Cape to Cape MTB – A Support Riders Perspective

Sometimes life changes. As a former business owner in a trade down-turn; I left to support my loving partner’s career. While Helen went off to work in the Navy, I remained home – a stay at home Dad.

What to do with myself?

I was always a pretty keen cyclist, and those who do know me; I have a passion for combining it with dry-land dog sledding. But this is a blog, on support riding off road hand cyclists. Cycling was a great way of improving my own fitness as well as the dogs, for our racing year ahead.

Looking around the local mountain bike seen, cycling during school time hours, was a great way for me to dedicate myself for 6 months, before Helen would be returning from deployment with the Australian Navy.

Intro to Break the Boundary

One morning, I saw a face book post of a hand cyclist who was calling out for anyone who could help him prepare for some future events. That afternoon, I rode the Langford Park Circuit, in Jarrahdale WA.

That is where I met Andrew for the first time. We exchanged details and then caught up over the next few months to help prepare for the “Pipe Line Challenge” and the annual “Cape 2 Cape MTB”.

I quickly found it quite simple to help in the loading and unloading of Andrew’s gear and hand cycle for each ride. I soon learned that not only was I required to support the ride, a basic knowledge in bike mechanics was also helpful.

What I get up to as a support rider

As a support rider in these early stages, we rode the “Heritage Trail’. The Heritage Trail, is a 42km loop of an old railway stretch around the Perth Hills. There is some incredible scenery off the beaten track, so it made riding enjoyable . My role in assisting Andrew on his rides, ranged from chair-to-bike transfer; riding as a companion; and assisting wherever Andrews, “Kneeling Trike” (a special customized bike) needed an extra push or lift.

Over this time Andrew and I became good friends and we began to take on Mountain Bike trails at the Kalamunda Circuit. This proved to be a challenging yet rewarding experience, and together, we got down some pretty technical trails, especially for a handcycle.

Lessons Learned

  1. Be available and punctual for rides.
  2. Be prepared to help with unloading and loading, before and after each ride.
  3. Quick, once over, safety check of equipment. ie: brakes working, rider strapped in, bolts tightened, tyre pressure etc. On both hand cycle, and support bike.
  4. Have your own supplies, water, electrolyte drink, food for the distance you are going to ride. Basic first aid.
  5. Be prepared to carry additional tools and supplies.
  6. When riding, always be aware of your surroundings. ie, pedestrians and other cyclists, or local user groups, children and pets. People aren’t expecting to cross paths with a handcycle and they can be a bit difficult to see at times in dense bush land.
  7. Always look ahead for trail obstacles and markers. Additional time is needed to think of solutions to bypass obstacles.
  8. Always be prepared to provide additional support. Be prepared to be able to quickly dismount your own bike to offer assistance to your rider. You may be required to hold the hand cycle while rider adjustments are being made, or you might be required to push from time to time, or upright a rider who may have tipped over at some point on the trail.
  9.  Provide companionship and have fun outdoors.
  10. You will require a general level of fitness and good general bicycle handling experience. Fitness and bike experience can be improved over time if you are not quite the fittest, or the fastest, it’s just like riding a bike!

On Independence

Please be aware, as a support rider, not to overly interfere with the person you are supporting.  We are here to encourage independence and experience, engaging only when help is necessary or requested.

Other areas to assist

I also supported a “Come and Try Hand Cycle Day” sponsored by Westcycle and run by Rock and Roll MTB, which gave me the opportunity to meet a number of people with varying realities and abilities. Break the Boundary, encourages recovery and connecting with the outdoors through cycling.

The greatest thing for me, was the opportunity to have a group share experiences, identify that people are not alone, share some common difficulties with others, and offer a different type of freedom.

On the other hand, if you plan on supporting someone like Andrew, you may need some more skills to go with the rider you interned to support. Sometimes I feel as if you need to tie a rope to hold him back. Andrew has a “go for it” attitude and nerves of steel. Not many possess this, and this in my view, is the key to some of Andrews success.

Assisting at Cape to Cape

Cape 2 Cape was an amazing experience, and Team Break the Boundary, was professional and all business. The team consisted of Andrew, 2 support riders (myself, Matthew for 2 days and Dylan Grey for 2 days). Jenna and Talya (Physiotherapists).

4 days of riding over 190kms on Hand Trike and Bike.

For this event a support rider needs to be very fit and capable to combat the many hill climbs and various terrains, which are difficult enough for a mountain bike alone. At various times, with two support riders, Andrew’s trike can almost conquer all the forces of nature.

Andrew, Richard and Matt climbing before a fast decent towards the final stretch of Stage 1 of Cape to Cape MTB.

So, in this 2 x support configuration, one support rider would push Andrew and his trike up the steep accents with the other support rider bringing both support bikes (either while riding theirs and pushing the other or walking and pushing both). On more gentle accents both support riders can cycle while pushing a bar mounted to the rear of the trike. This is so we can keep pace with other cyclists and keep within the cut off times. Other options for handcyclists who would rather 1 support rider only, can opt for power assist equipment.

It is also important, to communicate and leave the racing line open for other competitors who are faster. When you assist in pushing from the rear bar, sometimes you may have to compromise and ride a dirty line, which may include rocks, tree roots, stumps, shrubs, and soft sand or mud. This is certainly testing for any mountain biker. Be prepared to fall off, I took a few bails around the way!

So All in All, The Ride!

Riding the Cape 2 Cape as a support rider was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. We would pass through the crowds, lining up on the many vantage points, cheering and ringing cowbells. It caused a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat as I proudly aided my friend Andrew in his quest to finish this years Cape 2 Cape.

A great team effort and accomplishment. What a great community mountain Bikers are! The support and encouragement they gave throughout the whole event was amazing. I got a medal for my effort, the chance to ride with others, memories that will last a lifetime and when it was all over, a well deserved beer.

Could I have done anything different? Could I have handled any situations differently?

Of course I could. So next year, I’ll be training harder, to be fitter. From this event I have become better experienced to approach the next race. My hand is already up for next year’s Cape 2 Cape.

And this is where my cycling has taken me.


–  Richard King


3 comments on “Cape to Cape MTB – A Support Riders Perspective

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Hardy

    Nice piece of writing Richard and some excellent advice. I read about Andrew and Break the Boundary in the MTBA newsletter and since then our club volunteers have modified a section of track at Awaba MTB park for hand cycles. Hank Duchateau from Coffs Harbour was good enough to travel down and test it out. We’re now in the process of modifying some sections and adding some length.
    Your advice is also very timely as a friend of mine and I will be support riders for Hank when he competes in the MTBA National series XC race next weekend in Armidale. We’ll send some pics and a race report when we’re done.
    Best regards
    Andrew Hardy

  2. Hank Duchateau
    Hank Duchateau

    I agree with Andrew Hardy good piece of writing, and good advise for support riders. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all involved with getting myself and my hand-cycle to Armidale to take part in MTBA National series XC. Andrew and the Hunter MTB club, Andrew and Break the Boundary, MTB Australia Bob Morris, Breakaway cycles. Having the opportunity to go to Awaba was great and the help I got down there was fantastic. We are even now discussing doing a 24hrs teams race event in April. 6 man team 24 hrs what could go wrong. We are looking forward to the challenge in Armidale and I will close by thanking the NEMTB for hosting this event and having adaptive MTB as part of the program.
    Thanks to all
    Hank Duchateau

  3. Avatar

    Hi Richard, I found your post very positive and inspiring for riders. It’s good to know you go out there and pursue your interest on cycling. I followed your series of events and you are lucky to meet new and different riders from all over the world. It’s good to go out there, I love outdoor. Unfortunately, my time has not yet come. Driving off-road for a weekend for few hours is my only time to be connected with the nature.

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