Our country has an abundance of spectacular mountain bike trails close to all major centres. It’s time to head down the singletrack of this invigorating sport.
Right now is the best time to be a mountain biker. Don’t be intimidated: the beauty of this sport is that you can share the trails on any bike with the fastest, fittest pros on the most tricked-out race machines.
Mountain bikers are haunted by mountains – from purpose-carved singletracks, logging trails and maintenance roads to obscure radio masts and forgotten passes. But all you really need to get going are a Jeep track, quiet dirt road or forest trail.
So much more than a physical high
The health benefits of mountain biking include low-impact cardio while breathing fresh air.
We could go on, but the pull of rolling those wheels goes way beyond the physical. Rather, it’s the places where a mountain bike will take you – emotionally and physiologically – which, in our digital, traffic-jam crammed lives, is more important. Pedalling the trails will also:
Build leg strength and burn fat Cycling tones your quad, calf and buttock muscles and strengthens your tendons, without any load bearing. You start burning fat when your heart rate is at around 65 to 75 percent of your maximum – easy to achieve on any uphill.
Forge good relationships Biking is fun and a physical activity the whole family or friends can do together (add a bike seat for the littlies), and a bit of collective suffering is great for couple bonding too!
Reduce the risk of injury Because your body is not being supported during training (like it is for running) pressure is taken off your joints, so there’s less chance of injury. Similarly it’s a good exercise if you’re returning from injury.
Make for a healthy holiday Pack the bikes and explore – you’ll cover far more ground in beautiful surroundings than on foot.
Where to ride
We quizzed professional mountain biker Matthys Beukes (two-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic African Jersey) on some of his favourite trail-riding spots:
Any cattle trail in Lesotho There is something magical about bombing down a path created by nature itself!
Mankele (Nelspruit) Some nice bush tunnels to fly through on your way down.
Welvanpas (Wellington) I have some good memories from the Absa Cape Epic there and the flowing trails are perfectly designed to keep you busy for a of couple hours.
Karkloof (KwaZulu-Natal) A lot of planning and hard work went into creating a network that is mix of natural and hand-made trails. From open and flowing to some technical rock gardens, there is something for everyone.
In and around George (Eden District) These are my home trails; they’re underrated, natural and steep. The kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night.
Van Gaalen Cheese Farm (Hartebeespoort) This place, not too far from Gauteng, offers technical riding with a fair amount of climbing. It’s ideal for intermediate to advanced race training.
Four random race tips
Nutrition Experiment with new products and strategies during training. Never try anything new on race day.
Frozen Keep your bottles in the freezer the night before an early training ride or race, then put a sticky note on your helmet to remind you about them.
Brake smart Learn to brake with one finger only (two max) on the brake lever, this way you have four of each hand on the handlebars for control.
Race photos When riding an event and you see a photographer down the trail, fight the urge to wheelie or wave or pull any other kind of hand signs – you look like a dork and you’ve just ruined the photographer’s shot.
By Jazz Kuschke
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.