Heading down to the spectacular Eden District during the summer? We chatted to long-time resident Robyn de Groot to get some insights into the most beautiful (and toughest) road and mountain-bike climbs in the region. These are her words:
9.9km with; 500m elevation; average gradient of 5.2% VAM 990m
This, twisty, tarred climb from the outskirts of George takes you from the coast towards Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo. It is a consistent (and longish) climb. I enjoy this climb as it is tarred, meaning traction is constant and one is able to find a good rhythm without any stops or starts. At approximately 7km there is a very short crest and dip that allows just a little respite if one wanted to use it for a short recovery, that would also be possible, but it is also possible to keep the wattage and tempo high enough to remain within whichever zone you are training. There is a wide shoulder, and I have always felt very safe even when traffic is heavy on that road. I avoid it in rainy and misty conditions as visibility can often become an issue, however, if you get the timing right, you can often climb up above the clouds and be rewarded with a beautiful view in the early hours of the morning.
4.6 km 410m elevation; average gradient 8.9% VAM 1017m
This climb is a classic, narrow, old gravel pass steeped in history (it was built over three years by convicts). I’ve lost count of how many times I must have climbed this pass, I always love the scenic views and twists and turns as it snakes its way from George towards a quaint little hamlet of Herold. Thought all my racing years, no matter my fitness level, it never got any easier and always remained challenging. The conditions are forever changing; with that, it is never the same, which adds to the enjoyment of exploring it.
5.56km; 412m elevation; ave gradient of 7.4% VAM 670m
This rugged climb from the trails of Saasveld up towards the Tierkop hut keeps you busy from start to finish giving you the feeling of a true mountain-bikers climb. The climb can be loose, rocky and rutted meaning it is super fun for mountain bikers wanting to get the real feel of rugged terrain. It starts with a short climb which then flattens and allows for some time to recover, and despite the break physically the trail/jeep track keeps you engaged and stimulated until the gradient kicks up again. I’ve always enjoyed the fauna and flora on this climb and despite some days being a race to the top with structured training – I also ensured to head up there on more chilled rides to appreciate the views and vistas. Absolutely stunning.
5.6km; ave gradient 3.2%; 190m ascent VAM 199m
A picturesque open, gravel drag from Wilderness that winds its way up to present magnificent views of the ocean and lakes of the Wilderness region. This is probably the shortest climb of my favourites. The drag is steady, allowing one to get into a good rhythm but – no matter the skill or fitness level – this is a wonderful climb because how strenuous it is, depends on the intensity level applied. Traction is also fairly good considering the gravel surface. With very little traffic to worry about it makes for a safe space to enjoy being outdoors. I’ve spotted many Knysna Louries (also known as Knysna Turaco) along the way over the years riding here.
5.13km; 6.9% ave gradient; 353m ascent VAM 625m
Although not so easy to access these days this was always one of my ultimate climbs – especially when preparing for bigger goal events where I wanted to achieve an elevation equal to the demands of the competitions I was preparing for. This climb is also taxing on the body and mind as it is ungroomed, and rugged at times. Accessible via overgrown trails in Saasveld, this climb always made it an adventure.