Farrah Francis
Lifestyle Managing Editor
5 minute read
15 Oct 2021
1:00 pm

Mountain biking for beginners: What you need to know from two experts

Farrah Francis

Beauty Ngobese and Remofilwe Moeketsi will partake in the Absa Cape Epic. They share tips for those wanting to start mountain biking.

Beauty Ngobese will participate in the Absa Epic on 17 October.

Falling off your bike and costs are some of the anxieties which come with wanting to start mountain biking.

The Absa Cape Epic kicks off on 17 October and local, women-led duo Beauty Ngobese and Remofilwe Moeketsi, riding in the Exxaro category, have been preparing intensely to conquer the globe’s toughest mountain bike race.

Born and raised in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, Beauty is a passionate mountain biker and road cyclist. She recently won the gold medal at the Barberton XCM Mountain bike challenge and pedalled away with bronze medals at the South African National Road Championships and Gauteng Road Championships. 

Race partner Remofilwe, from Pampierstad in the Northern Cape, is a former professional netball player who now works in IT.

She said: “I have always been athletic and on the adventurous side of things. I was craving something new and exciting, so in 2018 I entered mountain biking and set out my first goal to finish the 94.7 Ride Joburg, which I achieved, and since then have never looked back.”

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How to get into mountain biking

Mountain biking can seem intimidating and is considered one of the more expensive sports but it did not stop Ngobese or Moeketsi from taking the plunge.

Ngobese says: “I was cycling for a local cycling club when I first was introduced to mountain biking. I remember we did a ‘coffee ride’ to Hartbeespoort Dam. I had never fallen off my bike as much as I did on that ride.”

Moeketsi added: “I went to a bike shop, got myself a MTB, searched for a club and found Proud Beginners. Joined their 60km and the rest is history.

What equipment do you need

Before you grab a bike and go, there are a few things you’ll want to have on hand so that you are ready for any situation, according to the pair.

  • Helmet – the most important piece of biking gear
  • Protective glasses, riding gloves, riding top and bib, repair kit
  • You do not need expensive bikes and shoes. We see workers on their bikes every day on entry-level bikes and they are still moving. Go with what your budget allows and do not worry too much about expensive things.

Recommendations for routes for mountain biking

One of the best things about mountain biking is being able to get in touch with nature again and to really enjoy the country. Here are some of the best mountain biking trails according to Ngobese:

  • Wolwerspruit, GP
  • Van Gaalen Cheese Farm Trails, Magaliesberg, NW
  • Karkloof MTB Trails, KZN
  • Jonfershoek MTO Trails, WC
  • Wild Boar Trails, Wellington, WC

Safety tips

Before you hop on your bike, you should make sure that precautionary measures are taken. First you will need protective clothing, that includes the helmet, gloves, glasses, etc. and then you must make sure that the bike is in a good working condition. Adds Ngobese:

  • Brakes must be checked/tested to assist with navigating dangerous areas.
  • Tyre pressure must be set to the recommended pressure per terrain to increase grip and to avoid punctures in dangerous situations.
  • If you’ll be riding early in the morning, make sure that you have your lights on for visibility and to ensure motorists can see you.

It is also important to make sure that you have emergency contact details with you and inform family members staying behind on the cycling ride or route you will be taking.

Gear yourself up with the right accessories, not only for greater safety and comfort but also for a lot more fun on the road.

Says Moeketsi: “Most important safety aspect is the helmet, and as mentioned above, gloves and glasses especially when off road. It is also important to understand the dynamics of riding with cars – one needs to always assume that the car does not see you so take all precautions, e.g., signals, checks when turning and crossing intersections. Unfortunately, because of high crime rates, also riding in numbers. Skills are also important because they help with bike control.”

Fitness levels and mountain biking

Both racing ladies agree that you do not need to have a specific level of fitness to start mountain biking: “Nope – get on your bike and start – if you cannot ride at all, get a skills coach, for example in Johannesburg there are coaching organisations like EMC, BMC and Matshimela Ladies Clinics that assist with such,” says Moeketsi.

Access to the sport

Cycling is an expensive sport, and often, this affects those who’ve been previously disadvantaged. Access to support and racing equipment can be difficult. Both riders agree.

Says Ngobese: “Racing equipment and support are always at the forefront of the challenges prohibiting the disadvantaged communities from taking up the sport and competing at the highest level. Poor nutrition also affects disadvantaged riders. Funding from the sporting community can play a big role.

Says Moeketsi: Sponsorships from corporates, associations and affiliates play a key role in enabling this for previously disadvantaged communities.Support at home also contributes but I find that where that is a challenge once there are other external parties supporting, it typically works out.

“Another thing is equipping the youngsters beyond just riding – whether through cycling or other avenues, how do they create a sustainable future for themselves.