CLOSEST TOWN/CITY: Pretoria
DESCRIPTION: The province of Gauteng continues to surprise us. Just when we think we’ve experienced every kind of mountain bike trail possible in South Africa’s smallest province, another one opens and impresses us. After opening to the public in October 2014, Buffelsdrift adds even more variety to Gauteng’s mountain bike trail parks, giving Pretoria mountain bikers especially a very comprehensive network of mountain-bike specific trails of their own in a real bushveld setting.
Sure, there are other established trails in the Pretoria area, but none offers the distances of Buffelsdrift, which has a 40km longest trail, not surprisingly, called Buffel. To get 40km of non-repeated riding isn’t an easy task, especially when much of that is singletrack. What seems to count heavily in Buffelsdrift’s favour is the gradient. The area has gently sloping terrain that’s actually perfect for mountain bike trails. The climbs are mostly gradual (except for one little beast called Okkie) and twisting, while the descents are mostly winding, with a couple of exceptions such as the fast, fun Roller Coaster (1km at –7%) and the rock-riddled Rocky Horror (500m at –6%), which are both grin-makers for skilled riders.
But while strong, skilled riders will find ample stimulation, there’s also plenty of riding for intermediate riders and newcomers. There are four other trails too: Zebra (28km), Impala (short technical challenge), Kudu (16km) and Turtle (beginner trail), all of which offer proper mountain biking but with a lower risk element, or shorter duration.
We were fortunate to meet up with Francois Theron on our visit. We generally don’t let trail-owners or trail-builders know when we’re coming as we don’t want them to make any special arrangements or clean-ups. Francois, a former mountain bike pro, has been riding at Buffelsdrift for many years, using the area for his training routes when he raced full time. But motorbike riders started using the area and that forced the local landowners to erect fences and gates, ending any kind of mountain biking continuity. Francois took it upon himself to create an understanding of mountain biking among the landowners, eventually getting their buy-in to work with him in developing the area for mountain biking.
Francois is a pure mountain biker and likes to ensure the Buffelsdrift trails are challenging and rewarding in similar ratio. He’s also helped train the local residents to be able build and maintain trails so that they are empowered to earn an income from the business of mountain biking.
DISTANCE: Variety, depending on your fitness and skill level.
TYRES: Sidewall protection is a priority. There are some sharp rocks as well as thorns to consider. Most of the time the trails are dry and sketchy, so a wider front tyre with an aggressive edge knob for optimal traction is recommended.
BEST THING: The real feel of being isolated in the bush and the high percentage of singletrack are both ‘best things’. We also like that the descent durations seems to match the time spent climbing.
WORST THING: It’s a bit of a drive from Johannesburg (50-60 minutes), but worth it. The road signage to Buffelsdrift isn’t great. If you’re a first-timer, use GPS coordinates to get there or print out the map on the website.
BEST SEASON: The good drainage makes these good to ride all year round. Summer can get very hot, so ride early (or late).
HOW TO GET THERE: There is a basic map on the website: www.buffeldsdriftmtb.co.za as well as the GPS Coordinates.
COST: R40 per rider per day or R350 for an annual membership
SECURE PARKING: Yes
ABLUTION FACILITES: Yes
REFRESHMENTS: Yes, a coffee shop serves good food and drinks on Saturdays and Sundays and you can buy cool drinks on weekdays.
OPEN FOR RIDING: Seven days a week. Day ride permits must be purchased before 12h00.
CONTACT: 082 8569755; www.buffelsdriftmtb.co.za
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 35, 2015 – All rights reserved