CLOSEST TOWN/CITY: Paarl, Western Cape
I’ve been known to get a bit excited on flowy singletrack. My riding mates call it the squeal of a teenage girl. I like to think of it as more of a manly yelp.
When the gradient dives, the pace picks up and you’re thrust into a stomach-turning berm. When you’re forced to concentrate on the flickering shadows thrown by rocks and blurring bushes. When, to maintain the stoke, you have to milk every ounce of momentum out of twisty trails. That. That makes me feel like a teenager again. Yeeew!
By Nic Lamond
Photos: Ewald Sadie
And it’s the feeling that the Rhebokskloof Trails near Paarl, in the Western Cape, deliver in spades through purpose-built terraced descents, fynbos switchbacks, granite tunnels and natural rock gardens. Even the sweeping climbs elicit a few barks of glee.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a mountain bike trail day at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate by Nedbank Private Wealth. It was a late summer day of perfection and the setting was nothing short of idyllic. It was like the wedding you always dreamed of, but probably wouldn’t get away with…
A mixed bag of excited youngsters and older trail warriors gathered on the lush sprawling lawns in front of the restaurant and wine tasting venue. We had the 21km of trails to ourselves. It wasn’t supposed to be a race but the presence of Andrew Sparks, a talented Junior with the local Novus OMX Youth team, had us on the rivet as soon as we circled the small dam at the start, with its weeping willows and abundant birdlife.
The Rhebokskloof route is set out as a single-direction loop of 14km, called Chardonnay. For the fitter rider, the Chardonnay trail can be easily linked to the Shiraz section to make a demanding 21km ride with some breathtaking and unique views of Paarl, the Klein-Drakenstein mountains and Du Toits Peak towering behind.
The Chardonnay Trail is flat to start with but then ramps up the farm’s valley walls via well-built but dusty switchback climbs. The ascent is interesting enough to distract you from the fact that that you are climbing. In fact, almost the entire first 10km of the longer (21km) route is climbing.
At the top of a long jeep track climb the Shiraz trail links up with the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. But you don’t need to leave Rhebokskloof to get your fix. All this climbing pays off with a long traverse to the Eastern side of the farm and spectacular views from a huge granite platform. You need to concentrate to get there though, as the trail dips under a few fallen trees, through dark tangles of thick bush and over sharp granite boulders. Take the time to stop at the viewpoint and look around.
From here the trail gets even more exciting as the speed picks up and tight singletrack has you flying across the fynbos hillside, with the farm and starting point far below. Keep your wits about you as dark tunnels between the piled up granite appear out of nowhere and hairpin bends can also catch you by surprise.
A ferocious summer fire season brought devastating fires to the Cape’s most popular mountain biking destinations of Tokai and Jonkershoek. Much of the legendary singletrack in these reserves went up in smoke in March.
But, if there is to be a silver lining in the devastation, it’s that lesser known trails are getting plenty of opportunity to shine. As landowners assess the fire damage and predict months – and, in Tokai’s case, years – of rehabilitation until the trail networks are fully viable again, mountain bikers in the Cape can look beyond their comfort zone to get their singletrack fix.
Thankfully, worthy substitutes are in abundance. And Rhebokskloof is one of the private trail networks that reward the adventurous spirit. Go ride it.
TYRES: There’s some exciting rock gardens scattered throughout the route, so a fat tyre up front is a must. I’d mix that with a fast-rolling rear tyre for the climbs.
FACILITIES: Parking, toilets, showers, ‘The Rhebok’ restaurant, Rhebokskloof Estate wine-tasting, picnics, family-friendly venue.
BEST THING: Quality trails and spectacular views in all directions.
WORST THING: Beware of low-lying branches!
BEST SEASON: Autumn, winter and spring. Summer in Paarl can be hot.
HOW TO GET THERE: Rhebokskloof Estate is 60km north of Cape Town. From Cape Town take the N1 north. Turn off on the R44 to Klapmuts/Wellington. Turn left towards Wellington. After 15km alongside the picturesque Paarl Mountain Range, just after Windmeul Cellar, turn right towards Paarl. Travel 2.5km, past the “Rheebokskloof” minor road turn-off, and the entrance to Rhebokskloof is on your right.
*COST: R300 annual (or R220 via Paarl MTB), otherwise R35 per day
SECURE PARKING: Yes.
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