Stellenbosch has a multitude of trails available, and when permits for private trails are paid, it expands even more, but our mission was simple, ride as much of the trails that are open to ride without permits around Stellenbosch. We were a small crew, the Sheriff, his superfast Wife Sune and Myself.
We started in Technopark where The Sheriff works, cruised down the hill and through Blaauwklippen into Eden. Eden has been part of my rides since 2000 when I started riding mountain bikes. Over the years it has changed and trails have come and gone but it is still a mainstay for the people who ride around Stellies. Eden has been used in the Epic, many XCO provincial races, a couple of adventure races and lately plays host to the Origin of Trails race.
We cruised up towards the top of the plantation to drop into one of the classics. This trail starts at the top and goes all the way to the bottom of the plantation, a lovely 2.5km singletrack that winds through trees, over roots and rocks and just keeps you busy all the time. I sort of took a wrong turn, (not because I don’t know the layout, but because I didn’t listen – Whoops) and had to chase down the crew to get back in touch with them, but fortunately the lumo clothes that The Sheriff wears stands out in Pine forests. To be honest, I’m pretty sure he was wearing one of His Wife’s running tops.
Anyhoo, we regrouped and started the climb back up the same trail that happens to be a lekker up trail as well to get to the contour path that would take us over to Coetzenburg. This contour path is also a Classic. I rode it in high school and one of my first falls on a new bike happened here on Valentine’s Day in 2003. True story. At least I got some sympathy points that evening. It also formed part of the Cape Epic route
when it still ended at Spier. It was here in 2006 in The Epic where my team mate and I learned some choice French swear words when we used our technical skills to our advantage by taking an alternate line through a rocky bit to overtake a French team who decided that these rocks are life threatening and they really needed to walk it. No one in our crew walked it this time round, and we cruised over to Coetzenburg to admire the view and to give Sune a chance to take a photo of her bike before we backtracked to get to the G-Spot.
The G-Spot is a not-so-secret trail that started out as a little side project for one of the local trail builders and has turned into one of Stellies’ most photographed trails. It is a lekker flow trail with nice rhythm sections, multiple jump lines and deep berms that is ridiculously photogenic. Because it is so nice we sommer did it twice. I also got the monkey of my back by jumping one of the bigger jumps on my hardtail that I usually saved for my trail bike. It seems that progression is possible on the wrong side of 30 as well.
We rode up a short bit to swing into a new trail that Sune showed us, this trail is recently built and links up G-Spot and Coetzenburg nicely. We dropped into a section of the Coetzenburg XCO track. This track was built to provide the local riders the opportunity to develop the necessary skills to be competitive at XCO racing, and is a testament to great new generation trail building. It holds up surprisingly well when all the traffic it gets is taken into account. From the XCO Rock garden we went down to the Proefplaas (it’s a scary place, the cows have holes in their stomachs) to take the Jeep track up to the top of the XCO flow trail. This trail is actually most fun when ridden slowly, but in a race when you are riding at a pace of 11/10 it is really tricky. I cruised down at 7/10 pace and was having a ball when I saw a dog running into my path. I stopped, and noticed a whole group of people and even a horse rider (tunnel vision is a thing) by the side of the trail. They were very apologetic about their dog, and I was afraid that I might have scared the horse, but all was chill. No one freaked out, no one died. We need more of this trail chill between users in the mountains. After the flow trail we cruised down the switchbacks to the end of the XCO track onto the field at Coetzenberg Gym.
We filled our hydration packs and water bottles and had a bit of a snack. The Sheriff surprised me by taking us up a set of rock stairs hike-a-bike section that I last rode as a student. It was as eroded and washed out as I remembered. Hiking trails don’t wear well. From here we cruised up a tree lined climb that lead us to the traverse trail that crosses over the Proefplaas fields and spits you out at the G-Spot.
From the G-spot we went back with contour paths to Eden and climbed to the top of the trails again. This time we dropped into a different trail, another old one that has seen some diversions over the years, but has kept it’s charm. Unfortunately I cut my tyre on one of the many rocks and had to fix it.
We went to shade of an old abandoned house that has a stoep with shade to make a plan. I had to plug the tyre in two places and subsequently ran out of CO2 bombs. Jy moet maar pomp boetie…
With a firmly inflated back wheel we set off towards Mont Marie. One of the newest sections of trail around Stellenbosch. The Sheriff had another Ace up his sleeve and took me to another disused trail with a bit of a hike-a-bike dried up river bed in the middle instead of the usual gravel road to Mont Marie. It ended in a lekker loose marble like descent before we dropped into the Mont Marie bliss. These trails are fast with lots of flow and supplies huge grins all the while adding some nice touches like step downs over logs and dual trails that you can race your mate on and some much needed shade.
By this stage it was blisteringly hot, we were out of food and water was low, so we headed back towards Eden. This was a slowly burning nasty climb that spat us out back where we fixed my flat, but this time we dropped into more singletrack, over some jumps and down the last bit of rocky Eden goodness. From here we cruised through the vineyards back to Technopark and up the hill towards our bakkie.
The adventure took us four and a half hours to complete, covered 43kms and climbed 1246m of elevation. I also consumed 2 apples, a Nougat bar, 3packets of Rehidrat Sport, 2.5liters of water, used 2 tyre plugs, 2 CO2 bombs and a pump.
In turn we got some photos, a tan, a bunch of lekker trails, cool stories, fond remembrance of memories and a lekker day on the bike. A good adventure indeed.