Tough Enough for the Attakwas
Having become accustomed to racing aboard high-end dual suspension mountain bikes, Oli ‘Pinner’ Munnik accepted a challenge to ride this year’s Attakwas Extreme on the all-new Signal Elite … his experience will surprise you!
If you’ve ever ridden the Attakwas Extreme, revered as the ‘Hell of the South’, you’ll know it is more of a survival game than an event where you ‘dance on the pedals’.
Having been privileged to race the last few seasons with the sport’s best-of-the-best equipment (which in terms of bikes is a 10kg carbon dual sus) I accepted a challenge ... from one of my cheeky colleagues at Rush Sport to have a cup of cement for breakfast and ride the 112km Attakwas on the new Signal Elite hardtail.
Something we can all agree on, is that when the product manager at Signal Bikes designed and specced the Elite, he did not envision the bike lining up on the front row of A-Batch at South Africa’s toughest one-day event.
So with a torrent of cement swirling in my stomach, the one and only Paul Valstar counted us down, the gun went off, and there was simply no turning back. Looking around at the bikes in the group, I wondered what on earth I had done. It was too late though to chicken out now.
From the outset, the Signal Elite performed like a street fighter with nothing to lose. Having brought a knife to a gunfight, the underdog was negotiating the torturous terrain like a boss.
Adrenaline pumped through my veins like the Tugela in flood. Before I knew it, I was bleeding through my eyeballs in a tiny bunch, bobbing up and down, re-learning how to shift with a 2x11 Shimano SLX drive train!
I somehow managed to engage the mongrel gene and stuck with the dudes up until the beginning of the Attakwas, 42kms in. On the limit, I had to pull the pin and calm down. I simply could not hold that pace and, had I blown, the size of the crater would have been visible from space.
Having backed off, the lactic acid drained from my eyeballs and I was able to negotiate the Attakwas Kloof without any hassles … in fact, it was actually quite rad! The Elite and I were fast becoming friends.
Of course the ride-experience through the rocky, sandy jeep tracks was not as silky smooth as it would have been on a R100k chariot, but let me tell you, the Elite really did impress me. Despite taking a severe beating, a set of high volume 2.35” Maxxis Rekon Race tyres was faultless. Like most modern equipment these days, the tyres performed superbly and played a big role in ‘smoothing’ out the terrain.
With the kloof behind us, a quick refuel at Bonniedale led riders onto the open roads that form the second half of the race. Incredibly, despite the technicality and brutality of the terrain up until this point, the Attakwas Extreme in fact only starts when you reach the district roads and the massive rollers that ‘tune you howzit’ on your way towards Pine Creek Resort in Groot Brak River.
I can unashamedly admit that my small blade was literally a lifesaver on the steep inclines, while on the downhills, it was aero-tucks and drifts for days! Isn’t it so awesome that bike riding can be torturously tough one second and breathtakingly effortless the next?
Thanks to a tailwind sent from heaven, one or two packets of salty peanuts and raisins and a few cups of coke, my chariot and I crested an incline to be greeted by the Indian Ocean and the Groot Brak River lagoon. What a sight that was.
The joy. The relief. The satisfaction. It was a brilliant feeling and special moment knowing that the Signal Elite, a sub R20k alloy hardtail, had proved itself tough enough for the Attakwas. This is a finisher’s medal I’ll hang on to!