Learn a Few New tricks
The fitter you are, the more fun you will have on a ride. Similarly, the more skill you possess, the more joy you’ll get out of our trails.
The Berg & Bush is not a scary ride. Anyone with a mountain bike and a sunny outlook on life can ride our trails. We have designed them for maximum pleasure, not difficulty. That being said, the better equipped you are with a few essential skills, the more fun you will have at the Berg & Bush.
While not wildly tricky, there are some sharp twists and turns on the Berg & Bush descents and ascents – Zig-Zag climb in particular will test your switchback cornering ability. To navigate a switchback climb successfully, make sure you are in the right gear and look where you want to go – not at the ground or the riders ahead of you. Take the turn as wide as you possibly can. There are a few facets to cornering descents successfully, but the most basic principle is to control your speed – and make sure you brake before the corner and not in the corner. Always ahead to where you want the bike to go.
Thankfully, gloriously, the Berg & Bush is packed with dynamite downhills. While they are no doubt more fun to ride than uphills, if you’re nervous about descending they can become a tricky part of the ride. First and foremost, control your bike. Wildly rampaging downhill at skittish blesbok speed is a danger to yourself and other riders. Keep your index finger (left and right hands) hovering over the brake levers and use a combination of front and back brakes to keep a safe speed downhill. If you’re confronted with rocks or roots remember to maintain your momentum. Speed, relative to the situation, is your friend.
Race founder Gary Green’s other life – the family business – is that of master bovine businessman. When you ride the Berg & Bush you’ll travel across Gary’s farm as well as the cattle farms of numerous other friendly farmers. This is where cownering, or the act of riding hard and fast yet still avoiding fresh cowpats, comes into its own. If you’re no good at cownering – riding around the ‘pats instead of over them – you’ll end the ride smelling more than a little fruity.
You can’t have a mountain bike ride without hills. As fun and friendly as Berg & Bush is, we still need to get you up to take you down. For long, steep climbs like Spioenkop you simply need to be in the appropriate gear (shift down just before going through the gates onto the paved section), lean forward so your chest is over the stem and keep your bum on the saddle. You want the weight over your front tyre to keep it down. Gary’s favourite Spioenkop advice is to sway from side to side on the way up like you’re walking back to your tent from the Notties bar, counting down the speed bumps – there are 10! – all the way to the top. For shorter, sharper climbs, pay attention to your surroundings and shift down before you start your climb, keep your momentum going and don’t stop pedalling!
5: The Ride and Snap
A crucial skill required at the Berg & Bush, if you are worried about your ride time, is having the ability to ride and snap at the same time – that is, take your phone out of your pocket and take a photo of the unbelievable scenery as you ride by. You could always stop to take the photo, which is what we recommend, but if you’re intent on some on-the-go photography then we suggest practicing this essential skill in your nearest field before attempting it on the firm Berg & Bush trails.
6: Portion Control
This, in fact, is the main skill required to successfully navigate the three or two days of Berg & Bush riding. The beer is so crisp and cold that you will want to drink it all and the water point supplies are so fresh and fragrant that you’ll be tempted to move your tent 35km into the bush to be closer to the pancakes. If you can avoid these temptations, these nefarious nibbly bits, then you should have no problems at the Berg & Bush. If you eat and drink everything, that’s also okay, you just might be a few kilogrammes heavier heading up Spioenkop.