Along with a Dave Mercer Steel Bike & The Absa Cape Epic

Words by: Max Menzies 

Having started this mountain biking journey in my early forties, it truly had a tremendous impact on how I wanted to live the remainder of my life. It all started with two distinct groups of people drawing me to biking, specifically mountain biking. My brother, Ed would come to SA each year with some friends and take part in the early Cape Epics and I would feel the energy in that group and see them all come in at Lourensford at the finish…. I could sense the absolute rush they all took from that event. At the same time, my work crowd started biking and they would meet up in the week at Tokai and play in the mountains followed by a beer/coffee (time of day dependant). Pulling me in I took ownership of a second-hand Cannondale Lefty 26’er from a mate. Did I struggle man….I was always out of breath and wanted to vomit on some of those climbs they were so hard for me. But the bug was biting, and I slowly I got sucked into this new pastime. Golf clubs were even sacrificed for bike polo. My boet then left me his 29’er full suss stump jumper after a 2013 Epic and told me to get my shit together and get ready as his ride partner for the following year. I am just a regular dude, no fancy sport DNA running through my blood…..a true weekend warrior like the vast majority of mountain bikers I imagine.

There was no getting out of it now…..I was so fearful of my first Epic. I trained and got my head around all the obstacles you must overcome to get to the starting lineup – these challenges have all been well documented over the years. Now in 2024, getting ready to line up for my 8’th one, I have always maintained that the training/ride block is such a big component of an Epic completion. Once that is done and you’re two/three weeks from the start all the demanding work is now essentially done – enjoy the event and treat it like a celebration…. dont take it too seriously, it is just a bike ride at the end of the day. Outside of the top pro’s nobody really cares what time or position you came in; just did you make it?

I am digressing though. Living in the Noordhoek/Fish Hoek area I had tons of space around me to go ride and just enjoy this new pastime. I lost some puppy fat I was carrying and found I really enjoyed myself when out riding – who doesn’t. After my first Epic completion back in 2014, and with 3 years of riding behind me I got into this single speeding thing. Grant Bender from Trail & Tar bike shop planted the seed. It just resonated with me – I am very comfortable at the back of the field where I can chat and do my own thing, plus I really enjoy the simplicity of it. Just no clutter/noise. From my second Epic onwards, I committed to only SS riding on my steel bike. Got rid of my other bikes and just had one bad boy to front up with at all the events – whether it be the longer endurance, less technical type (Munga, TransKaroo, Bavs, 36One, Attakwas) or the tougher stage ones (Epic, TransCape, Lesotho Sky, Jhb2C, TankwaTrek, RVO). I just clicked with this type of riding. 

Managing my health through daily exercise and correct eating has given me tons of energy, I just feel great all the time and never get ill, period…. difficult to put in words – it is a clarity you have, no mist at all. And then I had an “incident” in the mountains above Glencairn near Kleinplaasie back in February 2016, where three chaps jacked me with panga’s and took my bike. I walked home, I called it the “walk of shame” for not fighting back to protect my prized possession. I phoned my wife, Isabelle who was overseas in France at the time visiting her folks and said, “we out of here.” If we cannot bike and horse ride in safety what is the point in staying in SA. She calmed me down and we both agreed to flee to the countryside as an interim stopgap ….to see if it that works. Isabelle is a keen endurance horse rider, so the decision was not too difficult for us.

I wanted to be able to ride every day and try lead a healthy life, so we chose McGregor outside Robertson in the Western Cape and so began this new journey, brought on essentially by biking and me wanting to do the Epic every year and being able to ride/train in absolute 100% safety. At the same time Dave Mercer, who heard I took a whack in the mountains, reached out to me, and mentioned this was a sign from the cycling gods to now get a bespoke handmade steel single speed Mercer bike from him! And boy did he make a glorious chariot for me. We named it Scelerat, and all my cycling mates pitched in on the design ideas, getting it custom built to withstand the demands placed on your bike in order to complete a gnarley bike event like the big daddy. 

On a side note – I got that bike back that was taken from me by those three zombies. We offered a cash reward and spread it on social media sites – the bike was eventually retrieved in a shipping container in Masiphumelele, on route with other stolen items to Zim.

Read Part 2 for McGregor, a heart attack and an 8th Absa Cape Epic!