The inaugural TREAD Top Trails campaign kicked off halfway through 2020. The objective was to showcase the range of amazing mountain bike trails parks in South Africa. We completed the countdown last week (mid-February 2021) and have compiled a summary of the top five here should you be keen to ride some of the world’s best trails.

By Sean Badenhorst

It’s amazing how difficult it is to choose ONLY 15 top South African trails. The TREAD crew, which has ridden most of South Africa’s trails, spent ages deliberating over our Top 15 Trails of 2020. We took into account quite a number of elements, some of which are hard to measure, including the fun factor, a challenge factor, variety of trails, range of mountain bikers which might enjoy riding those trails, trail marking and maintenance, attention to detail, mountain biking soul and how badly we want to go back and ride there.

Via email and social media, we received plenty of feedback during our campaign, mostly negative but not in a nasty way (we’ve learned that complaints always come easier than compliments). It’s evident that many are passionate about their home trails, which is fantastic! We left a few bangers off the list, which was difficult, but our team is varied in riding ability, age and gender and we had to also consider that this was a national list and that some really good trails would simply have to be left off – for 2020.

The good news is that our 2021 Top South African Trails campaign is being finalised and will include a survey element to ensure we get as much rider input as possible. It will also showcase more than 15 trails. Don’t worry, it will be weighted according to mountain biking population density, so trails like Tranquilitas, Garden Route Trail Park, Wild Boar Trails, 3 Rivers Trails and Cascades, among others, will all get a fair look in. More about that in a couple of weeks.

For now, though, here’s a summary of the top five in the TREAD Top Trails for 2020.

NUMBER 5: Banhoek Conservancy, Western Cape

It’s hard to describe the beauty of riding mountain bikes here. You are surrounded by majestic mountains which alter the horizon to almost a work of art in any direction you ride. The ascents aren’t just a way of getting up, they’re thoughtfully built to make the climbs engaging, while the descents are longer than you expect, which is always a bonus. Always!

Full summary here.

NUMBER 4: Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club, Western Cape

It’s unlikely you will ever tire of riding this incredibly varied mountain bike trails network. There is heaps of gradient to ensure you are challenged on the many climbs, but the descents are so well thought out and provide ample reward for the ‘gravity tax’ paid. The scenery is simply superb, with the Stellenbosch/Franschhoek mountains to the east and Table Mountain and Cape Town to the southwest.

Full summary here.

NUMBER 3: Drakensberg Trails, KwaZulu-Natal

Although you don’t need mountains to enjoy mountain biking, riding on the slopes of the some of the biggest mountains in the country takes you into a different realm. The trails have been thoughtfully built to allow you to explore as much of the Northern Drakensberg by bike as possible with challenging, but not impossible climbs and incredibly satisfying descents. It’s a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg and Durban and there’s ample accommodation in the area to cater for all budgets.

Full summary here.

NUMBER 2: Jonkershoek MTO Trails, Western Cape

It’s not just the incredible riding at Jonkershoek that stands out. It’s that it’s challenging going up and challenging going down – each of which can consume a lot of your energy and – after a while – a little bit of your soul. There’s almost too much to actually ride in one day – unless you’re on an eBike. Almost. Which is why you can’t wait go back for more.

Full summary here.

NUMBER 1: Karkloof Country Club, KwaZulu-Natal

Riding the Karkloof Trails changes you as a mountain biker. Every other trail you ride thereafter gets compared to Karkloof, either subconsciously or loudly and enthusiastically, over a cold beer with your mates. No matter how many times you go and ride the Karkloof trails, when you leave, a small part of you stays behind, but it’s a fair trade because when you leave, you take part of Karkloof trails away with you. In your soul.

Full summary here.