The South African winelands is not only set up for wining and dining, it is also the perfect backdrop to explore your adventurous side, with the natural elements and lay of the land providing the perfect network of trails for mountain bikers. In fact, the winelands boasts some of THE best mountain biking trails in the country. The bonus, of course, is that once you have packed your cleats away for the day, you can get to sampling all that food and wine!
Agulhas Wine Route
You won’t find many places that can compare to the sheer beauty of the Cape Overberg in the Western Cape. Imposing, grey mountains provide a rugged backdrop to the fertile valleys and pristine coastal stretches below. The Overberg Meander is the most recent route to be added to the Cape Cycle Routes network and could quite possible be the best of them all, cutting through some of the region’s most scenic towns – both inland and along the coast. From the rolling hills of Swellendam, a vibrant town sitting in the lap of the Langeberg Mountains to the historic town of Elim – a former Moravian Mission station close to Cape Agulhas – the Overberg Meander takes you through some of the most pristine areas of the Western Cape and will leave you wanting more. The route is not too technical, free to use, and there is plenty of accommodation throughout. It’s the perfect way to see the Cape Overberg from a different vantage point.
Constantia Wine Route
The Constantia Wine Valley is well known for its world class wine estates, top restaurants and lush, rolling hills, but it also boasts some great mountain bike trails. Perfect for family outings or for beginners looking to learn the ropes, the Greenbelt Trail isn’t for single track demons or veteran riders looking for a big challenge. But this great little route (8km of undulating track) running through the Constantia Green Belt can be ridden from either direction, meaning you can double up on the distance if you feel like pushing a little harder. The route is clearly marked and depending on which direction you are travelling, can start at the top of Southern Cross Drive in Constantia or from the bottom of Lismore Avenue in Tokai. We suggest starting in Tokai, finishing up in Constantia and then hopping onto the tail-end of the Constantia Wine Route for a much-deserved reward.
Darling Wine Route
It’s fair to say that the small town of Darling on the Cape West Coast has made a name for itself with a variety of offerings, with everything from craft beer (Darling Brewery) to the wildflowers, meaning the town hits well above its weight. It is also quickly staking its claim in the MTB stakes with races like the Darling Brew Extreme – an extremely popular event starting and finishing at the brewery and offering a variety of distances – and trails like Wolvefontein putting the town on the map. Expect single track, steep climbs, fast descents, switchback corners with berms, ramp-bridges crossing farm fences, rock gardens and more with trails catering to rookies and veterans alike.
Durbanville Wine Route
There are few places as well set up for mountain biking than Durbanville. It is a renowned mecca of MTB with a huge variety of trails to choose from and home to the largest mountain bike club in the country.
The Tygerberg MTB Club has a goal of setting up 120km of trail throughout the valley and they are already well on their way with a number of wine farms opening up their properties for trails to be built throughout the Durbanville Hills. Day passes are available for select routes, while a full membership with the club gets you access to member only trails. You will be spoilt for choice at Bloemendal with a number of tracks to choose from, for rookies and experienced riders, and for just R50 you can get a day pass to explore.
The Hillcrest Trail has a challenging climb, but the view of Robben Island is just-reward, while Hoogekraal starts with a gentle climb before testing riders with some sweeping singletrack and ‘Beware Alley’ – a 4km climb with some tricky bends and switchbacks. Both are recommended for more experience riders.
Want to know what the pros deal with? Give the Meerendal route a go! Meerendal is the prologue stage for the Absa Cape Epic and with a route made up of three inter-leading trails of 5km, 12km and 18km, you can expect 1-2 hours of riding depending on your ability.
Franschhoek Wine Route
The Franschhoek Valley is well-known for its incredible wine and world class cuisine, but it is also home to some of the best MTB trails in the country. Like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek has something for everybody, whether you are a beginner rider or an experienced downhill racing snake.
The Robertsvlei Loop is perfect for beginners, cutting through gently undulating farmlands and offering incredible views of the Franschhoek River and mountain, while advanced riders can take on the Franschhoek Pass MTB Route, which will test you with a steady 25km climb to the top of pass, and reward you with an EPIC view of the valley below. The Matoppie MTB Route is a local favourite – a 14km ride that includes a tough climb and a technical contour route – also not recommended for beginner riders.
Namaqua West Coast Wine Route
Despite being one of the lesser-known wine routes in the country, the Namaqua West Coast is quickly showing itself to be a top contender in the wine stakes, and it is also considered one of the best adventure sports regions in the county, with its natural rugged terrain well suited to MTB in particular. The Viswater Mountain Bike Route is circular route that runs 30km from Doring Bay to Papendorp and back again. The route includes a variety of terrain, with everything from soft, ash-coloured sand to rocky single-track, and in some sections you will find yourself within 50m of the ocean. Just as your legs start to wane, the southern wind will push you down the home stretch where you can enjoy an ice-cold beer at the Jetty Restaurant.
Paarl Wine Route
Summertime in Paarl is a great time to explore the wide network of trails criss-crossing throughout the famed Paarl Mountains, with a variety of difficulty levels on offer. The Jan Phillips Mountain Road is a great place to start with the longer 35km route and adrenaline-fuelled romp through the second largest granite outcrop in the world, passing three 500-million-year-old granite rocks in the process. The shorter routes range from 4km to 20km and which are perfect for families or inexperienced riders. For more routes around Paarl visit Paarl Mountain Biking routes.
Stellenbosch Wine Route
Stellenbosch is largely considered to be the MTB capital of South Africa and with more than 500km of trail to explore, that’s no surprise. Having recently played host to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event earlier this year, Stellies is quickly cementing its place as a world cycling destination.
If you’re brave enough, you can take on the track that was cut into the Coetzenburg Mountain for the event – not for rookies or faint of heart! As the country’s MTB mecca, Stellenbosch obviously has a number of trails to explore with some of the more well-known including the G-spot MTB Trail, the Jonkershoek Trails, the Eden / Paradyskloof MTB Route and the Bottelary Hills MTB Trail.
There are plenty of operators in town who can help you navigate which trail suits your needs best, while you can also download the Stellenbosch Cycling Map, which includes all the routes, ratings, and operators in the area.
Wellington Wine Route
Starting and finishing at the Val du Charron Wine and Leisure Estate in Wellington, the Wild Boar network of trails offers up six routes, ranging from single track to open gravel roads or a simple jaunt around a vineyard block. The routes – everything from the Pot Belly, a 3km kids route, to the 45km Wild Boar – have been built by seasoned trail builder Pieter van Wyk and cater to the beginners and the veteran MTB riders, with a flatter 42km route for those who want to steer clear of the more challenging single track sections. Once you’re done with the riding, there are two great restaurants to kick back at and re-fuel for the trip back home.
The Cross Cape Cycle Route
The Cross Cape Cycle Route, stretching from Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch, encompasses the best of Cape Town and the Western Cape’s natural splendour, passing through a network of tracks that includes the Garden Route, Klein Karoo, Cape Overberg and, of course, the Cape Winelands.
The route caters to all levels of cyclists and incorporates road, mountain trail, jeep and forest tracks, crossing over one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet and running through one of the richest, and most diverse, floral kingdoms in the world. There are plenty of stops along the route and you can explore at your own leisure as this is a self-catering ride. You map it out beforehand, book your accommodation and choose which sections you want to ride or skip. Just make sure you leave a couple of days spare so you can explore the Cape Winelands – Stellenbosch is your last stop on this epic journey and you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to explore all the farms along this iconic route.