Road trips with mountain bikes are the best kind of road trips. There’s always a great sense of anticipation of riding a new trail in a different part of your province, or even in another part of the country. Here are six steps to making a mountain biking road trip a reality and/or more enjoyable this summer.
A few years ago, the mountain bike trail options in South Africa were limited. But that’s no longer the case with over 100 mountain bike trail centres or parks open for your pleasure. Yeah, it’s cool to enjoy the familiarity of your local trails, but what about stretching out a bit? Why not discover new trails? Why not make fresh memories? Why not challenge yourself?
Follow these six steps and find your freedom.
1 Choose your destination/s
Did you know that in some parts of South Africa, within a 1-hour’s drive, you can access hundreds of kilometres of world class mountain bike trails? Take KwaZulu-Natal for example: It’s only 85km from Karkloof near Howick, to Giba Gorge near Durban. Within that 85km you get Karkloof’s expansive Outback Trails network as well as it’s well-known Sappi Trails network. Adjacent to that are the Howick Sappi trails. A few minutes’ drive gets you to Hilton’s hallowed forest singletrack. Then, if you head into Pietermaritzburg you get Cascades MTB Park, an under-rated trails network that’s played host to multiple UCI MTB World Cups and World Championships.
Drive a little past Pietermaritzburg and you reach the Aloe MTB Trail near the Lion Park. And then another 20 minutes later you have Giba Gorge beckoning you as you breathe in the thick seaside air and see the lush green coastal vegetation.
This is just one example where you’d need a week or more to ride all these trails. There are areas of the country with more MTB trails ‘pockets’ that will keep you stimulated for days. Some suggestions:
- Durbanville/Cape Town
- Stellenbosch/Paarl/Somerset West
- Sabie/Nelpsruit/Hazyview/White River
- Greater Joburg/Greater Pretoria
- Port Elizabeth/Jeffreys Bay
2 Choose your company
There’s always more enjoyment in discovering a new mountain bike trail with someone else. It could be a local that you know, who guides you around his/her local trail, or it could be your buddy, partner, spouse or another family member. Sharing the enjoyment of new-trail excitement means you have a witness, someone to reminisce with, both immediately after the ride and in years to come.
If you are heading on a road trip with your bike and are either alone or the only mountain biker in your car, then be sure to plan ahead and contact the local bike shops or mountain bike clubs at your destination. They will put you in touch with the right people or give you info on local planned rides. Mountain bikers are cool like that…
3 Choose your accommodation
Decide on your budget and then work out what kind of accommodation is affordable. Generally, taking a tent along is seen as an even greater adventure, but if you’re not the camping type, then there are loads of guesthouses, B&Bs, lodges and hotels close to mountain bike trails.
There are some accommodation facilities that either cater specifically for mountain bikers or who are not going to get edgy when you ask to put your bike indoors at night for safe keeping. These venues usually allow you to wash your bike there too.
4 Prepare your car
We are not runners, we are mountain bikers. Therefore, we have loads of stuff to take on road trips – at least one bike, shoes, helmet, gloves, clothing, eyewear, bike wash and lube stuff, bike repair stuff, bike spares. And then you need regular clothes…
You need to ensure you either have roof racks or rear-mount racks for your bikes. This obviously frees up space inside your vehicle for luggage and humans.
There are loads of bike rack options available these days, but if you’re going to attach your bike to a rack on the outside of your car, which moves at over 100kph, you want to make sure you choose a brand that’s got credibility in terms of security, functionality and styling.
“Thule remains the leader in the bike rack market because the functionality, durability and range are all market-leading categories for the brand. You shouldn’t have to buy a new bike rack very often and Thule’s quality has been proven in this regard,” says Jamie Owen of Thule South Africa.
“For mountain bike transport, there are a number of Thule rack options to carry your bike. Towbar mounted racks are the most popular.
Yet whether you have a towbar or not, you can still fit a clip-on rack on the rear of your car.
Or a roof-mounted rack for versatility in transport.
For those with bakkies, we also have a range of bike transport solutions tailored to a variety of needs.
Thule’s roof-top cargo carriers also allow you additional luggage-carrying space, which comes in surprisingly useful for road trips,” says Owen.
“Thule offers the widest range of rack options to fit any vehicle and almost any budget. As the market leader in South Africa, we have developed an established, nationwide network of Thule dealers and fitters. We carry a wide range of stock and spares and know just how important it is to minimise rack-related stress and maximise time for the planned holiday or road trip,” adds Owen.
5 Prepare your bike
Do some research in advance to find out what the surfaces and terrain are like where your road trip will be taking you to ride. Make sure you fit the appropriate tyres and take some spare tyres and sealant if possible. Tyre drama is still the most common fun-pausing cause, so be sure to fit tyres with good sidewall reinforcement. It’s not good to be stranded on your local trails, but it’s worse when you’re far from home…
You may also be riding trails with a lot of descending, in which case it makes sense to either fit a quick-release seat clamp so that you can drop the saddle easily, or install a dropper seatpost, if you have the budget.
6 Prepare for the conditions
Also, be sure to find out what the weather conditions might be like. Riding for 2-3 hours in Gauteng requires drinking a lot less liquid than riding 2-3 hours at the KZN coast in summer! And riding proper mountain trails can also deliver sudden changes in weather, so dress appropriately or ensure you’ve got a decent rain jacket with you. It’s no joke getting caught unprepared in a mountain storm.
For a look at Thule South Africa’s full range of products, visit Thule South Africa