We’re fortunate to have such a variety of mountain bike trails in South Africa. From inner-city mountain bike parks to remote wilderness trails, from free-to-ride trails on public land to privately owned mountain biking gems. Since we launched TREAD in 2009, our crew has ridden most of South Africa’s mountain bike trails. Here’s a look at Number 6, nestled in a Winelands town, in our TREAD Top Trails of 2020.
G-Spot’s flow is world famous. | Photo: Craig Kolesky/Nikon/Lexar
Stellenbosch – No. 6
Location: Stellenbosch, Western Cape
Best suited for: Beginner, Intermediate and Experienced riders.
What we love about it: So this isn’t just one trail, it’s a collection of trails in the town of Stellenbosch. But it’s not all of the trails in Stellenbosch. This particular profile includes G-Spot, Coetzenberg, Eden and Mont Marie. These trails are all within about 10km of each other (okay, there’s some climbing involved) which makes for a stimulating singletrack trail collection with superb gradient to make most towns envious. All these trails are essentially on the west-facing slope of the Stellenboschberg.
In addition to these more traditional style mountain bike trails there’s also Eerste River Trails, which run alongside the river through town. These are tame no-gradient trails, ideal for beginners and kids. Then there is G-Land, a compelling jump spot for the ‘senders’ built by Mark Gordon (who also built G-Spot).
While located on different sections of land (some municipal, some university and some private) all of these trails form a network that’s managed under the Stellenbosch Trail Fund, a non-profit organisation that builds, improves and maintains hiking, biking and running trails in and around the greater Stellenbosch area.
Signage: The signage varies from trail to trail but Stellenbosch Trail Fund has been working on this and is erecting updated signage to help riders connect from trail to trail. Some of the trails are best ridden with a local though.
Eden’s trails are under a pine forest. | Photo: Tobias Ginsberg/Origin of Trails
Grading: As with many South African trails, the trails aren’t graded according to IMBA’s skill level grading system. You can, however, find the Stellenbosch trails on Trailforks https://www.trailforks.com/region/south-africa/, where they are rated either Blue or Green.
G-Spot: This trail is on municipal land and is essentially a gradually descending trail with a couple of line options. It includes some superbly shaped berms, a few small jumps and some gap jumps. Never could you imagine such a simple trail offering so much stimulation. G-Spot is world famous for its effortless flow and feel. Anyone can ride it and enjoy it from newcomers to Nino Schurter.
Eden: These trails are largely in a pine forest, also on municipal land and are adjacent to G-Spot in the suburb of Paradyskloof. The slope isn’t super steep, so climbing to the top of the treeline isn’t too taxing, if you’re fairly fit and strong. The descent is super fun though, with a series of fast turns over some rooty ground surface. As you get lower down, the trails straighten up somewhat with a series of fun jumps as the slope lessens.
Mont Marie: Mont Marie is an upmarket restaurant set on an expansive property. There’s no mention of mountain biking on its website, but it does offer some exciting singletrack, which was initially built for the Origin of Trails event. The location is key as it’s on the banks of the Blaauwklippen River. And river basins generally make for some ideal singletrack, especially this one, which is on a steepish gradient in places.
Coetzenberg: This venue, located on the university sports campus, hosted a UCI XCO World Cup in 2018. Some of the obstacles like the rock gardens and ‘Pick-up Sticks’ log descent can be quite intimidating if you’re not a skilled, strong rider, but there are B-lines and you can skip the formidable bits for a challenging ride.
Note: You can actually ride most of these trails in the annual Savanna Origin of Trails two-day mountain bike stage race, organised by Stillwater MTB Events. The 2020 edition was scuppered by the government’s lockdown reaction to Covid-19. It’s been postponed to 24 and 25 April 2021. You can find out more and enter here. https://www.stillwatersports.com/event/origin-of-trails/
Mont Marie’s singletrack runs through lush vegetation. | Photo: Tobia Ginsberg/Origin of Trails
Off the bike: Well, it’s Stellenbosch, with no shortage of great coffee shops, restaurants and wine farms. Bottom line is the riding is so good that you’ll be too weary to do much else other than eat, drink and sleep when the sun has set.
Summary: Just this collection of trails makes Stellenbosch a stimulating place to ride mountain bikes. There’s essentially something for every type of mountain biker in Stellenbosch. Much credit must go to the local residents and businesses that financially support the Stellenbosch Trail Fund. There are other trails in the area that will still be covered in upcoming TREAD-rated reviews.
Cost: There’s no day-rate, but if you can, please donate to the Stellenbosch Trail Fund. You can find all the information on how to do this here: https://stellenboschtrailfund.co.za
Security rating: 4/5
Coetzenberg is an always-on challenge. | Photo: Volume Photo/Origin of Trails
Note: The TREAD TOP TRAILS 2020 feature is subjective. If you feel we are missing great trails from our top 15, please email Sean Badenhorst on firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Here’s our TREAD Top 15 Trails countdown so far:
Number 14 The Spruit, Randburg/Sandton, Gauteng http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-2/
Number 13: Tokai, Cape Town, Western Cape http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-3/
Number 12: Cradle Moon, Johannesburg, Gauteng http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-12/
Number 11: Buffelsdrift, Pretoria, Gauteng http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-11/
Number 10: Northern Farm, Johannesburg, Gauteng http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-10/
Number 9: Holla Trails, Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-9/
Number 8: Giba Gorge MTB Park, Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-8/
Number 7: Paul Cluver & Oak Valley, Western Cape http://www.treadmtb.co.za/tread-top-trails-2020-number-7/