Mahala Magic MTB – you bet ya it’s FREE!
16 September 2016
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Hello and thanks for downloading our edition of the Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. It’s great to have you listening to us today on all matters mountain biking. As ever, we try and touch on almost every aspect you can possibly imagine in the sport of mountain biking. There are so many angles and avenues that we can wander down and trails that we can meander through.
Today I’m going to tell you about something, well actually I’m not going to tell you about it, but you’ll hear about something quite extraordinary. I don’t think you’d have ever heard about it, a free mountain bike race, a free mountain bike event. Thomas Franken from Rosemary Hill Trails is here with me. Thomas, it is called Mahala Magic, that means it’s free?
Thomas Franken: 100% free Gerald, we’re privileged to be involved with it. It’s an idea that was thought of by Debbie from wildtrail.co.za. She has an events company that does trail running and mountain biking events. She’s been partnering with Neil from About Time, it’s an entry portal and timing company.
They came up with this idea to say thanks to the mountain biking community for supporting their events. They basically give them a 100% free event, 60, 40, 20 and 10km options, all the bells and whistles. Proper time keeping, medics, goodie bags, medals for all the finishers and 100% free.
GDK: It’s extraordinary actually! You’d get exactly what you’d get at any other event, except you don’t have to push that payment button, how does it work?
Service providers kindly offering their services
TF: Absolutely, so it’s a normal, conventional entry process, you go to wildtrailco.za, go through all the motions, enter your details. Except where you get to the point where you need to pay, there is no such thing. They just ask that you kindly only enter if you are going to pitch. Because it would be a little disappointing if they have sold out entries.
So far it’s looking good, I think they’ve got 1 500 spots, they’re standing on about 1 400. So literally 100 entries left. It’s on the sixth of October, so still a few weeks to go. But it’s very well subscribed, the Pretoria East community certainly take up these offers and it’s very exciting.
GDK: Generally, events have a need for an entry fee to provide a service and provide the goodies and the trails. So where is all that coming from?
TF: Many of the service providers that normally would require payment, like the medics, the timing and that type of stuff, have kindly offered their services. To also come to the party and give something back. But there are still a couple of odds and ends where people have had to chip in.
We’ve had the privilege of getting some cash sponsorships as well from some of the local cycling shops like Lynwood Cyclery, our local Specialized shop. Then the venues, Hazeldean Valley, which will host the start and the finish, which also houses the Cow House market on weekends.
They’ve given their venue for free and myself from Rosemary Hill, we’re also sponsoring one of the water tables. Then our venue as well, the trails will be used and then obviously the local trails in the area to get up to the distances required.
It may be free but the ridings top notch
GDK: Tell us about the trails and obviously that’s a passion of yours, what’s the riding, what can those riding expect?
TF: Many of the riders that have entered are obviously familiar with Rosemary Hill. We have about 33km, it’s reasonably flat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the mountains and the valleys and the rivers and the forests that they have in the Cape and in KZN. But we’ve tried to do the best that we have, with the facilities and the typography we have.
Not much elevation, Hazeldean Valley, similar to ours. We’ve tried to build a few manmade obstacles to make things interesting. People know about our Stokeville section which has some interesting switchbacks and jumps and things like that. But generally, normal Gauteng riding. We’ll try and bring in a few surprises, we’ve challenged Hazeldean and ourselves, we’ll definitely have a few new obstacles there that our local riders won’t be familiar with.
GDK: Tell us about Rosemary Hill and where exactly it is and specifically what you guys have for day to day riders?
TF: We’re just 20 minutes east of Pretoria, from Jo’burg, Sandton, those areas, it’s about 45 minutes on weekends. We’re a working organic farm, we specialise in essential oils. So we produce rosemary oil, lavender, geranium and a little bit of khaki bos, which is a very essential ingredient in most perfumes. We host weddings and other functions as well and we have a coffee shop that’s open 7 days a week.
We’re very much into the mountain biking. We’ve been going for about five years now and we have good 300-500 people on a busy weekend coming out and enjoying the riding out there. Very family friendly, we have a 6km route that is really suitable for the little kiddies. Then all the way up to the 33km with a few bull runs that challenge the top guys. We have a lot of pros and semi-pros that ride out there regularly. They say the faster you go the more challenging it is.
GDK: Are you open 7 days a week?
TF: Yes, the trails are open 6:00 to 6:00, 7 days a week. Coffee shop, week days 8:00 to 5:00, weekends 7:00 to 2:00.
Mountain biking continues to be a draw card
GDK: This mountain biking thing is quite amazing isn’t it, how it’s grown, why? What do you see is the reason for it taking off, and you see it weekends and daily at Rosemary Hill?
TF: I think in Pretoria there isn’t much to do. If you think about families, in the Cape they have day outings that you can go and do. Pretoria you have to go to a mall, maybe you can go ice skate, but there really isn’t much for families to do together.
We have all sorts visiting us. The guys that are on long rides will go from home, do a long ride, pop in for a cappuccino. Where the families will take the day out. They’ll load the kids on the bikes, on the Caddy, they’ll come through and just come spend the day.
Sometimes if there’s a toddler or a baby, the mom will wait for the dad to go ride. Then the dad will come back and the mom will go ride. It really is one of the few things that you can do around Pretoria as a whole family and get in a bit of exercise as well.
GDK: And you’ve linked up for the Mahala Magic with Hazeldean Valley Trails next door, is there an increasing trend. You don’t need to speak about other trails around the country, but linking up and creating longer trails for riders?
TF: Absolutely, there are a lot of people in our mountain biking community around here that have invested their own personal time and resources. Actually gone out of their way to create safe alternatives to riding on the road. At the moment they’re actually busy, David Coven and the guys, I think he got some sponsorship from Bruce Reyneke Cycles. To do a safe 6km stretch of single track along one of the busy tar roads where some accidents have happened in the past. To try and make it safer for mountain bikers and to link up their club rides from the shops out towards the trails.
Because a lot of the guys want to get a bit of distance in and they don’t necessarily want to schlep all their stuff in the car and go out to the trail, they want to go on a long ride. There is an increasing amount of cooperation, the trails. We all regard each other as complementary to each other.
Each trail has its own characteristics. We don’t see each other as competition. I’ve worked closely with Hazeldean, given them support. Because they’re quite new, we’ve known the family all my life. So yes, we know that the mountain bikers will continue supporting all of us. Because they don’t want to necessarily have the same ride every single weekend.
No catch we promise
GDK: And so you’re giving back with a free ride, the Mahala Magic. Some might look at it and say it’s free, there’s a catch, where is the catch, is there a catch?
TF: No catch at all. These are event organisers that are passionate about it. They ride themselves, they make a living out of this. They just want to really, it’s probably a once-off. It probably won’t be sustainable unless there’s some big sponsor that comes on board. But the idea is to really see if it’s doable and so far it looks doable, there’s no catch at all.
GDK: You say it might be a once-off, but on the other side of that is, you might be setting a trend here and saying, people say how can you put one on for free. Then next week we’re paying R250 for an event, it’s an interesting conundrum that.
TF: Yes, I think it’s an awesome opportunity. If it is doable, it’ll be great and we’ll see, maybe a couple of us will be a little bit out of pocket but that’s okay. Because we make a living out of this and the people come back and support us week in and week out.
Making a living out of a bike park
GDK: You talk about that, on the Rosemary Hills side of it, you run a farm there. Without divulging numbers at all, but it’s a profitable business to run the mountain bike park?
TF: Absolutely, we’re fortunate enough to also run the coffee shop. To us the entry fee is not the be-all and end-all where a lot of other trails unfortunately, they don’t own the hospitality side of the business. For us, our entry fee is not the main source of revenue at all times.
We also have rental bikes, we have a fleet of 18 or 20 rental bikes and they’re very well used every single weekend with visiting foreigners or even people that are trying out this mountain biking thing before they go and invest in buying one.
To us it’s a package deal. We have a bit of produce that we sell from the farm, we have a whole range of confectionary and stuff. But we know every single rider is going to come and buy a Coke or a cappuccino or a breakfast bun. Our breakfast bun has become quite iconic in the area.
So from that point of view, we see it as a package deal. It definitely is a sustainable business, but you have to be on your toes. You have to maintain the trails, you have to make sure there’s always something new, something interesting brought in. You can’t just sit back and expect the guys to come and ride and pay you.
GDK: What is the entry fee?
TF: At the moment we charge R35 for adults and R20 for kids u18. We also have year pass options, so you can effectively ride for the whole year. This year, for R420, which is the equivalent of one day pass per month, so it’s very reasonable I think.
GDK: It’s very reasonable indeed. So is Mahala Magic, a free mountain bike race. I’m afraid for those of you wanting to get involved, there are not many entries left, 1 500 and they’re just about all gone. If it works out, maybe it’ll happen again in the future. But Thomas Franken from Rosemary Hill Trails, thanks very much for chatting.
TF: Cool, thanks Gerald, it’s great being here.
GDK: Good luck with the Mahala Magic and those of you riding it, enjoy it. It might not happen again, as you heard, but it might well again. A free mountain bike ride and if you’re in the Pretoria East vicinity, take a trip out to Rosemary Hill and have a look there. Thomas, a website?
TF: For the entries –
GDK: Or just generally for Rosemary Hill.
TF: rosemaryhill.co.za and for Mahala Magic, wildtrail.co.za.
GDK: There you go, all the details you need, thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. If you’re out on your bike, do so with a helmet on and with a smile, those two things will make your ride a lot happier. Until next time, cheers.