This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)
And then the day you feared for weeks arrived… Sunday the 18th of November. Time to do the 94.7. No excuses anymore… The 94.7 is a cycle race organized by the local radio station 94.7 and you guessed it right, it is about 94.7 kilometres going straight through the city of Johannesburg. It’s kinda like the tour of Flanders but instead of cycling through a province, this race only covers one city, Johannesburg. I have to admit that cycling in South Africa is something different than in the Netherlands. First of all, it asks way more balls, it’s certainly not for pussies. You want to accept this challenge?
1. There are no cycle paths
Whenever I am in a foreign country, it becomes so clear that the Netherlands is so well organized and even riding on a bike you can notice this instantly. We do not only have a road exclusively for cars but in addition, there is also one that is exclusive for cyclists and pedestrians. But not in South Africa! Why would you? You just put one strip of tarmac down and every road user can use it for whatever they want. Walking, running, driving or whatever. So this means that you’re sitting on your bike while a meter next to you, the cars are raging by with 80 or 100 kilometres per hour. So just giving way to the right, is maybe not the best move you can make. Keeps it exciting, doesn’t it?
Yes, yes, there it is again: the pothole. So annoying when you are descending with 60-70 kilometres per hour and there is a hole in the road. The questions that race through your head: can I spot it in time and if so, can I still move to the right or am I going to fall like really, really hard? As I said… cycling in South Africa is not for pussies!
3. Flat is just flat
Cycling in the Netherlands is sometimes simply BORING. You can easily bike 50 kilometres and experience no elevation at all. And no, the Brienoord bridge is not a real hill. But not in South Africa. Here, they do not know what the word flat means. It’s hilly all the way. Quite tiring, all that climbing, certainly in the hot sun, but so much more fun!
4. Antisocial cyclists don’t know them here yet
The advantage of the above is that as a cyclist you are aware of your weak position on the road. Cyclists in South Africa show a more modest behaviour than their colleagues in the Netherlands. If you do not move away quickly enough when a peloton of cyclists is passing by then you’re screamed at and called names like you murdered someone. In South Africa, they help the poor cyclists… Traffic police guide cyclists and mountain bikers as well as possible at crossroads.
5. Early bird or a sunburnt birdie…
The sun here, is like, really hot. As a result, people are on the bike from 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning. So if you think: ‘Great! It’s weekend again! Sleep in a little longer! ‘ think again… ‘Great! It’s weekend again, I have to wake up even more early than normal. At least you have the whole day left to do something.
But in spite all of this, more than 28.000 people joined the 94.7. Strange people those cyclists…