When I was invited for a weekend away to Margate in Natal over the weekend of 26 to 30 April, my 1st response was to find out about any KZN MTB trails in that area.
After some research, I decided to focus on these mountain bike trails: Giba Gorge MTB Park near Durban and Clearwater Trails near Port Edward.
KZN MTB Trail – Giba Gorge MTB Park
I planned my trip in such a way to stop at Giba Gorge on my way to Margate on the 26th of April, spend 27 April with friends, ride on 28 and 29 April at Clearwater Trails and on 30 April on my way back, to stop again at Giba Gorge.
I stopped at Giba Gorge on the Thursday afternoon at around 15:00 in hot and humid conditions. I was pleasantly surprised with the venue and the friendly staff immediately made me feel welcome. I paid the R10 entry fee (the venue is not officially open yet, thus only R10, but once everything is in place, this could jump to R20-R25. Still dirt cheap.), used the excellent change room facilities to change and was supplied with my own personal guide, Vincent. This helped much in the way of making good use of my limited time to explore the best trails. In about 45 minutes Vincent to me around the entire black route and made me sweat like never before in the humid conditions. I felt very comfortable in using the shower facilities afterwards to clean up for the rest of my trip to Margate.
There are three different categories, green (easy/beginner), blue (intermediate) and black (expert). The routes are not too technical, but some parts are extremely steep (up and down) and it is more a case of expert riders can ride it so much faster than intermediate and beginner riders. The route consist mostly of groomed single track, linked here and there by gravel roads, with wooden (wide enough for most riders) bridges running over some gaps and rivers. The tracks is build in such a manner that you can link up the different routes to provide a variety of different routes. They reckon there is currently around 20km of marked single track, but Ian informed me they are constantly building new tracks and are aiming for around 60km of single track! With the size of the venue, I am sure this will be possible.
They prefer to use to the term contour surfing at Giba Gorge, but for me it is all about flowing, most of the downhill bits (especially the last bit of the black route) is one of the best bits of smooth flowing single track I have ever experienced. It reminds me of some of the tracks at the Dirtopia Lodge just outside Stellenbosch.
Clearwater mountain bike trails
On a cold and windy Saturday morning early I headed out towards Port Edward to sample the trails at Clearwater Trails of Jan and Natalie Abbott. I paid my R15 entry fee with Natalie and she supplied me with a map, indicating 4 different routes. Green 4.5km easy. Yellow 8km moderately easy. Orange 10km moderate to technical. Red 16.5km technical. I was looking forward to riding the trails with Jan himself, but due to a shoulder injury (yes, bike related!) he was unable to take me on the guided tour. So I headed out into the strong and chilly wind on my own to sample the trail. The trail is located partly in the Umtamvuna Reserve and on local farms and therefore you experiences a variety of terrain, from tree forests, to open grass fields to banana tree plantations. The first half of the trail is mostly downhill and you will be climbing some steep up hills on your way back to the trail centre.
The 1st halve really have a bit everything, from a really awesome berm section (with very well designed and build berms), some winding high speed single track sections, open jeep track sections, some steep rocky downhills and flowing switch back sections. Keep in mind that the orange route actually has some of the best bits of single track.
On your way back to the trail centre, the steep climbs will really test your strength and fitness. This climb consists of gravel roads, jeep track and some single track. The Beaver Creek coffee shop provides some welcome rest and refreshments just after the major climb.
Overall the route is well marked, however there is one or two places where you will have to follow your instinct.
On Saturday I did the red route once and then the orange one. On Sunday I did the red route twice, but added the nice single track section of the orange one to the red route. And then I just had to go and do the berm section at the top of the route again and again and again.
Overall an extremely rewarding riding experience with some of the best single track riding in the country. I will rate this route similar to the route at Lebanon near Grabouw in the Western Cape and just as rewarding.
Monday, heading back towards Pretoria, I stopped for a 2 hour ride at Giba Gorge again. And similar to Clearwater Trails, there are sections that are extremely addictive, that you just have to do over and over again.
Any negatives? None, except that I now know I am addicted to single track!
Already making plans for a trip down to the Dirtopia Trail Centre and Lebanon in June.
By Christian Kuys
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