6. Gar­den Route Trail Park

This Knysna trail will quench your need for speed. Lapierre am­bas­sador Neill Un­gerer guides Bi­cy­cling through the lush and mes­meris­ing trail labyrinth of the Gar­den Route Trail Park.

Bicycling WOW Rides - - Contents -

The Gar­den Route Trail Park near Sedge­field in the Knysna Dis­trict is ar­guably more fa­mous in North Amer­ica than it is here in South Africa. No, se­ri­ously. Ever heard of the guys from

Pure Dark­ness? And what about the Loop of Doom? Well, the crew spent three months build­ing it, rid­ing it and shoot­ing it here in SA. And it’s a truly fright­en­ing thing to be­hold – not to men­tion the largest of its kind in the world. Stand­ing 12 me­tres tall, it dwarfs ev­ery­thing around it, and looks like some­thing out of the devil’s own play­ground.

But that’s just the Loop – those crazy enough to even at­tempt mak­ing a full revo­lu­tion have to ride down a ramp that rises nearly 25 me­tres into the sky. Def­i­nitely crazy. But so is Cana­dian MTB free rider Matt Macduff, who sus­tained hor­rific in­juries af­ter a failed at­tempt that landed him in hos­pi­tal with 13 frac­tures and in­ter­nal bleed­ing…

We’ll leave it to the pros. Yep, none of us plan on rid­ing it any time soon – at least, not to­day (or ever, come to think of it) – but Neill seems to have other thoughts. He ap­pears to have been se­duced by the eeri­ness and macabre aura ex­uded by the struc­ture. Snap out of it, Neill! We’re here to en­joy the Gar­den Route

Trail Park, not the lo­cal med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

Be­cause the Trail Park has a lot more to

it than the Loop of Doom, and has built a rep­u­ta­tion over the past few years for its world-class trails and unique set­ting. No won­der then that it at­tracts in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors in their droves. While the trails here are more on the chal­leng­ing side of the spec­trum, ev­ery­thing is still ride­able – even for the novice rider. And reg­u­lar vis­its here will do noth­ing but up-skill both first-time and ac­com­plished riders.

As a lo­cal, Neill Un­gerer cut his teeth rid­ing here, and spent many hours hon­ing his skills and help­ing with trail main­te­nance. In fact, apart from trail builder and farm owner Rob Dormehl, we don’t think there’s any­body bet­ter to guide us through the labyrinth of trails.

It’s a truly mag­i­cal place, soaked in beauty and mys­tique. For those liv­ing in Sedge­field and the sur­round­ing ar­eas, it would be con­sid­ered sac­ri­lege to get here on any­thing but a bi­cy­cle – af­ter all, it’s only a 17km ride, maybe a lit­tle more if you stitch in var­i­ous sec­tions of the in­fa­mous 7 Passes route.

The trail net­work is con­stantly grow­ing, and im­prove­ments are car­ried out to the ex­ist­ing net­work all the time. What started as three ba­sic routes has since grown into seven dis­tinct trails that can be cob­bled to­gether for a longer and more ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride. If you ride ev­ery­thing here, you’ll ac­cu­mu­late around 35km with 700m of ver­ti­cal as­cent, which isn’t bad by any stan­dards.

Moun­tain Ma­nia, Jun­gle Fever, Crazy Creek and For­est Frenzy are four of the pop­u­lar routes, while Lu­nacy Lane’s jump line will sate even the most ar­dent of grav­ity riders. One thing’s for sure – the di­ver­sity of rid­ing and trails on of­fer will un­doubt­edly make you a bet­ter and more com­plete rider. From pump tracks, jump lines and drop-offs to pris­tine berms and

The Gar­den Route Trail Park was one of the first places I used to ride. We even raced one of the lo­cal XCO races here a few years ago. It has a very spe­cial place in my heart. – NEILL UN­GERER

root-fes­tooned for­est tracks, the Park cov­ers pretty much all types of ter­rain.

What you ride is up to you, but a full work­out is guar­an­teed – of both the

men­tal and the phys­i­cal kind. But it’s not so much the awe­some trails as it is the beau­ti­ful vis­tas and awk­ward an­i­mal en­coun­ters that will keep you smil­ing un­con­trol­lably… Did I say an­i­mals? Yep, but don’t ex­pect the Big Five. In­stead, you’re more likely to have a show­down with the Trail Café’s Great Dane. Or maybe even a bovine or simian – the Manic Mon­keys and Mad Cows trails were named for a rea­son… Parts of the trail net­work have also fea­tured ex­ten­sively in lo­cal one-day and stage races, such as the Gar­den Route Trail Se­ries and the GR200/300.

Those look­ing to light up the trails in pur­suit of KOM glory will be happy to know all the routes are clearly marked, down to Strava seg­ments – no guess­work here. But cau­tion is ad­vised, ow­ing to the pop­u­lar­ity of the park – trail traf­fic is a cer­tainty. And re­mem­ber: the faster and harder you ride, the more tech­ni­cal the trails be­come.

The sec­tions through the For­est Frenzy

Rid­ing through the indige­nous forests of the Outeni­qua re­gion is a priv­i­lege that should never be taken for granted. The trails are ut­terly bril­liant...

– AARON BOR­RILL, BI­CY­CLING ON­LINE ED­I­TOR

are prob­a­bly the most treach­er­ous in terms of ob­sta­cles. It’s here that the sen­sa­tion of speed is at its most po­tent, and the pos­si­bil­ity of col­lid­ing with er­rant branches, roots and slip­pery de­bris could very well land you in that med­i­cal fa­cil­ity we touched on ear­lier. Most of the time how­ever, grip and hero dirt are in abun­dance.

The GRTP is a bucket-list rid­ing des­ti­na­tion, bar none. And lo­cated as it is slap-bang be­tween Ge­orge and Knysna, it’s ideally placed for hol­i­day rid­ing; so plan­ning a fam­ily va­ca­tion around your train­ing sched­ule is a rel­a­tively sim­ple ex­er­cise.

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