Travis Browning, 22 years old. Born and raised in the small town of Howick, South Africa. I’m like the millions of other people around the world. Addicted to riding my mountain bike and experiencing the freedom cycling gives you. If it wasn’t for mountain biking I wouldn’t have found myself traveling 32 hours to arrive in a foreign country not knowing anyone other than a good friend that now lives permanently in Ontario. I had a rough idea of what to expect as I spent the end of the summer in 2010 living and working at a privately owned moto-x track in the small town of Courtland. I returned home for another summer in South Africa leaving the cold and snow behind in Canada. Doing a little more research into the riding and racing scene in and around Ontario I decided to return to Canada to work and ride the summer for 2011. I had an exciting season of riding in South Africa, competing in both our provincial and national series. The highlight was riding in the first round of the world cup series hosted in Pietermaritzburg which is about 20 minutes from my house.
A week after the event it was time to pack my bags and head to the land of Mounties. Visa issues and delays forced me to miss the Second round of the O-cup at Horseshoe so my racing debut was at the third round at Kelso. I loved the course, really short but loads of fun. Ski lifts are new for me as well. The amount of runs you could fit in an hour blew my mind. Back home we either walk to the top or catch a lift on the back of a truck. Rider turnout was incredible, 200 + riders of all skill levels. For a national event in SA 120 is normally a successful event. During Saturdays practice I had an O.T.B (over the bars) crash in a rock garden that did more damage to my bike than my body snapping the rear axle and hanger. I thought my weekends riding was over until Jeff Faulds (Silent Norco racing) offered me his 2010 DH frame for Sundays racing. I swopped the parts off my GT onto the Norco frame race day morning. Very stressful! With an hour and a half’s practice left I managed to fit in 3 runs before the final. I was Happy with my run placing me 4th overall for the day. Would have been nice to have ridden my own bike but I am grateful I got to race as I thought that was my weekend over once my bike had been put out of action.
The next few weeks I found out how rare GT Fury spares are in Canada so my bike was still out of action for the third round of the O-cup at Blue Mountain. The only other option for me was to rent a bike for the days racing. So Liam (my South African buddy now turned Canadian) and I road tripped up to Collingwood on Saturday, walked and studied the track and of course had to test out the new mountain coaster! My ride for Sundays final was a Rocky Mountain Flatliner. I swopped out my Fox40’s for the stock standard Marzocchi 888’s and I was good to go. I may have been a little over enthusiastic in practice by smashing out 7 practice runs before the final. Sitting in the starting hut I was physically drained so my race run I battled to stay focus and ride smooth. I finished 10th overall for the day, not the best result but a fun weekend all round.
The fourth round of the O-cup was held at Camp Fortune Quebec. I was lucky enough to meet Neil Langlois before the event who let me ride with him and his son Brian who also races. I finally was back on the Fury after John Capena from GT in States sent me the spares that I had so desperately been searching for. The track was loads of fun except for the tight awkward section in the middle. Very natural and rough which I enjoy. Things got a bit crazy the night before the final with some guy in a truck doing doughnuts in the parking lot roosting parked vehicles and cracking windscreens. O.P.P showed up and put a stop to that by towing his vehicle. My race run didn’t go as planned. I shoulder barged a tree and had few stalls in some of the turns which placed me 12th overall. I was lucky enough to see a lot more of the Canadian countryside during our road trip and ride an amazing course so I was not disappointed at all.
Torn ligaments in my thumb would force me to miss the sixth round of the O-Cup at Blue Mountain caused by the steering wheel of a bobcat and a lapse of concentration from my side. The final race on my calendar was the East Coast Open. The build-up and the hype around it made it an event I was looking forward to. This was definitely my favorite track out of the whole series. Liam’s parents had flown out from South Africa to visit him and they were there supporting me so that made it a special event. The South Africans were representing in full force. The course had a good mix of everything from steep sections, to fast rooted single track and some jumps to finish it off. It was awesome to see the organizers bring back Dual slalom as well so there was no way I was going to miss that. There was a solid turn out of riders and spectators. I qualified 3rd and finished 3rd overall. The Downhill course was amazing, I just didn’t want the runs to end. It was really different to anything I had ridden before, just so many roots and turns that took a while to memories! I was happy with my race run with no big mistakes. Would have liked to finish in the top 10 but ended up 13th overall.
Overall I had an amazing time in Ontario. If I could change anything I would have ridden more between races, not only downhill, but cycling in general. The level of competition in the Ontario cup series is fierce and relying on skill alone isn’t necessarily going to put you in the top 5. But at the same time it has a friendly rivalry amongst the riders that I can compare to our DH series back home. Everyone was welcoming and really interesting to talk to. I would like to thank certain people that made my stay something I will never forget. GT South Africa, the Schuster family, Liam O’Farrell, The Langlois family, Kyle Stasiuk, Arianna Vegter, Jeff Faulds, Sirbikealot racing , Marc Landry and all the riders I got to meet along the way. Hope to see some Canadians at the first round of the world cup series in Pietermaritzburg 2012!
It was amazing to see family and friends when I returned home to the motherland. I now work full time at GregMinnaarracing cycle store. Owned and run by his parents. I have bought myself a dirt bike which is taking up a lot of my time on weekends (best money I have ever spent!) I’m riding for a new team next year but still on GT. We have a bunch of corporate sponsors supporting us but will be riding under the team name “gravity life.” Next year I have been lucky enough to receive a sporting bursary at a College not too far from my home so I will be returning to school full time, then working part time at the cycle shop. I am excited for 2012 and looking forward to another year of racing, riding and studying!