Chasing and creating adventure – Nic Jordan
05 August 2016
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Hello, this is our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. Thanks for downloading another edition of our mountain bike chat. Where we meet and find out more about the characters and personalities that make this mountain bike sport of ours so interesting. I know all of you have ridden somewhere, somehow, sometime around South Africa. Met people, characters, personalities that make your rides interesting.
You ride away from them thinking, wow, I didn’t know that about that guy. I’m going to chat to a guy now who is passionate about mountain biking. He runs the Holla Trails in KZN, which is a network of about over 300km of trails. From a trail head just outside of Ballito. But he’s a farmer by profession, if you like. Nic Jordan joins me, thanks for joining me. This mountain bike passion, has it been a lifelong thing or when did it start with you?
Nic Jordan: I started probably about 12 years ago. A good mate of mine, Mark Jason and I entered our first 40km race together here in Natal. We both got off our bikes, I think I had so much cramp I couldn’t get my leg back over the bicycle again. That weekend he phoned me and said that there’s this new race called The Cape Epic and it’s the second one this year, but it’s very hard to get an entry. He said let’s do this, let’s enter this thing, it sounds great. Little knowing what we were getting into.
Cape Epic on a whim
That’s sort of when the madness started. I remember going on 20km training rides. Taking gu’s with us, we were such novices. We managed to survived that and we went back the next year to prove the first one wasn’t a fluke. Too many painkillers, we did the second one without any painkillers just to prove ourselves. Ever since then it’s the taste of adventure. I guess, is what really gets to me, to get out and try different things and test myself, to some extent.
GDK: Most people do a Cape Epic as their first one and walk away and think, hmmm, I’ve done that and I might do another race one day. But for you it is that adventure and I suppose that’s the essence of mountain biking. Although it can be constrictive in some senses, but you see the other side of it. You see a broader sense of getting out there and finding adventure?
NJ: Absolutely. The Epic, there’s a test along with the adventure. Getting out, there’s also something which we find along the way, it’s kind of the pureness of living and surviving. Which really, when you’re a novice at the Epic, it’s really about survival. It’s not like the experts when they come in and they all get massages and food.
You come just for the cut-off and survive and that’s your day. I was very fortunate last year, we did the Freedom Challenge and that takes survival to a whole new level. Been watching it this year, let me put it like this, when I was on the Freedom Challenge I was chatting to my cycling mates saying, guys, you’ll never find me back here again. Already this year I’m looking at going, let’s go back next year, we’ve got to do this thing again, it’s so special.
Freedom Challenge is something else
GDK: Isn’t that a strange old thing about all these things. Because you suffer like a beast on the rides and as you say, you never come back and the lure, it’s too big. Let’s get back to that Freedom Challenge, I suppose you’d say the sense of adventure. But it’s quite a big thing to push enter on that button to enter that thing?
NJ: As I say, the pushing enter part, I think sometimes is the easy one. It’s when you suddenly arrive at the start line and you’re doing it, you suddenly realise, what the hell am I doing here. You start thinking thoughts like that. Again, like I said, it’s the pureness of survival mode and just what a natural way to live.
The other big thing, for most of the time and it’s a long time until you get past two-thirds, you’re never sure that you’re actually going to make it. Am I actually capable of doing this thing and keeping going. I suppose that sense of achievement at the end of it is an incredible high.
GDK: How do you train for that?
NJ: I did a lot of long hours, I attended cadence classes here in Ballito. We’re very lucky, they opened up a branch here. That’s probably the best investment on time you can find versus having to push long hours on a mountain bike. Just long riding and get fit on the day, in this case on the first week, you get stronger.
GDK: When you rode it, did you ride with friends? I know you go off in groups, so did you ride it with people you knew or were you riding with people you didn’t know?
NJ: I was very fortunate, I had two mates, Andrew Blackburn and Mike Potgieter from Natal, we rode together. I actually realised at the end of it, I don’t think we were ever more than 40-100m apart from 19 days. It made it, it definitely made it a much easier experience. I’m watching a very good friend of mine now who rode the first, probably 13 days pretty much on his own. I just thought, that’s a very different experience, to spend so much time on your own, testing yourself to that level.
GDK: Are you a racer?
NJ: I like to call myself a social competitor. I race the guys who also have a couple of beers in the pub that evening and go race the next day. I don’t race the guys who never drink alcohol and watch their diets too closely.
Racing on a fat bike aboard
GDK: You’ve also taken on an unusual challenge outside the country, tell us about that, on a Fat Bike.
NJ: That was an amazing experience. Alex Harris and my mate Justin McCleod and I. We attempted to be the first to ride across the empty quarter, the Arabian Desert. From Aman to Dubai on bicycles. It had never been done before. Obviously the advent of Fat Bikes made this a possibility and we gave it a good go.
Unfortunately, the Armenian army interrupted us about 200km from the end, of 1200km journey. Made us skip about 80km of the route cause of our proximity to the Saudi border, they thought it was dangerous. They didn’t want any tourists dying and ruining their tourism business. They picked us up and shifted us, we never completed it. But it was a most amazing experience.
GDK: Was it slow going, the Fat Bikes help in the sand, but how would you equate that to something like Freedom?
NJ: It is slow going. It’s probably quite similar to Freedom from the point of view that you’re only doing about 100km a day. It’s a little bit like, riding a Fat Bike is a little bit like riding gently uphill the whole day long. The terrain is obviously very flat, but those deserts. I always thought deserts are quite stark, barren places.
They’ve got an unbelievable beauty when you’re sitting there and again, you’ve got this survival thing. You have breakfast, you hop on your bike and you ride all day. Life, there’s nothing else to think about. The complications of work and all the other things that we have in our day to day business just fade away. It just becomes a clean, pure experience.
GDK: Alex is one who likes to go and finish business. Is that something you’re going to have to do again, or is that crossed out now?
NJ: I think for the investment and time and that sort of thing, I’d probably move onto the next one. We had so much fun. It was quite an academic thing to claim to be the first. It was more something to sit in the pub and say we’re the first at doing.
We’ve dreamt up another one that we’re going to try this year. Which I’ll rather reveal to you later when it’s time. Because I think this might be our hardest one ever. but ja, there are other firsts that you can think of. If you can think of something new and just have a few beers with a couple of mates talking about it, it’s quite fun.
Mountain biking is very much part of life
GDK: You farm, you’re a family man, you’ve got Holla Trails and you ride your bike. It’s not a bad life in a way. I would think with mountain biking, quite prominent.
NJ: Absolutely, I think mountain biking gives us access to adventure. Adventure is so much fun, there’s so much fun to be had. My philosophy in life, I have a saying I use called ‘suck that marrow out of the bone that is life’. That’s sort of how I try to do things. I try and do as much of everything as possible.
GDK: Mountain biking has taken on a slightly different role in life with your involvement here, starting up the Holla Trails. Is it something your family do as well?
NJ: No, sadly enough it’s not. I’ve got two teenage boys and a seven-year-old, also a boy. I don’t know what it is, I can’t get them on their bicycles. I’ve been quite relaxed about it, not trying to make them go riding. I’m hoping they will. I think when I start doing more adventure stuff as they’re older, rather than just doing a trail and taking them on a ride or something like that.
GDK: In this time, this 12-years or so, you’ve seen the sport grow. From as you said, that first experience at the Epic to what it is now, where do you see it going?
NJ: I think there’s going to be much more adventure stuff going on. I think to go and travel on your bicycle is almost, people haven’t discovered it yet, to the extent that they should have. We’re going to Croatia this year to go and ride our bikes. We’ve been to Rwanda and Nepal, Vietnam, tourism on a bicycle.
The Freedom Challenge, to some extent is even that, an unusual type of tourism, but it’s essentially that. There’s so much to see and the Freedom Challenge, for example, there’s no other mode of transport other than on foot, which would be too slow.
There’s no other mode of transport that you could do it on, that moves quickly enough, or slow enough. It gives you the taste, the flavours. Vietnam, you’re going past people’s kitchen doors and Transkei, you’re going past kitchens. The people and they’re touching you, it’s out there, it’s real.
NJ: That was fantastic, that was our first adventure on a bicycle. We went to places where kids came running out the schools when they saw us. They obviously must have seen white people coming past and cars and that. But they come out, Mazongo, Mazongo, and touching the hair on our arms as we’re cycling past. Just it’s a wonderful, wonderful place.
GDK: What a nice life Nic, you’re making the most of it and I think that’s, one can only ask for that in life.
NJ: Absolutely, I think there’s lots to do and there’s lots more to do. Take opportunities, make them and just have fun and adventure.
GDK: Nic Jordan, having fun and adventure in life with mountain baking, it takes a good adventurous spirit and someone who sees broad strokes on the canvas and to be able to go and explore the world on bikes. Nic is doing just that. He’s also got this wonderful Holla Trails, mountain bike trail centre in KZN, just outside Durban. In fact just north of Durban, about half an hour or so drive north of Durban, near Ballito.
If you are not so adventurous that you want to head around the world, you can come and enjoy his trails. Because there are about 350km of trails, riders heading out all day to enjoy every day of the week. Thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, hope you enjoyed it. If so, try again and we’ll chat to you next time. Until then, ride safely and take care, cheers.