By Charl Neethling
Every day, most people who call themselves cyclists, get in their cars to sit in traffic for hours on their way to work. Here they often brag about the massive distance of their training ride the previous day and the price of their new aerodynamic skin-suit. We are not like that, we are commuters, we are the few who get on our bikes every day, the few who arrive at work or class a bit sweaty, but with a big smile, the few who’d rather save some money and play a part in keeping the planet green. As commuters though, we regularly get the stink eye for still looking stylish while we ride instead of suiting up in full lycra/spandex kit, which sometimes feels good, especially when the rider giving you that stink eye is slower than you. We are also passionate about our bikes, be it a rare steel-frame racer from the 80’s, gran’s old single speed with a coaster break and a basket or a fixed gear skidding machine.
For my first Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour I decided to do it for all the commuters out there weaving through traffic every day, also risking their lives just as much as our lycra/spandex brethren. I got together with Levi’s to give the 110km a go in a combo from their Commuter range, some awesome skinny shorts with some cycling specific modifications and a stylish moisture managing tee with a longer tail to keep your lower back covered when riding. A combo that, as it turns out, got me even more strange looks and snarky comments on the day, all for worth it though. My steed? My daily commuting bike, a fixed gear track bike with an 88 inch gear(49/15) with the only modification being a bottle cage on the seat post. For those who are unsure, a fixed gear/fixie is a bike with one gear and no free-wheel, similar to the spinning bikes on most gyms: if the wheels are turning, you can’t stop pedalling. No coasting, ever.
As for the race, it turns out riding a fixie makes you faster up the hills, as you always want to try and keep your momentum, you end up leaving hundreds of gear pushers behind, downhills are a different story though, here leg speed is the most important thing. That, and looking out for a few Freddies weaving and swerving all over the show. Along the route I rode past at least 7 accidents and had a few close shaves myself, from riders not holding a line and some simply falling over! Here, being a commuter helped a great deal, it teaches you to hold your line (you’re dead if you don’t), to be aware of what is going on around you and to be confident on your bike. On race day I woke up at a normal hour, enjoyed a normal breakfast and commuted to the start, where I left the blocks at 09:48. And after overtaking quite a few people, leading a few packs through the wind, cramping up half way, pushing hard up Chappies and Suikerbossie and spinning my legs to a pulp downhill past Llandudno I made it safely across the finish line in 4 hours and 17 minutes in 12656th place.
This was truly one of the great experiences of my life and a big thanks must go out to all the unsung heroes who had any part in making an event this big, run so smoothly. Also to all the spectators along the way and especially the guy who handed me a cold grape on Suikerbossie and said ”Fixies are legit man, show them!”