Full steam ahead for Thami

Lidgetton cyclist has big MTB ambitions

By Garth Johnstone

Up-and-coming cyclist from Lidgetton, Thami Kunene, is making a name for himself with his determination and passion for the sport.

Thami, who works at Fordoun near Nottingham Road, enters as many races he can and hopes one day to be able to make a career out of mountain bike riding.

Main picture: Thami Kunene in action at Aloe Estate. Picture: Gavin Ryan/QuickPix

His interest traces back to his friendship with Christopher Mlotshwa, also from Lidgetton. The son of Mlotshwa’s employer at a farm near Ardmore was a keen cyclist and that’s how Mlotshwa became involved in the sport. Thami was eager to learn all about his friend’s new passion and gradually he too got into cycling.

Thami Kunene MTB. Pic by Gavin Ryan

Thami’s already tasted success in local MTB races, but is hungry for more.
Pictures by Gavin Ryan/QuickPix

These days Thami rides an old model Scott Scale Concept, a bike that has served him well along many miles of track but which he is keen to upgrade soon. He says it is too small for him and he suffers occasional back pain that can be debilitating. He also owns a road bike but it gets neglected due to his love of mountain bike riding.

Entry fees

He made special mention of photographer Gavin Ryan from Howick, who has helped him out with entry fees for races and helped him put together his race bike.

“He has been very good to me. I have also had help from the KZN Cycling Development Trust with kit and race fees, while at Fordoun I get to use the gym and am allowed to use one of their bikes if I have an issue with my equipment for a race.”

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Thami keeps a beady eye on the bicycles at Fordoun to make sure they are in good condition when guests want to go for a ride and keeps watch on the trails.

He has definitely seen an improvement with all the racing – at least 20-30 events a year.

“The different routes have helped me improve my technique and knowledge of the different types of environments I will race in,” he said.

“I’ve become a lot fitter and don’t get sick as much.”

Ridetheberg

One of the races at which he’s excelled is the Marriott Dargle Trails Festival where he’s achieved 1st, 3rd and seventh in the short form race in recent years. He’s also performed well at the Stihl Sharks Trail and the Sappi Howick MTB Classic and enjoyed the recent Ridetheberg event held at All Out Adventures in the Bergville area.

Thami said although he loved all forms of bike riding, he is focussing on mountain bike

Picture by Gavin Ryan/QuickPix

and particularly cross country riding.

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“Cross-country is challenging and fun with big rocks and jumps. The rides are not that long. It’s an hour, an hour-and-a-half and it’s done.

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“I would really love to be one of the top mountain bike riders in South Africa. I love being outdoors and the sense of adventure.”

Competitive bike

One of the challenges the young rider faces is getting a bicycle that he feels will allow him to be more competitive. He is seeking assistance from sponsors in this regard.

His dream bike? A 29er (29 inch wheels as opposed to 26 inches) soft tail which would provide more suspension and stability. The debate rages online about performance of 29 v 26 inches, so as non-experts we will definitely not go there.

Until then, Thami will keep pushing hard, notch up more wins and remain a regular face on the MTB scene.

If you’re able to help: Thami Kunene on 083 554 5228