Gravel Grinder’s Guide to Piketberg
A vast network of gravel roads criss-crosses the Bergrivier Tourism Region and Swartland surrounds. From the economic hub of Piketberg cyclists can explore the mountain bike mecca of Piket-Bo-Berg or grind along district road and jeep tracks to towns like Aurora, Goedverwacht and Redelinghuys. Accommodation option abound too, as do cyclist friendly restaurants, farm stalls and coffee shops.
“We are exceptionally excited about our new Piketberg Mountain Gravel-Road Circuit,” NomondeNdlangisa, CEO: Bergrivier Tourism Organisation, stated. “It’s a great addition to the Bergrivier’s ‘Adventure Capital’ product portfolio and will bring much needed exposure to the scenic towns of Redelinghuys, Aurora and Goedverwacht. They are, small, rural towns which fall in the Bergrivier region and which offer a massive array of activities and adventures to suite all ages, interests and budgets.”
“This beautiful area boasts some of the most pristine and untouched nature reserves, mountain landscapes and open spaces,” Ndlangisa continued. “Mountain- and gravel- biking is becoming ever-more popular, and those that follow the sport are increasingly looking for exciting locations, experiences, and local adventures in off-the-beaten-track destinations. The new cycling route, situated just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, certainly delivers.”
The region has long been famed for its singletrack, thanks to events like the Piket-Bo-Berg Cycle Challenge and The U stage race. But with the growth in gravel riding, locally and internationally, the dusty back roads of the Bergrivier have begun to draw riders in greater numbers. The Piketberg Mountain Gravel-Road Circuit aims to provide an easy-to-follow route which gravel grinders and bikepackers can ride as an introduction to cycling in the area. Thereafter the open road awaits, with Bergrivier Tourism happy to point cyclists in the direction of adventure.
The four-day circuit takes in 285-kilometres of riding, with 3 900-metres of elevation gain, and is divided into manageable chunks. The 98-kilometre final day is even designed as an optional extra, dropping the total distance to just 187-kilometres over a long-weekend.
Starting in Aurora, 35-kilometres from Piketberg, the three-day loop ends in back in the village named after the Roman goddess of dawn. Adding a fourth day will take riders to Piketberg, from where a comfortable 70-minute drive, down the N7, will take cyclists back to the urban heart of Cape Town. As such the Piketberg Mountain Gravel-Road Circuit is readily accessible to the vast majority of Western Cape based riders.
Day 1 takes in 48-kilometres and traces the south western slopes of the Piket-Bo-Berg Mountain before ascending through the Moravian Mission village of Goedverwacht. Riders can choose to camp at Januariesfontein, or push on a further 5kmto complete the 48km route and stay at any number of premium self-catering or B&B destinations. Those opting for the stunning Retreat Guest Farm or Highlands Eco Estate will have additional access to some superb singletrack trails as well.
Day 2 then descends along the tarmac Versveld Pass, offering breath-taking views of the Swartland plains towards the Winterhoek Mountains, before turning north and curving west to Redelinghuys. After a 79-kilometre day in the saddle the platteland hospitality and hearty cuisine of Affi Plaas Country Bed & Breakfast will certainly be very welcome. As will a good night’s sleep ahead of the toughest day’s riding.
The third day of the trip boast two options. To either head straight to Aurora or to divert into the mountains once more, to explore the Danielshoogte Private Nature Reserve. The latter option is the more adventurous one, but ensures that the day features 1 330-metres of climbing in just 58-kilometres. It is well worth it though, as the fynbos reserve also offers views across the Strandveld to St Helena Bay, on the West Coast, and south to Table Mountain, in Cape Town, on a clear day.
Having conquered the out and back route up the Danielshoogte Pass and back to Aurora a night at the RooiGranaat may well rejuvenate riders enough to take on an extra day. Day 4 heads south to Sauer before cutting through the Bo Berg, along the Kapteinskloof valley and past Banghoek Private Nature Reserve. The final 40-kilometres, of the 98-kilometre ride, are on asphalt along the R366, making for a fast finale and an enjoyable ride into Piketberg.
In total the Piketberg Mountain Gravel-Road Circuit features a 40/60 mix of tarmac and gravel, making it the ideal trip for less-experienced gravel grinders. For the hardened off-roaders the options abound, especially for those looking for consecutive 100-kilometre days. But perhaps an easier introduction to the area is required first. Think of it as an adventure where exploration and site-seeing are the key objectives, rather than ticking off distance. Going too fast, in order to go far, could lead one to missing circling jackal- and steppe buzzards, black eagles, bat-eared fox, steenbok and a host of other small animals, not to mention the region’s unique floral features.
More info on Piketberg Mountain Gravel-Road Circuit is available at eitherpiketberg.bergriviertourism.co.za or on www.mtbroutes.co.za. Cyclists can preview the routes here – or even download GPX files – and also check out suggested accommodation options and a list of must-visit locations along the way.