CLOSEST TOWN/CITY: Wellington, Western Cape
DESCRIPTION: You don’t pass up an opportunity to ride with Vincent Durand. The Paarl-based father of four and distributor of Schwalbe tyres understands the soul of mountain biking like few others. With that menagerie at home he knows how precious time is. – By Nic Lamond
Vincent also holds a masters degree in the dark art of how to pull together a group ride so everyone is happy. A European pro might drop in but usually only on a rest day. For the most part a Durand group ride is like-minded folk keen to shred.
So when Vince asked me late last year to join him for a spin in Welvanpas’s fabled forests, I jumped. And I’m glad I did. These are almost Vincent’s home trails, living a short drive away in Paarl. I have ridden and raced these fantastic trails many times but I have stuck mostly to the well-known White Route – an expertly made and challenging mix of fynbos and pine singletrack. But I had never turned right out of the car park…
The Black Route rolls out of Welvanpas and turns into a moderate singletrack climb under a canopy of black wattle. It’s easy enough, yet entertains with its twists and turns and gets the blood flowing. We crossed the majestic Bainskloof Pass tarred road at about 2km and continued upward on more crafted singletrack. The 28km loop climbs for the bulk of the first 12km, but it is a pleasure to attack an ascent that uses natural terrain of the Obiekwaberg to such good effect with a mix of old jeep tracks and sweeping singletrack.
The 12km mark reveals the highest point of the loop. And a fast pine forest descent through singletrack straights and switchbacks will have you grinning from ear to ear. But you will have to pay for the 3km of exhilarating speed with another 3km of tight and twisting singletrack climbing to get to the 18km mark.
Soon enough the route brings you to the side of the mountain where views down the valley roll away from beneath your feet. Some of the best mountain bike runs in this area are the precipitous traverses and descents that cross the steep valley walls. The Welvanpas black route is no different and uses the natural contours to great effect to produce some exposed white-knuckle singletracks descents.
The last 10km of trails is all reward for your earlier slog and drops into farmland below the Hawekwaberg. A thrilling way to top up on adrenaline before the flattish cruise home on vineyard and farm roads.
One of the greatest attractions here is that you can double up the Welvanpas Black Route and the White Route and explore more than 50km of riveting riding. The trails are demanding, both for the aerobic workout you’ll get on the steep climbs and for the technical skills required when you point your front wheel downhill. Yet the trails are well made and can be enjoyed by beginners. The shorter Yellow and Blue Routes are tamer, at 17km and 15km respectively, and could make for a great family outing.
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 and ‘Die Ou Meul’, a great little farm stall at the start-finish area.
BEST THING: Plenty of entertainment for everyone in a group ride.
WORST THING: The trail has to end.
BEST SEASON: Autumn and spring. Summer in Wellington can be unbearably hot.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Wellington drive out of town on Church Street, towards the Bainskloof Pass. Turn left into Hill Street, just after Bovlei Cellar. Turn immediately right into Bovlei Road. Turn right at the next T-junction. The road will become gravel and after 2km you’ll enter the Welvanpas gates. Parking on your left
COST: R40 per rider per day. (Subject to review)
SECURE PARKING: Yes.
CONTACT: 021 864 1239; www.welvanpas.co.za
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 33, 2015 – All rights reserved