Interesting fact: There are 62 mountain ranges in South Africa. But despite its relatively high number of mountain ranges, South Africa has surprisingly few mountain bike races in mountains. Actually, there are just a handful of events that have race routes in mountains. Why? Because they’re hard to build and a bugger to maintain that’s why.
But Ride the Berg, the solo-rider two-day mountain bike stage race that was launched last year, is one of less than a handful of South African mountain bike races that uses real mountain trail for its race route.
Starting with 55km with 1187m of ascent on Day 1, followed by 45km with 1008m on Day 2, Ride the Berg gives you 100km of authentic mountain biking in the Northern Drakensberg, an area that’s not fallen prey to commercialisation and is still naturally beautiful.
The race starts and finishes at All Out Adventures, a family adventure activities centre which gives non-riding supporters a place to play while you tackle some of the most scenic singletrack in the world.
You ride on the banks of the Tugela River, not far from its source. You pedal your way along established singletrack that’s been painstakingly built and maintained over the past 15 years by event organiser and mountain biking ace, Chris Mecklenborg and his team. You climb past The Cavern, a hotel steeped in more than 70 years of family holiday memories and you swoop along descending, flowy singletrack just never seems like it will end, all in the shadow of the Amphitheatre, widely regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth.
Being just a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and a three-hour drive from Durban, Ride the Berg is close enough to not have to take leave, but far enough away to make you feel like you’re escaping the city grind.
The entry limit is 600 to ensure there’s no overcrowding of the magnificent mountain trails.
The organisers decided to hold Ride the Berg in the winter to avoid the possibility of rain and excessive heat, both of which would make the event extremely uncomfortable. Each stage has a 09h00 start time, after the early morning chill has subsided.
“With Ride the Berg, we’re putting the ‘mountain’ into mountain bike stage racing,” says Mecklenborg.
“The Drakensberg is an exceptionally harsh and rugged range and it’s not easy to build mountain bike trails here that are appealing to a fairly large part of the mountain biking market. You need to be able to make the climbing sections challenging, but not too formidable and the descents fast and fun, but not treacherous.
Unlike most mountain bike stage races, Ride the Berg does not have a central tented race village. Instead, entrants can choose from any of 21 different accommodation establishments ranging from camping to four-star hotels in close proximity. This allows them to bring along family and friends to share the Northern Berg experience.
Entry can be done online at www.ridetheberg.co.za, where there is also more race and accommodation information.