Explorer launches new kids’ adventure book

Riaan Manser, at the launch of his book at Bridge House School, outside Franschhoek.
Riaan Manser, at the launch of his book at Bridge House School, outside Franschhoek.
Riaan Manser, at the launch of his book at Bridge House School, outside Franschhoek.

A South African has set what may be a new national record for the highest mileage clocked by a bicycle.

Famous explorer and adventurer Riaan Manser last week cycled into Franschhoek on the mountain bike on which he circumnavigated Africa between 2003 and 2005.

Arriving in Franschhoek on Thursday May 12, Riaan’s Mongoose mountain bike clocked an estimated 42 000km in its two-wheeled lifespan.

This means the bicycle has completed an equivalent of 381 Cape Town Cycle Tours, which are 110km long. Making the burden worse, was the heavy load the pack-horse bicycle carried around Africa, usually weighing in at around 45kg.

Riaan, who now lives in Betty’s Bay, rode into the Cape Winelands town to launch his first children’s book, My First African Adventure.

The explorer said: “We were researching the facts about this famous bike for our kids’ book, and studied all the stats again. I rode this bike around Africa over 808 days, visited 33 countries and clocked up about 36 500km.”

Before his epic African adventure, Riaan had already cycled a few hundred km on the bicycle, and has ridden the bike on many occasions since – making up the estimated 42 000 total number of kilometres “on the clock”.

“While writing My First African Adventure, we hauled out the facts about what this poor bike has gone through!” said Riaan. “This bike has had 120 tyres, with the worst wear-and-tear on the rough roads of northern Kenya and Mozambique.

“Around 90 tubes were used – and I’d patched some tubes up to twenty times, before there was no more rubber to patch!”

Riaan had fitted 15 new chains in his bicycle’s adventurous life – with Ethiopia’s tracks destroying at least 10 chains alone, in relentlessly thick mud.

“I think this poor bicycle has deserved its retirement!” he said of his trusty steed.

“The bike will be joining some famous cycling company at the new bicycle museum at Trails’ End in Grabouw, curated by famous Professor Mike Bruton.”

Riaan visited Bridge House school outside Franschhoek, as part of a tour of South Africa to launch My First African Adventure to children across the nation.

More about the book

In September 2003, Riaan Manser rode out of Cape Town, determined to become the first person to circumnavigate Africa by bicycle.

He thought it would take him a year – it took him over two. At the end of 2005, he cycled back into Cape Town, 14kg lighter and having covered 36,500 km through thirty-four countries.

In Around Africa on my bicycle, Riaan allowes the reader to relive the toil, excitement and occasional terror of his journey – negotiating the Sahara and Libyan deserts, learning French, Portuguese and Arabic, eating monkey, rat and bat, standing in front of the pyramids, being awarded the freedom of the Red Sea in Egypt, feeding hyenas mouth to mouth, and standing on the highest, as well as at the lowest, points in Africa.

Riaan arrived safely in Cape Town on November 25, 2005.

* For more on My First African Adventure, go to www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za/book/my-first-african-adventure

The book is co-authored by journalist Murray Williams and Chantal Tarling, illustrated by Martinus van Tee, and is published by Struik, in the Penguin Random House group.