Most people know that the weather in South Africa lends itself towards outdoor activities, but what some people might not know, is that for certain activities, Winter is just as good as Summer ~ and is sometimes even better. Cycling is one of those activities and it’s also one of our favourite ways to see the country. It’s eco-friendly, can be done as a sport, as a means to get around and can be done at your own pace and intensity level.
Because South Africa doesn’t have bicycle paths like many European countries do, we thought it might be useful to give you some tips about where you can safely ride and see beautiful, scenic views at the same time.
There’s a good reason that Cape Town is home to the world’s largest timed cycle race. The Cape Town Cycle Tour follows the most scenic roads in the city and for those who wish to cycle the route, but not do the race itself, much of the route can be done by yourself and at almost any time of the year (rainy days aside). Although the full race starts in the city centre and follows the national road to the South Peninsula, we recommend starting your ride in Simon’s Town as from here, the traffic is less congested and the scenery really starts to unfold.
The route from Simon’s Town to the entrance of the Cape Point Nature Reserve is a winding, staggered climb that hugs the sea. The road is quite spacious and Cape Point Nature Reserve has good roads for cycling. For those who wish to challenge themselves, they can continue the route all the way through Scarborough, and then along to Noordhoek, Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay. We recommend ending your ride in Camp’s Bay as from there on you will hit the city traffic. Of course, you would need to arrange lifts to the drop off and collection points, as this is not a full-circle route. Take extra care if you are cycling in the “windy season” (which is mostly Summer) as the wind can be dangerous and also makes it extra difficult to ride. Also, Chapman’s Peak is rather narrow and can be busy with traffic, so take extra care on this road too. This entire route can be done on either a road-bike or a mountain-bike.
We found this site helpful for finding routes in and around Cape Town and it includes both road cycling and mountain bike cycling. We also like this site as it offers a lot of useful information regarding cycling and cycling culture in Cape Town. Pre-arranged bike tours can be done through Day Trippers.
For serious cyclists who enjoy a challenge, the Franschhoek Pass may sound familiar. The second day of the Giro del Capo ends at the top of the Franschhoek Pass and we only recommend this route for advanced, fit cyclists. The there-and-back route that takes you up the pass, down the other side, and back to Franschhoek is around 50km and is climbing, climbing and more climbing. Although this is not a very busy road, it is fairly narrow in parts, which can make it a little hair-raising if there is passing traffic.
For inexperienced, “leisure” riders who want “scenery not sweat”, try the Robertsvlei loop around Dassenberg. This is only suitable for mountain biking. For those looking for more of a MTB challenge, you can try the Matoppie trail.
For more information on routes in and around Franschhoek, you can visit the Franschhoek Cycling Club website.
Elgin is around 70km from Cape Town and is one of our favourite places to do both farm road and single track mountain biking. The scenery is a mix of natural vegetation and farmlands and the Oak Valley and Paul Cluver trails offer something for everyone. You can find information on these trails here.
The Midlands Meander is a country route in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It traces its way along district and regional roads and passes places of interest that include restaurants, country hotels, farm stalls, speciality and artisanal shops and art and craft studios. Known for it’s rolling, green hills this area is very scenic and unspoilt. Karkloof offers great mountain biking trails and for those who wish to mix R&R with cycling, Midmar Dam is relatively flat and offers relaxed routes around the inviting Dam. For more information on organized cycle tours and insight on cycle routes, click here.
For more information on the best cycle routes in South Africa, you can also visit: www.southafrica.net
Happy, safe cycling!
Photo credit: Jacques Marais