1. Find a spot that is hidden
If at all possible, make sure your spot is not visible from any main road or thoroughfare. You’ll be spending a lot of time and effort there, and the last thing you want is a couple of strangers pitching up on quad bikes and ruining all your hard work. “If you’ve covered a newly made ramp with a tarp to protect it from the rain,” laments Reiche, “people will come over, uncover the ramp, and then leave without a second thought.”
2. Not too steep
“Of course, you want some sort of gradient to deliver some momentum, a bit of a downhill that leads to a flat section so you won’t have to pedal too much,” says Reiche. But if there is too much of a downhill then you’re actually narrowing your speed options to the upper ranges. On the other hand, a bit of pedal pump will always speed you up, allowing you to vary your approaches.
3. Check the dirt
Reiche is a dirt connoisseur. The ideal soil should be not too sandy (because it will just fall apart), but not too clay-like either, because it will be more difficult to craft and will set too hard. What you want is a combination of clay and sand granules. “And be prepared to work to get to the good stuff, says Reiche. “Sometimes you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to get at the good stuff. Gumtrails has an almost perfect combination of soil – red gold!”
4. Make sure there’s a water supply
This is important – make sure there’s a tap or a river or a dam nearby. “You’re going to need the water to bind the dirt and properly shape your lips,” says Reiche. “You need to get that dirt wet and mix it, almost like cement. And you’re going to need to let it set.”
5. Plan it
Have a proper look at the layout of your potential spot and try to imagine how it will look. Envisage it. Then sit down and plan it. “Draw it on a piece of paper. Then walk it,” says Reiche. “Measure it out. Consider the links, the flow.”
6. Ask for advice
Any digger will gladly give you hints and tips – and will probably come over to lend a helping hand! “We’re a closely knit group,” says Reiche. “And we appreciate it when someone makes the effort.”
7. Find accomplices
Digging is hard work, and many hands will not only make it lighter but also come with enthusiasm and ideas. Who knows, you might even need some back-up when the quad bikers arrive! So find some guys who live in the area and who will be able to commit and put in the hours without needing to travel too far. “A digger knows what it’s like to put in those hard hours at the track,” says Reiche.
8. Slowly but surely
The perfect launch needs to be built gradually. At first you start piling the dirt, then slowly create a gradual curve. “It should look like a natural arc,” says Reiche. “Then smooth it and smooth it and smooth it some more – no bumps, dips or holes. You basically need to be a sculptor of dirt!”
9. Beat it
“Long-handle spades are best,” says Reiche. [These are difficult to find in South Africa. Reiche brought one back with him from the UK in his luggage.] Use a tar rake to spread the dirt evenly, then stamp it down using the back of the spade.
“You need to enjoy the fruits of your labour, and it’s best to share it with those you respect and who respect you,” says Reiche. So light a braai, crack open a few beers and enjoy it. There’s nothing better than riding something that you have created.