Trail Review – Meerendal, Durbanville, Western Cape

Let’s Get Sweaty

By Shaun Engelbrecht

Now summer is in full swing and it is time to get that sweat on. After a busy winter a bit of an ankle injury, I felt it was about time to hit it and elevate that heart rate.

Hey! Focus and get your mind out of the gutter. I am talking about hitting the trail, on a unicycle. To get you in the mood, I have put together this report of yet another one of the Tygerberg MTB routes, Meerendal.

This is a great trial for the beginners and seasoned riders alike. Offering a number of route options and difficulty levels, all of which I am yet to try. I usually find myself properly stuffed, so much so that I am in no state to explore further. Instead of taking you through all eventualities of what you could find, I will share with you insights into a morning out on my route in this beautiful part of the Cape.

Starting as always in the parking lot, I make my way on the main route past the trees and fields towards the vineyards where the single track, fun and perspiration begins. As with all the Tygerberg routes, route markers are everywhere and it is pretty difficult even for the likes of me to get lost. At the top of the Jeep track, with the wine seedlings on the right I slip off left on a short single track which I take to get me in the swing of things. Alternatively you can turn right and continue on the jeep track heading to a pump track where the short single track joins up to later. From here I turn left and ride along a rocky ridge halfway up the valley. Approaching in the distance are two switchbacks and a steep, rocky and loose decent. “Gently on the breaks”, is all I repeat over in my head until I reach the bottom. I made it, self-five! Now the route begins to climb and just as I am out of breath it plateaus just enough, and then all hell breaks loose.

There is a sign marked Stairway to Heaven, what the sign fails to explain is that to get to heaven, one must first scale a climb from hell. This hill comprises for an unfathomable number of switchbacks ascending the hill side, and instead of a natural or manicured single track, some sadist decided to create a pathway made of submerged cinder-blocks. The sound of heavy breathing and tyres shredding can be heard for miles, until you reach the pearly gates, which in this case is actually a wooden bench where you can get your breath back. I know what you may be thinking this guy is dramatic. Well you know what, this is exactly how it feels at the time, but the odd occasion I have managed to reach the peak with no UPD’s and dismounts, the reward is equally euphoric and dramatic.


Air once again filling my lungs and I have some feeling returning to my legs, I continue forward to yet another hill to climb. However this time this hill is somewhat insurmountable by wheel (one wheel that is). This is where I practice the art of hiking, a skill I have honed and refined on said hill. This beast is a jeep track that comprises of steep climbs and large rocks making life impossible on the wheel. Don’t let this deter you, because once I reach the top I am rewarded by another conveniently placed bench and some sweet views of Durbanville, Blouberg and Table Mountain. This is also the part of the trail where the actual fun begins and gravity for a change is on your side. The single track begins to descend and winds its way down the very hill I was hiking and crying up earlier. The tears shed now while descending are tears of joy. Some sections have recently been graded and flattened though after the winter rains, which made them a bit boring, but I am sure this will be rectified once more wheels pass through. Reaching the bottom I am greeted by applause of gawking cyclists for my feat, as this section comes out at the bench where the stairway to heaven ends.

From here things get a bit easier as I hit a section named after a legend in the cycling fraternity, Burry Stander.  A few climbing switchbacks takes you to the beginning  of a fast and flowing sections where you can get some pace or alternatively take it slow and take in the views. At the bottom I am greeted by more vineyards and them cutting off into a winding forested section for a bit of last minute fun before ending at the parking lot.

Like mentioned there are other variants to be taken and easier routes on hand to help build up your skills and confidence. In summer now, I do recommend lots of water, sun block, a snack or two and try to get out and about earlier rather than later. The heat can be a bit much later on, and there is not all that much shelter from the African sun. So I look forward to seeing you there soon, showing up a cyclist or two.

“different, not less”

We all know that Unicycling is a challenge when you embark upon learning this balance skill.  Mastering it takes perseverance and dedication of the mind and body… but mostly the mind. During my life I have never experienced as much joy and reward from something as Unicycling has given me. Actually I can think of one other, Juggling has given me the same pleasure.

Most riders who have been bitten by the Unicycling bug try do at least one long distance road race. It’s one of those ‘I have to do things’. I recommend the experience to all Unicyclists regardless of the discipline you pursue.

This year saw 4 Unicyclists participate in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Joburg. As a community we ‘OddWheelers’ support a charity, not for the sake of supporting a charity because that’s the cycling ethical thing to do. We do it because this ‘charity’ is part of our community. We are literally friends with Shaun, Leigh and Nic Murphy. They are our family and family stick together.

So without further suspension I leave you to read the accounts of these 4 Unicyclists and their experience of the race… but first we need an introduction from our charity.

Over to you Mr Murphy…

Shaun Murphy 947

Almost thirty years ago five middle aged Californians sang with wanderlust about Aruba and Jamaica. In fact Bermuda, Bahama as well as a pretty mama were made mention of in a classic tune that promised a sunlit journey to a beach paradise filled with sun kissed bodies and tropical beverages. It was the late eighties, Tom Cruise was slinging cocktails and the thought of living near the ocean was nothing but a daydream for a freckled faced Jozi boy donning a brush cut.

Thirty years on, “Kokomo” pours through our speakers while we blast down the N3 exploring the new province we call home. Sure, it may not be Key Largo but the sun is shining and the warm Indian Ocean invites all with open arms. A new adventure awaits team Murphy in Durban and so too our plucky autism NPO auSOMEtism. However, before the salted rim of a margarita glass kissed our lips our mantra of ”different, not less” needed to echo through the streets of Johannesburg once more…

The 2015 edition of the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge was a special one. Apart from being our main fundraising and awareness campaign for the calendar year, it was also our fifth consecutive race promising a fantastic turnout. We were not disappointed…our initial team of three had swollen to 88 riders. In our bid to show that doing something differently can still award the same results, we had four members of the unicycle community join team auSOMEtism, a tridem (three seater bicycle), a tandem, and a couple of tall bikes joining the party. Let’s not forget Johnny Two Loops that upped the different factor by riding the challenge twice. What a party it was!

A persistent knee injury kept me off the unicycle this year, but drawing inspiration from another madman and his mighty Cogzilla I attempted the race on a tall bike which I lovingly dubbed the Bigbird.  The tall bike came with her own set of challenges. Bigbird is a far cry from the aerodynamic carbon steeds that you might find cycling Le Tour. No sir, she is more likened to riding a large pocket of potatoes who enjoys popping wheelies on any sort of incline (which there are no shortage of in the mean streets of Johannesburg). That being said, she was a surprising pleasure to ride. I was treated to the most spectacular views, fantastic camaraderie from fellow cyclists and the wonderful ability to freewheel, which is a luxury not enjoyed by the unicycle crew.

Johannesburg offered up hot and windy conditions making cycling tough for all the competitors. We all needed to dig a little deeper, to look for something extra, to grin and bear it. I couldn’t help but think of the kiddos and adults on the autism spectrum who are asked to fit into our society’s norms. Different abilities, lack of verbal communication and sensory overloads are majority of the time expected to be swept under the rug to appease the masses. Here at auSOMEtism we don’t like to sweep things under the rug.  We tackle challenges head on and let our different abilities shine through it all. If I can take one thing from riding Bigbird in the cycle challenge it was the overwhelming positivity I experienced from my fellow riders. Imagine a world where all our differences where given the same positive attention.

The Bigbird and I achieved our goal of completing the cycle challenge and hopefully more than that we helped show in some small way that not everything needs to fit into little boxes, it’s OK to colour outside the lines, that being different doesn’t make you any less.

Almost thirty years ago five middle aged Californians sang about getting there fast and taking it slow…we are happy to just enjoy the ride.

…then Gray touched us with this…

Gray Bratveedt - The Special Cycles Shot

My good friend Alister Buhler pestered me for over a year to get into unicycling, eventually giving me a 24” muni on condition that I learned how to ride it. And so it was that on the 1st of January 2014 that I committed myself to learning the art. After 2 months I remember riding my first 100m and my thighs going into such lactic spasm that I couldn’t imagine anyone taking on 10km, let alone the likes of the Argus (can we still say that?) or the 94.7.

A couple of months back a friend was selling his 36er and I took pity and gave it a nice home. When Al heard this he dared me to ride the 94.7, and I rose to the bait. The voices in my head are still arguing which one was responsible for that decision!

They say that time waits for no man, and 15 November rushed up on me, so with a total of 275km ridden on the 36er, 200 of which were in the last month, and still not able to free mount properly I set forth to conquer the infamous 94.7.
Seasoned veterans David Eave and Wayne Lotter met me at the starting line before sunrise. Zakk also rode but left in a later bunch.

I was no match for the other two as they quickly disappeared up the road – and up it was. I didn’t realise Joburg is quite so hilly. I settled down into a steady rhythm of 4 min/km while pacing and bracing myself for 6 and a half hours in the saddle.

I had a bit of a wobbly between 25 and 30km when I just couldn’t get comfortable on the saddle but we soon got off the freeway and into the suburbs and the crowds were amazing. The cheers and chirps buoyed the spirits and I rode on.

At 60km I was still on for a decent sub 7 … then the wind hit me. Oh boy, did I suffer?! My inexperience on a single wheel got shown up big time. The hot, gusting, blustering, swirling wind meant that most of my energy went into staying upright rather than going forward. With about 30km to go the course emerges from the suburbs and heads out into the open grasslands where there is no hiding from the wrath of the wind. For 20km we rode into the teeth of the wind, then we turned at right angles and it became a crosswind. Well someone up front must have said something to piss the wind off because by the time I was there it was no longer just cross, it was bloody furious!

My skill levels were just not enough to keep the big 36er straight on the narrow road and I was becoming a hazard to other cyclists so I had to walk for quite some distance. It was a soul destroying, lonely walk on the dusty side of the road. I was exposed like a raw nerve. No shelter, no companion, no support and no alternative but to carry on walking!

And then I remembered why I was doing this … for auSOMEtism. I got to do some serious thinking and I was reminded that autistic people face overwhelming challenges every day and my little puddle of self-pity evaporated into insignificance.

With renewed determination I mounted at the next handy signpost and battled on in the cross wind on the gravel roadside until the route aligned itself with the wind again and I was able to safely navigate the tar once more. I finally rolled  over the finish line a couple of seconds under 8 hours, broken and humbled but with an incredible sense of achievement and gratitude for the amazing generosity and support from so many people.

…David seriously re-evaluated why he rides a unicycle after this race. You’ll be happy to know that he has just invested in a KH36 2015 model because he is a UNICYCLIST…

David Eave 947

Something went horribly wrong.

All started well, at Northcliff Cycles on Beyers Naude at least.  As I was inflating the tyre to pressure with their pump I received a call from Vince Gibbons Productions.  “You are on SABC2 right now!”  Northcliff Cycles changed channels and there I was unicycling all over their wall.  A unicycle with a backdrop of many bicycles.

So, customers and staff took a break and we all watched a unicycle segment on SABC TV.  I was pleased that AuSOMEtism got several minutes of exposure on the day before the #947cc_2015.  After the segment I naturally promoted unicycling (no stock in the shop), explaining the challenges and the joys, however, I failed to win any converts even with an offer of a free unicycling clinic.  Armed with the fresh images of myself on TV I prepared myself for fame and glory.  As a limited number of people (none) asked for a “selfie opportunity” I realised that the public are naturally shy and did not want to compromise my final pre-race preparation.  I am sure that you all realise how emotionally draining all this media exposure is.  Can ruin a perfectly prepared training programme.

Race-day was an early 03h00 rise with breakfast and dressing done by 03h40.  Packed the uni in the car after another check that all the bits are packed.  How many times do you have to make sure that your helmet and race timing chip are packed?  As with last year a TV crew was to make a documentary and would meet me at Riversands at 04h50 at circle 4.

Departed on time at just before 04h00.  Malibongwe is bust all the time so finding Riversands should not present a problem.  As with the Argus just follow the car with the bicycles that is in front of you.  No cars with bicycles could I spot.  Plan B:  Drive down Malibongwe (long way), right into Witkoppen (busy intersection – you cannot miss the turn) and then left into William Nicol and then find the yellow parking area.  All in the dark with no GPS! Relief finally spotted a GP number plate with a bicycle on Witkoppen, only for the car to drive through a red light.  Not me, even at 04h15 in the morning.  Made the start, gave an interview and finally met up with Gray and Wayne.

Good start and climb up Summit into a headwind.  Excellent pace past Kyalami onto Woodmead and finally off the M1 South with the challenging Joe Slovo climb.

Then something went horribly wrong. On the raised road section of Joe Slovo I hit a major pothole (the road surface virtually the entire route is shocking!) and used reflex effort to avoid an unplanned dismount, just to lose the use of my right quadricep.  Walked out the pain and mounted again, however, had to nurse the leg the rest of the way.

Remained focussed up the long Homestead climb and managed both Witkoppen and Malibongwe climbs into a fresh hot headwind.  The Malibongwe climb experience parallels Blue Down on Argus day with many children wanting chocolates.

The turn onto the R114 (past the Lion Park) at the top of the Malibongwe climb demanded my last reserves.  This is a 3km gauntlet of poor surface, spoilt veld with fire, litter, poverty and a strong crosswind.  I managed to stay mounted all the way to Cedar as I realised that a re-mount may not be possible with the crosswind and bicycle volume.

The Cedar climb was the last test, however, I was unable to unicycle up Riversands Boulevard to the finish.  I sat on the pavement in brutal heat and wind unable to complete the last 2km.  Finally a cyclist insisted that I walk with him to the final circle.

The last 1.7km I managed in 24 minutes 30 seconds.

The finish line provided no respite from the heat and wind.  Dust was the beverage of the day and shade non-existent.  The AuSOMEtism courtesy tent provided the only relief.  Shaun – thanks for the life saver you organised and thanks to Cell C for recognising us.

947cc_2016 – I will rethink the need to accept the challenge of the Nelson Mandela bridge approach and the “Malibongwe Zone”.

…from Wayne our little Iron-Man…

Wayne Lotter 947

We started early together with the hand cycles. I was a bit worried about the weather as the previous few days were scorchers with Gauteng being hit by a major heatwave! The Unicycles united at the startline and David Eave shared some wisdom about the Tim Noakes diet. The usual startline chatter about preparation training and muti you were going to use for the day made sure the time flew by. Next moment the gun went off and it was GO TIME!!

It was a lonely ride from the start as the Uni’s split up, each with their own game plan. My plan… just to finish the race without having to use my face as a brake. The first half of the race went better than expected and one water table after the other passed by. One of the scariest moments in the race came as the leading women peleton came swooshing past me at a pace equal to that of a super space rocket! I managed to keep my bib streak free, but it was a close call.

The second half of the race came with a combination of three challenges! These being hills, wind and road camber! A combination of 4 challenges, these being hills, heat, wind and road camber. I made peace with the hills beforehand and decided no to waste too much energy on trying to ride all of them. Walking gave the legs a much-needed rest. Hydration was a key point in surviving the heat! The wind and road camber on narrow roads made for more walking than was expected. My body hasn’t been in such a funny position in a long time as I tried to stay on top of the wheel. In many cases it was a futile fight against the conditions and that forced me to walk.

This years race saw surprisingly few WYOW (where’s the other wheel?) chirps or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it and not registered all of them.

From the 72km mark it was a mental fight. Pushing upwards and onwards, hill after hill after Steyn City hill! The finish line couldn’t have come sooner! I crossed the line and once again survived another 94.7 on 1 Wheel! I collected my medal and was immediately asked for an interview… Out of breath, tired and exhausted.

The highlite of the race was the auSOMEtism tent welcoming us with smiles and a cold one! It’s soooo gratifying to see the charity growing from strength to strength each year! Knowing that you make a difference by doing something as simple as riding 1 wheel for 94.7km.

…from Zakk, doesn’t he look happy…

Zakk Coetzee 947

Just over a year of unicycle experience in total, on a 24” Starter, and an amazing opportunity arises – a used 36” Nimbus Nightrider is for sale (and at a price I could afford). So a month before the 94.7 Momentum Cycle Challenge, I got onto a 36” wheel for the first time, with my first try being successful. I loved it, and decided this big wheel is going home with me.

At this point I was informed that I may ride the 94.7, since there is an entry for the unicycle that I now own. At first it was an impossible challenge – I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish, but decided to still ride since it is for a good cause (auSOMEtism). I decided I’m going to try, and so the training began. I spoke to Alister Buhler who has done the challenge on a unicycle, and he gave me great tips.

Subconsciously the idea of finishing the cycle challenge grew day by day, and by race day I only had one mindset: If I can have my body sustain for 7-9 hours, there is no reason not to finish.

I trained for three weeks, and my last ride before the 94.7 was my first with another unicyclist. Wayne Lötter and I did 40km (my furthest trip yet), followed by a week of rest.

It’s race day! My first 94.7 Cycle Challenge. On my way to the early start (5:35 AM) my left crank feels loose and I try to find mechanics, only to find out they haven’t arrived yet. In a parking lot I find someone with a 14mm socket in thier car that I can quickly use. Now I’m ready and I rush back, only starting at 5:49 AM, which is not with my group but it is still as early as possible. The first part is lonely out on the road – every few minutes a new group that still feels fresh passes. Only 1km from the first water point my crank is loose again! Not what I need today, but luckily there’s a mechanic and I jump into his toolbox, tighten my crank to death, and the race goes on.

Riding is now much better since there are people alongside the road and on bridges, and the support is amazing (and I liked the idea of taking a huge tour on a unicycle through Johannesburg). Sloped road’s and heavy winds forced me to keep balance at an angle that is quite tough riding.

Mandela’s Bridge arrives and at 44km my crank is loose again. No mechanic at the water point, no tools. I scramble around, even asking City Water for tools, end up wasting about an hour and I decide there is no solution. They’ve called mechanics many times, yet no sweep vehicles. I thought it might be the end of my race.

I decide to continue, actually with no hope, and then I see an elderly couple in the opposite lane on Jan Smuts. I ask if they live nearby (luckily they did), and I end up meeting their gardener, who brought me a 14mm socket, on the next corner to tighten my crank to my absolute max. My fate has changed and I am back in the race. The long downhills are challenging – I have to hold at 14-18km/h while everyone else is freeing past me with great speed.

Long downhills, followed by uphills of the same length, was not appealing and this is where I needed motivation. Passing a few bicycles on uphills got me motivated, along with all the spectators cheering as I pass and encouraging me. Only 25km left, I feel close but my body doesn’t. I keep on telling myself I have done most of this, what’s left is not that far, but it was definitely the longest 25km I’ve experienced. With lots of walking towards the end I finally finish a few minutes before 2 pm, absolutely unreal!

Unicycle setup’s:
David Eave:  KH36, KH T-Bar, KH Moment 125mm cranks, Magura Hydraulic Rim Brake
Wayne Lotter:  QX-Series 36, KH T-Bar, Disc Brake
Gray’s Bratveedt:  QX-Series 36, KH Moment 125mm cranks, Disc Brake.
Zakk Coetzee: Nimbus Nightrider 36, Touring Bar, Magura Hydraulic Rim Brake
Shaun Murphy: Birdbird – custom built tall bike by Whippet Cycling.

Finish Times
David Eave:  06:16:13
Wayne Lotter:  06:49:44
Gray Bratveedt:  07:59:34
Zakk Coetzee:  Just over 8hrs. Due to bad technology, Zakk’s racechip did not record his time.
Shaun Murphy:  Unknown

Jono’s Downhill Descent of Kilimanjaro

By Jonathan Benjamin

Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t a physically demanding mountain but still isn’t an ‘easy’ mountain to conquer. Even though it isn’t too high, altitude still plays a major role in peoples’ success. People under estimate it’s height (and travel companies “rush” one up and down so that they can get more business in).

Mount Kilimanjaro

Even before arriving in Tanzania one thing I noticed about TANAPA (Tanzanian National Park) is that they don’t like doing anything out of the ordinary (or adapting their services too much). I came to realise this after spending month’s upon month’s trying to secure a permit to ride down the mountain on a unicycle. Eventually (cutting it really fine with regards to our climbing dates), I received an email confirming everything. That was such a relief! Even convincing them to allow me to ride down the Marangu Route after ascending the Umbwe was a big ask as this is not normally done.

Throughout this entire trip and the build up to it, there were many daunting challenges that had to be faced. Summiting and descending the mounting was one thing, but the planning and the preparing turned out to be in many ways harder.

Thinking weight was going to be my only issue with packing and transporting the unicycle to the top (which was an issue) another one hit me. Space. I could barely get anything to fit into my bag let alone the unicycle. When Kevin Gaynor from Quiver found out about this problem that I was having, he surprised me by making a hardy attractive custom made bag! This was in addition to a generous sponsorship of clothing for both Ben and I. We found his clothing comfortable, hard wearing, light and attractive. His entire range of outdoor clothing is definitely worth looking at and considering when needing anything for the outdoors.

Quiver's Unicycle Bag

On the hike one’s weight is also limited. If going on a ‘normal’ hike up and down the mountain 15kg should be more than enough, but when adding a unicycle, spares, repairs and cycling equipment, one is only left with about 5 kg of weight. This 5kg was for all my clothes, extra food (power bar) and sleeping bag (although it only weighs 1.5kg )! The sleeping bags were sponsored by K-Way and these ensured that no matter how low the temp (at times it went down to -15C ) we were warm and comfortable. Similarly we enjoyed the comfort and practicality of the K-Way raincoats and day backpacks. So one has to pack extremely lightly and cut down on weight with food, stocking up only on power bars and their shakes as they are high in protein and energy,  yet are very small and light.

And suddenly the preparation came to an end and we were on our way…  bags packed, wheel pumped up, we were off and climbing. For the next five days the words ‘pole pole’ (slow slow) were the most commonly occurring words coming from our guides as we scaled the slopes of the mountain. The entire time one was supposed to be saving energy for the next day and so on,  so that we could get to the top. In addition, we have to conserve energy for the descent.

Getting to the top was a relief. There were a few points where I started to doubt myself. However I was lucky to summit with plenty of energy left, and it was time to show Julius and Babu (our two guides) what this ‘thing’ is and how it works!! But first we posed proudly at the summit with our guides and porter displaying the banner with the names of our sponsors depicted thereon, printed by Wizards. And with the Unicycle!!

Kili 2 by 1 Summit

Jumping on the unicycle, the ride started, but I was stopped after only a few short meters as it posed a threat to the other climbers. And so the unicycle had to be ported down the very upper slopes until we got to the the scree slope.

Alighting again, I continued riding, but those few hundred meters of riding were probably the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Wanting to get down faster, we pushed on. The further we descended, the easier everything became: breathing, thinking, balancing and therefore riding.

Getting down to Hurombo huts was a huge relief. All were needing a break, both physically and mentally. This was greatly needed as the following day began with an uphill battle. I mean this literally and figuratively! Even though we ascended to ‘only’ about 4000m we were still oxygen deprived and unicycling uphill for that short distance was not easy. A few painful falls accompanied me on the downhill!! If it weren’t for the brilliant quality shin pads generously supplied by OddWheel Unicycles, I imagine part of my shins would still be on the mountain!!

Jonathan Descending

Orms (the one stop camera shop) loaned us a GoPro and lens which was used with my dad’s camera. Both Ben and I captured footage during the ascent and he skillfully captured a good sample of the unicycle descent.

There were multiple special moments, and therefore we are left with special memories. It is impossible to put these moments or memories into words. Most were simply experiences, sights, emotions… but the two that stand out for me are the feeling of accomplishment at having summit-ed; and the beauty of the the sunrise on the morning of our summit. That  will stay with me forever!

Kill Summit Sunrise

Trail Review – Bottelary Hills, Kuils River, Western Cape

Let’s Get Wet

By Shaun Engelbrecht

So I think it is about time for the second edition of my trail reports. I have been riding mostly in the Tygerberg area with one disappointing ride at Jonkershoek due to all of the single track sections being closed still.

My idea was to give some insights into another of the Tygerberg routes (Meerendal), as I have become rather accustomed to what is has to offer. However Donna (further to be referred to as Uni Mom) and I missioned to Bottelary Hills one recently rainy and wet Friday. Let it not be said that unicyclists are scared of a bit of bad weather, or so we thought…

Bottelary Hills

Let me start with the actual trails and what you can expect to find if you decide to give one of the numerous routes in the area a try. There are about 5 main routes which all seem to interlink giving you almost endless option to explore, and to get lost, but more on the getting lost later.

For those still getting acquainted with the wonderful world of Muni and UPD’s (unplanned dismounts), these trails are a brilliant place to start. Why, you ask? Well, although extensive, the routes are mostly based on the Jeep tracks that cut through the vineyards covering the hills. This means climbs are, for the most part, steady and not very technical and greater distances can be covered in a shorter period of time due to the less technical nature of the tracks. There were a few sections of single track with a rocky section here or there, but nothing that would give you much trouble, unless like us you chose to ride on a day that even sent the duck running for cover.

This is ultimately the reason why this write up, not nearly as detailed with regards to the description of the route, when comparing it to my previous report. The weather was so bad, we were unable to see 10m in front of our noses, let alone the route we were riding.

And this Muni friends, is where the actual story of our mini adventure begins…

So there we were, Uni Mom and I had a rough idea of where we needed to go. There are a number of places you can start your ride, and a number of places to buy your permit, but after driving between farms and security villages, we finally found where to buy permits and where to park at Zevenwacht.

We began our climb to the top of a hill, with the wind at our backs. I would imagine you could get the same effect by offering children sweets if they gave you a push. Luckily we had the wind because I don’t like sharing my sweets and trail snacks. The fun did not last when the route starts cutting back and forth between the vines. Once at the top, we were being attacked from all sides, by the wind, which had now covered the hilltop in mist. It was like riding in an extremely angry cloud. This also limited visibility to about 10m. I must say there is something magical when shadowy trees and landscape begins to appear through the fog as you approach.

Once we found some of the single track, we began to descend from the cloud / mist where the rain now became our biggest problem. As I mentioned previously, the trails are not overly challenging, BUT with the gusting wind and relentless rain I would not have liked to have been on a more demanding trail.

A common saying goes “what goes up must come down”, and one thing I have learnt is the opposite is also true when out on a ride. Once we made our way to the bottom on the switch backed single track, we found ourselves climbing once more through vineyards. By now we had been riding for what felt like hours, we were drenched and cold, my shoes we carrying more water than my hydration pack, but we thought it best to keep warm and continued riding. The mood up to this point had been good, laughing while being blow sideways, as well as when I decided to wring out my sponge socks.

Shaun in the Wind

I am sure Donna, sorry I mean Uni Mom, will agree with me that there was a bit of worry once we reached the top of another long climb which we mostly walked due to fatigue, and on reaching the top was directed by the signage that the green route we were on goes both to the left and right! With the thick fog and heavy rain, we had no sense of direction. I said right, Uni Mom said left, but who knew? A signboard did not offer any reassurance, as it was impossible to decipher where we were in relation to the start / finish spot and whether we should go left or right. There was no civilisation in sight; we had not seen any other riders the entire day. It could be argued for a change that the cyclists (the guys with the training wheels) were doing the right thing by staying on their indoor trainers.

So, short of drawing straws or playing a quick round of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock (Google it), we had to trust some technology. Out came the smart phones! Uni Mom’s iPhone was pap, so this was the moment for my CAT brick to shine, full battery, waterproof, drop proof and idiot proof. All the boxes ticked to get us out of here, but no wet finger touch screen functionality. The only thing we had to dry the screen was a bandage from the first aid bag, everything else we had was stupidly drenched. Google maps, satellite view, compass orientation, landmarks found! Expert map reader is something I have recently added to my CV.

We have a way out, and by the way it was right, yes the way I suggested. See children, mom is not always right. With a new found energy we missioned down the trail, back on some of the single track we had followed earlier that day. Things began to look familiar, and the prospect of dry clothes and a hot beverage helped us to press on. We made our way down the misty hill and to the parking lot, threw the uni’s in the car and headed straight to the restaurant where there was a warm fire and a rest room to change and dry off.

This was one of those occasions when at the time, I had thoughts of “Why the hell do I do this to myself?”, but once some time has passed you say, “Well I think I would like to do that again sometime”. Like mentioned previously, the trails are not all that technical, but throw in low temperatures, gusting winds and some horizontal rain and you have one hell of a Muni ride in store on any route. So come people (well those in the Cape at least), the rain is here, time to get out there and get wet.

For more information on what Bottelary Hills MTB has to offer, check out their website for all the info:

Trail Review – Contermanskloof, Durbanville, Western Cape

Let’s Get Dirty

By Shaun Engelbrecht

Trail Review Contermanskloof 3

We seem to have hit a bit of a dry spell in the uni community of late. Daily life has been taking its toll and it seems we have almost forgotten how to have fun (on one wheel). Then to add insult to injury, the Cape is swept by fires, not only destroying flora, fauna and a couple of houses, but laying waste to two awesome trail parks.

In a bid to get the energy levels back up and relive some excitement in “odd wheel”ing it, I thought I would share some of my more recent rides. This I am doing to provide some muni options to Cape based uni nuts, and hopefully a bit of inspiration for the northerner’s to dust off a wheel and hit the dirt, if not only to get their uni’s dusty again on a trail.

For this the first instalment, I will begin with Contermanskloof. This is one of a few trails that is managed by the Tygerberg MTB Club. So far this is my favourite of Tygerberg trails (I still need to scout one or two more). The route starts off easy enough, taking you through some farm houses and buildings along Blue Gum shaded jeep track and up a short stint alongside a vineyard.

Then begins the pain! The single track starts, winding it’s way up a hill, switch back after switch back on loose gravel. “I am in no way fit enough for this”, is all I’m thinking. So learn from my mistakes and walk the jeep track that cuts through the centre on the zig zagging single track. It’s steep, but will get you to the top quicker and less out of breath so you can enjoy the gravity assisted decent.

Okay you are near the top, or so you think. There is one last little climb along the perimeter fence, placed there to remind you that you need to earn you decent.

Once you have gotten your breath back the route splits off. Left is the black route (expert as per the signs), and left is the blue ride (intermediate). Now you need to remember, these signs and varying degrees of difficultly are judged by those less skilled and fortunate than us, they need a training wheel to stay upright. So my point is take the blue route, only because the black route has more nasty climbing and a short, ultra rocky decent which was not much fun on my 29er. Unless of course you are Kris Holm, then do the black route.

So back to the blue route! Here you will cut your way back down from whence you came. A switchback here and there, a few interesting rocky sections and then the face morphing smile if you clear it all. Once again, more climbs, but what goes up must come down. Here you climb in the shade of a few Blue Gums and then get attacked by dry fynbos. There is a lovely little tree at the top that holds me up, covers me in shade and acts as a picnic spot to grab a snack. Once again we go down. This, the last of the downhill single track sections proves to be a bit more fast and flowy with some interesting and tight switchbacks. You will need to carry a bit of speed on the downhill sections. Too much brakes and you will be on your butt when the tyre can no longer grip. Not that I have ever done that…

Once you get to the bottom and re-adjusted your face (it’s disfigured from smiling, or falling, either way), you are again given a choice. Left oooorrrrrrr right. Take the right split and you are home free, getting a cuppa or a beer at the coffee shop or take a look at the training wheel assisted uni’s at the bike shop. But we are all a bit sick with a few screws loose, so we go left. Now you ride single track though unploughed fields on terrain that I can only describe as baby heads. Yes, baby heads. Small bumpy sections, compacted together creating a, let’s say interesting endeavour on a uni. Under a tunnel and around a dam on not the most interesting single track, but the surrounds are easy on the eye, the end is in sight, or so you think. Now somebody thought it is a good idea to ride through the vineyards. These are however on a slope, creating an almost step effect as you ascend. Once you have recovered you will realise you are now at the end. You have now earned that beer, and if you are not yet old enough, a coke will have to do.

If you want to know distances and strava times and segments, well sorry I am the wrong guy for that. All I can say is it is a worthwhile ride, with a few options to chop and change routes, difficulty and distances. I don’t know about winter riding there (yet), but just be careful of the heat and wind now. Unlike our beloved forests, this trial is very exposed with little to no protection from the sun and wind. I have been blown off my line on occasion.

Trail Review Contermanskloof 1

For some more info on the routes and a map of the layout, tariff, opening hours, etc, check out the link below. I hope to see you out on the trial and keeping it wheel!