If you need a reason to buy local, or just feel a bit more patriotic about South African small businesses competing globally, here are a few Mzansi mountain bike brands which are regarded as world class innovators.
Born out of tragedy, the Leatt brace has revolutionised safety in both extreme downhill mountain biking and all forms of off-road motorcycling. Chris Leatt’s company has expanded into a range of personal protection bike accessories, but the neck brace remains a core business. Located on the edge of Tygerberg’s mountain bike trail network in the Durbanville hills, the company was established after Leatt, a registrar neurosurgeon, witnessed an off-road motorcycling fatality which could have been avoided with improved neck protection. For extreme mountain bike athletes who often risk even more than their motorised cousins, the Leatt brace has become as obligatory as wearing a helmet.
The faster you go over roots and rocks, the more likely you’ll suffer the awful frustration of dropping a chain. For a mountain biker, it’s the ultimate ignominy and there are only two ways of remedying it: with a chain guide device or an alternating tooth profile single chainring. In the creative hub of Woodstock a brand is doing both. cSixx is world renowned for the quality of its unbelievably light carbon-fibre chain guides and aluminium chainrings, the latter all manufactured inhouse, to millimetric precision. For company owner, Mark Hopkins, a dropped chain during the 2000 mountain bike world championship in Spain was reason enough to start his own fabrication business.
Between the N2 and False Bay’s Nine Miles beach is a cluster of composites manufacturing skills to rival any global aerospace industry. South's founders previously produced carbon-fibre parts for Boeing and McLaren, which provided an excellent grounding when they finally decided to produce mountain bike wheels.
Making perfectly round carbon-fibre wheels, which run true, isn’t easy and South Industries produce all their rims by hand. It’s why each wheel has the signature 'handgemaak' branding, which guarantees quality and is a testament to the calibre of South African carbon-fibre fabrication skills.
Not far from KZN’s celebrated Karkloof trail network, in the sleepy Midlands town of Howick, you’ll find Pyga bicycles. It’s a South African bike brand which has real cachet, competing with the very best boutique imports as a ride of choice for those who are obsessively committed about their mountain biking. Pyga has an impressive international distribution network too, from Australia through Asia, the Middle-East and into Europe. Those who ride them, love them, and true to Pyga’s local roots, its latest model is called the Hyrax. Only a South African bike brand could successfully market the dassie internationally.