Finishing in Onrus on the beach (due to the change of route as a result of protests) was an awesome feeling, but the highlight was being able to watch SA win the Rugby World Cup final in the race village, that was a vibe.
I am looking forward to the Switchback route as it’s something I have suggested before, it will present new challenges and allow us to experience the trails in a new way.