Less than an hours drive north of Cape Town, Ganzekraal campsite was our home for the weekend. While the bulk of the riding took place over Saturday and Sunday, Friday evening provided us with an opportunity to test out our Fat Bike legs on a short beach ride and a perfect excuse for some sundowners.
After sunset and a beer or two we switched on the lights and meandered back to camp inland along some dirt roads. Before long dinner was served and we were treated to some serious West Coast hospitality with an abundance of perfectly prepared braai meat courtesy of Monty's Spit Braai.
Day two: Silverstroom to Ganzekraal
Our route for day two would see us riding approximately 30km from Silverstroom at Ganzekraal. After some bacon and egg rolls (and/or muesli) for breakfast, riders and bikes were shuttled south to the starting point where we'd ride in a northerly direction back to the campsite.
Our first taste of soft sand came early and was a rude awakening for sleepy legs. Even with 4 inches of rubber it can be tough going. We were soon beyond the sandy dunes though, where a steep drop delivered us down to sea level and onto the firmer stuff.
Thankfully I'd had some tips from Nick who rode last year's event and had passed on his learnings. 1) Learn to look for the sweet spot of firm sand 2) Fat bike drafting - no aerodynamics here, but pre-compacted sand in the form of other rider's tracks is game changing and 3) Tyre pressure is critical, when you think it's too soft let a little more air out. I can only thank Nick because these three simple tricks flattened my learning curve and my first real fat biking experience far easier from the get-go.
The route took us on and off beaches as we dodged rocky outcrops and traded beach sand for rocks or occasional gravel roads. The final few kilometers took us off the sand onto firmer hard packed ground where we were greeted by a stern headwind. Despite the short distance on paper it felt like a closer double that on the day.
Winding our way alongside the coast towards the finish we had a few farm fences to negotiate and here the camaraderie of the event shone through. Riders happily reached over to grab bikes and lent a hand ensure others made it over or through at the marked areas.
Before long the familiar flags of our campsite signaled the end of our ride.
The Steed - Titan Whopper Sport
Since many riders may not own a fat bike, Titan, a title sponsor of the event, offer a rental service for the weekend. I opted for one of these and the fleet of Titan Whopper Sport fat bikes served many of us well on our adventures. It features a light weight aluminium frame with a rigid fork and is kitted with entry level Shimano components, Shimano M315 Hydraulic brakes and a 3x9 drivetrain. Titan's own brand "Big Daddy" 26" x 4.0" tyres keep you in contact with the sand (or snow).
For my typical riding tastes the 3x9 is a bit of an overkill although I have to admit it saved me on occasion when sand had jammed up the rear derailleur. Thankfully on arrival back at camp the bikes were all treated to a wash thanks to Namgear and good to go for the next day.
Another evening of great food and great company with a lamb spit braai from Monty's. The intimate nature of the event meant most riders connected with one another at some point over the weekend. Swopping stories, sharing laughs and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
Day three: Yzerfontein to Ganzekraal
Following Saturday's headwinds the organising team made the call to reverse the route for Sunday. Instead of riding north from our campsite towards Yzerfontein we would shuttle through to the "finish line" and ride back to camp with a predominantly tail wind. Much to the delight of all the riders.
Given the gloomy, blustery West Coast conditions we were all smiles to know that we at least had the wind on our backs for the day. With all riders layered up, many having depleted the ION team's jacket supplies, we set off on another adventure along the coast.
The seemingly endless stretches of coastline offered up an array of testing conditions. A pushing high tide often left little room to ride and fewer options to avoid the softest of soft sand. As I found my rhythm and that Goldilocks like spot of tyre pressure I recalled Nick's earlier advice and scrambled across the beach seeking out fat biking nirvana in the sand.
With mixed success I soon shifted focus to the surroundings, spotting all sorts of unique birdlife dotted along the coast and even a lonely seal avoiding the rough swells who, much like us fat bikers, lumbered across the soft sand as it snuck back into the water.
Despite the wet and windy conditions it was a unique treat to experience all sides of the West Coast. After around 20km of beach riding we again headed slightly inland and wound our way through the low shrubs over a mix of sand dune, hard packed dirt and a brief stretch of tar which delivered us back to Ganzekraal.
What a unique experience and an awesome adventure.
Thanks to the Weskus Fatbike Adventure team for an incredible weekend. Great riding, delicious food and all round good vibes.