Nedbank Tour de Tuli (NTDT) pro, Chris Ellis, shares his Top 10 tips to help cyclists prepare for Africa’s ultimate mountain bike adventure:
Train: yes, it is a Tour and not a race…but you still have to be fit.
Spend as much time on your bike as possible in the buildup to the event. The terrain usually does not have much climbing (which is great) but equally, that means no free kilometers of coasting on downhills over the course of the four days. You will pedal for all 300 km! You will get tired! You can’t enjoy any event if you haven’t trained for it. Make riding the bike the easy bit by doing the work before you get there.
Do not underestimate this event.
I’m amazed each year to see a few MTB novices arriving to ride the NTDT. And when I say novice, I’m talking about the “been riding for a few weeks” and “my bike’s still in its plastic” novice. You are going to ride for six to eight hours a day, in the hot African sun, with a group of 14 to 18 other cyclists. Please don’t ruin it for the other team members by coming underprepared. This event will seriously test your strength and resolve.
Expect the unexpected.
Think of the NTDT as a four-day game drive on your bicycle. While you are training, get used to looking around and noticing the birdlife, animals, trees and the landscape. You will be biking through some of Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas, in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Don’t miss these sightings by getting too caught up in the ride alone!
Get good maintenance on your bike before the event.
This event is out in the tough African bushveld, traversing through Botswana, Zimbabwe and South African bush that takes no prisoners. Make sure your bike is set up for a comfortable four days of riding. No team leader or teammate wants to spend the day adjusting your bike or tweaking things when there are elephants around the next corner, or a hyena sighting ten kilometres down the trail. Make sure you are one with your bike when you get there…
On that note, please bring spares.
While there are great Hot Spots Cycles mechanics on site each night, with most of the team leaders also being fairly proficient in bike fixing and getting you to the end of each day, it’s no one else’s job other than your own to ensure you have brought enough spares for the event.
Mountain bike tyres.
The quality and durability of your tyres will make or break your entire journey. You will need tough tyres with plenty of sealant (try double the normal amount). Also, it will be to your advantage to come to the official route launch to check out how your tyres will fare out on the 2018 route. The route launch will be held on 27 June 2018 – further details to follow.
Riding with your hydration pack is of vital importance!
Riding with a Camelbak or hydration pack is compulsory at NTDT. Practice riding with one – they are heavy when filled with liters of water, but are necessary as you will be riding long distances in high temperatures over a few days… so make sure you take your hydration pack with you on your training rides.
Don’t eat for a week before the event.
Every year I eat more and more at the NTDT. Early breakfast, tea stops, brunch, recovery shakes, lunch, dinner and a healthy supply of drinks throughout the day – the food is unbelievable… all day (there about 11 meals a day… I can’t keep up), so make sure you come hungry!
Get some sleep.
NTDT isn’t just about the riding. Yes, you can’t beat the four days on the bike, but the whole event is an experience, from sunrise on the bike to sunset on the mountain top. You want to experience it all so make sure you arrive with enough sleep under your belt to enjoy the nights as much as the days.
That said, the wonderful Balancing Touch team of massage experts will be ready to help you unwind and relax at the end of each day with a 20-minute massage.
Open your mind.
Be prepared to be blown away at the NTDT. Don’t think of this as just another MTB event that you can tick off your list… once you’ve done it, you will want to do it again, and again, because every.