Mountain biking and Capetonians go together, like a wine and chocolate pairing, and this results in the Western Cape being a dream ride destination. This sport has always been a big favourite in the Cape, and growing more each year, as it not only appeals to the serious down-hill warrior, but to the everyday rider and family looking to get active and explore our beautiful winelands. The variety of trails can be selected to suit any skill and fitness level, and they span the Western Cape so there is something just on your doorstep. The wine farms below not only have award winning wines waiting for you at the end of your ride, but they have curated some seriously cool trails and single tracks to be enjoyed by all. Take a look…
Kicking off the list, is the mighty Boschendal enroute to Franschhoek. They have a combo of some mean climbs and awesome single tracks as you wind your way through farm scenery with views of the Franschhoek Valley. You can get your permits from the Trail Centre, and you can download maps from their website or scan the QR code available. The marked trails start just inside the security gate, and you can choose from the following distances: Yellow Route (4km); Green Route (9km); Blue Route (11km); Red Route (15km); Black route (23km) or the Black XL which adds 3-4 sections onto the Black route. It is R60 per adult for a day permit and R30 for children. You can hire bikes or Ebikes if you need, and they are open 7 days a week, from 8am to 5pm weekdays, and 7am to 5pm on weekends.
Next up is Muratie in Stellenbosch. This Simonsberg Trail system is diverse enough for beginners and tricky enough for advanced riders. Permits can be obtained from the Muratie Tasting Room or Dirtopia Trail Centre at R60 per day. As you move through the routes, you can choose to make your ride longer or shorter to suit the day. They also organise group rides if you prefer this option. A new ABC trail has been built for beginners and even children, along a smoother track for a 5km to 7km loop. For the more intermediate riders, you can follow the black arrows and at the middle loop you can head up to the highest point on the network called the “Never-say-never-ending-again trail”, which is a radical 10km continuous singletrack experience with stunning views.
Just around the corner is Jordan Wine Estate and their winding trails take you through the Bottelary Hills MTB Trails with vineyards and fauna and flora surrounding the paths. The Bottleary Hills Conservancy was opened in April 2011 and has well marked routes with entry via a few controlled access points. There is some jeep track, single track, windy farm roads or literally riding through the vineyard rows themselves. Different distances to choose from and only R 60 per day, which you can purchase from The Bakery at Jordan. The different routes include an Orange Loop of 9.7km mainly for beginners; the 30km Red Loop is the main one as it connects all the others and the Yellow loop has a 10km and 19km option. The Green Loop offers trails from 16km to 24km, and the Blue Loop is 9km with 260m of ascent with steep climbs and fast single track. Or you can opt for the shorter Purple Loop of 4.5km that takes you around Jordan. Ps. Follow this with a coffee like I did.
In Stellenbosch is Dornier Wine Estate, which forms part of the Winelands Cycling club trail network (www.winelandscyclingclub.co.za) and visitors can get a day permit for R60 per day, but this need to be purchased beforehand as none are available at the Dornier cellar door. The trail follows a well-marked single circular loop of around 10km with 275m of ascent starting at the entrance to the Estate and should take most riders between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. Although mostly single track, there is some jeep track through forest sections with several berms and meanders along a river. Suitable for intermediate and advanced riders, and the route also connects to the neighbouring farms like Stellenzicht and beyond.
In Somerset West is the ever-popular Lourensford Estate, that is home to the Cape Epic Race. This estate sits pretty at the base of the Helderberg mountains and hence provides plenty of climbing followed by many downhills, that wind through fynbos, vineyards, forests, past dams and through fruit orchids. They have organised rides where they take beginners through the different routes and get them comfortable with no hectic climbs or technical work, but a fun way to ease into the sport. Membership is encouraged and is limited to 500 people only, at the cost of R3000.00 per year for a single membership. Their day fees are R145 per person per ride, but with a maximum of 6 rides a year. Please take note that they have strict riding times:
Tuesdays: 06h00-10h00. Strictly Members only
Thursdays: 18h00 – 21h00
Saturdays: 0600 – 10h00 & 15h00 – 18h00
Sundays: 06h00 – 10h00
Public Holidays: 08h00 – 11h00
Winter: Start 2 Hours later on Sat & Sun mornings
Hop over Sir Lowry’s Pass and into the cool climate of Oak Valley to find some of the Cape’s most celebrated mountain biking terrain, with trails designed by Pieter Visser, to showcase this beautiful area. There is something for all skill levels, with a short blue route and longer red route, over farm fence bridges and streams, or take the black route if you are a more serious rider chasing that high! A daily rate of R60 or annual rate of R550 is all it costs. Keep an eye out for baboons and cattle as you ride through their pastures. Some epic drops and berms along the course of the river and of course plenty of well-groomed single track, before ending off in a peaceful Oak Forest at the finish.
Meerendal in Durbanville was built and developed by the Tygerberg Mountain bike club, and this spot is perfect for beginners or families as the terrain is flatter and less mountainous. The 4.8km Yellow route is a chilled easy ride, while the 13.1km Green route provides a moderate option but still a good choice for most abilities. The 23.4km Blue route is the main loop that takes you around a dam, some uphill switchbacks and berms to make those legs work hard. All 3 trails start at the car park and are marked accordingly. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (sunrise to sunset) and R50 for adults or R20 for students, pensioners and under 18s. Saddle up and take the whole family out to ride, after which a well-deserved breakfast is in order.
A new and exciting introduction for me was Capaai Wine Estate in the Philadelphia wine growing region, which is 30km from Cape Town. These trails consist of 15kms comfortable jeep track and well-carved single track, ranging from easy to medium to difficult, as you make your way through vineyards and up to Olifantskop. The hard work pays off as the 360° views are stunning, all the way across to Table Mountain. The trails are well marked, and the cost is R40 a person per ride. This is my next trail to ride and see what they have in store.
Staying in the Northern side of Cape Town is ever popular Rhebokskloof Wine Estate, who’s trails were designed and developed by the Paarl Trails Group (www.paarltrails.com) to highlight the best of the Paarl mountainside and showcase the beauty of this estate, including some awesome 35kms of single track. Take the kids on a 3km family-friendly ride, or choose from these below:
These trails also link through to the greater Paarl trail network if you prefer to lengthen your ride still (please see the Paarl Trails website for information on the surrounding areas). The cost for a weekday pass is R80 and they are available at reception from 8am onwards. Knowing there is delicious pizza and award-winning wine waiting for you after is always good motivation.
Last but certainly not least, is Zevenwacht Wine Estate, who are also members of the Bottelary Hills Conservancy that is home to some of the famous Cape Floral Kingdom species as well as otters, foxes, duiker and porcupines to name a few. This area is a paradise for mountain bikers with farm roads, jeep and single tracks that includes climbs, berms and bridges to keep things interesting, and follows the same routes as those of Jordan wine estate, but from different access points. The trails are open 7 days a week, and permits are available at the tasting room for R80 per rider per day. Zevenwacht is home to the infamous Tin Mine jump that takes riders over the opening of a Tin Mine Shaft (what……!!!). Clearly not for the faint-hearted.
So, if you are looking to burn off some steam after work, take a gentle meander through the trails or challenge yourself to a downhill adrenaline rush, you can choose from mild to wild! Whether a racing snake, trail blazer, strava hunter or weekend warrior, these wine estates have something for everyone.
Although exercise and fun are the main aim, please always take precautions when riding these or any trails. First and foremost……no helmet, no ride! Have a plan in place and stick to the designated routes. Make sure you have enough water or food with you, and of course something warm as the Cape is renowned for having 4 seasons in 1 day. Lastly, don’t forget to look up and enjoy the scenery, after all, you are in one of the most beautiful parts of the world!