Elephant Epic Mountain Biking: Lusaka to Zambezi

2024 > Zambia

elephant epic zambia

The Elephant Epic is a 75-kilometer perineum-punishing mountain bike ride from Lusaka to the Zambezi River in Zambia. Over 180 people rode it yesterday – an annual human migration that many Zambians we passed think is mad. I think they may have a point.

The racecourse is mostly downhill, which matters greatly when you’re on a bicycle. However, the path taken is really three separate courses.

First, there is 37km of tarmac and graded dirt roads that a best ridden on a road bike. Because road bikes are made for roads. Mountain bikes are not, leaving this stretch long, slow, and boring, broken up by teams jamming to tunes and easy downhill glides.

Next is the real mountain biking experience I yearn for. We followed a mix of single track and rutted 4×4 roads that featured The Mother. And she was a mother all right. This climb is straight from a thigh-burning, breath-gasping hell that was way too steep to ride. Loose gravel made it hard to walk, harder yet to push a bicycle up the hill.

At the top of Mother was a welcomed rest stop. Big thanks to Niner Juliet Logistics for their setup of the best food on the Elephant Epic course: egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches. I was ready to eat a second one when Terry called on me to join him for the downhill.

Flying downhill on Mother is a whole other experience. This is the mountain biking I love. Riding right on the edge of my skill level, constantly reminding myself: safety over speed! Still, I pumped my breaks, hoping they didn’t overheat as I dropped quickly in altitude to the flat lands of the lower Zambezi.

Finally, the last 25 km was a long, boring stretch of sandy, hot trail that I raced to complete. I dreamed of the finish line after every turn, only to be met by more sun, wind, and drought-stricken lands daring me to stop.

I was overjoyed to reach the finish in four hours, per my Strava, or 4.5 hours if you include the needed first and second rest stops. Either way, in the top 15 for the over 50 crowd. An ice-cold Mosi rewarded my efforts and quenched my thirst for closure to Elephant Epic 2024.

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