Some sharing to help others understand a bit more about Freedom. I loved this race so please forgive my enthusiasm.
– Also understand that I am no expert or experienced rider, I only have one whip to show and I hooked onto a strong group with 4 experienced Freedom navigators so I got a bit of a free ride. We rode 9-11 hours everyday which is above average,with no navigation mistakes, if you have to navigate or read maps, add 30% to this time. If you cannot ride a sub-3 94.7 or run a sub 4 minute mile, add another 20% to the time. You don’t need to be fast but you need to be able to keep going the whole time, chipping away at the trial.
– It is odd in a way that the Freedom Challenge is a topic on a cycling forum, I guess its cause one has to bring a bicycle along. It perhaps belongs more on an adventure racing forum, I have also heard it referred to as adventure mountain biking.
– I estimate that I pushed or carried my bike around 40-50% of the time and I did not quite expect this even though I knew there would be some portaging. The hills get too steep to ride, the surface is loose and rocky or cattle tracks too narrow to ride or you are simply just too buggered to ride. If you ride a SS the 40-50% will be 60-70% pushing unless you can ride standing at 30 rpm cadence for extended periods of time.
– If you want to know what a typical Freedom Trial day is like, go ride Klapperkop or Kingskloof loops for 10 hours non-stop, you will eventually start pushing your bike and when you get g@tvol of the front wheel jamming against rocks and graspolle you will want to start throwing your bike onto your back. Its then that you realise you should have spent more time on the stair climber in gym than on the stationary bike. Perhaps also go do some climbing at the Tuks climbing wall … with your bike on your back and throw in some ballet classes as you will want to have your balance sorted when you scramble up and down cliff faces where one slip can have you rolling (happened this year, the rider stopped 20m down, the bike 30m further).
– Doing a sub-3 Argus may not be very helpful. Climbing up Table Mountain with a 25kg backpack in a sub-3 will be very helpful.
– Underestimate navigation at your own peril. I can read 1:50,000 maps no problem and it got very tricky, especially in dark with no landmarks or on top of a mountain with no visible contours or beacons. Now try reading maps and narratives at the same time while riding your bicycle. We all have scratched knees and elbows from doing just that. You will make mistakes, you will miss a turn-off. I was following riders who knew the route closely on my map and would have missed many turn-offs on my own, some sneaky single track turn-offs almost invisible to the eye.
– As a novice, I spent 4 hours off the bike in preparation for every hour on the bike and I was still under-prepared for navigation.
– I read people talk about the riding and the weather. These are non-issues, anyone on this forum can do the riding and weather challenges are addressed by correct clothing of which there is lots of info around.
– On a more positive note. I am not an olympic athlete but I can hold my own on most weekend groups. If I can finish this race I reckon most can. I do however have a good mind and attitude, they can stay strong for many hours and you will need this aplenty. Race to Rhodes is a highlight for me and it will more than likely be for you too if you are interested in something different than the usual MTB ride with both challenges and rewards you will not find at any other MTB event.
– From a training perspective, 50% cycling, 50% hiking. Equal amount of time to training .. studying the maps & narratives.
– Lastly. There will be information sessions again this year so I strongly recommend those with an interest attend these or arrange other such informal sessions with the growing family of participants. There are also many Blanket Bearers or Whip Carriers in your social circles, speak to them, they have the scars and would love to share their stories.
See you at R2R 2015! Over & Out!