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Holiday Riding Absa Cape Epic Style


Top 10 South African Cycling Destinations 

With the South African summer school holidays around the corner, the opportunities for fantastic warm weather 2020 Absa Cape Epic training beckon. While you may be tempted to overload on the training, you do need to spend time with your loved ones and relax after a busy year – so here is a list of family-friendly mountain biking 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. 



1: 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 holidaymakers. The trails, which are in the process of being rebuilt following a devastating fire in 2018, 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. Outside of the Trail Park, the Garden Route's endless kilometres of gravel roads provide base miles aplenty, while the SAN Parks singletracks in Harkerville and Farleigh offer additional options. 

Day permit: R100

Location: Dormehl Farms, Barrington, Western Cape, South Africa


2: Stellenbosch

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 mountain biking World Cup event back in 1997 and eleven years later it hosted the opening round of the 2018 cross-country World Cup season. 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. Slightly further afield you will also find the Helderberg Trails, Boschendal's trail network and Delvera's Dirtopia trails. In 2019, the Absa Cape Epic spent two nights in Stellenbosch and took in sections of the town's world-class singletracks, thus if you can thrive, there you stand in good stead ahead of the 2020 race. 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


3: Clarens 

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


4: Lesotho

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 metres 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


5: 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


6: Cradle of Humankind

The proof that there are trails tough enough for Absa Cape Epic training in Gauteng lies 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 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 occupied; including educational tours and restaurants galore. The Cradle and its plethora of restaurants and venues boast a host of off-the-bike activities too. Your children will not be bored and they might even emerge from the holiday avid paleoanthropologists.

Day permit: Free to R40

Location: Muldersdrift, Gauteng, South Africa


7: 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 four mountain biking trail options, a gravel loop and 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: R60

Location: Karkloof Country Club, Howick, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa


8: Mankele MTB Park

The Mpumalanga Lowveld boasts some amazing mountain biking options, but 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: R50

Location: Sudwala, Mpumalanga, South Africa


9: 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: R70 

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


10: 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 138 gyms across the country, signing up at your nearest Virgin Active Health Club 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 2019 Absa Cape Epic. The team at Virgin Active has also put together a five-month training programme to help ensure you're fighting fit come March 2020.

Membership Fee: From R270 p/m (Limited Access to Virgin Active Health Clubs)

Location: Nationwide 



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