Our Top 7 Western Cape Holiday Rides For Gravel and MTB

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Bike, Where To Ride

The December Holidays are here and many will already have their adventure plans dialled! Exploring the local landscapes and towns is the thing to be doing right now as international travel has become rather complicated.

South Africa Western Cape Gravel Cycle
The Western Cape has a ride to offer for every palette. Rolling hills, big mountain, trail or gravel!

We have had the pleasure of checking out some rad destinations and riding routes in the Western Cape recently so here are a few options to consider if you’re looking for guidance in planning your potential explorations on the mountain or gravel road!

Gravel Rides in the Western Cape

Gravel riding seems to be all the craze at the moment and for good reason we think! Gravel riding is accessible, you can do it on just about any bike and the skill level or fitness required is minimal to get started. It also allows you to cover quite a lot of ground fairly efficiently but not so fast that you don’t get to take in the scenery (unless you’re prone to putting your head down and hammering every pedal stroke as hard as your can).

Our Top 7 Western Cape Holiday Rides For Gravel And Mtb
The age old gravel passes that traverse our enormous mountain ranges are best experienced from the saddle of a bicycle, we think!

The WILD AIR crew have enjoyed 2 stunning gravel rides recently that are mapped out on the free-to-use Cape Cycle Routes website. Here are some details of the routes below and links for you to get some more info! How you want to ride the routes is up to you! Self-supported or with a vehicle, long distances or shorter rides, completing the entire routes or just picking the bits you would like. Check them out and figure out what would best suit for your ambitions.

Cross Cape – Plettenberg Bay to Stellenbosch
742km / 10461 m

This is a big route but you need not ride the entire thing. Pick a segment that you would like to explore and go!

The main segments are the Garden Route area from Plett to George, the Klein Karoo region from George through to Riversdale, and then the Overberg segment from Riversdale through to Stellenbosch. Each has its own unique characteristics and appeal. Check out the videos below to get a feel for what is on offer along the Cross Cape Route!

Cross Cape Pt. 1
Cross Cape Pt. 2

Karoo Crossing – Knynsa to Calitzdorp
358km / 7212m

The name gives away the location of this one a bit, as will the other options! Connecting Knysna to Calitzdorp, crossing over and through the Swartberg mountain range, this is a magnificent route to experience from a landscape and road architecture point of view.

We tackled it in 3 days and that got pretty tough! Pick out a segment or take a few days to ride the whole thing, it is amazing. Route highlights include the monumental Swartberg Pass, the gentle winding Kammanasie road connecting De Rust and Uniondale, as well as the remote Prins Alfred’s pas taking you from Uniondale down to Knysna. Meeringspoort pass, just north of De Rust is absolutely gorgeous to see as well! We have a video below from that trip for you to watch for some context as well!

The Karoo Crossing

Overberg Meander – Elgin to Swellendam
364km / 2700m

The Overberg will treat you with picturesque farmlands as well as a more coastal riding experience which might not be the worst idea during hot summer days! See the towns of L’Agulhas and Struisbaai on the Southern most tip of Africa and enjoy a dip in the sea. Download the PDF map from the route page on the Cape Cycle Routes website and pick out the bits you’d like to explore!

Cederberg Circuit – Clanwilliam / Citrusdal
247km / 3538m

This is a visually stunning route but it is physically demanding! Just a couple hours out from Cape Town, pick a point on the circuit that suits you and jump in! Prepare for the heat out there, it can get hectic! The Cederberg Circuit features some big climbs and tough going gravel sections. You work for your views and descents here but if you’re up for the challenge it is well worth it to be out there amongst the enormous mountains. 

Our Top 7 Western Cape Holiday Rides For Gravel And Mtb
The soft lines of the Overberg’s hills and mountains are just soothing to ride through. This is definitely an area we would like to explore more!

Mountain Bike Rides in the Western Cape

MTO Trails Jonkershoek
R60 day license

The crown jewel of trail riding in South Africa. This is a must visit if you’re in the Cape. Whether you just cruise the ring road at the base of the valley or take on the big mountain trails that descend down its sides, Jonkershoek is a magical place to be. Take the Irish trail up to the the top of the trails (750m or so of elevation gain) or hop off at a contour road and head right to find a trail to hop onto. The gems here are Armageddon and Red Pheonix. Both are best left for skilled riders and taken easy on the first run down! If those don’t get your blood pumping enough, take on Iron Monkey or The Pumber for a real challenge!

Our Top 7 Western Cape Holiday Rides For Gravel And Mtb
It is hard to beat the Jonkershoek mountains for scale and quality of trail. If you’ve not experienced them, it has got to be on your bucket list!

Contermanskloof Trails
R60 day license

Here you can find a mix of technical trails as well as the more flowy ones. Part of the Tygerberg MTB Club which also has other must visit centres such as Hoogekraal and Bloemendal. Rob Starke is the trail builder at Conties and he knows what he is doing! Keep it tidy in the rocks to preserve your tires though, they can bite!

Our Top 7 Western Cape Holiday Rides For Gravel And Mtb
Riding Contermanskloof will have you giddy from railing the perfectly shaped corners!

Constantia Green Belt
Free access

Gentle gradient and smooth trails connect Constantia Nek with the Tokai forest. Accessible for a variety of skill and fitness levels! You can find plenty of coffee and lunch stops along the way just a bit off the trail making for a nice easy cruise option!

Tokai MTB Park, Missing Link Trail, Banhoek, Plasair De Merle, Boschendal, and many others in the Cape are also well worth checking out but these are some of our best picks! Just about all the trails centres are well marked and should be easy enough to navigate with a Strava map or similar!

Enjoy the time out exploring on your bike this holiday season! There is plenty of adventure waiting out there!