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Packing dissonance!

29 May

No turning back now, my 2 litre ‘life support’ boxes are packed, duct taped shut and dispatched off to Cape Town.

Now the FC organisers have the unenviable task of driven them off into the bundus where the overnight stops are located.


And no, there are zero Cheese Puffs in my boxes – damn you Celiac 🙂

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Winter training

27 May

Great training weekend.100km with @jackblacksa and co in Megalies & 60km today at Van Gaalen with Benj and @GregoriousB — Jody Forrester (@Jo_Fo)


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Map Technicians

24 May

A big thank you to Mike W for taking some of us new and not so new FC nutters through his mad route knowledge this evening.

I was nervous, now borderline petrified!


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by in Qhubeka

Today I had the good fortune of witnessing the power of the Qhubeka initiative first hand. I attended the formal handover of Qhubeka bikes to a community who has earned this valuable transport mechanism through their own drive and determination. Through competing in the Freedom Challenge I hope to raise over 100 bikes that can be consolidated with the next community earned bike handover.

Below is the IOL press release for the occasion:


Wheels of fortune for green peddlers

May 31 2012 at 09:00am

Samantha Hartshorne

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Women from Wolf Informal Settlement in Vosloorus who benefited during MTN’s bike handover ceremony take their bicycles home. 24051212. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu 

Lillian Kembo, 47, steps forward to wheel away the third bicycle she has earned for growing 100 trees from seed in her small back yard in Wolf, an informal settlement on the dusty outskirts of Vosloorus.

Her first two shiny yellow bikes, with the word “Qhubeka” on the crossbar, are used by her teenage children to cycle to school and carry water and groceries, but Kembo says this one is for her brother-in-law who “does too much” for her.

Qhubeka (“To carry on”) rewards community members in 80 nodes around the country, as far afield as Khayelitsha and Nelspruit, for environmentally responsible activities like growing trees, vegetables and recycling.

Kembo, known as a “tree-preneur”, says she has 1 500 saplings of various heights growing in discarded 2 litre plastic bottles, which she sells back to Qhubeka when they are 1m tall.

In the case of recycling, the community members “bank” 1 000kg of plastic, tin and paper to earn one bike.

ST WolfBikeDonation245
An excited Nkosi Mchunu rides his bike at Wolf Informal Settlement in Vosloorus during MTN’s bike handover ceremony in conjuction with Qhubeka and Widlands projects. 24051212. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu 

According to Anthony Fitzhenry, director of Qhubeka, they can trade for other items, like Jojo water tanks, and many sell the bikes for cash.

Hlengiwe Mthembu, 30, hands over the 120 bikes, mostly sponsored by MTN, on the bare soccer pitch. She says Vosloorus is now home, even though she grew up in northern KZN.

She has run the Wolf-Qhubeka project for four years since Wildlands (the Conservation Trust that conceptualised reward programmes for communities) transferred her.

“They wanted someone to surrender themselves to Johannesburg.”

Qhubeka also provides support to health-care workers, schools and aims to send the first African team of cyclists, chosen from around the continent, to the 2013 Tour de France.

Operating since 2004, Qhubeka has responded to SA’s unique situation and in line with their motto, “hands up, not hands out”, have handed out 140 000 bikes in all.

ST WolfBikeDonation258
Evans Ntshangase rides his bike at Wolf Informal Settlement in Vosloorus during MTN’s bike handover ceremony in conjuction with Qhubeka. 240512.Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu 

With a goal to put 12 million kids on bikes by 2017, Eleanor Mitrovitch, general manager of MTN Branded, says they support the project because it has a tangible aspect.

“We like it because it rewards and empowers the people rather than simply handing out help.”

While instilling a culture of recycling and home industry, a Qhubeka bike also encourages enterprise as the owners (many of whom are children) do chores for cash.

The frame can support 150kg of weight and the sturdy back-rack, made in Joburg, can carry a sibling to school.

As Kembo hands over her ID book, with her one-year-old on her hip, she is briefed about the bicycle by the area’s facilitator.

The bikes are made of solid steel, with extra-thick rubber tyres and back-pedal brakes.

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Young boys gather around bikes at Wolf Informal Settlement in Vosloorus during MTN’s bike handover ceremony in conjuction with Qhubeka and Widlands projects. 240512.Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu 

They are assembled in Pietermaritzburg. The cost to make up the bike is about R1 500 after assembly and shipping. But, says Fitzhenry, “it’s worth millions in the right hands”.

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Life in a box….

20 May

Given that the Freedom Challenge is an unsupported event, and 2400 km’s long – each competitor is allowed to send a 2 litre container of provisions to each overnight stop. The box predominantly contains food and medical supplies, with the odd box filled with bike service parts.

Given my celiac disease these boxes are even more critical as I cant eat the sandwiches/vetkoek that most overnight stops will provide as padkos.

My average 2l box contains the following:

  • Maps/narrative for next stage


  • mixed nuts
  • dried mango
  • GU chomps
  • GU effervescent tabs 
  • assorted sweets
  • tinned chicken or tuna
  • Hammer recovery shake
  • future life energy meal
  • Woolworths gluten free protein bars


  • Vit C & Cal Mag Zinc tablets
  • Detol liquid
  • Sudacrem
  • second skin plaster for saddle blisters
  • Mark II saddle cream
  • Aqueous cream


  • Squirt lube
  • Duct tape
  • Sunlight liquid – cleaning bike, chain, clothes
  • Batteries for lights

At the half way mark I have also packed the following bike parts for replacement if needed (I will be carrying other spares in my pack):

  • Chain
  • Brake pads
  • Bottom bracket

I am sure I will lust after something on the trail that I wished I had packed, but here’s hoping that I have got the basics covered – the rest will have to be found in spaza shops!

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Panorama Tour

02 May

I was fortunate to secure an entry into the 2012 Panorama Tour in White River for myself and Larry Levine, a member of our largest MTN Branded dealer – Cell Network. An added bonus was that my wife Tash and her good friend Doreen Espley-Jones would be joining us for the ‘lite’ version.

The Panorama Tour is a 4 day 350 off kilometre road race through the extremely mountainous Nelspruit area. These climbs gave me the perfect Freedom Challenge block training, even if it is on the skinny wheels.

Day 1 – 115km’s, and 2213m altitude gain


Day 2 – 80km’s, and 1192m altitude gain


Day 3 – 113km’s, and 2055m altitude gain

Day 4 – 27km Time Trial



We had a fantastic 4 days, a big thank you to MTN and in particular Fiona Coward the race organiser for hosting us. I had a great partner in Larry who was immense, flying on the flats and digging deep on the very challenging climbs. The wife also did an amazing job, after not riding for 6 months to focus on her running, to then bosh out a proper two days was incredible – good genes my love!

Now back to the fat takkies!
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