Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gauteng bikeparks: the good, the better, & the coffeeshops close by

... and then it was June.

Time for some feedback on the bikepark fact finding mission. I've lost my camera on one of these fact-finding rides - which means I'll just have to go back to take pictures :)

Here's some of the good, the better & the coffeeshops close by.

Teak Place
Teak place was my Joburg-to-Sea training ground last year, mainly because it's safe enough to ride there on my own. It offers a huge variety of singletrack. Some highlights:
The 2 steep technical(ish) climbs and quite a few shorter ones.
Some wooden bridges over the river (with low-hanging trees and roots to make it suitably technical)
Chicken runs if you don't like the bridgies, or if they are too slippery.
An excellent piece of downhill followed by fast-flowing twisting singletrack (the blue/black route from the viewpoint down - that's one of my favourite favourites)
Not too much congestion on the singletrack - can't rememebr that I ever had to queue for any singletrack there.
Safe enough to go ride there on my own.

The tracks on the other side of the tar road has a distinct 'Ride2Rhodes' feel about them and you come back on a fast slightly twisty awesome piece of downhill. Ideally done with friends - this one is too good not to share!
Double the vertical ascent per distance of Groenkloof or Rietvlei.

Theres a fun non-technical green route for your beginner-buddies. It's not flat, however - your beginner-buddies might be out of breath and pushing their bikes once or twice. But they will have big grins :)
The floating bridge was next to the dam last weekend - hopefully it's just in for repairs?

Take a dual suspension if you have one; hardtails are perfectly good, but some of the downhills are more fun with more control.

The running trail is sometimes sharing the route with the bike tracks - a mix of dirt road and singletrack.
A decent coffee shop where you could get cuppucinos, big glasses of rock shandy with ice, and a cyclist breakfast afterwards. A jumping castle to keep the kids busy if your wife's having breakfast while you're riding.
Showers and a bikewash if you have other appointments afterwards.
Parking in the shade if you're early.

Rietvlei (Zoo farm)
I've only seen Rietvlei during races - 2 * 24hours, a very wet cross country and a Dirt Festival.
This time, I met a few roadie-friends for a 40 km tar-ride before we hit the tracks. I felt safe on tar - not too much traffic, and a wide shoulder so that we could stay out of harm's way. The route was generally flat - only one long(ish) uphill to wake the lungs up.

Then we switched bikes for the bike park :)

The green route is big fun, lots of tight turns in forests, some climbs but not too technical.  An ideal place to take beginner-buddies after they learnt how to work the gears. It's flat(ish) and would teach them bike handling skills while keeping it fun. More people on the tracks than at Teak place, but not congested at all.

The blue tracks are detours off the green route, joining Green again. They are technical and at some places a bit more technical than the black routes at Teak - some of it reminds me of the black routes at the MTN bikepark. Don't attempt the Japanese garden and the blue tracks around there if your'e not comfortable on your bike. My hardtail would love the green routes; I felt a bit safer on my trance on the blue routes. While there were poepl on the green routes, the blue routes seem deserted. There were blue detours that I haven't seen, so I'll have to go back :)

There's a coffee-shop on site; I can highly recommend the chock chip muffins - they arrive heated up so that the chock chips are slightly melted. Have one between the roadie- and the MTB ride, and another one when your green-route friends leave before you go out on your blue-route-loop.

Safe parking - but in the sun.

There are very few places in the world where you could cycle on beautiful singletrack and then have to stop because there's giraffe or zebra on the track :D It's like a gamedrive from your bike - in the middle of town :)
Very popular, so if you like to bomb down singletrack, you'll have to make a gap between you and the people who went in before you. Excellent riding; enough people on the tracks that you won't have to lie with a broken arm for too long, should something go wrong on a solo ride.

Some technical climbies, favourite downhill switchbacks, bridgies and tree roots. Some recently added singletrack which means you'll have to do more than one loop to fit in all your favourite singletracks in one morning.

There's a whole network of hiking trails - excellent technical running in places. Sometimes there's runners on the singletrack - look out for them. There's often beginners on the singletrack - just leave a gap in front of you, and pass where the singletrack ends - rather than scaring them by trying to squeeze past. The singletracks are generally shortish, so you won't have to wait too long for a place to pass.

There's lots of jeeptrack for your beginner- and non-technical friends.
Stay off the hikingtrails when on your bike - it's unsafe for both mountain bikers and hikers, and there's enough custom-made singletrack to keep you busy for a while.

Bike and helmet rentals if you broke your bike and desperately need to ride.
Moyo is just next door; they do allow soaking wet muddy riders in for hot chocolate :)

Safe shaded parking, hot showers, bikewash.

There's hiking huts inside the reserve ... so theoretically you could make a whole weekend of riding / running / horseriding there if you feel it's too far to drive from jozi :)

Just next door to Groenkloof, getting in on the same access card.
More of the same - a great extension to the Groenkloof ride if you need more distance or less congestion. I don't feel safe riding there on my own - there's far less riders than on the Groenkloof side. But next time you go to Groenkloof for a ride with your buddies, do yourself a favour and go ride on the Fountains side first :)
Then go to Moyo for breakfast, before continuing on the Groenkloof side.

Make sure that your newbie-friends are comfortable on the Groenkloof-side before you take them to fountains - some of the trails may be daunting for newbies. Kids would probably love it :)

Voortrekker Monument
Around 12 kms of good training. The singletracks are much longer than Groenkloof or Fountains, so once you're in, it will be a while before youll get a chance to pass. Not congested at all - the only people I saw on the route, were our own group. The track seem to go up and down a lot, and at times (especially towards the end) I felt like they're adding twists (always in the forms of ups & downs) just to add distance instead of real value. Good training, rocky descents and climbs, but the fun-factor not as high as next door.There are some black detours off the blue route; these are usually steep ascents (I couldn't ride them) followed by steep droppies. Make sure there's a proper fork when you attempt those.

Don't take your newbie-friends or kids there. While it's not too technical, there's a lot of ups and downs towards the end without a big fun-factor. Good training if they want to learn to climb, though. I prefer fun.

Sadly, the tracks are not joined with Groenkloof/Fountains, and don't look like they would join up anytime soon.

Parking in the sun; for coffee go to cafe 41 in Groenkloof, or Brooklyn.

I will not drive through from Joburg to go ride there, but if there's a running event or orienteering event, I will certainly take my bike with to add some value while i'm there.

Northern Farms
This used to be a favourite, years ago - we would cycle there, do a loop or 2, drink coffee, and then cycle back home. After a few hijack incidents I haven't ridden there for a while.

Access is a bit tedious: you buy the access tickets at a totally different place than where the farm is. But a multi-entry tickets can be used for your buddies and there's no expiry date, so you could use all your entries even if it take more than a year.

I would not ride there on my own, but my last ride was with 2 girl friends and we never felt unsafe. Lots of singletrack added since i was there last. There are some definite favourites singletrackies next to the river. Lots of people out there, so you may have to make a gap before going in to the singletrackies if you like to go as fast as you can.

There's jeeptrack and river crossings for your newbie-friends & kids. The ride always ends with an uphill - but at least there's bacon&egg rolls & coffee waiting.

A bikewash and showers if you must be somewhere else. Parking in the shade if you're early.

Van Gaalens
My new favourite track at van Gaalens: the Daggapad.

You go up to the cement tracks on the way to the Pofadder, but then, just before you tackle the real Pofadder, you veer off to the left. The most excellent mix of flowing singletrack, green forests with ivy-covered trees, twisty tracks, then next to a river, or on an old railway line, or on a technical path far above the dirtroad below. The scenery and tracks keep changing. The route is never boring, a big fun-factor. Before you know it, you've cycled 40 kays ... and then you don't want to stop.

It's far out of town - an hour's drive from Randburg with all the traffic lights - but very much worth it.

I would not cycle there on my own - but i think it's time to get  few friends together for a van Gaalens ride.

MTN bikepark
Sharpen your technical skills on a Tuesday after work,. If you're not tired by sunset, put on some lights - the parks stays open a bit longer on Tuesday nights.

Don't go there on a weekend - there's too many kids.

Take a camera with - and a friend who will ride all the bridges on roller coaster.

Go play on the BMX track if it's open and there's no training sessions - or kids who will point and laugh :)
Don't attempt the black routes if you're not comfortable on the blue - and don't attempt the blue if you're not comfortable on the green. See how fast you could go down corkscrew or green mile; try to ride the bridgies on wetlands - lots of trails in a very small area to keep you entertained for a few hours. You could add a bit of distance by riding there & back home.

Still on the to-do list:
Haven't been to these, so still have to go check them out:
Rietvlei (Pretoria)
Owls Nest
Kings Kloof
Boskop (?)