Behind the scenes: YT Shooting in South Africa
Each year we develop kick-ass bikes that we think are the perfect partner for your riding needs. Be it hitting the gnarliest dirt jumps on your DIRT LOVE, the most hidden and abandoned trails with your CAPRA, or owning a downhill track with your TUES. Our bikes are Rampage and FEST Series proven and everybody at YT puts 100% of passion and determination into every single detail. We test prototypes, have our team-riders give us feedback about frames and design, and are beyond stoked when our athletes give us the green light to go into production.
In November we decided to take our brand new CAPRA and TUES to South Africa and have our team riders Andreu Lacondeguy, Ace Hayden and marketing dude Franz Grossmann shred the trails there. Ace Hayden is the newest addition to our roster, a Canadian freeride machine with a style that caught our attention right away.
Being able to travel the world to ride mountain bikes is definitely something special. You get to go to so many different places around this globe. Meeting new people that are just stoked that you are riding a bike in their part of the world is truly special and experiencing different cultures enrichen your life. At YT, we never take this opportunity for granted!
We are stoked to finally arrive in Cape Town after a long flight and picking up our rental vans. Going from the airport to our house, the mood is really good as we are excited to experience a bit of the exotic city. Not knowing what to expect, we immediately get introduced to something very common in Cape Town. Whenever you stop at a busy intersection, robots as the locals call them, tap on your windows offering you to sell beaded flowers, phone chargers or whatever you might need. Since Christmas is just around the corner, their range consists of plastic Christmas trees, LED lights and other Christmas necessities.
Our villa is located in Somerset West, a pretty upscale neighborhood about 30 minutes out of Cape Town. The industrial setting around the airport quickly changes from lower dwellings as the townships begin and the rough corrugated iron and wood shacks are dominating the landscape. Driving along the highway is quite an experience, that’s for sure:
Experiencing such poverty literally right next to us definitely puts us in a more reflective mood: You see children playing on the side of the road, burning car tires, people washing their clothes in some of the water-filled trenches, and rows of port-a-loos that serve as the townships’ communal toilets. Millions of South Africans live in the country’s informal settlements, where violence is common and running water is a luxury.
Going along the highway the townships slowly start to change into regular houses and we approach our exit to Somerset west. The “Belaire Estates” sign and its security guards can be seen from afar and the guards are making sure that we really belong to the upscale villas inside the area. Still the massive dirt park next to the security housing directs our thoughts back to riding our bikes: Andrew and Jonty Neethling, who you might know if you are following the Downhill World Cup Circus, built some of the nicest dirtjumps we have seen and we can’t wait to session them.
Upon arriving at the villa we can’t believe our eyes. A six bed room villa with a massive pool and extra luxurious interior inside will be our home for the stay. We put together the brand new CAPRAS and TUES while enjoying a few ice cold South African beers. In the meantime, huge steaks are being grilled as we watch the sun disappear behind the ocean.
Knowing that we are able to ride trails that are not even open to the public yet, definitely cures our little hang over the next morning. Check out Helderberg Trails official Facebook for more info: Helderberg Trails. The Helderberg Trails guys know that we were coming to session their trails so they prepared them and even went all out and built a set of sweet jumps a few days ago. Andreu, put on a show for the locals by sending massive Supermen on his stock TUES. We all are having an awesome time and enjoying a session while again watching the South African sun slowly disappearing again.
Imagine a set of perfectly shaped dirt jumps in front of your house? Would you go ride them all day? We do, that’s for sure. Andreu, Ace, Franz, and Ale can no longer wait to ride the jumps and to take pictures of the new downhill rigs. They go for it and once the crazy session has ended the boys return to the house deliriously happy and with huge smiles all over their faces.
The next day checking out dusty trails, that had survived a wildfire and now has burned down trees left and right to it, also becomes an insane experience. We can literally smell the burned down wood. Our photographers Ale and Ewald are getting killer shots and we can tick off another successful day. More rocky and technical trails, as well as trails with more of a jungle feeling to them are followed the next days and we are getting all the shots we need. Before we all split parts again, we are heading into Cape Town to shoot the last part: At YT we don’t only want you to rip trails on killer bikes, we also want you (and ourselves) to look really good while doing so.
All good things must come to an end and unfortunately our trip isn’t an exception. We are stoked with the results our riders and our photographers delivered. We are really blessed and know how privileged we are by being able to travel the world to some of the best destinations. In conclusion, South Africa did open our eyes though a bit: We met kids, around the age of 6-7, who were really interested in what we were doing. They checked out the bikes and asked a bunch of questions. We also asked them what they were doing running up a sandy hill and they told us that is to strengthen their legs. They were doing this to become professional athletes so they can get out of the ghetto. None of us has ever witnessed such joy when we gave them some sweets, water, and sandwiches. It is kind of crazy, these kids don’t even own shoes while kids their age in Europe or the USA already own iPhones and worry about the newest apps or games.
It surely makes you think about your own life and how irrelevant our first world problems turn out to be. We have been enjoying a first world standard - a way more exclusive one as we are having at home, to be exact - so the poverty was even more confronting and hit us right between the eyes. We loved South Africa and its sheer beauty, the various beautiful landscapes, the climate, the amazingly friendly people but at the same time the line between rich and poor seems to be non-existent. Ghettos on one side of the road and a fancy golf course with guarded security guards on the other - an unsettling sight and something we have never ever seen before. We do understand that South Africa is working on changing the present inequalities and we really hope for this country with such a moving and vast history.
Everybody at YT wants to thank all the people involved in making this trip a really special one.
Thank you South Africa!
((pics by Ale di Lullo & Ewald Sadi))