There were so many wonderful builds at the Karoobaix, but I have to admit, seeing this bike really made me stoked to be in South Africa. While Sarah’s Mercer Bikes isn’t as flashy as Stan’s, it’s still a locally-built frame, designed to fit Sarah and her riding style, with practical details, contributing to the overall beauty of a modern, disc road bike with classic lines.
Thanks to everyone who made this trip so memorable. There’s much more to come next week! You boys have fun out there on your cycling tour!
One of the highlights of trips like this is bumping into people whose work you’ve admired and being able to see the fruits of their labor in person. For me, finally meeting Matthew of Saffron Frameworks at the Karoobaix was one of these moments. Matthew’s work is clean, precise and artful, as embodied in this disc all road bike, built especially for the Karoobaix.
It’s been a wild few days thus far in South Africa and as you might imagine, there is little to no wifi in these parts, hence the lack of updates. Don’t fret, however, we’ve got galleries on the way for the next few days and you can get a preview of what’s to come at our Instagram!
I’m here in South Africa, documenting the Karoobaix, a 400km race through the Karoo Desert and naturally, while here, I’ve been documenting a few bikes from the event. While I’m compiling photos from the race itself. The first bike is Stan’s Mercer Bikes…
Stan is the organizer of the Karoobaix and the Tour of Ara, both races explore the vast Karoo desert outside of Cape Town. For South Africans, there are enough mountain bike races, but no dedicated “gravel” races, where dropbar exclusivity looks to separate these races from other, XC MTB-oriented stage races like the Cape Epic.
This bike was made by a South Africa builder named Mercer Bikes. Stan wanted an all-road bike, complete with rear rack mounts, clearance for big tires and a beautiful custom rack, which utilizes the face plate drilling of the Thomson stem. Stan then modified a bag he found online to fit on this race. While the rack is one of the most unique of its kind I’ve ever seen, by far, my favorite detail is the most low-fi, the amazing hand painted decoration by local artist Black Koki.
While there’s much more to come from my time in South Africa, including my Karoobaix Reportage, I wanted to give you something to whet your appetite in the meanwhile…
… to chase the sun across the Karoo Desert. Expect updates as events warrant.
… after missing out on last year’s event, I’m going to be attending South Africa’s Karoobaix, a 400km, two-day trek through the Karoo Desert. It’ll be like Death Valley riding, only in the Southern Hemisphere and I can’t wait. Who else is attending? For those wanting more information, check out the Karoobaix site and see Stan’s photos from last year’s trip in the archives.
This looks incredible!
“There are few roads in Lesotho. There are even fewer mountain bikers. Here the horse is supreme and the myriad horse trails that have been carved through its steep and rugged mountains are its lifeblood. Horsemen ply these trails, just as they have for generations, riding between villages that have remained unchanged over centuries. Amidst this scene frozen in time is Isaac, a twenty-two year old horseman who is bridging the gap between old and new. For a week in April 2017, Isaac – or Leputhing Molapo to use his Basotho name – rode a 180 Kilometre traverse of the mountains of his home country. It was a ride like his father had done before him, but this time he was leading two mountain bikers.”
South African Dirt and the Karoobaix
Photos and words by Stan Engelbrecht
On the third morning we came across two kudus, dead, and partially eaten. During the intense drought in the area over the last months, many animals had been breaking through fences to get to this dam, only to find it completely dry. In their search for water, these kudus tried to cross the dried dam floor, and got trapped in two mud sinkholes. They must have struggled there for days, before dying of thirst and starvation. And maybe something had started eating them while they were still alive.
It was a stark reminder that the Karoo is a dangerous and remote place. This semi-desert region near the Southern tip of Africa is known for its searing beauty, but also its harsh and unforgiving environment. Get caught out here without water or shelter at the wrong time of year and it can be the end of you.
When Giancarlo Brocci imagined what would become the now world famous L’Eroica vintage bicycle homage in 1997, he surely never thought that rubber would crunch on gravel all the way at the Southern tip of Africa, in honour of his humble concept. Giancarlo saw the first L’Eroica rides as a way to bring attention to, and thus encourage the preservation of, the beautiful ‘strade bianche’, or white marble gravel roads of the area around Gaiole in Tuscany. At the same time it was a way for him to honour and remind others of the perfect peak of the sport he loves so dearly – the heady, fiery days of Anquetil, Poulidor, Coppi, Bartali, Merckx…
Damn that bike looks like so much fun!