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Where to Ride Your Bike this Festive Season


Article courtesy of Seamus Allardice

With the South African summer school holidays around the corner the opportunities for fantastic warm weather 2018 Absa Cape Epic training beckons. But you cannot just overload on training, you need to spend time with your loved ones and relax after a busy year – so here is a list of family friendly cycling destinations which will inspire your Absa Cape Epic training, keep the rest of the family entertained while you are on the bike and allow you to relax post-training rides too.

The Garden Route Trail Park
Located in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, inland from Sedgefield, the Garden Route Trail Park is perfectly located for the many Knysna/Garden Route holiday makers. The trails range from fast and flowing to super-fast and technical, plus the pedal to the top of each scintillating downhill run requires you to conquer a fair amount of climbing. Three hours in the Trail Park will not see you rack up many kilometres but in terms of sharpening your skills, improving your overall conditioning and delivering smiles per mile it is hard to match as an Absa Cape Epic training destination. While you are riding the family can go for a forest hike or the kids can buzz around on the pump track. There is also a coffee shop and accommodation available on the farm. Meanwhile the wider Garden Route area offers a myriad of holiday activities from surfing and water sports to relaxing spa days.

Day permit: R100
Location: Dormehl Farms, Barrington, Western Cape, South Africa

Arguably the spiritual home of mountain biking in South Africa, Stellenbosch is surrounded by singletracks on virtually every side of the historic town. It played host to South Africa’s first UCI  World Cup event back in 1997 and in 2018 it will once again host an Epic World Cup when the opening round of the season takes place on the slopes of Coetzenburg on the 10th of March, one week before the Absa Cape Epic.  The UCI course is open to the public and spectators are encouraged to support riders on 10th of March. The riding options around Stellenbosch include the famed Jonkershoek, the Banhoek Conservancy, the Simonsberg Trail Network, Bottelary Hills and the free to use Stellenbosch Trail Fund trails on the Stellenbosch mountain. For the non-riders in the family there are restaurants, museums, art galleries, outdoor activities – like hiking or paintball - and of course the plethora of amazing wine farms.

Day permit: Free to R50 (Location dependant)
Location: Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa

The jewel of the Eastern Free State Clarens is one of the premier adventure seeker destinations in South Africa. It offers so much more than amazing mountain biking at a lung testing altitude. The foothills of the Maluti Mountains provide testing 4x4 terrain to be conquered by Land Rover rather than mountain bike, while the Ash River offers year-round white water rafting. There are also horse riding, hot air ballooning and hiking trips on offer, as well as fly fishing and abseiling. Riding wise Clarens Extreme should be your first port of call for trail maps and permits. Starting in town at a shade over 1 800 metres above sea level all the routes will test your lungs and provide you with great Absa Cape Epic training. Fans of gravel grinding will love the area’s district roads which are perfect for those long base miles you will need to be clocking up this December.

Day permit: R20
Location: Clarens, Free State, South Africa

The Mountain Kingdom might be locked within South Africa but it is not exactly a small place, so this listing is a bit broad, but there is a good reason for this… And it is a Lesotho mountain bike tour. On a budget this requires just yourself, your bike, a backpack and a few riding companions. Book backpacker accommodation and pick your way between spots each day. Depending on your fitness level – bearing in mind that Lesotho’s lowest point is still 1 400 meters above sea level and its highest is located at 3 482 metres – you can aim for between 80 and 120 kilometres per day, with stops at small villages for lunches. The trip can be made more luxurious and comfortable with a back-up driver in a Land Rover for support, with your kit in the vehicle you will be able to cover more kilometres too.

Day permit: N/A
Location: Lesotho, Southern Africa

PwC Bike Park
If you cannot get out of the city for the holiday the PwC Bike Park is the perfect spot to work on your skills, ahead of what is sure to be a technically challenging Absa Cape Epic, while your kids play on the pump track and your significant other relaxes at the restaurant or runs the trail running loop. Boasting green, blue and black International Mountain Bike Association graded trails there are options to challenge even the most experienced riders. The Bike Park also offers skills lessons should you need a little extra help with a particular facet of your riding.

Day permit: R80
Location: 1A Libertas Street, Bryanston, Gauteng, South Africa

Cradle of Humankind
The proof that there are trails tough enough for Absa Cape Epic training in Gauteng lie in the Muldersdrift area. The area’s roads are firm favourites with your brethren on the skinny tyres but it is only once you head into the rocky koppies and ridges which punctuate the historic landscape that you realise how tough the riding can be in Gauteng. Avianto, Cradle Moon and King’s Kloof boast challenging trails which are easily linked by road sections to maximise mileage. While the Cradle of Humankind trail is a flowing singletrack suitable for all skill levels on your recovery day rides. On days when you will be doing a long ride there are lots of entertainment options to keep the non-riders entertained; including educational tours and restaurants galore. Plus the region’s tourist route, The Ramble, lists enough activities to fill your kids’ entire summer holiday.

Day permit: Free to R40
Location: Muldersdrift, Gauteng, South Africa

Karkloof MTB Trails
Consistently rated among the best trails in the country the Karkloof MTB Trails cut through the Sappi forests of the KwaZulu Natal midlands. Think loamy forest riding at its best with berms built by master trail guru Hylton Turvey. There are six mountain biking trail options plus three dedicated trail running trails – for cross training – to keep you busy. Off the bike the adventurous options include canopy tours while the area’s must visit spot is undoubtedly the Karkloof Falls.

Day permit: R50
Location: Karkloof Country Club, Howick, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Mankele MTB Park
The Mpumalanga Lowveld boasts some amazing mountain biking options but there are none greater than Mankele. Founded in 2007 around an ever growing network of mountain bike trails the park now includes paintball, river rafting, zip lining, accommodation and a coffee shop on site – to go with the 130 odd kilometres of marked mountain bike routes. The 55 kilometre long purple route includes a monster 15km climb right from the off and is said to take five to eight hours to complete.

Day permit: R40
Location: Sudwala, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Holla Trails
Located just inland from Ballito, Holla Trails is your go-to destination if you are holidaying on the KZN North Coast. With 340 kilometres of marked trails there is probably not a mountain biking trail network in South Africa which can compete with the sheer volume of riding on offer from the Holla Trails trail-head. There are also three trail running routes, totalling 27 kilometres to keep you going when cross-training. Meanwhile with the attractions of Ballito just down the road your family will not be bored while you are spending hours on your bike.

Day permit: R60
Location: Sugar Rush Park, Esenembe Road, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Your Nearest Virgin Active
If you are not taking off this summer the best way to get race ready for the Absa Cape Epic is to join Virgin Active. With 133 gyms across the country signing up at your nearest Virgin Active Health Club or Virgin Active Red gym is easy. Once in the gym you can get in Absa Cape Epic shape by spinning your way through workouts designed by a cycling coach or secure the services of a personal trainer and work on your core and functional strength because you will need more than just cycling fitness and skill to complete the 2018 Absa Cape Epic.

Membership Fee: From R199 p/m (Virgin Active Red) or From R225 (Virgin Active Health Clubs)
Location: Nationwide

Holiday Preparation
With the schools officially breaking up for the summer holidays on the 8th of December there is not much time to put holiday plans in place but here are a few quick pointers before setting off.

  1. Budget – Spend some time working out what you can realistically afford to spend. Rather err on the side of frugality than lavishness. Need some advice for your next cycling holiday, read this quirky piece by Thami Cele entitled “Saving for your next Baecation” for the Absa blog.
  2. Road Safety – The usual advice of taking regular breaks, every two hours, checking your vehicle’s road worthiness and tyre pressure before departure and obeying the speed limit are obviously all key. But this is a cycling holiday so you are going to be having fun and taking the road less travelled too, so brush up on your off road driving skills with these tips from Land Rover.
  3. Have Fun – Most importantly relax and have fun. 2018 is going to be a big year and with the days between now and the 18th of March ticking down fast it is sure to start with a bang. So balance training time with time spent unwinding with friends and family. 

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