Fanie Kok, the Pretoria Boertjie who founded a global movement called Soil Searching | 15 Questions

Fanie is a South African shredder and general purveyor of mountain biking stoke.

I first met him about 15 years ago, at a mountain bike demo day and am happy to say his love for the sport is as palpable now, as it was back then. That passion has taken Fanie’s career in an interesting direction – a new direction, he is a pioneer of sorts.

Soil Searching Founder Fanie Kok in action on a Specialized Levo in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, South Africa. January 2020
Fanie Kok in action at a media function in Jonkershoek Stellenbosch.


Who is Fanie Kok?

Sho bru, that’s a deep one. Thought you said these are light and fun questions. I ask myself that every day. Will we ever know…?…. Okay, I’m back. I’m a Pretoria-raised boertjie who somehow managed to turn an unconventional passion for riding my bike and sharing that stoke with others, into a career that takes me all over the world. Trying to leave it slightly better than I found it in the process. Blessed.

Where do you live?

I have a physical address in the Netherlands.

What do you occupy your days with?

When I’m not traveling – emails, conference calls, strategizing, saying YES to stuff, not saying NO to stuff, good coffee, thinking of ways that mountain biking can save the planet and the occasional guitar jam session. When I’m traveling – Riding, digging, presenting at conferences, high fives and smaller doses of all of the above.

Where is your favorite place to ride and why?

Karkloof, KZN. Aside from having some of the best trails in the world, it resembles “home” to me. The act of riding is such a small part of the entire mountain biking experience, but that’s a whole other story, which we won’t go into here.

Hypothetically speaking, you have got three bikes in the garage – a Creo, a Levo SL and an Enduro, which one do you pick to go have fun on?

Haha! Good one. Unfair, but good. There are so many factors at play with this – Who you ride with, where you’re going, how much time do you have, etc. But, to be honest – That new Levo SL is absolutely insane!! And if you’re with some mates on acoustics, then you just turn the power down and you can basically jam unplugged with the rest of them. 

Fanie Kok, Bobby Behan, Hannah Barnes in Jonkershoek Stellenbosch during the Specialized Levo SL launch in January 2020.
Fanie – at his best – on the trails and pumping the stoke levels.

When are you happiest and why?

Well, we should probably define what true happiness is in the first place, but we won’t go there now. I get truly stoked when I am able to play a role in impacting someone’s life in a positive way, even just slightly. But also, when I’m alone in a dark, quiet place under an open sky, a fire crackling and love and appreciation in my heart.

What is your greatest fear?

McDonald’s!

What’s the best piece of advice for bike riding you have ever been given and why?

“You’ve got this”, famous last words from Hylton Turvey just before we drop into something scary. With those words, I’ve followed him (and many others) into many gap jumps, and sometimes coming up short and crashing my guts out. Hylton probably had the biggest impact in my life regarding bike riding and the reasons for riding.

Clips or flats?

Flats forever! There’s another story here, but we’ll leave that for later. There’s even a Specialized flat pedal called Boomslang, how can you not…?

What has bike riding taught you about yourself and about life in general? How was that lesson learned?

For one – how to crash, get up and go on. Applying that to all things in life. An acute awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. And as cliché as it sounds – freedom.

If you could do a bike ride with 3 famous people who would they be?

Haha! Well, not be boastful or anything, but I’ve had the privilege to ride and become friends with some of my childhood heroes and legends of the sport. Matt Hunter personified what pure mountain biking is to so many kids, especially in a country that was built on lycra and racing. We’ve become quite close friends, which is still sometimes hard to believe. Riding with Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson on their home trails in the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada… Stoke levels through the roof! And then one of the most memorable – Riding with the very founders of mountain biking – Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, and Ned Overend on the very first official mountain bike racetrack, Repack, in Marin County. Mind. Blown.

Repack Marin County with Fanie Kok, Ned Overend, Otis Guy, Joe Breeze on a mountain bike ride.
Fanie (far right) riding in Repack, Marin County with the founders of mountain biking.

What makes you stop, pause and think?

Everything. I honestly think that I think too much. It’s more a question of filtering through the “bs” thoughts and get to the heart and soul of things that really matter.

How many hours a week are you riding?

I’m kind of ashamed to say this, but I don’t really ride that much at all. Between traveling and living in the Netherlands (It may be the cycling capital of the world, but it doesn’t lend itself towards my yearning for riding), I don’t get “out” much. I convince myself that the love for riding is not dependent on how much you partake. Like Biltong – I only have it when I’m back in SA once a year, but man, that does not deter from the fact that I have a deep affinity towards a piece of Springbuck.

What does the future hold for you?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, my deep passion lies in how mountain biking can truly make a positive, holistic change in the world. From alternative, sustainable materials in product manufacturing, to addressing social challenges, transcending cultural disparity and even using bikes and trails to combat threats to our environment. We still have a long way to go, but I feel privileged to be in a position to possibly play a role in this and working for a brand like Specialized that has this on the radar in a significant way.

If you had to ride one mountain for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch. If Karkloof is my home, then Jonkershoek is my church. It’s my cathedral where I’ve had some of my deepest conversations with my Creator. 

| IMAGES Etienne Schoeman |



2 Comments

  1. I just want to share a true story… a famous American writer on subject “Focus on the family” once said:”some children are born to be calm and placid…then u get those coming out guns blazing and cigar smoking! “i just want to refrase that a bit… Fanie came out ” braai-ing and mountainbike riding”… I should know… I’m his mom. You go my son✊🏻🐞❣️

    • That is very funny Hesta. Fanie is a peach!


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