The Wow Rides – Kirstenbosch MTB Trails
The picturesque Kirstenbosch corridor is more than just a gateway from the city bowl trails to the southern suburbs – this hallowed piece of trail and the experience that accompanies it borders on spiritual, and takes riders deep into previously unexplored sections of Table Mountain.
Using the natural topography and existing hiking footpaths (no manicured trails here) you’re transported into a wonderland of lush forestry and dense canopies replete with all the aural delicacies and botanical fragrances you’d expect from a place unsullied by man. The 10km route is truly special, hugging and meandering its way through the surrounding contours like a snake, with vast changes in elevation that make for the ultimate test of both rider and bike. Bicycling SA recently spent a day riding and photographing this incredible trail with upcoming Mauritian XCO rider, Ryan Lenferna. So grab a cup of coffee and sit back while we take you on a visual journey through one of the Cape’s best-kept secrets.
While the corridor essentially links the trails in and around the city bowl with Tokai and Noordhoek, riders have the option of starting at Rhodes Memorial and riding to Constantia Nek and back via a 20km/700m route. Although there’s ample parking available at Rhodes’s Memorial we suggest using the area by Newlands Forest instead as it’s safer, busier and has a tap to fill your bottles with natural mountain water.
The route is graded as an intermediate trail but is still a challenging ride nonetheless. There’s plenty of climbing on offer with a mix of jeep tracks and short steep gradients of up to 20 per cent. While it’s not overly technical, riders should possess a relatively decent skill set to negotiate the topography which is largely reminiscent of the Tokai trails. That said, those who aren’t too fit shouldn’t be put off as there are many rest stops and benches along the way for Instagram opportunities and the like. The vistas are truly beautiful.
“I love these trails. They’ve got some nice features such as technical descents and portages which can be seen as technical drops for the more skilled rider. On the whole it reminded me of the trails I ride back home in Mauritius because of the abundance of vegetation. I’ll definitely be back as I’ll be able to do some proper training here with the elevation and steep climbs.” – Ryan Lenferna, Mauritian XCO rider
Take your time, breathe in the fresh air and savour the incredible beauty. Nothing here is manicured – instead, the route follows the natural flow and layout of the existing tracks. There’s a portage section too, and while some will attempt to ride it (nobody has made it down successfully yet) it’s safer and easier to dismount and walk the 100m section. After the portage is where things really start to get tough as you climb your way up to Constantia Nek. The many climbs have just as many fast and furious descents not to mention a plethora of single tracks to keep your heart racing and skills in check.
“A trail like this is a hidden gem, particularly considering the amount of purpose-built, manicured trails most of us have become accustomed to. It reminds me of Tokai before the fires with dense forestry, vegetation and canopied paths making for a surreal experience. For those wanting a challenge there are many technical bits, and the steep climbs will test even the fittest rider. What makes this corridor important is the link it provides between Signal Hill and the Southern trails of Tokai and Noordhoek. ” – Aaron Borrill, Bicycling Online Editor
You should also be aware of other trail users. This is a shared trail meaning you’ll encounter many hikers, runners and walkers along the way so always be friendly and courteous. Then there are the many blind corners – especially on the descents – where a collision with another user is a high probability. Stay safe and ride smart at all times, after all, a mutual relationship between users will ensure the trail stays open in the long run.
The reward – a breakfast or cup of coffee at La Parada across the road from the Constantia Nek forestry road. Prices are competitive and the views superb, it’s just the slog back to the car that some may find hard to swallow. Either way it’s a stunning ride and what’s that they say about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Exactly! Just remember a Level 3 ‘My Activity Permit’ or day permit is required to ride the new trails. – By Aaron Borrill