We estimate that 20–25% of South Africa’s mountain bikers live in Pretoria. That’s a big chunk of the market that needs places to ride bikes. For a while, Groenkloof Nature Reserve was the go-to trail-riding spot for Pretorians. But things have changed. Groenkloof has unfortunately become a high-risk place to ride (committed efforts to combat this have had some success – FGNR, Groenkloof Safety) and most Pretoria mountain bikers head outside the city now to find their riding fix.
By the Tread team
Photos: Joanne Badenhorst/TreadMTB
One of the more popular trail parks is Rosemary Hill. It’s a 10-20-minute drive to the east for most, or an hour or so to ride there.
We drove there from Randburg, Johannesburg, so it was around a 40-minute trip each way (on a Sunday). It turned out to be a worthwhile drive.
Rosemary Hill is a multi-functional venue that’s very established, comfortable and, in places, quaint.
A lot of stuff happens there, including weddings and functions, farming of rosemary (yep, you got it), guest house accommodation, nursery, restaurant and of course, mountain biking.
As a mountain biker, you immediately feel welcome. Bike racks are scattered around the restaurant area, which is where you buy your permit and start and finish your ride. You can also purchase a map here, which is useful if you are a newcomer to the trails.
The first thing you realise as you start riding is just how much singletrack there is, and it’s established singletrack, which has been well ‘ridden in’ and is generally very firm. We rode almost all of the trails there during our visit, with a total distance of 27km. This did include a few repeats of the more challenging section called Stokeville.
On the whole though, Rosemary Hill offers mostly gradual gradient singletrack that’s not too technical. This means it’s perfect for newcomers. There’s a 6km loop that’s really pleasant and a slightly more challenging, but not difficult 10km loop. It feels longer than 10km though, but if you’re still feeling strong, you can continue onto the rest of the trails which will give you either a 26km or 30km ride in total.
The longer trail takes you across various fields, past thickets of trees, and at one point, across a wide wooden bridge over a dam. The dam was extremely low when we rode there in January and the bridge was very stable and well constructed. Newcomers may struggle a bit with this kind of bridge, but for most, it’s a fun addition to the trail, just as it’s getting a little monotonous.
Monotonous? Yep, crazy as it sounds, you can find singletrack monotonous. But after the dam bridge it gets stimulating again with a seemingly endless series of twists and turns and small gradient changes before a steady, but gradual climb back up to the final section back to the trailhead. Time constraints saw us skip the Rockgardens section in favour getting back to the coffee shop before the kitchen closed for a meal.
We found the trails to be well marked and well maintained. This costs money and must never be taken for granted. The R35 per person to ride is very reasonable for the experience.
For more skilled riders, or racer-types the Stokeville section is really fun and quite challenging. It is set on the side of a steepish slope with a mostly loose shale surface. There are descending and ascending switchbacks, an impressive, high wooden bridge and a marked Strava segment that is no doubt well liked by the locals. We did see tyre tracks shortcutting the descending switchbacks, so expect there’s some Strava angst involved here.
One of our riders took a tumble when crossing a metal ‘bridge’ within the first two kilometres of the trail. Conditions were a bit damp and her tyre slid out on the smooth metal. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured, but it did make us notice the fence-crossings a little closer. They’re generally well made but have sides at handlebar height, which can be a worry for unstable riders.
Our general experience, however, was very positive and we’ll definitely return.
CLOSEST TOWN/CITY: Pretoria East
DISTANCE: 6, 10, 26 or 30km
TYRES: Most of the terrain is firm hardpack soil with a fairly low puncture risk. Most tyres are fine here, but if you’re keen to pin it, a light, grippy model up front will serve you well.
BEST THING: Hard to choose just one thing, but probably the fact that there is so much established, well maintained singletrack that can be enjoyed by all skill and fitness levels.
WORST THING: Not really a ‘worst thing’ but a concern is the sides on some of the bridges/fence crossing structures, which are handlebar height.
BEST SEASON: All year round is good. Can get a bit soggy and hot in summer.
HOW TO GET THERE: There’s a detailed map and narrative for directions on the website: www.rosemaryhill.co.za
GPS COORDNATES: S25 47.273 E28 25.565
COST: R35 per rider per day (R20 for Under-18s).
SECURE PARKING: Yes
ABLUTION FACILITES: Yes
CONTACT: 012 802 0052 or 083 252 3799; www.rosemaryhill.co.za
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 39, 2016 – All rights reserved