The beauty of riding a tandem mountain bike
05 November 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking and it really is great to have you downloading, thanks very much. Recently the Old Mutual joBerg2c took place and it brings riders from all over South Africa and from further afield. To take part in a journey that takes riders across South Africa. From Heidelberg, just outside Johannesburg, all the way down to Scottburgh on the Indian Ocean. It’s a journey through the heartland of South Africa, the farmlands. From maize and cattle and beef farms, through forests, even vegetable farms and then dairy farms and eventually the cane fields of KZN.
A couple who made their second journey to South Africa this year, are Carlos and Sophie Garcia, who completed the race on a tandem, for the second year in a row. They join me now, Carlos and Sophie, thank you for joining me. Carlos, this mountain biking thing on a tandem, it’s a little bit unusual to us in South Africa, there aren’t many around, but what’s the magic about it.
The advantage of riding a tandem mountain bike
Carlos Garcia: Well, it is unique, right, it is more interesting than a single. But I think what’s important is you’re sharing the ride with someone you care about. You’re also able to mix different types of riders. So for example, you could have a rider who is really good or very strong with a rider who is not. Or a rider who loves to go single track and another one who doesn’t that have the experience. It allows you to mix the rider between riders.
But it’s more than that, it’s also about a team spirit. Because when you’re in a tandem, you are a team and you’re doing things differently. So when you finish your ride, not only do you finish, for example the race, but you finish with someone that you care about and you were able to give your best. I mean you’re riding a tandem, both riders are 100% exhausted and you feel fulfilled, you feel, wow, what an experience.
GDK: Sophie, did it take a lot of convince for Carlos to get you on the tandem on the mountain bike or was it the other way around?
Sophie Garcia: I think it was a mutual decision, but obviously for my own, my cycling, or mountain bike experience was very limited. My only cycling experience was to ride from home to high school, during my three years of high school and that was about it. I do trust, I have 100% trust in my husband, in Carlos. That he can handle the bike very well in all sorts of terrain, much better than I could.
Because of him and on tandem, I am able to do things that I never imagined I would ever be doing. So he definitely extended my experience and my horizon tremendously. He’s allowed me to contribute in ways that I can, whether it’s pushing or getting things arranged or helping him to do better in the terrain or navigating. Whatever the things that he needs, so that we can do better as a team, it’s been wonderful.
The art of communication
GDK: I suppose it’s the ultimate partnership, if you like, it’s like a marriage I suppose, in many ways. Communication is pivotal in that and you two have, I haven’t seen it before on a tandem. But a system where you communicate through a microphone and obviously headphones, so communication is pretty direct.
CG: Sure, absolutely and it allows you to communicate without screaming. It’s just a normal voice and it’s a couple of things. First of all, safety first. I think whether you’re riding a tandem or mountain bike, safety is number one. We never ride for today, we’re always riding for tomorrow, particularly the race like joBerg2c which is nine days.
Normally we do a single race, single day race, we might go all out. Here, no, no, we’re just going slow and easy because it’s nine days, it’s an endurance. So, as far as the safety protocol, having the communication is critical. As I’m going forward, she’s behind me, she can’t see forward of me, she can only see to the side. So I have to tell her, a bump is coming, a rock is coming, we’re taking a curve and it’s sandy, she needs to know.
We’re taking a curve and it’s muddy, she needs to know because I’m going to slow down. Communication via the headset is just to tell her what’s going on in the world in front. Now, there’s another side, which is, she tells me what’s going on in the world behind me.
So now, by having this headset, I literally never look back. For example, riders are coming, she tells me, anything that’s happening behind me, I never have to take my eyes from looking forward. There’s real advantages, and obviously the communication part of just being able to ride and talk.
She’ll point out things to me that maybe I’m not aware of, and that’s wonderful. Just discussions about life in general. But I think that, I strongly recommend headsets because the most critical part is safety. It just adds safety, whether you’re riding singles and you’re behind the other single, behind another single, you can’t see what’s ahead of you. So, I think it’s important and I would encourage it and of course, just being able to talk is very nice.
GDK: Do you have single bikes?
SG: I have one, I ride my single while my husband rides with our daughter on the tandem, in which case I’m demoted to my single!
GDK: You brought your daughter with you?
SG: Yes, she’s volunteering, she’s having a great time, she’s enjoying the country as much as we are.
How does this event rate?
GDK: Tell us about the ride in the joBerg2c, your second visit here. Clearly you liked it the first time and how different it is to the riders you would do elsewhere in the States, you’re from Philadelphia, how different is it?
CG: Oh my, you can’t compare it right? This event is just something out of this world. The service, the route, the people, in the US we may have events that are one day, perhaps a couple of days. But they don’t have the services for that, for example joBerg2c has.
It’s also more than that, you come here and you get to experience a country, you experience the people, you see amazing things. To be honest with you, joBerg2c, it really changed my life. From my perspective, I really never had intentions of coming to South Africa, ever, but this has changed my life. It’s changed how I view the world, it changed how I view South Africa. I feel like I’m part of this country, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, I would not have had that without joBerg2c.
SG: Yeah, I just think that especially the route today, for example, we went through these trails along the edge of the mountains, you can see all the way down, it’s so clear. It’s just, the view, I have never imagined having it, ever. I have never had it anywhere else in my life. So I think it’s truly unique and it has allowed us to see the country in a way that few get to. So I feel very fortunate in those few moments that I get to see such amazing scenery.
CG: Sure, just going back to where you mentioned about the team partnership, to be frank, had it been just me, I would not have come to this race, right. When I first heard of this race and I saw it, I think I’d mostly done one day races. I had never actually done mountain bike racing. You know, I mentioned it to Sophie, hey Sophie, it was really mostly a joke kind of thing; would you consider going to South Africa.
I just didn’t have enough willpower to say, hey, this is something I want. It’s just too many unknowns for an international rider and she said yeah. So, you know, just like you mentioned marriage, tandems, it really takes two positive feedbacks. I gave her an idea and she says, okay, let’s make it and so you build on goodness.
The continuing allure
GDK: What’s next for you? You’ve done a couple here, do you keep coming back or do you seek other challenges?
SG: I would definitely keep coming back to joBerg2c, it’s such a truly amazing experience. I don’t think I will have enough of it.
CG: Actually for me it’s a little different. It’s not about coming back, it’s really about sharing the experience. This is something, like the headset, you have to wear it, you have to try it on to really feel it. I’m hoping to, Sophie is going to be going to Stanford for her MBA. I’m actually hoping to bring a Stanford team here, so that they can understand it and feel it.
It’s not about me anymore, it’s about wanting my friends to experience this because this is something that, last year I wanted to write an article. I’ll be honest with you, it was so hard to start it. How do you start describing this race? It’s an event, it’s life changing, so I guess my goal is to obviously come back, but also share it with others so that they can experience South Africa.
GDK: What do you do for a living Carlos?
CG: I work at a small technology company and do programming, hardware design, things like that.
GDK: And Sophie, you’re heading off to Stanford?
SG: Yes, I am, currently working, but I will be ending this summer and we’ll be moving to California.
GDK: Different experience there and different riding and mountain biking as well.
CG: Absolutely and one thing we’re looking forward to is every time we come here, it’s winter in Philadelphia, so we have extremely limited time riding outdoors. Before coming here, we’re on the road four times outdoors, so we’re hoping next time we come, we’ll be a lot more prepared for the ride.
GDK: You certainly went very well this year as well. Lovely to have you back in South Africa and we look forward to you bringing many more riders and a lot more tandems.
CG: Absolutely, tandems is something that we enjoy and we hope that other people can experience it and see the beauty of it and the differences of it.
GDK: Carlos and Sophie, thank you.
CG: Thank you.
SG: Thank you very much.
CG: And that is Carlos and Sophie Garcia, a married couple enjoying life on the tandem, they can’t be much better on a mountain bike I would think. Thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking. Do so again, we’ll have more wonderful characters from this great sport.