Ten of us, including three first-timers, gathered on the spectacular full moon evening for the intro ride. Nine chaps and myself left me querying where all the ladies were?! Having never ridden a bike at night, I had no idea what I was in for, but when our leader said that the first to fall would be stuck with writing the report, I knew that would be me – not to jinx myself, but I was just being realistic. Gerrit also informed us that there would be two optional drop-offs, for which I asked, "hey, what’s a drop-off?" which should be the first sign that it’s something I shouldn’t try.
After just a few hundred meters or so, a fellow rider’s tire went flat, but in a true no-one-gets-left-behind fashion, Johan, who was far ahead circled back to help with the repair, and we were all off again through the field. We passed by a lively bar, for which next time I really think we stop and partake of some liquid courage before continuing. Anyways, we cut through a park, over some more dirt roads and fields, and then came to the second larger drop-off. Since I opted out of the first and the other riders looked so smooth on this one (+ I didn’t want to be that girl who copped out and didn’t try!), apparently I swallowed some air courage and decided to go for it, and by go for it, I mean I took some advice from Shane to keep my weight back not forward while he shined an extra light on the path, went over the hill, and swooped down the drop only to bust it near the end with a major fall (or flip over the right side of the handlebars – really a blur to me). Covered in dirt and rocks with half my arms still on that hill, I dusted myself off again <cue Aaliyah, right?!>, and geared up for the second half of the ride.
With an unclear mind and bleeding my own blood, we set out again. At one point along the way, our fearless leader Gerrit declared it the "ghost section" and that we all had to turn off our lights to ride in the complete darkness. With my arm still leaking blood, I looked at him like he was crazy and just thought he must be confusing the Christmas holiday season with Halloween and/or this was his version of load shedding. We made it through creeping along the single track in the dark. Why, though, I still have no idea. Must be an Afrikaaner thing that this Americana doesn’t get. At our next intersection, someone starting taking their clothes off – not that I minded – but admittedly was a little worried that our leader was then going to declare the next section of the ride "in the buff" for which all would blindly follow. Let’s be glad he didn’t and instead we traversed over more fields, up some hills, sped downhill on a paved section, and had some speed parts too. Why did no one tell me just how much dirt I had on my face?!
Over the course of the next few days, I told some comical tall tales of wrestling lions and fending off angry elves to try and explain all the scrapes and cuts, which really clashed with my cute sleeveless cocktail dress for a formal diplomatic event. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re really up for a night mountain bike ride and if you’d have the skills to keep up, I can now attest to the fact that this group truly does look after newcomers and beginners and that no one gets left behind. You may even get a much needed push – literally – to get you going again after you fall. And if you’re wondering about your level, well let me ask you this: Did you ride a bike as a child? Well, then you’re probably at least a couple of decades ahead of me b/c I never even got on a bike, much less a mountain bike, till 3 years ago. Seriously, there’s probably no conceivable way that you have less skills than I do, so come on out to the next one, esp. my fellow ladies so I don’t have to be the sole one. But also remember, she who is brave but stupid is always injured. Bike on!