PROVINCE: Eastern Cape
CLOSEST TOWN/CITY: Thornhill
DESCRIPTION: Historically, mountain bike trails between Port Elizabeth and Knysna weren’t much to get excited about. However, this changed when a man from Switzerland set foot on these shores. Didier Duc along with his wife, Florbela, and their daughter, bought a farm just outside of Thornhill – nestled between the infamous waves of Jeffreys Bay and almost more famous Port Elizabeth winds. – By Andre Hugo
In 2011, shortly after his family moved to Thornhill, he opened JBay Bike Park’s singletrack trails to the public. Didier had bigger plans, however and he saw the potential of the Thornhill area. His moto (and it echos on in 3Rivers Trails) is “We ride for development”. He wanted to create job opportunities in an area, which has a high unemployment rate. The trails would also boost much-needed local tourism. With that in mind, he approached land owners and fellow bike enthusiasts, Brett and Grant Puttergill, and the plan to integrate and interlink existing trails in the area not only brought along a name change but with it gave mountain bikers the opportunity to explore more than 200km of trails – many of which has previously been inaccessible to the public. 3Rivers Trails was born.
The Black Porcupine is the toughest endurance route that 3Rivers Trails has to offer, scaling close to 2 000m of vertical ascent in just over 65km. Expect lots of climbing and some exhilarating singletrack and untouched landscapes courtesy of the Cape Pine Forestry.
The existing JBay Bike Park is an old favourite, with 25km of purpose built, Swiss engineered singletrack and trail options ranging from beginner to advanced. Sweeping turns and fast descents with drop-offs to keep your technical skills sharp. Along with another route called the Black Mamba, there are the more advanced trail options on offer.
The Red Holstein hits the sweet spot for me. A 2-3hr ride with the added option of a technical detour right at the end extending the total route to around 30km. Afterwards you get to enjoy some excellent food and beverages (craft beer!) at Crossways Country Kitchen wrapping up a morning well spent on the steed.
DISTANCE: Eight route options ranging from 6km to 65km
TYRES: Depends which trail you choose. If you’re heading into Longmore Forest I’d stick with tyres with strong sidewalls. Fast descents and sharp rocks could spoil your day. 3Rivers Trails isn’t prone to becoming muddy, so hard pack-suited tyres are a good choice.
FACILITIES: You can choose two starting points. JBay Bike Park or Crossways. Neither offers showers, but both starting points have toilet facilities. The longer routes offer restaurants along the route, including the Thornhill Hotel and Owls Nest. These make for nice stops if you aren’t in a hurry.
BEST THING: The views, getting stuck into an untouched natural environment, craft beer afterwards!
WORST THING: No cell phone signal in the Cape Pine Forestry along with potential fire risks in that area.
BEST SEASON: All year round. Expect hot days in summer months though.
GET THERE: The Crossways starting point is accessible from the N2 between PE and Jeffreys Bay. About +-30min from each side, just before the Van Staaden’s Bridge coming from the Jeffreys Bay side. Look for the Crossways off ramp.
JBay Bike Park is accessible from the old Cape Road (R102) also about halfway between Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth. From Jeffreys Bay side, if you’ve reached Thornhill you’ve gone too far.
COST: R50 per day, which gives you full access to 3Rivers Trails including the Black Porcupine and Red Holstein, which enters into the Cape Pine Forestry. Annual permits are also available. Will be interesting to see how their debit order system works when it launches soon.
SECURE PARKING: Yes, both at Crossways and JBay Bike Park.
CONTACT: www.3riverstrails.co.za and 083 778 9487 (Didier Duc)
TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 33, 2015 – All rights reserved