10 Mountain Bike Events Totally Worth Travelling For
In typical WH-style, we like to get our action on at the weekends. And if you’re like me, I race to train – without events, my motivation dwindles exceedingly – and I love to travel! In fact, #FitTravel is my thing. And the best way to explore a new destination (and actually get further than running), is to mountain bike. It doesn’t have to be tough technical terrain – but it can be.
Here are some epic races that I’ve done, some I’m about to do and others that are still on my wish list…
8-10, 9-11, 10-12 May, KZN
Besides it being the largest stage race in SA, with three three-day events running concurrently over the week, it covers gorgeous terrain and the manicured trails are widely spoken about. About 4 500 riders participate, which is testament to its do-ability and popularity. The community-orientated race, the KAP Sani2C has created year-round employment for this rural KZN area and starts at the childhood home of SA female pro mountain biker Bianca Haw. Think undulating Midlands mountains and great Natal hospitality. It’s totally on my bucket list!
Mauritius Tour Beachcomber MTB
17-19 May, Mauritius
I’m so excited to do this event! I’m calling it an early birthday present from ‘the universe’, but yes, I will be heading to Mauritius for the third staging of the Beachcomber MTB, which takes riders on a real journey across the island. Spread over three days, it contains four stages: 65km on day 1; 40km and then a 5 x 4.2km loop in the evening; 63km on day 3.
The event also offers a race for children between five and 12, so it’s a real family escape. The Shandrani Beachcomber Resort & Spa will serve as the start point for each day and participants can also choose to enter a single day if three seems too much. Having never been to Mauritius before, I’m stoked that I’ll be able to explore the island this way. What an adventure!
Knysna Cycle Tour (1 day)
30 June, 1 July
The Knysna Cycle Tour forms a part of the notorious Big 5. No, not a trip to the local game farms, but the Big 5 Challenge, which take place during the fabulously fun Knysna Oyster Festival. It comprises two MTB events, a swim, a trail run and a half marathon.
I’ll be participating in the Big 5 Lite this year, so I’ll squeeze in some road cycling too. But if you’re just interested in the MTB, the Cycle Tour offers a 80km, 50km, 30km or 15km and a children’s race on the following day as well as a Forest Family Dam Ride. Followed by tons of oysters and wine, obviously.
Glacier Storms River Traverse (3 days)
10-12 August 2018, Knysna
Who doesn’t love an excuse to get to the Garden Route? If you need a reason, just copy this link into an email and press send. The Glacier Storms River Traverse route takes riders through the (recovering #KnysnaRises) landscape of the Tsitsikamma area, hugging rugged coastline with exceptional Insta opportunities.
The event is designed for the intermediate rider, so don’t stress if your tech skills are still in need of a workshop or two. This is all about a fun weekend away immersed in nature and good times. And to show how dedicated to family the Drylands Team are, they’ve even included a daycare facility during the event.
Dr Evil Classic (3 days)
20-22 Sept 2018, Plett
My first-ever MTB race was the Dr Evil and it set the tone for the rest of my journey into MTB. At the time, I was pretty under-prepared for any type of mountain biking racing, but what’s so great about this event is that you can wing it.
Even though it’s designed by the Cape Epic route designer, it’s not too technical and it’s plenty of fun. Once you get through the first day (72km), it’s pretty easy sailing for the rest of the event (45km on day 2 and 51km on day 3). It’s also gorgeous, so make sure your phone is charged for all the pics and vids you’re going to take.
Karoo To Coast (1 day)
23 Sept 2018, Uniondale
This event follows directly after Dr Evil and while you’re in the Garden Route you might as well add K2C on (and get a preferential start time while you’re at it). From Uniondale to Knysna, the 100km race is very popular and not too technical, although there are a couple of steep climbs and some serious descents. It’s dry and dusty, so be prepped to vanish your kit afterwards. I stayed in Knysna the night before and then took a (very) early-morning shuttle to Uniondale on the race morning. It’s also a seeding event for the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
Wines2Whales (3 days)
26-28, 29-31 October, 2-4 November, Cape Winelands
I’m dying to do this event because it combines my two fave things – not whales (although I like them too), but rather: wine and cycling! The entries are very sought-after and there are waiting lists already. W2W is divided into three three-day stage races and the all-new Jeroboam, where you can compete in all three events, making it a nine-day stretch of riding. It’s certainly one for the vino fans (if you haven’t picked up on that already), trekking across the Winelands with the stages named after some of my fave varieties: Chardonnay, Pinotage, Shiraz.
Berg & Bush (2 or 3 days)
5-7, 9-11, 13-14 October, Harrismith
Imagine traversing the Drakensberg by bike… Camping on the banks of the Tugela River… Taking in the smells and sounds of the bushveld… That’s Grindrod Berg & Bush. The first part of the race, The Descent, is packed with fast-paced single track; the second part, Great Trek, is a more chilled, slower-going event; and the third part, the 2 Day, is sociable and a great experience for families. I missed out on riding this event last year, but it’s totally on the cards for this year!
Attakwas Extreme (1 day)
19 Jan 2019, Oudtshoorn
A real challenge for the more serious mountain biker… Or someone like me, who did this after only six months of mountain biking and in flat pedals. The truth is, it’s damn tough. It’s a race for fitsers who aren’t afraid of hard work. But it is beautiful and takes you on a journey from the dry ostrich-run Karoo all the way to the coastal town of Groot Brak.
Grab some friends, because you’re going to need team mates to pull you through the gruelling 121km and 2 900m of climbing. If you have family or friends keen to meet you at the finish line that find the Extreme too daunting, then get them to enter the Atta Mini (52km). This is a medal you want to take home.
Tankwa Trek (3 days)
7-10 February 2019, Ceres
If, at some point, the thought crosses your mind that you might want to attempt the Cape Epic, then give Tankwa a go. As everyone told me: “If you can do Tankwa, you can do the Epic.” Yes, you’ve surmised correctly – this race is a toughie. Your distances are: 83km for day 1, 83km for day 2 and 87km for day 3. And there are some monster climbs, including the most famous Merino Monster.
I recommend some running as cross-training for this, because you’ll be pushing your bikes up some steep-ass terrain. It is technical, but it’s such a vibe! The race village is super fun and you’ll be drinking beers afterwards among some of the world’s top mountain bikers.
Want To Give MTB A Test Ride?
If you’re keen to give it a try, you can head to Big Red Barn (where you can also hire bikes if you don’t have your own) on 21 April for the Off The Beat ‘N Track mountain bike family fun day, which has easy rides for all levels, including a kiddies 2km. Get your tickets at Jacarandafm.com.