Bicycling (South Africa)
BEYOND THE WESTERN CAPE
The Cape Cycle Routes (capecycleroutes.co.za) programme has propelled the Western Cape to the forefront of bike touring, with five modular routes from which to build the tour of your dreams. But there’s more than enough riding in the other eight provinces too.
The Northern Cape is a paradise for camping touring, with vast distances and small towns offering the adventurer plenty of opportunity to wander; but it comes with a major challenge in the form of summer heat, and water availability. The terrain is arid and mostly flattish, but also sandy and corrugated. The Free State offers similar riding, though slightly less sandy – and a lot more hilly and (some might argue) interesting as you head towards Lesotho.
Kwazulu-natal is the opposite (albeit also blisteringly hot), with a comparatively dense population, so planning your route is more challenging if you want to get away from people. But the back roads are wonderful to ride, and the scenery is neverendingly beautiful, if a little hilly. Head out through the battlefield areas for some historic climbing, or skirt the foothills of the Drakensberg for a Midlands workout – there’s riding for months.
From Gauteng cities, your best bet is to drive somewhere to start your adventure; unless you know your exit from the city particularly well, it’s all too easy to wrong-turn into a dangerous area. Head north to the Magaliesberg, or further afield to the endless dirt roads of the bushveld.
The Eastern Cape, finally, is the next gem to be polished for the cycle tourist, with coastal, semi-desert, high-mountain and game-viewing touring options aplenty.
Once you’ve decided where your tour might take you, give the local bike shops in the area a call. They will either have some insight into lekker routes, or can point you to the local nutter who rides out into the wild and is happy to share.