Making light of winter training

Riding through winter in the Western Cape comes with its ups and downs (and rain). But training in a group helps you to see the lighter side of the cold, dark mornings.

There are four of us among you who have trained for the FNB Wines2Whales through a harsh Cape Town winter. You’ll recognise us through the tatty state of our leggings and inability to complete a ride without stopping to take the perfect panoramic.

Meeting three times a week to ride before work, we Legends of Plum Pudding (so called because we chose the name ourselves) have embraced leggings, under armour, the dark Cape mornings and bike lamps to test ourselves on the gnarly Plum Pudding climb that rises behind Rhodes Memorial.

Cycling this short, sharp hill that’s been rutted and ravaged by heavy rains and racing down its slippery, prayer-inducing descent on the suburban slopes of Table Mountain has kept us honest through the winter months.

The training, though, has not been without incident. There was the time Iceman, named for his cool composure on technical downhills, barrelled headfirst into an oncoming mountain biker he didn’t like the look of. This he did on three more occasions during the space of a week until we started to wonder if his old training partner really did break a collarbone “by accident”.

Then there was another occasion when Whit (me, labelled so due to my quick wit though I fear it’s the crew’s rather polite twist on Twit) cycled 15 minutes to the group meeting-point only to be asked on arrival by a bemused Iceman (sometimes also referred to as “Oom” by platteland tannies), “Where’s your helmet?”

Moose, whose handle origin can’t be disclosed in a family publication (though if you see him in Lycra cycling shorts at the W2W village, avert your gaze and that of your children immediately), has survived the winter training, apart from the odd broken bone, without major embarrassment. Though he does skip rides to spend mornings making “scrambled eggs” with his girlfriend.

The highlight of our winter cycling, though, came when Goose, a man so unflappable that he never gets down even when going up, was convinced by a cycle store salesman that the only way to wear his bike lamp was on his helmet. Unfortunately for Goose, this was one salesman who was in the dark when it came to enlightening his customers.

Initially unconcerned for our fellow rider, we set off into the forest on paved paths brightened by street lamps. But as we left the road and turned towards the mountain it soon became clear, expect to Goose who was alone in the dark, that the salesman’s suggestion was somewhat dim.

Not only was the new position woefully inadequate for its primary function, but the lamp kept flopping over and highlighting Goose’s face in such a way that we half expected a Shakespearian soliliquy to burst from his lips. At any moment we exepcted Goose to bellow, “But, soft tail! what light through yonder visor breaks?”

Worried also that he was looking a little light-headed we attempted to lighten the mood on the ride.

“Lighten up, Goose,” we all chuckled, admiring our mental dexterity at such an early hour. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel…” Guffaw, guffaw.

Goose was far from cooked, though, and he continued bravely into the dark morning, groaning at our puns and insisting that his lamp was light years ahead of the rest. In reality, it was light’s out for his helmet lamp, which made a lightening quick return to his handlebar.