A year ago we launched TREAD Top Trails, a campaign aimed at recognising excellence in mountain bike trails in South Africa. We published our Top 15 Trails of 2020 which was subjective and became hugely engaging. As we prepare to launch TREAD Top Trails 2021, we want to include rider input as to what makes a great South African mountain bike trail.

By Sean Badenhorst

Some people consider riding mountain bikes on gravel roads for many hours to be hugely rewarding. Some people find great joy in plunging down the slope of a mountain on sketchy singletrack. Some people just love the rhythm of predictable flowy, manicured singletrack. Some people enjoy a combination of these. One thing is certain, there’s a wide range of mountain biking on offer in South Africa.

Blue Cheeze Trail, Nelspruit

What we discovered with our 2020 Top Trails Campaign is that we were comparing trails parks against each other but that there are different types of trails parks and it’s not really ideal to try and compare those that differ greatly. So we have come up with the following categories for our 2021 campaign:


Purpose-built and focused on MTB, usually in or close to a city. Man-made obstacles, usually privately owned. Obvious trailhead with payment and indemnity.

Examples include the Cycle Lab Bike Park, Johannesburg and Bike Pike Constantia Uitsig, Cape Town.


Adapted trails on multi-use paths/singletrack on public land or municipal parks. No payment, no obvious trailhead, no indemnity.

Examples include the Braamfontein Spruit, Johannesburg and Baakens Valley, Port Elizabeth.


Adapted and purpose-carved trails on either national park or privately owned land. Obvious trailhead with payment and indemnity. Usually within or a short drive (less than one hour) from a city.

This is the biggest category of South African trails parks and includes most trails such as Buffeldrift, Pretoria, Northern Farm, Johannesburg, Holla Trails, Ballito and Tokai, Cape Town.


Purpose-carved and/or adapted trails on either national park or privately owned land. Trailhead not always obvious, access hard to manage, but a payment and indemnity exist. Usually not too near a city (at least a 2-hour drive).

Examples include Drakensberg Trails, KwaZulu-Natal, Waterberg Trails, Limpopo and Wild Boar Trails, Western Cape.


Trails or lines both natural and built specifically focussed on gravity riding. Usually include jump lines and flow lines and on private land. Obvious trailhead, payment and indemnity. Usually in or near a city.

Examples include Hellsend Dirt Compound, Stellenbosch, Cascades MTB Park, Pietermaritzburg and Wolvespruit MTB Trails Park, Pretoria.

So we feel there are five main categories of trails park for South Africa. We have circulated these categories to a number of trails park owners/managers and trail builders who all seem to agree with the categorisation. Of course some trails parks cover more than one category, for example Wolwespruit in Pretoria, which incorporates three – Bike Park, Country Trails and Gravity Trails.

In terms of how we will move forward with our Top Trails campaign, we want riders to be able to give feedback on the trails they ride with a rating system for the following categories:

Car park – adequate security and space

Trailhead start – welcoming, intuitive, low-hassle, clean ablutions

Trails description at start – easy to read and understand

Trail signage – visible from a distance, easy to understand, appropriate placement

Trail maintenance – trail surface condition, vegetation management, obstacles/bridges stability/condition

Trail quality – enjoyable, stimulating, appropriate for recommended skill level

Trailhead finish – bike parking, bike wash (on weekends), refreshments (optional), positive vibe

Riders will be able to give a rating for each category out of five and can write a short review too.

Have we missed anything? Now is your chance to give us your feedback to ensure our TREAD Top SA Trails 2021 campaign is inclusive, fair and reflective of what makes a great South African trail riding experience.

Please email any comments or suggestions to me on sean@treadmtb.co.za