The move onto a new steed has taken place. Last week I became the proud owner of a 2010 Scott Spark RC, just like the one above - even with the white tyres! In so doing I have dumped my decade long allegiance to Specialized. There have been push and pull factors in making the switch. Pushing me away from Specialized was the unresponsiveness to my queries on 2011 bikes, poor support on the Cape Epic and the apparent decline in the quality of Specialized products.

A number of factors pulled me onto the Scott, and included:
1) Good value on a 2010 Spark
2) The superb support that ProBike, the Scott SA importers provided at the 2010 Cape Epic
3) The interaction with Thomas Frischknecht and his enthusiasm for Scott and Ritchey
4) A really good duel suspension design which alot of my friends are raving about and which has stood the test of time

This report is also going to bring the curtain down on the maintenance of this website. I will still ride my Specialized hard tail to work and will still keep my Specialized E5. One Specialized (M4) will be sold, and the Marin will still do duty to work. Perhaps I will go back to Specialized some day, but, on current performance, the Scott is streets ahead. You can follow my blog on my Coega Daily Commute site.


So, I finished the 2010 Cape Epic on my old faithful - the 2007 M5 Specialized S Works Stumpjumper. In plain language, that's an aluminium hard tail. So where do I stand bike wise after that experience. The results will show that our team got a 104th overall and 17th in the Masters. We started badly and our results got better as we went from a worst placing of about 160 to about 60th on the last three days. I suffered more than my partner over the last three days, with my core deteriorating rapidly. I basically lost all the strength in my stomach and back and can only attribute that to being hammered by the hard tail. Riders who I normally beat over technical sections and downhills, were suddenly alot quicker than me. I was feeling every bump and simply did not have the strength to ride the hard tail as it should be ridden. Nett result, I was wasting loads of energy just trying to stay on the bike.

So what would my weapon of choice be for future Cape Epics - definitely a full suspension. Based on the 2010 Specialized bike range, I am mortified to hear myself saying - It won't be a Specialized? Simply put, I am really disappointed by the Specialized showing at the Cape Epic. Alot of guys were complaining about problems with the rear suspension, while others talked about the gradual deterioration of Specialized products. I had problems with my shoes, and it seemed a real effort for the Specialized tent to even take a look at it. My experience is that the Specialized products I bought 3 years ago, are not the same quality as today's products. I have two sets of BG Pro Carbon Mtb shoes. The 2007 model sole collapsed, admittedly through hard riding (but how come that hasn't happened to my Sidi's). The 2010 pair is damaged after getting ripped by barbed wire on the Epic. The issue is when you put the two pairs of shoes head to head. They are not the same, with the new 2010 pair definitely not being the same quality as the old pair!

To me it seems as if the renowned Specialized quality is taking a dip, largely due to a pursuit of increased volumes and lower production costs. I was very impressed with the Scott Spark and their South African support. ProBike was at the Epic in force (they ran the tech zone) and they seem genuinely committed to their brands (Scott being one of them). I also had the privilege of speaking to Thomas Frischnecht at the start of one of the stages. Frischi is a long time Scott and Ritchey man, and a legend in mtb circles. His devotion to the Spark and Ritchey components was incredibly passionate and the performances which I saw on the Spark were brilliant, irrespective of whether it was Frischi or the guys I was dicing with. These bikes were simply awesome and incredibly smooth!

Unless Specialized come up with something really special for 2011, I know what my 2011 EPIC weapon is going to be!


There are some indicators how to measure service. For Pizza delivery its about the time it takes. So what do we use for bicycle brands. The best question is "Have you got a replacement hanger for the rear derailler?" Use the following as a yardstick:

a) Does'nt know what a hanger is - Don't touch it
b) Promises to order one, but it never arrives - Consider changing brands
c) Has a hanger in stock - Buy that bike!

I am afraid Specialized South Africa is starting to fall in Category B. I know Specialized USA does not have that problem, but, somehow Specialized South Africa is just not with it. In preparation for the Cape Epic, I ordered a derailler hanger through Action Cycles in Port Elizabeth in December 2009. Guess what, according to the owner, Specialized South Africa are simply not delivering. Its now end of February, and I am running the risk of competing in the worlds biggest stage race without a replacement hanger. Now should I buy a new bike or should I perhaps try mail order with the USA or somewhere else? HEEEELP!!!

My Cape Epic Partner

In September 2009, I put out a few tongue in cheek posts trying to use the Cape Epic to entice Specialized into a spot on to Stumpjumper Trail Crew. Offering a chance to ride the Cape Epic was not enough for getting people such as Mike Sinyard, Ned Overend and a host of others into supporting the bid. Well tough - they missed out, and a local Specialized rider, Mike, is joining me on the Cape Epic. His a fantastic partner to have as he completed the Epic in 2009 and is a great all round athlete. I am going to battle to stay with him on the Epic and I feel very privileged being able to ride with someone I know and whose a genuine all round good guy!

I will be switching posts to a new website which focuses commuting and how its going to help in a race such as the Cape Epic.


The good news is that I finished, the bad news - it took nearly ten hours. I thought I better write a post to so my Epic partner does not dump me!

So what happened. I think the Latin phrase, Diem Horribilis (I think that means a horrible day - though Latin's just not me) is an understatement. Check the heart rate and ride time screen shot. It basically says the following:

1) Total race distance = Km 135 over 10 hours
2) Section highlighted in yellow = 3 hours to complete 13km
3) Distance of section in yellow = 13 km

What happened in that 13 km section was a comedy of error and the biggest lesson I have had in puncture repair! It sort of went like this:

1) Slow flat due to not having tyre topped up with Stans at the start - hey I have not had a puncture in months!
2) Bomb the tyre to bring up the pressure
3) Valve unscrews with bomb and all air lost
4) Remove tyre to add Stans
5) Cannot get tyre inflated with hand pump
6) Remove tyre and give Stans back to donor
7) Fit tube but forget to check for thorns in tyre casing
8) Ride, but, slow puncture from old thorns and then a snake bite due to loss of tyre pressure
9) Attempt to repair tube, but air continually lost - goes flat every few hundred metres
10) Attempt to go back to tubeless by using plugs and a borrowed bomb
11) Plugs come loose after a few kms and will not hold air - no Stans
12) Get tube from fellow cyclist (Berhard Beutel), and finally it holds and I gingerly start the remaining 80km of the race

Yes folks, over a period of 3 hours I managed to cover 13km - all because I never checked my Stans sealant at the start, did not carry sufficient spares (valve core tool) and most importantly - did stupid things.

All in all a timely wakeup for the Epic which emphasized the old boy scout motto - Be Prepared and the adage of less haste and more speed!

I will show you my revamped tool box in the next few weeks.

Oh, and for the record, Kevin Evans won and you can read his blog for a review.

The Attakwas is really a fantastic and well organized race and I'm really thankful that with the assistance of fellow competitors (I will try and track down Bernhard and Bertus to return the tube and bomb) at least I finished on my bike and not on the back of a bakkie (did you sit in front or on the back Burry Stander!) and I have felt what it feels like sitting 10 hours on a bike saddle!

All things considered, and having lost say 2hrs 30 min in race time, I dont think the day was a total disaster! 10 hours riding is 10 hours in the bag towards Epic training!


Tan @iamspecialized posted a comment in response to my previous blog. Great - Fantastic - That's all it takes! We simply want to be part the Worlds greatest bike brand. Hat's off to Specialized for being wide awake on this one and responding immediately. I have looked at a whole range of bikes over the past few days and keep circling back to one - Stumpjumper 29'er. In South Africa Andrew McLean is punting the Fisher 29'er as the weapon of choice for the Cape Epic. I think his plain wrong. Unfortunately, according to the Specialized South Africa website Specialized SA are not importing the 29'er. What a pity - time to take a plane trip? Oh, and about the Silverback - just does'nt cut it for me!

Stumpjumper Trail Crew: Making a Mess of Social Media

A beer company once told its customers they were changing the label, but, not the beer. The brand plummeted in popularity, with the consumer being of the view that the beer had in fact been changed. Its a classic example of marketing gone wrong.

The Specialized Trail Crew is a spectacular concept, but, on current form, they're heading for a marketing disaster. About 76 Specialized enthusiasts registered and poured hours into the competition. There were six winners. The 70 others show every sign of becoming ex Specialized fans. While the Specialized fans keep up the sporting facade of congratulating the winners, I suspect that deep down there is lingering resentment.

Vance set up The Trail Crew to support the losers. Though there was lots of initial enthusiasm, little materialized. Now the Crew seems to be looking at other brands - Giant and Fisher. Mountain biking girl is disappointed and amazed at the choices.

I would not be surprised if you get other seriously disgruntled ex-Specialized fans amongst the 70 non winners. Let me tell you why:

1) Every one of the 76 entrants are hard core Specialized fans. How do you possibly say that one is more committed than the other without running the risk of seriously offending the one who does not win.

2) We live for our bike brand. We put effort into this and then - well nothing --- you hear nothing --- only much later you hear about the winners. No rationale, just simply 6 gloating winners with new bikes. Are we convinced that they will be great brand ambassadors - I really am not sure at this stage.

3) Brands are about building a community of users. That community of users merely want to be part of the brand. They buy the apparel and anything they can lay their hands on. They are seriously committed. Now you are telling 70 of them that they are not good enough to represent the Specialized brand! Will they look elsewhere - almost certainly.

4) So what makes more sense. Keeping 76 fans or making 6 happy and running the risk of loosing your 70 best brand ambassodors?

Maybe I'm wrong on these observations or I've seriously missed something. However, given the posts that I have read so far, if we cut through the facade of good sportsmanship, you'll quickly realize that the 70 out there feel like they've been kicked in the teeth. Do I want a free bike from Specialized. Well actually no - what I really want is to be recognized for being a true blue Specialized fan. A sticker, a letter, a thank you - is all it takes. Now, well what about that Silverback brand - they seem to be committed to their fans?


So, I only got to reason 47 before the cut off for the Specialized offer! 101 reasons would have been great, but, hey, if I don't get the bike you can still follow the progress of the GoGreenSpot initiative. GoGreenSpot will be developed over the next few months irrespective of whether or not the Stumpjumper Trail Crew slot becomes available. A big thank you to Specialized for having the vision to come up with this type of initiative. Whether I get a slot or not, it was a great motivator for what's to come. If you're interested, you can follow the progress of GoGreenSpot at the Cape Epic in March 2010. Or will it be the Stumpjumper Trail Crew?


Its 186 days to the 2010 Cape Epic and my offer on the earlier posts still stand. I am talking to a few potential partners, but, the spot's still open. The hype for the event is just starting and you can take a look at the official Cape Epic website for the latest news. Some BIG Surprises (is Lance riding or not?)in store! Someone from the Stumpjumper trail crew simply must participate in this event to give a trail riders perspective!


Want to know what the Stumpjumper Trail Crew is about, or should be about?


You need land to ride on. Its owned by someone and even when it falls under public use, there are normally some conditions attached. Access for mtb trails must be negotiated and established. Failure to do this, will result in long term trail failure.


The sweat of building the trail is the fun part. Other aspects of trail building are difficult: arranging dates for work crews; planning the route; finding resources; amongst others.


Co-operation is the most difficult of all. Getting people to share trails, ensuring that all assist with maintenance and making interpretive information available on a consistent basis are crucial for long term sustainability.

Its great to have expertise in all these areas!