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JoBerg2C bringing hope to Soweto Mountain Bike Club

Soweto Rocks Mountain Bike Club founder Busi Msimango explains why mountain biking feels like freedom to her and how she survived the grueling 9-day JoBerg2C race.

Soweto Rocks Mountain Bike Club members celebrate completing the JoBerg2C MTB race. Picture: JoBerg2C Facebook page

JOHANNESBURG - Mountain biking is not one of the most common sports in South Africa but try telling the Soweto Rocks Mountain Bike Club that.

Mountain biking requires one to be extremely fit as the rugged terrain of mountainous South Africa takes a toll on your body. For the Soweto Rocks Mountain Bike Club members, mental fitness is another aspect they have added in their quest to conquer mountain peaks and flowing single track.

The JoBerg2C mountain bike event gives the club a fantastic platform to escape from their previously disadvantaged backgrounds and let their minds get lost in the scenic mountains of the Drakensberg and the lush valleys of the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The event, which is in its 10th year, is a grueling 900km race that starts in the small town of Heidelberg just outside of the country’s economic hub Johannesburg and ends up in the coastal KZN town of Scottburgh over nine days of grit and determination.

I caught up with Busi Msimango, one of the founding members of the Soweto Rocks Mountain Biking Club, who shared her experiences of mountain biking and the JoBerg2C event that concluded on Saturday 4 May.

She explained to me how the club was birthed.

“In 2013, I had a crazy but brilliant idea of opening a cycling park in Soweto. With the challenges of finding investors and resources to make that dream possible, I found myself wanting to explore more and more uncharted territories and sites around Soweto, which I did. In 2014, Ace Rammotala joined me and we started hosting MTB, hiking and camping experiences in and around Soweto then the name SowetoRocks seemed appropriate.”

One would imagine only people who are mentally unstable would partake in such a strenuous sport but for Msimango it is an opportunity to tap into her inner child.

“Apart from resuscitating the child that lives in all of us, personally I get a sense of accomplishment in being able to maneuver as I wish and defying norms. The independence and freedom to enjoy wind on my face, past my ears and being engrossed with my body in its entirety, is priceless. There’s something therapeutic about the rush of adrenaline when you face off with a technical obstacle and clearing it. There’s also something gratifying about impressing yourself, you’ll be surprised.”

Spending nine chilly nights in a tent doesn’t sound glamourous at all but for Msimango, the JoBerg2C event is a precious opportunity for her and the rest of the club members to enjoy themselves while meeting new people and having fun.

“You mean how did I survive? It has to be the toughest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. There were days of pure fun in the mud, blissfully flying through manicured single tracks with little surprise jumps and dips, pleasure in traversing through rivers which gave my stinging toes a welcome sense of relief and cooling.

"Bursts of jovial banter and sing along with other riders got me through some difficult climbs. Then there were moments in a day in hell that required deep seeded resilience and self-hypnosis, humming Pink Panther’s theme song became my superpower chant and with the help of my riding partner Bheki, who would literally push me to make it to cut off before the commissaries could disqualify us, which would have been a shame since I had so much to prove. That it’s possible and doable with the right outlook and attitude it can be done of cos with a bit training if an average rider like myself can do it so can anyone.”