On the Beach

Sunday, 11 March 2012

I (don't) want to ride my bicycle.

Today is Argus Day in Cape Town, the one day of the year when 40,000 cyclists from all over the world come to do a 110km circuit of Cape Town. The route starts and finishes in the city, goes around Table Mountain, down the M3, down one side of the peninsula, over the mountains and up the other side if the peninsula past the famous Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay and into the finish line at Seapoint.

The race itself causes minor controversy in Cape Town and Capetonians tend to fall into 3 categories when it comes to the Argus: those doing it, those not doing it but who love the day anyway and the grinches that cannot bear it.

Those doing it who are not professional cyclists I must, sadly, put into the mentally ill category. Anyone who chooses to spend their recreational time cycling for up to 7 hours in temperatures which are up to 34C today, cheek by jowl with tens of thousands of other fools must be a sandwich short of a picnic. But, given that these sports enthusiasts (which which Cape Town is replete) seem to get a sense out of achievement out of what they do and the fact that a lot of them raise huge amounts of much needed money for good causes, I'll spare the sectioning this once.

These zealots have been increasingly visible on the streets the last few weeks as they ramp up their training and annoy drivers, all in one fell swoop. They've also been hogging the spinning bikes at the gym, which given that I have a total OCD about those bikes, has been very distressing for me. Hopefully, they'll be jelly-legged for long enough for me to have a good go on them.

Then there are those who just love the event. The city really does come together for the Argus. Today, we went to support a friend who is doing it for the first time, to wave him on. We walked up to the M3 along with hundreds of other Capetonians to join the Capetonians already there, lounging under gazebos and trees, encouraging the cyclists- cheering and clapping and calling out to their hot looking friends on bikes. Music  pumped out of speakers and much needed juice and water was handed out by the ever-cheerful attendants at the water stations. Last year, a car had pulled onto the central reservation of the M3, opened his doors and was blasting out "Africa" by Toto (which, btw, must be one of the best songs of all time) and everyone swayed and sang along, clapping and cheering intermittently. I imagine this support is fabulous for the cyclists and it's great to feel part of it.

Then the are the grinches and grouches who get crosser and crosser as the event approaches and the amount of cyclists on the roads increases. You can see them glowering at traffic lights as they cyclists pull off before then and they grumble and grouse about the road closures on the day (which are many and for long times in parts of the City). The inconvenience of not being able to use exactly the road they want at the exact time they want is just too much to bear. It's their prerogative.

And me? Well, I personally can imagine few things I would rather do less than cycle with a throbbing mass of people in blistering heat for up to 7 hours. Add to that the amount of hours (days!) of training and, no thanks, it's not for me. I can think of infinitely preferable ways to fill my time. And I'm simply not motivated by the achievement of cycling 110km. It just doesn't thrill me or excite me. I'll cycle happily (I often do for exercise) as long as I want where I want, without the population of a small town virtually hugging me all the way.

Having shown myself to be lazy and generally unmotivated, I must confess that I find it to be a fabulous event, it really is a time where people come together and it is hard not to be choked when seeing scores and scores of people in different colours, shapes and sizes, bearing different flags, some dressed as smurfs, some in outlandish headgear all moving together (at varying speeds) up Wynberg Hill against the stunning backdrop of the back of Table Mountain.

For those not living in Cape Town or who haven't visited, the Argus coverage is worth watching on TV just to  get a sense of the city, the surrounds and why Cape Town really is such a big deal. Seeing (the faster) cyclists sail from City, to beach to mountain, to beach and to City again will give you some inkling why it is that so many many people fall in love with Cape Town and the peninsula. I am madly in love with it and if you watch it, you might begin to see why. One reason I might consider doing it is to cycle all around the magnificent Cape Peninsula in one fell swoop, smelling the air and being part of the scenery which you simply cannot do in the car.

Well done to all Argus cyclists today, especially my friends Shaun and Helen (and her son), you have endurance and willpower beyond most of us mere humans and I commend you for that as well as the amazing amount of money you have raised for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and  U-Turn Homeless Ministries.

Have they inspired me to do it next year? Me?? Are you serious?! No way! But I'll be there to wave them on if they choose to do it again.


  1. My friends were there last year, and took some photos - looked like a great time. I was thinking of travelling down to do it on my folding bike because it seems like a great way to see the area. If I make it next year, hopefully it will be a little cooler...

    1. Hi Chris, It is a beautiful ride in a beautiful city. Last year they described conditions as "idyllic" although there was quite a lot of mist. Apparently the temperature on top of Suikerbossie was 42C at its peak this year so, ja, HOT! I'm sure you'd enjoy cycling round Cape Town and the peninsula Argus, or not- it's stunning!