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.

Two-time FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz winner Matt Beers during stage 3 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales: Image by Nick Muzik

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.

Matt has years of experience racing at the sports highest level, with both his FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz titles coming with partner Wessel Botha. Image by Nick Muzik

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.

Over the past few months, indoor training and the ecosystems around them have quickly evolved from a simple supplement to your riding to a separate discipline altogether, with dedicated events and races taking place world-wide.

The forerunner in the evolution of indoor training is Californian based company, Zwift. Founded in 2014 the platform has quickly become the software of choice for anyone looking to focus their training efforts indoors, to reap the rewards when back on the trail.

One such adopter of Zwift is 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage winner Courteney Webb, the University of Cape Town student has been racing both on and off-road for a few years and has incorporated indoor sessions into her training plans for as long as she can remember. 

Courteney Webb and partner Amy Tait, winners of the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Pinotage, at the finish in Onrus. Image by Xavier Briel

We sat down with her to find out how she keeps the #SeriousGees alive during her indoor rides:

This year has obviously changed a lot of things up! Often in the winter period I am actually fairly busy racing various mtb/road races, so I have taken this opportunity to increase my training intensity and work on my sustained power. Something I found helped a lot last year. The steady climbs on stage 1 out of Lourensford really played to my and my partner Amy Tait’s strengths, as we were able to get into a good rhythm and build a lead that allowed us to win the overall title.

Looking at this year’s route, the back end of stage 1 will again be an important part of the race. Seeing how much indoor training helped me focus on long steady power for last year, I saw this lockdown as a chance to further build on that.

Courteney Webb using her mtb skills to build an unassailable lead in the 2019 FNB Wines2Whale Pinotage.
Image by Nick Muzik

Indoor training can seem pretty boring and the thought of sitting staring at a wall or computer for 2hrs, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but having recently joined Zwift, my perceptions towards indoor training have completely changed.

My top bit of advice is to make your workouts fun and spice things up with new challenges and with friends! 

Zwift has so many challenges, workouts and races you are bound to find something you enjoy, so try them all.

My friends and I have held each other accountable by making sure we do our workouts or races, and have been using Discord to talk while doing the sessions, which has been a fun way to catch up and make the time fly by.

With all the time spent in a static position on the indoor trainer, it’s even more important to focus on stretching to prevent injuries, it’s something that is so easily overlooked.

I’m really excited to see how Zwift evolves and becomes a bigger part of my racing calendar throughout the year, with long wet winters down here in the Cape, I am really grateful to have the option to ride on Zwift and already seeing how much it has benefitted my outdoor riding, it’s going to make this years Switchback even more fun.

I’ll be hoping to repeat last year’s win in 2020, it was such a surreal feeling crossing the line in Onrus. I will never forget how stoked Amy and I were being able to take home the Varsity Cup and getting our moment on the finishing line with champagne, all the hard work over the 3 days all came together.

The Gees in the race village is like no other, with the best food and snacks, I never feel guilty stuffing my jersey pockets, as I know the climbing will make me earn them. The chill zones are such awesome places to catch up with old riding friends and make new friends. I can’t wait for all the new twists and turns of the 2020 Switchback.

As we emerge from lockdown to the dreaded dark winter mornings, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to sit down with some of SA’s best MTB riders, and see how they keep the #SeriousGees alive & what they focus on, to ensure they are stronger when the warmer weather returns.

Candice Lill from team Faces during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel


Reigning SA XC Champion and 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay runner-up, Candice Lill, is no stranger to a Cape winter. The Cape Town resident, clearly has her winter riding setup dialled with a win on last year’s first stage, from Lourensford to Oak Valley, in some of the most challenging conditions in the races history, “I was so impressed with and proud of all the women who showed up and raced in such wild conditions, all with a smile on their faces. Their attitudes made it so much fun.”

From riding gear to kicking back with a glass of red wine, here are Candice’s winter tips:

In terms of gear for winter training, there are a few things to note.

“If you’re wanting to ride in the rain then do invest in a proper rain jacket that is fully waterproof. It makes the world of difference. Even if you don’t set out to ride in the rain, Cape Town’s four seasons truly can hit you in one day. I always carry one of Ciovita’s light rain jackets, as they fold up small and trust me you’ll be happy you have it when the time comes.

For those less brave to tackle the elements, use layering to your advantage, my go-to is an undershirt, arm warmers and a gilet. It keeps my core perfectly warm and allows me to remove layers as the day warms up.

Knowing how to regulate your temperature is very important, but if your hands and feet are cold, you are already on the back foot. A good pair of gloves and a set of foot warmer booties (I think that’s what you call them) will go a long way to ensuring you don’t get caught trying to brake down the trail, just to find out you can’t feel your fingers.”

Now for off the bike…

“In summer it’s important to maximise the hours of daylight, with early morning rides before it gets too hot, in winter it’s important to do the same with the hours of darkness. I focus on getting into a good routine of enough sleep and recovery, your body will thank you later.

I also take this time to focus on my diet. Now more so than ever, it is important to eat right, I pack my winter comfort foods, curries, soups and stew, with lots of veggies and spices, to keep my immune system strong. In the mornings, a hot pot of oats with banana, nuts/nut butter/seeds and protein powder is a great way to fuel up before or after a ride.

Remember to look after your mental health too. Do things that make you happy, have that glass of red wine, chocolate cake or bubble bath. I always find having that balance makes me a happier and healthier person which always leads to a better performance on the bike.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Switchback. I think day 1 is going to be really hard, with a lot of climbing out of Hermanus. Day 2’s “play day” is always a highlight, but with the new sections, this year it’s going to be an interesting challenge. Coming into Lourensford to end it all off is going to be something special and I can’t wait to get out there.”

Candice Lill has a laugh at the start of the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Nick Muzik