David Bristow mostly writes for a living, but also spends a lot of his time dreaming up things to do so that his work never becomes a drag. His most successful book to date – Drakensberg Walks, 6th edition – was the result of one of his early such dreams.

Having discarded his backpack for a mountain bike about a decade ago, he recently dreamed up the idea of riding his bike from Beit Bridge to Cape Town. The reasons are two-fold:
- In order to create the country’s premier mountain bike trail akin the American Great Divide trail (only much better), and

- Secondly to do some good in the world by raising money for Operation Smile. Op Smile is an amazing organisation that raises funds to facilitate facial reconstructive surgery for kids in poor rural areas who suffer from ghastly facial deformities. A simple half-hour operation gives them a new life – at a cost of just R5,000 a kid. So David is going to ask, plead, beg, bully and use physical violence if needs be to get you and everyone else he can, to contribute generously by pledging an small amount (say R2) for every kilometre he rides. The ride will be about 3,500 km, so that’s one happy kid a person, more or less.

He’ll be riding with his good mate Steve ‘Daytripper’ Thomas, a good man to have on a long ride. At the end of the ride, Steve will be marketing the Spine of the Dragon as South Africa’s ultimate “can do” mtb trail.

When he’s not writing or dreaming (or living out those dreams), he lives near Muizenberg, loving the birdlife on the water, surfs when he can, and rides his mountain bike Patrick (as in Morewood) as often as he can.

It’s true the idea was not entirely original, and here credit must be given to the giants on whose shoulders this projects stands:

David Waddilove who pioneered the Freedom Trail and Challenge, the country’s ultimate hard-core mtb trail,

Kevin Davie, who created his own Ride the Spine route along the eastern escarpment and who, as we start off ourselves, will be some way ahead of us forging his own trail across the country, as his own private project, and

Jaco Strydom, who first conceived of a Beit 2 Cape mtb trail, but had to abandon it last year (2010) when he fell at Kaapsche Hoop and sustained a double fracture to one leg. His dream now (2011) is to join his own dots from Beit Bridge to the start of the Freedom Challenge race, arriving in Pietermaritzburg in time to ride that gruelling race once more. We wish him luck, as a cancer survivor, following his most recent bout of treatment.

Steve Thomas states the importance of noting he was born at an extremely early age, about 50 or so years ago. Nothing much of any wprth happened to him back in the formative years in Pinelands, Cape Town, until he met his future wife Di, the Racing Demon, at Rhodes University.

They lived in the US for several years, finally deciding to ride across the country (Boston to Seattle via Colorado and Wyoming). Then, when Ricky was born, they decided – after a short trial run from London over the Pyrenees to the Costa del Sol – to tow him across Europe, from Lisbon to Kiev. The arrival of Bennet put paid to their dream of riding to Moscow.

After flailing around for a few more years back home, they hit on the idea of starting a bicycling tour company, and so Daytrippers was born back in 1992. Since then, between them, they have cycled just about every track worth riding, including most of the big mtb events (Cape Epic, Joburg2Sea). 

If you want a man who can fix a puncture behind his back and read a map in a dark cave, Steve is your man. He also makes a fine double espresso on the trail.

Philippe Samouilhan or Amadriver of the Amarok, was born in Joburg of Mauritian stock, his father a mechanic on the Renault Gordini rally team. 

Philippe grew up in the rough-’n-tough neighbourhoods around Orange Grove where his first bicycle was stolen by a friend – that kind of place. 

Being a tough little Mauritian, he won provincial colours for swimming in primary school and became the “night runner” in high school. 

Philippe’s first racing bike was the legendary Reynolds 531 but he was completely hooked on mountain biking after riding a friend’s bike in Cape Town. His first mtb? A Marin, back in the day well before aluminium, carbon fibre, rear shocks and all that. 

Mechanics runs in his blood, he says, so aircraft mechanics was a natural course of study. But he discovered his mojo when he discovered bicycles.

Philippe worked for Hopkins Cycles, the first ‘proper’ mountain bike shop in Cape Town, in the early 90s, and progressed to something of a “Roger Multitool as we call him when we are not calling him Amadriver.

4 Responses to About

  1. Rusty Barnes rustybar@zwn.co.za ZA says:

    I wish you all the very best and will certainly keep track of your progress. Last year I did, with a group of friends a ride from Kosi Bay to Luderitz in Namibia straight across the country, over 3 weeks, very enjoyable, it was. Good luck and enjoy. Rusty Barnes

  2. Pingback: David Bristow to Cycle Across Country for Charity | Struik Travel & Heritage

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