Trail Daze 2.0 is supported by:
Commissioned and published by bikehub.co.za with words and images by Ewald Sadie / Shift Media.
October 2017 saw the last episode of Trail Daze 1.0 go live. It was a 3 year long passion project showcasing some of the best mountain bike trails South Africa has to offer. We travelled throughout the country in search of sublime singletrack, epic views and in one case even road from Wilderness to Knysna along the beach. Part of the project was also to shine a light on the countless hours of physical labour and vision by trail builders and riders alike. A process that is often taken for granted, but one that lies at the core of our sport. So when I was approached by Bike Hub to reboot the series, it was an obvious and definite YES. A chance to show what’s been brewing for the last 6 odd years…
We kick things off by visiting a trail network that hasn’t been featured previously. Well not completely that is. The Banhoek Conservancy stretches over a vast area, from Bartinney Wines to Boschendal (previously featured on Trail Daze) with a multitude of access points, kilometres of trail and countless ways of combining them. These access points all have safe and secure parking areas and sell day permits, but if you’re fortunate enough to have the regional winelands membership, its all included and you can just show up and ride. We accessed the trail network via Old Bethlehem farm, located at Kylemore.
With multiple Trailseeker events having made use of these trails for the past few years, and most recently the Cape Epic as well, the trails are clearly suited for marathon riders. But this shouldn’t deter those looking for something a little more technical and fun. If you ad speed to any trail, things get interesting very quickly, and with the addition of some jumps and transferable berms, a 140-160mm travel trail bike will feel right at home on the single track here. The views certainly are above average also, with the majestic Hottentots-Holland mountain peaks surrounding you on the one side and the iconic Simonsberg across the valley. More than 1300 different species of fynbos can be found in this area, and with some of them in bloom during summer, spring and autumn, you’re bound to have a splash of colour lining the trails whenever you decide to go. All this is why we decided to start our new journey here… enjoy.
First light, as seen from the top of ever scenic Helshoogte pass, heading towards the the Banhoek Conservancy and part of the Hottentots Holland Mountain Catchment area.
Two familiar faces in the industry, Dayle Holmes and Frankie du Toit, helping to kickstart the new season
Multiple well constructed, permanent bridges throughout the trail network help with numerous river crossings. During the winter months these streams turn into proper rivers, fed by the surrounding mountains.
The vast majority of these trails are single-track. They’re not super technical which means most riders can safely ride here, but they do become more fun and interesting at speed
Views from the top of Niknaks, the highest point of the trail network, with views stretching all the way to Paarl.
This time of year you’ll find a vast amount flower species in bloom.
Beautiful morning light at Banhoek.
Banhoek is one of those places that no matter your skill level or riding interest, you will always have a good ride when you go there. You can just see the attention to detail and love that is put into the trails and trial maintenance by the team there. It also just has the most amazing backdrop with the mountains surrounding you. It’s a shortish loop but never fails to deliver a great ride and I always leave there with the biggest smile on my face.
~~~ Frankie du Toit ~~~
For those looking to make the trails a bit more fun and technical, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. If you’re not keen to get off the ground, simply ride around the jumps & features which were cleverly added by the trail builder to allow riders from all skill level to have fun.
Above average views and surroundings as you flow down these trails surrounded by giants.
A lot of time and effort has gone into building these impressive wooden berms, allowing the trails to flow through parts of the vegetation that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
The step-up close to the bottom of Klipwerf is a great place to get comfortable with jumping and progression with limited risk.
For me there are 3 things that stand out. Firstly the epic location. The backdrop of those mountains are just super majestic, and the way the sun rises over them in the mornings is just beautiful. Then the climbs are super easy, not just on an E-bike but on a normal bike as well. The switchbacks are extremely well maintained, very smooth to climb, which means you can do a couple of laps in one ride and not be completely wrecked. Then lastly the trails caters for riders of all skill levels. There are jumps and drop-offs for advanced riders as well as really rollable features for people to progress on. The work that has gone into building these trails and the ongoing maintenance is just insane.
Transfer or turn… Either way its super fun.
No caption needed.
Directions to Bethlehem Farm, Stellenbosch
Daily permits – R60 or free access with the Winelands Regional pass