Garden Route Trail Park 2017
Garden Route Trail Park:
The Garden Route Trail Park in Barrington has become synonymous with Mountain Biking in the Garden Route. It is on many mountain biker’s bucket lists, and for good reason. We were fortunate enough to book into the Cottage on the farm, with the trails literally on our doorstep. The Trail park has 4 main loops, but the layout allows combining of the routes to suit every rider’s tastes and abilities.
If you work from the bottom up, the first trail is Forest Frenzy, with Crazy Creek and Jungle Fever starting higher up, and the crown is Mountain Mania that starts in the Fairleigh plantation and ends at the start of Jungle Fever and Crazy Creek.
Jungle Fever, Crazy Creek and Forest Frenzy are hand built trails characterized by sections of indigenous forest and tight twisty turns. They are moderately technical and allow a skilled rider to ride it at speed, while giving a novice a great ride at a more sedate pace, without the imminent fear of Death by Rock Garden. The trails are rough in places without being overly groomed, yet they are obviously well maintained. These trails are relatively hard work, and you really earn your turns. But because the climbs and descents are intermingled you never really feel like you are doing a lot of climbing, and there are only two climbs that I remember afterwards felt like hard work. This is old school SA mountain biking trails at its best.
Mountain Mania is cut from a different cloth. It is a machine built trail and it has a Flow Trail feel to it characterized by big berms and lots of flow. While there are flat sections that require pedaling, it seems as if you can do most of it without turning a pedal, with the berms setting you up from one corner in the next with just the right amount of rollers to keep your speed down without braking. This trail is a masterpiece. Riding it is big fun, so much so that I rode it 4 times over the weekend. To get there you have to climb via forestry roads, and a loop took us about an hour, split up between about 45mins of steady climbing, followed by 12–15mins of raucous descending.
The Trail Park’s magic is its combination of lekker trails, awesome terrain and beautiful indigenous forests. The indigenous forest canopy combined with beautiful foliage and ferns make for a trippy time spent in the Green Room. It’s not only surfers that know the feeling, while surfers experience elation when pulling into the Blue Room’s barrel, mountain biker get the elation when carving up single-track in the Green Room. And the Trail Park has some very special Green Rooms.
Over and above the trails there is also a coffee shop that pull great espresso shots and make mean milkshakes and croissants. The coffee shop is next to a big pump track that caters for kids of all ages (even grown up kids) and this is family central. There is also a backpacker’s style dorm room to supplement the cottage for accommodation.
For more info visit www.gardenroutetrailpark.com
Exploring Roam Rooiberg
Exploring Roam Rooiberg:
I often go in search of new trails to explore and it was on one of these occasions that I discovered Roam Rooiberg; a newly built coffee shop and bike park, which lies about 15 kilometres outside Robertson in the Western Cape, South Africa.
Roam is situated in the valley across from the Rooiberg Winery and the trails were launched in late 2016. Roam itself has a short route that criss-crosses the valley around the park. It also has a shop that doubles as a coffee shop (selling coffee, light meals and cakes), and a fully functional bike shop on the park.
The trails on Roam have been laid out well and a lot of time and effort has gone into developing them. I tested the longer loop of about 10km in the park itself on the day I went to explore. Roam has partnerships in place with the Rooiberg Winery and some of the farmers on it borders which extends the trails to over 60 kilometres for those who prefer putting in more distance.
The terrain is basically dry, rocky semi-desert terrain and hosts some spectacular views for those wanting to explore this part of the world. The trails are a mix between long flowing single tracks and jeep tracks which start at the shop. The trail then heads off back down the valley on single track towards to Rooiberg Winery.
Once you reach the R62 separating the Roam park and the Winery, you are presented with choices; The one stays on the park, which is the trail I decided to explore this day. The section going to the Winery takes you on the extension paths across the farms on the opposite side of the R62.
The longer loop on the Roam park heads along the fences away from the split and then takes you up on the back side of the Roam valley. It boasts some steep climbs back to the top of the valley. From here takes the rider along winding single tracks up the hills, through the dessert-like vegetation and back to the shop itself.
The owners of Roam Rooiberg have really put a lot of effort to develop this park from literally a dry open landscape to something special, and guests are received with a warm welcome.I would strongly encourage any rider looking for adventure that finds themselves in the Robertson Area to go visit the Roam Rooiberg park. It is a great ride with some well laid out trails.
My next visit will include the longer loops to which I will add more about the trails in the area on this review.
Originally published at Cycle Culture.
The Grootbrak Grabadoo 2016
The Grootbrak Grabadoo 31 December, 2016:
During the month of December I took a long-deserved break and headed to the Mossel Bay and Gouritz area in the Western Cape to just take a break from the normal hustle and bustle of the busy corporate life. I only recently purchased my new Scott Spark mountain bike and since no holiday is complete without cycling, I decided to see if I could find a race or new trail online.
After spending some time online and not finding much info on trails or trail parks, I discovered the Grootbrak Grabadoo that takes place annually on the 31st of December. I found out the event has been going strong for more than 10 years and decided to join the Grabadoo, both to see the trails in the area, but also see what the race offers to visitors.
The race starts in Grootbrak, a small town located between Mossel Bay and George, and then heads into the hills surrounding the town itself. The race and registry starts on a small sports field on the main road heading through the town. The Grabadoo offers four distances for mountain bikers, 71k, 53km, 36km and a 15km, as well as a 4.8km walk for those who prefer a walk over the cycling.
I decided to enter the 71km race and see what the trails has to offer in the area. Upon starting the race, it takes you down the main road, then splits off on a dirt road which quickly climbs out of the town itself. Once the rider has conquered the first long climb, the Grabadoo takes the rider through a series of rolling hills and open dirt roads crossing farms in the area. This section covers a few kilometers which then takes the rider into the mountains and the forest areas.
The forest section winds its way through the local nature conservation area and covers a great deal of the ride. The race offers almost no single track, but what it lacks in single track it truly makes up for in sheer beauty. The forest stretch has some of the toughest climbs of the route and at times it reminded me of “The Hills Challenge” and its climbs. This section in the Grabadoo, however, starts off with sections of pine forest and then goes deeper into more lush forest that at times almost blocks out the sun entirely and is truly a breath-taking combination of trails.
Once the rider exists the forest, he or she is met with a few rolling hills and then some really steep climbs on your way back to Grootbrak. For those looking to only ride single tracks, this is perhaps not the race you should be looking at. From my perspective, I would advise any rider in the area to enter the race and go see what the Grootbrak has to offer.
For a mere R150, the race is good value for money and is a great way to close off the year if you are a keen mountain biker in the Mosselbay, Knysna or Gouritz areas.
From our side, thank you to all the organizers and sponsors for a well organized race.
Originally published at Cycle Culture.
The Gansbaai Sufferfest — Funky Fynbos 2016
The Gansbaai Sufferfest:
The Gansbaai race is one of my favorite races on the calendar, and I missed it last year while cruising around in Namibia. Thus I simply had to do it this year. To make matters easier, we had accommodation in Gansbaai sorted so we sommer made a weekend out of this race. It was the Funky Fynbos Festival, so there was a myriad of things to do for our wives as well while we riding.
My original plan was to do the 45km, but over a few beers my friends Werner and Shawn decided that I needed to man up and do the 64km, Werner even volunteered to ride with me as our last test ride before the Eselfontein 3day stage race.
The Gansbaai race is known for the tough route in the mountains around town and the lekker community vibe at the race venue. This year was no different, albeit sporting new routes and a new venue. Registration was quick and easy, we received our goodie bags and boards and got ready in record time. This is one of the aspects of the Gansbaai race that I love. Everything just works. When you do this race, you know it will be well organized, have a lekker vibe, the route will be tough, yet fun and rewarding and that it will be marked well. All this for 200ZARs? Bargain!
When we lined up for the start of the 64 we realized that the field wasn’t that big, and that most people were doing the 46km. Oops. Nevertheless, after race briefing we set off, at a leisurely pace for Werner and myself. Slow and steady was our motto. The first bit was fast and fun, basically a long descent until we reached the big dam in the valley. There was a massive freshwater fishing completion that was part of the festival as well. After the dam we started climbing. It was a 6km slog to the mast on top of one of the mountains. At the top the view was amazing, nut we had riders breathing down our necks that we did not want to be have to overtake on the rocky downhill. We’ll have to come back to take in the view properly. The downhill was probably another 5km of typically Gansbaai rocky descents. The middelmannetjie was so high and rough in places that it was effectively dual pieces of single-track, you had to pick a line and commit to it, as switching wasn’t always possible.
We also had to constantly watch out for the bushes on the side of the road, especially with the wiiiiiiide handlebar’s that Werner and I prefer. By the bottom my sore pinky was sore again from all the lashings it received by the merciless bushes. Fynbos has no chill with mountain bikers. After what felt like ages of descending, , we bottomed out and headed back up the same mountain. Fortunately, not all the way though, we crested at a dam to find the first water point of the day. The water points were well stocked with potatoes, bananas, cake and water, but this WP also had lekker people making jokes and telling stories. It was hands down the friendliest WP of the day. After we had to ask the lady to please stop force feeding us, we dropped into another lekker long downhill while feeling like geese in a French gourmet food factory. At one point Werner and I was riding next to each other, but separated by a tall middelmannetjie and racing each down this merciless jeep track while whooping and laughing, feeling like 12year old kids riding our bikes. As it should be.
At about 30km we hit the gravel road. This would have been fine, but the wind was pumping. We played cat and mouse with this wind the whole day, sometimes it was behind us, sometimes it was blasting us head on, and sometimes we were dodging the wind while riding behind hills and in valleys. At this stage we had merged with the 30, and 46km routes as well, and having ridden bits of this route before we knew what to expect. And we were expecting lots of climbing. With some more rocky descents thrown in. But mostly climbing. At about 47km, after one of the vigorous rocky single tracks we reached a self-help water point at a dam. It was well stocked with coke and water and we promptly had a bit of a tea party, chatting with others while filling their cups and bottles with coke and water for them. We had a bit of a rest here, as we knew the next bit would hurt badly, with a very steep climb with a killer switchback that is usually painful on fresh legs, but today neither of our legs felt fresh at all. It hurt. A Lot!
The next hour or so was a blur. We climbed for what felt like forever, until we topped out at the back of Grootbos, a lekker fast dual track followed before we reached another water point. We had another little picnic vibe, chatting to the other riders (no one was racing anymore, it was a war of attrition out there) about the ride and the unknown last bit that we had no idea what to expect of. At the water point one lady broke my heart when she asked if we Werner and I was the sweepers. Ouch. It is like being called “Oom” by a high school boy. That stung. Werner and I then rode away from this lady and her friend. It did look like she was in pain, but she was a trooper and soldiered on.
What followed was more climbing, into the wind mind you, until we went over the mountain at Grootbos and started descending towards the big road into Gans Baai. This bit was lekker, as it was a steady and long descent that gave us a bit of a chance to rest the legs. All too soon the descent ended, and we had to go back up a road that went over the mountain we just went down from. Not cool. But it was obviously time for me to suck down a couple of cement pills and harden up so that I could get back home. Halfway back up this mountain I was struggling to stay out of the pain cave. But fortunately even my trips into the pain cave were short-lived, and when we finished the climb we were rewarded with stunning views of Flower Valley, and we could see the finish venue. Happy days!!
With renewed vigor we descended down the mountain on a lekker rough and rocky road that allowed us to build up a lekker bit of speed. I’m pretty sure the loop took us through Grootbos with the sole purpose of getting us access to this descent. And it got better and better. We dropped into a lekker swooping and fast single-track. Typical Gans Baai singletrack. Sandy base with beautiful plants whizzing by as we flowed from corner at speed. Oh this was amazing! And this section made all the pain of the day’s climbing worth it. Some more single-track bits followed and pretty soon we were spat out the bushes and onto the lawn at the finish line.
The finish line party was in full swing, with prize giving having just started. Fortunately my gorgeous wifey was also at the finish line, and while I tried to make a dent in the coke stand’s stock, she went off to find me something to eat. And she returned with the most amazing pizza and draught beer. This is the beauty of the Gansbaai race. The rough and hard race routes are matched with an amazing atmosphere at the venue coupled with a good array of quality food stalls. There was even a massage station.
An event like this, in a small town like this can only be a success if there are enough sponsors and buy in from the local community. And Gansbaai does this well. I already can’t wait to do this again next year.
Most of the Gansbaai race routes are part of the Gansbaai MTB trails network, and it is open year round. Trail permits can be bought at the Gansbaai Info Centre, De Uijlenes and Saxon Lodge in town. If you are going to spend time here over the festive season, these trials are a must do.
Originally published at Cycle Culture.