Tips and Advice
One of the advantages of riding in the Karkloof is that it offers a wide variety of trails. The 10km marked route is graded white or very easy and is perfect for beginners. Once you feel confident on the 10km route, the 20km route offers a nice step up in terms of technicality and distance. Always ensure that you abide by the Rules of the Trail and take down the emergency numbers before going out on your ride.
Take a look at some of the articles which have featured in Ride Magazine. These focus on certain trail sections and how these should be ridden.
Ride within your ability
It is important to remember to always ride within your ability. The Karkloof trails have all been graded in accordance with the IMBA Australia Grading System. Before tackling any trail, take some time to consider the grading. Of course it is fun to challenge yourself and test your ability but if you are uncertain about a section, rather be cautious and either choose another route or walk the trail.
The weather conditions in the Karkloof affect the trail conditions significantly. During summer, long periods of rain can result in very muddy and slippery trails. Remember that the rocks and roots become far more difficult to manage as your traction over these obstacles is limited in the wet.
From a maintenance and environmental impact perspective, it is better not to ride the trails when they are very wet as this can lead to excessive erosion and even the destruction of features such as berms.
Be very cautious of electrical storms. These can be extremely dangerous in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Amy-Jane’s top tips and advice
Knowing the basic skills of mountain biking is imperative before tackling any single track. Here are some general riding tips that will help you become a more skilled and confident rider.
Tip #1 – Looking ahead: Always look at least 3 – 4 meters ahead as this gives you time to choose the safest line and plan your route. Where your eyes look your body will follow. Look where you want to go – If you look at a tree, a rock, a root or down a bank for example you will be drawn to the object in focus like a magnet. Scan these objects and know where they are but remember to focus on the trail ahead and steer your bike to where you want it to go.
Tip #2 – Hand position: Always make sure that your thumb is hooked around the handlebar. If you don’t do this, all it takes is one hard bump and you’ll be on the ground before you can blink. If you use bar ends never ride single track or downhill holding onto them, always have a firm grip around the handle bar grips.
Tip#3 – Platform position (Attack position): This is probably the most important position to master. This position is performed with your feet level on the pedals, standing with your knees slightly bent and your bum out of the saddle. This allows your bike to move freely under your body with only your feet and hands attached. It also helps to keep your pedals from hitting any obstacles, such as rocks or roots. The platform position enables you to shift your weight over the back of the saddle or move your weight forward depending on the obstacle you are tackling. Your legs and arms also act as suspension so it is important not to straighten them. Use this position when riding technical sections and descents.
Tip #4 – Momentum: Momentum is your best friend. In most cases the slower you go the harder it is to overcome an obstacle. Try to keep your riding as smooth as possible and maintain a steady flow. Don’t be scared to tackle smaller obstacles with a bit of controlled speed. Whilst standing in the platform position on a descent, momentum can be adjusted up by moving your body position over the bike, or by moving your weight back to slow down. If you can see a short rise or sharp climb, speed up and use your momentum to propel you up and over the top.
Tip #5 – Climbing: When approaching a climb the first thing you want to do is get into the right gear. Settle into the climb in a harder gear and shift down as and when required. For a short steep climb try gain as much momentum as you can in the approach and then climb standing with your weight shifted towards the front of the bike. For longer climbs, remain seated and find a comfortable gear and rhythm. Don’t push too hard if the climb is quite long. As the climb gets steeper, shift your body weight forward by dropping your chest closer to the handlebars and pull with your arms.
Tip #6 – Ride in Groups: It is always safer to ride in groups and it is more enjoyable. You get to share your experience with others and your skills improve when you ride with people who are better than you.
Amy-Jane offers skills training clinics and personal coaching in the Karkloof. She can be contacted on 079 501 3615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org