When Joy Gulle arrived in White River, her husband Greg was the family athlete – an ex Springbok Triathlete, to be exact. But the scenery and healthy lifestyle that is White River encouraged her to join Greg on a bike about 5 years ago. And that was the beginning of her passion for mountain biking.
Joy cycles about three times a week, but the wistful look on her face reveals her desperate wish for more time to spend in the saddle.
She’s not a great race fan, generally only participating in local races as they come up in the area – Barberton, Sabie, Forest to Falls & the Das Auto series. 2014 threw her out of her comfort zone when she tackled the extremely challenging Mankele 3 Towers race. The very technical race terrified her but she wasn’t found wanting – Joy and team mate Marieleze Brotherton proudly mounted the podium after three days of tensely riding up to 38kms a day – the 1st ladies team home in the Mnkane race, which is the shorter race of the day!
Joy much prefers riding the cycle tours she and her group of peddling friends embark on, as this involves motivation, anticipation and preparation to train in the plantations and around the dams in the White River surrounds as a team, getting fit together for the adventure. “There are so many rides around here,” Joy remarks. They quite often bump into (not literally!) other cyclists utilizing all the space in the area. Despite so many active cyclists, there isn’t an official cycling group in White River. Nor, sadly, is there a cycle retailer in town. Yet. Meanwhile, Joy’s fave equipment suppliers are Bells Cycling and Valencia in Nelspruit.
Last year found a mix of locals (Jack and Marieleze Brotherton, Jeannine and Rob Ferreira & Monica and Wayne Jackaman), join up with compadres from Cape Town to complete a cycle tour through the Namaqualand Reserve.
The Tour de Tuli, which leads cyclists through three countries (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe) was a wonderful tour and one which Joy remembers fondly. Although this is wildly expensive, the proceeds go to a good cause (Children in the Wilderness) and she believes it is a tour not to be missed at least once in a lifetime. Berg and Bush in the Winterton area is also a highlight and highly recommended. Joy also loved the Rhino Ride in KZN she completed with Marieleze last year
A highlight of the weekly Saturday morning rides is the hearty breakfast at one of the local coffee shops after a few hours in the saddle. They informally meet up at the Recoleta Estate entrance on Saturday mornings, and on Wednesday mornings Joy and Marielize head for the hills in mist, drizzle or blazing sunshine.
As for age – no limits, it seems. School kids up to mid-70’s, and White River cycling is still a male dominated sport, but the gals are growing in number.
Joy’s advice for people interested in starting mountain biking – a good bike. Spend as much as you can afford on the bike, because you’ll be miserable on a cheap one. Comfort rules! Her ‘must have’ gizmo – the Strava app on her phone. It tracks the route, distance, elevation, average speed and time and enables her to share high (and low!) lights of the ride with others.
Once a week she takes time out for her new passion – art classes with Braam van Wijk in his studio at Casterbridge. Joy doesn’t consider herself artistic and is astonished at how Braam, with his passion for what he does, has stirred up her creativity and she is amazed at some of her creations in these early stages. Braam taught art in the 80’s, exhibited all over South Africa and now works from his studio.
Joy also frequents yoga classes on the White River Country Estate, and believes the mix of mountain biking, yoga and art enable her to maintain total balance in her life.