Sage advice from former rugby player, Hempas Rademeyer
10 October 2016
Rugby players really do make good cyclists. While more a roadie, former provincial rugby player, Hempas Rademeyer, is not shy of a mountain bike. Gerald de Kock catches up with him on this episode of Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking, to hear more about this riding. He also has some sage advice for young would-be professionals.
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. I’m Gerald de Kock, thanks so much for downloading another edition. As we talk mountain biking, the people, the personalities, plenty of interest in the sport. Because it somehow has captured the imagination of so many people around the world, let alone around SA.
We often meet people who have made names for themselves in other sports and have retired and moved on. Then turned their attention to cycling and mountain biking as a way of continuing either to exercise their competitive juices or just to exercise.
I’m joined by a man who made a name for himself, he was a rugby player and there are many of those who have done mountain biking and cycling over the years. But Hempas Rademeyer played for the old Transvaal. Hempas, welcome, thanks for joining us, when were your peak years as a rugby player?
Hempas Rademeyer: Gerald, I was fortunate enough to play for the Lions as a young man. I started in those days, I played from 1982 until 1992.
GDK: That’s a long career in the modern era, but perhaps you didn’t play quite as many games in those days?
HR: Yes, I agree with you there. The most played was in 1987 and we played 21 games that season. But most of the time it was 14/15 games a season only.
GDK: Which is half of a season nowadays isn’t it?
HR: I think it would be a quarter of a season maybe.
17 years on the bike already
GDK: You finished your career in 1992, we’re a long way ahead of that now. You turned to cycling and very impressively so, both road and mountain bike. When did that transition happen?
HR: Gerald, I started cycling about 17 years ago now. What happened is, I’m not a guy who is very fond of gym work and things like that and running. I thought I need to do something. I like the exercise, the aerobic portion of it and I bought myself an old mountain bike. I thought, this is quite nice.
I really struggled to keep up with the okes on the road and after that I decided, I must upgrade this damn monster if I want to be competitive. That’s how I got into it. Once I was able to actually cycle with the other cyclists, the enjoyment really started for me.
GDK: You mentioned a word there that is always interesting, that competitive thing. As a top flight sportsman in your professional years, as it was then amateur, but as a full-time or a big rugby player ‘competitive’. That’s something even now that you like to indulge?
HR: I don’t think that will ever go away. Once that’s in your blood, once you’ve competed at a certain level, it doesn’t matter what level it is, the competitiveness never goes away. If someone is in front of you, you have to chase him, you cannot not change a person. Normally when I cycle, and I’m often on a tandem with my wife as well. I always say there’s a bunny in front and we’ve got to catch our bunny.
Riding tandem with my wife
GDK: You do the tandem with your wife, which is absolutely amazing, did that take a while to get going or did your wife get used to it and enjoy it quite quickly.
HR: She also enjoys it tremendously and she immediately got into that. I think for women overall, it takes the pressure off them. You don’t have to worry about flats or breakdowns and stuff like that. Hopefully the man can do that.
GDK: Does she mountain bike as well on the tandem?
HR: Not at all, unfortunately not yet.
GDK: You do predominantly road, but mountain biking is still something you do quite often?
HR: Yes, occasionally I would go out on the mountain bike as well. I’ve done the Sani2C twice, I’ve done the joBerg2c as well. There was occasions where I was invited by a friend where somebody was sick and he couldn’t go anymore and I would just hop on.
When I started mountain biking on the Sani2C, a friend of mine, his partner became sick. I actually took my son’s mountain bike and I just went around the house on the pass to keep balance and it worked perfectly. I’m very fortunate to say, I haven’t had any serious crashes.
Fear of falling can put people off mountain biking
GDK: Therein lies the interesting thing because we mix a lot. Hempas I must tell you, is very much an integral part of a fantastic initiative called the Change Your Life Cycle, which raises funds for various crime fighting projects around SA. The riding in that is done on the road, so a lot of the riders are pure roadies.
Very few of them, they might have had one experience on the mountain bike and had a fall and said they’re not going to do it again. The fear of falling, the fear of accidents is a real thing for people making the conversion from road to mountain bike isn’t it?
HR: Yes, definitely, but it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen to you, sooner or later. As I always say, there are cyclists that have fallen and there’s cyclists who still must fall. So it’s going to happen, you can’t get away from it.
GDK: You’ve got to get your mind over it. If it does happen, I suppose it can be serious enough for you to be frightened away by it. But you’ve got to get your mind around it don’t you?
HR: You just need to get your mind around it. You don’t have to be a daredevil, if you look after yourself on the bike you will know how competent you are. You will know whether you can take chances or not and if you just look out for yourself, you’ll be fine.
GDK: Going back to your rugby career and now cycling, you’re in incredible condition and a fantastic athlete as a cyclist now. How different are those demands in preparing for a major goal in cycling and preparing for a game of rugby?
The similar demands of cycling over rugby
HR: Thanks Gerald, I’ve tried to stay in shape over the last couple of years. As one is getting older you’ve got to do something. I always look at my peers and see how they don’t look after themselves. I think, listen boys, you better start doing something. Maybe it’s a little bit late, but it’s never too late to start looking after yourself.
If you think of what you need to do, you don’t have to do a lot. If you can do half an hour on a daily basis, even if it’s on a spinning frame or something, you actually do quite a bit. Condition-wise your body will adapt to that. There’s no need to work very hard to actually get to that level. But I think if you compare the rugby days to cycling, obviously it’s different, but it’s very similar as well. If you want to be at the top of your game, obviously you’ve got to put in more hours. It all depends on yourself, how far you want to go with it.
GDK: How much riding do you do?
HR: I try to do about 250km a week, if time allows it. But I break it down, maybe twice on a trainer during the week and then twice out over the weekends.
GDK: That’s some serious riding, that’s a lot of hours.
HR: I don’t think it’s all that bad if I compare it to what I know other people are doing. But as I say, it’s all about time and you don’t have to do more than four sessions a week. It doesn’t have to be that, it all depends on what programme you’re following. I build up my own programme, I sit and listen to music, I go with what I feel like doing. If I want to do intervals, I’ll do intervals, if I want to do endurance, I’ll do endurance. So it all depends on what you feel like.
GDK: This is Hempas the cyclist, the former rugby player, the husband, the father, the businessman. That’s another world for you. Where are you in that life?
HR: Definitely Gerald, I’ve been very fortunate through my life. Things have fallen in place business-wise, what you’ve learnt out of rugby you actually go and you put that same discipline in business as well. What you do in business, I’ve taken that onto cycling as well. It’s all about discipline and be balanced overall in what you do.
How an education should be non-negotiable
GDK: Balance is key. But I suppose if you go back, you were educated and went to university, a lot of the modern sportsman don’t nowadays have that opportunity. Because if you’re going to make it as a sportsman, you’ve got to start early. They sacrifice a university education and perhaps pay the price later.
HR: Definitely, Gerald. I’ve seen over the last number of years a lot of our young, whether it’s players, cyclists, who actually neglect their education. With an excuse, I think, that they don’t have time. Saying that as well, there’s so much money involved in sport these days. They tend to think that it’s going to last a lifetime and it’s not.
Once you get to the age of 30-35, your career might be over and you might have a couple of bucks in the bank. It’s not going to last you all that long. What happens is no, education must come first as well, they’ve got to put their shoulder down and say: I’ve got to work for my future and get it done.
GDK: Sage advice for young sportsmen, particularly our young mountain bikers who are moving out of school to university. Hopefully, and then on from there. It’s a difficult decision to make because they want to go out and race internationally and it is a tough one. Finally, Hempas, goals for you on the bike, on the mountain bike. Is there a Cape Epic in you or something like that?
HR: Gerald, the Cape Epic first of all is very expensive, I don’t have a sponsor for that. I also believe that I need to cycle on a bicycle, I don’t want to carry it or walk with it. But one never knows. If the opportunity comes, I always say my arm is easily twisted and if the opportunity is there, most probably I’ll take it.
GDK: There are a lot of rugby players who have done it, it’s strange how many rugby players have taken up mountain biking.
HR: Again, as we said previously, it’s challenge first of all and then the competitiveness. I always follow it, I see which ones are doing. I know Gary Kirsten did it over the last year. Then always it’s, if they can do it, you can do it. There’s no reason why not.
Then I’ve seen it previously with the other longer distance races I’ve done, that competitiveness never goes away. You actually want to beat that oke. You don’t even know he’s there, once you go and look at the results, you see oh, I’ve done better or I’ve done worse. Then you actually start training for the next one, to make sure you’ll be better.
GDK: Hempas, wonderful to chat to you and lovely to hear that that competitive spirit never dies. I think that’s very important in life, you’ve got to have that goal.
HR: Definitely Gerald and thank you very much. It’s nice chatting to you as well.
GDK: Hempas Rademeyer, former rugby player, now a successful businessman, father, husband, tandem pilot and above all, a passionate cyclist and a wonderful man. I hope you enjoyed that chat with one of our sporting stars of the past. If so, please download again because you never know who you might meet on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Until next time, ride safely, ride with a smile, cheers and take care.