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31 Mar, 2015

Green cliffs of panting

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Regularly rated as one of the best trails accessible for Gauteng mountain bikers, Groenkloof Nature Reserve has a little bit for everyone. We made the trek to Pretoria to make sure it hasn’t lost its appeal.

As you start one of Groenkloof Trail’s hardest climbs, you have a choice of surfaces.
On the left, a series of wooden stumps forming a trail of wood. And on the right, a winding, rocky path complete with loose rocks and stones.

Like any mountain biker I tried the wooden trail. And like many mountain bikers before me, I soon get the line wrong and land up on the rocky, winding trail anyway.

And after a few thousand pedal strokes and enough heavy breaths to make an air-conditioning unit somewhat green with envy, I reach a sort of a rest point, about half way up, and stop to take stock of all my “facilities” and to take a photograph of my cycling buddy.

Like me, he almost makes it. But unlike me, a few foot dabs and he is off to tackle the rest of the hill, which doesn’t look too bad …

At that point, it’s almost like some of the rest of the single track loops that you “have to” ride as you climb away from the parking lot.

Although there is another entrance, which I’m told avoids a lot of travelling within the Groenkloof facility, I’ve always entered the Pretoria nature reserve through the main entrance which can be found just after the “fountains” off ramp.

After paying the obligatory entrance fee for cyclists (R25), the parking lot at the beginning of the trail is a relaxing drive past picnic sites and the other facilities which make Groenkloof Nature Reserve very popular for everyone, not just cyclists.

The parking area has security, shade, braai facilities and even has a kiddies’ track for the little ones. So yes, it is perfect for those family outings even if some members of the family don’t really enjoy cycling.

Hitting the trail, you’ve simply got to hit the first single track you see. It is rocky, sure. Steep? Sure. But also a whole lot of fun.

There are also plenty of bridges and drop offs to get more “cautious” riders like me to glance at the heart rate monitor with fearful eyes. So my advice is to try and go there with someone who has been there before as the network of trails and loops, although very well marked, are spread out a large area and can therefore be a bit confusing for first timers.

My favourite of the loops, however, is a rather windy section through a forest which has two very exciting camel humps. But that is all before the previously mentioned hill.
So after getting to the relatively flat section of that single-track hill, it makes yet another turn and the rider is faced with a huge rocky hill which, in my opinion, only the strongest of technical climbers will ever be able to conquer.

And although I’ve never accomplished that feat in my 10-odd visits to Groenkloof, I always try it. As the Lotto says … one day is one day.

But it is still worth getting to the top of that hill, even if you have to walk (that should probably be climb) your bike up to the top. Because after that, it is a mountain biker’s paradise with fast switchbacks and berms right down to the bottom again.

This definitely rates as one of Gauteng mountain biking’s “most amazing” rides.
Then you have yet another choice. A steep jeep track leading to the top of the mountain or a very technical “play-park” which takes the rider around the said mountain and back to the parking lot.
I normally choose the latter. Not because the climbs on the former are daunting. Not even because the husband of a friend’s co-worker (yip, one of those) was “attacked” by a giraffe somewhere on that particular network, but because I simply cannot get enough of the scary, gnarly but awesome fun which can be enjoyed on the many drop offs, sharp bends and bridges in this section.

Simply put, Groenkloof has something for everyone. Gnarly technical sections, pant-pant hills of Everest proportions, helter-skelter downhill switchbacks and mind-numbing drop offs and camel humps. It even has game, wildebeest, ostrich, giraffe, zebra and all sorts of other, smaller animals might greet you as you choose which trail to ride.

And even if you’ve made a particular choice of which trail to ride, there are often choices within those choices.

I promise you, my next ride there I’ll attempt riding the wooden stumps again. And the rocky, windy climb. Just because I like choices.

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |

Editor