Mountain Biking in South Africa

September 19, 2018

Hi Gents,

 

I guess that if you’re passionate about mountain biking, at certain point you will want to start travelling with your bike and explore other world-class single tracks (Other than the ones you can find next to your home town).

 

Obviously for adventure-driven people this is nothing but an invitation to organize some good ol’ getaway so, how about going biking to South Africa?

 

Why South Africa

 

Aside from the fact that it’s a gorgeous country, SA offers a plethora of opportunities for those in love with biking in general.

 

It has a flourishing MTB community and quality people that will make your experience something unique. It also has adorable grip (although temps are quite high), scenic views and good, cold beer at the end of the day.

 

 

Getting things done

 

By the time you start thinking of this kind of trip, your head is probably summing up all the places and opportunities you’re gonna be able to catch while down there.

 

Hold your horses. There are other things you need to sort out first. The following list will help you get organized and ready:

 

  • Open Face or Enduro Helmet: I know, I know… we all want to look awesome in our full-face helmet and goggles but trust me, you will end up carrying it more than using it. It’s simply too hot for it and unless you don’t mind the lost space, the full-face is just not necessary. However, if you’re looking to have that awesome profile picture, then by all means do take it.

 

  • Hydration Pack: Find the biggest bladder you possibly can. Most of the tours we did were under at least 30°C and we would go through 3 liters of water like nothing, within the first hour of the tours. So, either you find something bigger or just put a couple of extra bottles inside your backpack.

 

  • Knee/Elbow Pads: Some people like them and some people don’t. Out of our experience, don’t leave them home.

 

  • Spare Parts: Although you can get almost everything in SA, it doesn’t mean you get it everywhere. If there’s a specific part for your bike that could break or need replacement and it’s not a common component like brake pads or the like. Then order it beforehand and bring it with you.

 

  • Tubeless: South africa is dry and full of leaves eating animals. This simple fact means a lot of the plant species develop thorns. We made the mistake of bringing tubes there and had 7 flats in less than 1 hour on our first tour day. Not fun.

 

 

These are basics you need to consider aside from all your regular stuff like: medikit, tools, etc.

Getting There and where to go

 

Like I said before, SA has a lot of options when it comes to biking and although we covered 3200 kms to find good places, you can stick to two main spots. Cape Town and Knysna.

 

These two offer the best setup when it comes to MTB and you could be there for months and still not discover all they have to offer. Focus on these two and you will have an awesome trip.

 

When it comes to transporting your bikes, there are a couple of factors you need to keep in mind. Some positive, some negative. Let’s start with the positive ones:

 

  • South African Airlines has a free Sport-Luggage policy, which means will transport your bike at no cost.

 

  • Since it’s free, you can just fill in the bike bag (or box) with all you need like spares, helmets, clothing, etc.

 

Now let’s see the negative ones:

 

  • If you’re flying to Cape Town, you will most probably do a layover at Joburg and this means that your luggage, including your bike will be unloaded from the plane and you will have to pick it up to re-check it (SA Airlines Policy). Now if this is not painful enough, it seems that the Johannesburg airport and personnel has its own rules and they tend to be complicated when relocating big bulky baggage. This will ensure an unpleasant conversation with the person at the counter, especially because there’s another couple of hundred bikes coming in (especially in race season).

 

  • SA Airlines is not the most careful (as much as any airline) when it comes to your bikes and they will toss it around like a bag of garbage. Make sure you pad the inside with whatever you can (clothing, gloves, etc) to prevent having complications like we did. Two of the three bikes suffered damage while travelling and this included a bent disc rotor as well as a broken hose on the automatic seat post.

 

Keep a few single Euros or Dollars to bribe the airport personnel. Not the most elegant thing to do but it will ensure a safe passage and less complications when dealing with them.

 

 

Arriving at Cape Town

 

Make sure you go straight to the Car Rental and get yourself a comfy VW or similar to put all the gear inside. Renting a car in SA is actually quite cheap and it’s by far the most comfortable option.

 

It is kinda weird to drive on the other side but, you get used to it fairly quick. Beware the traffic is not the simplest and SA drivers are not precisely polite nor gentle.

 

Make sure you have a Navi or GPS so you don’t risk getting lost while carrying your pricy bike. Now let’s go to some of the good places.


Bike Jump

 

Cape Town

 

So, you’re there and ready to ride and you just can’t hold it any longer. You might wanna check this link to get some insight about what’s around Table mountain which is the first stop you need to hit.  Take a look at this link.

 

You might also wanna try this link where you can find more detailed information about what’s happening around Table mountain.

 

With this in hand, you’re ready to plan a good few days around (include bars, beers, burgers and all the good stuff at the end of each ride).

 

Another important thing to consider is that Table mountain is a national park so, there will be some fees included when you want to enter.

 

Also, the lower part of the mountain is a pretty much very loose kind of gravel and it can get tricky on the descent as much as it can get exhausting while doing the uphill part. Here's some more info you want to look.

 

There’s also the option of inscribing yourself for the Cape Epic, but you need to be a special kind of badass if you do. Just in case, Check this one out as well.

 

Knysna

 

I’m going to admit my opinion here is a bit biased because I truly fell for this place. It has the food, the trails, the people and it is basically the MTB capital of the country.

 

It’s located along the beautiful garden route and offers a variety of trails that you can hit. You can easily organize trips with people floating around if you want to join a group and it’s funny how if you mention an MTB tour to South Africans they will tag along with you.

 

If you want some serious information and insight on this area, go to the Bespoked Bike Shop and ask for Tyrone Van Rooyen (The owner), tell him I sent you and you’re in for a treat.

 

Tyrone is not only a master biker but also an extremely knowledgeable local that will show you the best of the best. If he has the time he might even ride with you.

 

 

Here’s the address to his new shop in Knysna: 28 Waterfront Dr, Knysna, 6571, South Africa

 

While in the area and if you have the means of transporting yourself and your buddies, go check Harkerville Park. We met the owner of the farm and it’s a freaking cool place with tons of good and well prepared trails.

 

We tried the red route (24 km) and if the day is warm enough, it will put you to the test. The trail has also a good portion under tree shade so, is not just suffering.

 

You can visit the details of the park here

 

 

Overall, South Africa is a great option for travelling with your bike and riding buddies. also , from europe, is not that expensive for such a long trip and once you’re there, prices are really low (for Europe standard).

 

I hope this was useful and If you have anything to add, make sure you leave a comment :)

 

A.

 

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