From professional rider to piano tuner

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An absolutely powerful rider on the road, who redirects her career (Photo: R24)

  • Anriette Schoeman is one of the most successful road cyclists in recent history
  • She took advantage of confinement to pursue her other passion
  • Schoeman hopes to earn accredited piano tuner and restorer qualification soon.

Anriette Schoeman is one of South Africa’s most accomplished road cyclists.

His long and illustrious career has included representing South Africa at the Athens Olympics and three Commonwealth Games.

Highlights of Schoeman’s career include eight South African Elite Road Cycling Championships and the record for the most wins on the Cape Town Cycle Tour, with seven wins to date.

Naturally, the past 18 months have been calm on the racing front. Schoeman continues to cycle as much as possible, but has used this extra time in Port Elizabeth to pursue his other passion, which is piano tuning.

Ride24 sat down with Schoeman to discuss racing, winning and reinventing himself in the midst of a pandemic.

road race

Anriette poses the watts at a local event (Photo: R24)

With the majority of events canceled, how did you manage over the past 18 months?

It was difficult because I like to cycle and run. During the harsh confinement of the past few years, I really had time to think about my future. I still love to ride a bike and do a bit of coaching but realized that I needed to reinvent myself because my professional cycling career won’t last forever.

What are your cycling goals these days?

The training and suffering that is part of the preparation required to run at a high level is so much a part of my life that I don’t know any other path. I will keep riding for as long as I enjoy it and at this point I still feel like I can run for the podiums.

road bike

Although she races mountain bikes, the road is Anriette’s first love (Photo: R24)

The local mountain biking scene has exploded over the past ten years, has this discipline already interested you?

I love mountain biking and I’ve done quite a bit of it, but I’ve always thought that you have to specialize in this discipline to compete at a high level. I really like to ride a road bike so this specialization never happened.

Where did your interest in the piano originate?

Playing the piano is something that fascinates me. This is something that I have been doing for longer than cycling and even took it as a subject until signing up. It’s part of my DNA.

road cycling

“Doesn’t that look like my rear hub on the bike?” »Anriette learns the intricacies of Reon (Photo: R24)

Why the decision to pursue piano tuning as your competitive cycling career draws to a close?

During the tough lockdown last year, I considered reinventing myself and thought about what I might do in the future. Earlier this year I found a local piano tuner on Facebook and we met for coffee.

Reon Brown then decided to take me under his wing and guide me. From the moment I started following him, I knew I had made the right decision.

Piano tuning is a rare skill. In the past 35 years there have only been five piano tuners in the Eastern Cape, so for him to share his knowledge and experience with me is special.

How do you become a skilled piano tuner?

Right now, I’m learning as much as possible from Brown, he gives me experience making adjustments and repairs under his watchful eye.

There are currently less than 50 piano tuners in South Africa and many are nearing retirement. There is also no establishment in South Africa offering formal piano tuning and restoration courses.

The Pioneer School in Worcester used to offer a course, but this is no longer the case. My plan is to travel abroad once possible in order to obtain a formal qualification.

piano cycling

Anriette and Reon, getting ready for a tuning lesson (Photo: R24)

What does the learning experience involve?

You literally have to train your ears, and that only comes with experience.

Piano tuning is very similar to cycling in this regard, just as it takes hundreds of hours to reach a competitive level, it can take that long for your ears to get used to recognizing the correct note perfectly.

It is a very complex process with each note made up of three strings which must all sound exactly the same. Like cycling, the process is very focused and one-dimensional.

Is piano tuning something you would like to do full time?

I have loved cycling from a young age and have always been competitive.

Although I have followed structured training programs in my career, sometimes I just ride a bike and if I don’t feel like riding I don’t either, which is not very often for be honest.

The day I don’t want to ride anymore I will know I need to do something else and then it will be good to have the piano tuning skills.

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