Monday , 21 September 2020

 

WHY PRETORIA IS SOUTH AFRICA’S NEW MTB HOT SPOT

You probably read that headline twice and then shook your head. With world-class mountain biking gold venues like Karkloof, Mankele, Stellenbosch, Grabouw and Cape Town, the last place you think of as a South African mountain biking hot spot is Pretoria. But it is. Here’s why…

By Sean Badenhorst

Based on various surveys we have done over the past few years; and in line with business stats shared with us by cycle industry businesses, between 60-70% of South African mountain bikers live in Gauteng. The country’s smallest province is also the most populous province – and in mountain biking, it shows.

It’s a great irony though because geographically, Gauteng isn’t what you’d consider THE ultimate mountain biking destination. Other than the rather mild Magaliesberg Range there aren’t any mountains. And to be accurate, most of the Magaliesberg Range is in the North West Province, with just a small bit jutting into the Pretoria region.

But the city of Pretoria was built by resourceful people who made the most of what was there. And that ‘can-do’ attitude is still strong as can be seen in the variety of mountain biking now available in the region.

Over the past decade and a half, Pretoria mountain bikers have predominantly leaned towards long-distance and ultra-endurance style riding. And until recently, their trails parks catered to this. And if the park didn’t cater to this, then they just did their riding on the many, many kilometres of public gravel roads in the region. But these are not like the gravel roads like you find in the Western Cape, on which you can ride a gravel bike for hours. No, these are Gauteng gravel roads, which are corrugated, rough and, in winter, sandy. Only really rideable on a mountain bike…

As a new generation of mountain bikers emerge (essentially the teenage kids of the endurance junkies), the desire for fun riding and not distance riding is high and the parks are starting to cater for this. The popularity of the Spur Schools Series will also have had an impact with the youth focussing more on short, more technical riding. Trail bikes are gradually taking some marathon bike market share and the best place to ride a trail bike is, well, not on a long gravel road.

As a result, Pretoria is now home to mountain bikers across the MTB-discipline spectrum and between them, the local trails parks are now catering superbly to every type of mountain biker. Given that probably a quarter of all South African mountain bikers live in the Pretoria region, we’re declaring it South Africa’s new MTB Hot Spot!

Here’s a summary of the five major Pretoria mountain bike trails parks, which show that no matter where you are in the mountain biking curve, you have a stimulating place to enjoy your riding.

Hennops MTB Trails

Tucked into the hills through which the Hennops River flows, just 22km west of Pretoria is Hennops Hiking and MTB Trails. Established in 2018, the park is relatively new but has already become a firm favourite for mountain bikers looking for scenic singletrack with some elevation. The trails have fantastic flow and the scenery is the best you’ll find on any Gauteng mountain bike trail, especially the new Dragon Trail, a 4km loop within the main trails network that’s worth repeating at least once.

Main type of riding: Singletrack trails with reasonable elevation.

Ideal for: Marathon/stage race riders

Fitness level suitability: Intermediate to Advanced

Skill level suitability: Intermediate to Advanced

Total distance of trails: 36km with at total of 500m of elevation. Don’t be deceived by the distance, the twistiness and high volume of singletrack make it sufficiently taxing.

More info: https://www.hennopstrails.co.za/mtb-trail-2/

Wolwespruit

In Erasmuskloof, a suburb in the South East of Pretoria, is Wolvespruit MTB and Trail Park. From the N1 Freeway that runs along its Western border, it doesn’t look like much, but damn, it’s got so much going for it! Almost entirely singletrack, the trails park offers some low-risk riding on the West bank of the Wolwespruit River and some more challenging riding on the East bank, up on the hillside. There’s sufficient gradient to offer challenging climbs and exhilarating descents, recently enhanced by the new 1500-metre long flow trail. There’s also a large pump track and a long jump line for the senders.

Main type of riding: Singletrack trails with reasonable elevation

Ideal for: Marathon/stage racers; Senders/gravity riders; kids

Fitness level suitability: From Beginner to Advanced (power is more important than stamina here though as there are no flat sections)

Skill level suitability: Intermediate through to Advanced, but the pump track and adjacent jump line make it great for kids and teens too.

Total distance of trails: 23km with a total of 300m of elevation. The trail surface, high volume of singletrack and steep gradient make it more about strength and skill than distance though.

More info: https://wolwespruit.co.za

Rosemary Hill

Probably the first private mountain bike trails park in the Pretoria region, Rosemary Hill, located to the East of Pretoria remains a firm favourite for many. Situated on gently sloping land, the trails are largely singletrack and mostly easy riding with a few optional technical sections thrown in to challenge the more skilled. But mostly, Rosemary Hill is a mountain biking gem because in addition to fun, low-risk trails, it offers that all important great quality pre- or post-ride quality coffee via it’s established warm-atmosphere restaurant.

Main type of riding: Tame singletrack trails with mild elevation

Ideal for: Marathon/stage racers; Social mountain bikers, Families

Fitness level suitability: From Beginner to Advanced

Skill level suitability: From Beginner to Intermediate. Advanced-skill riders need to seek out the technical bits for stimulation.

Total distance of trails: 33km with a total of 300m of elevation. There’s only mild elevation, so strong riders usually ride there from home to do a loop; or do more than one loop.

More info: http://www.rosemaryhill.co.za/mtb-trails/

Buffelsdrift

Established in 2014, Buffelsdrift has seen steady refinement over the years, offering plenty of good distance-riding trails and, more recently, some more challenging technical trails.

There aren’t any huge climbs, but the available gradient is more than adequate to make for plenty of challenging climbing, especially when combined with the high volume of singletrack and the roughness of the surface. And when you throw in some distance fatigue, some climbs can seem like mountains! But it’s not all rugged riding, with a fair share of flowy riverside singletrack and some tame gravel road and jeep track riding, particularly on the Nguni Trail.

The five Enduro lines offer properly challenging runs for even the most skilled with the trailbuilders making the most of the rock features and rocky places where a regular trail simply cannot be dug. Supertubes, a sweet slice of 2.5km twisty singletrack descent has recently been refurbished to be less sketchy and more flowy too.

Main type of riding: Distance with a combination of singletrack, jeep track and gravel road.

Ideal for: Ultra-endurance junkies, Marathon/stage racers; Social mountain bikers, Families

Fitness level suitability: From Beginner to Advanced

Skill level suitability: From Beginner to Advanced.

Total distance of trails: 223km. With the mixture of trails, you can either choose a relatively flat, fast route or a more difficult route that incorporates plenty of climbing and descending.

More info: https://buffelsdriftmtb.co.za/park-info/

Grootfontein

About 10km South East of Pretoria is the newest mountain bike trails park in the Pretoria region, Grootfontein. Very smart use of the available gradient by the trailbuilders has delivered a superb mountain bike park that’s sure to grow in popularity once it’s better known.

Using IMBA Grading for technical difficulty, the builders have created riding for all levels of mountain biker. There isn’t significant distance of trails, but that was never the intention. There are Green and Blue Trails that most will be able to ride and then there are more difficult Red and Black Trails as well as a challenging XCO Course. But so far, Grootfontein is best known for its Flowline Trail, an 800m long piece of flow trail mastery that delivers everyone to the base with a broad grin. And for the really skilled, there’s a 9-meter road gap at the very end of the Flowline that’s become an Instagram favourite.

All Intermediate-skill riders can ride the whole Flowline and for those that are looking for something a bit less predictable and firm, there are seven Enduro lines. There’s also a Mini-Flowline, a Pump Track, some elevated North Shore segments, a progressional Drop-off area and two Jump Lines. Soon to be completed is a pump track for kids in front of the trailhead.

Main type of riding: Gravity runs and challenging singletrack.

Ideal for: Cross-country riders, Gravity riders, Senders and Youth

Fitness level suitability: Intermediate to Advanced

Skill level suitability: Intermediate to Advanced.

Total distance of trails: 27km. But this is all the trails added up. Those that lack Intermediate or Advanced skills will be able to ride about 10km of distance on Green and Blue.

More info: https://www.facebook.com/grootfonteinbikepark/

Note: There are other mountain bike trails parks in the Pretoria area too. We just listed the five main parks here.

WHY PRETORIA IS SOUTH AFRICA’S NEW MTB HOT SPOT Reviewed by on . You probably read that headline twice and then shook your head. With world-class mountain biking gold venues like Karkloof, Mankele, Stellenbosch, Grabouw and C You probably read that headline twice and then shook your head. With world-class mountain biking gold venues like Karkloof, Mankele, Stellenbosch, Grabouw and C Rating: 0

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