Slip out of the Big Smoke on any given day and in less than an hour you could be riding the Skeerpoort Mountain Bike Trails at Van Gaalen Cheese Farm. Not only will you be introduced to the tasty boerenkaas made here, but also to what must rate as one of the gnarliest rides in the Magaliesberg region.
It may take a moment to adjust to the rural tranquillity of the shimmering Hartbeespoort Dam and craggy Magaliesberg ranges towering beyond; after all, the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg and Pretoria is but a stone’s throw from here. Once you’re on the bike, however, you’ll soon sync with the moment as you bomb onto handmade trails that demand your complete attention.
Get your permit sorted at Van Gaalen’s reception upon arrival, then crank onto the network of purpose-built single-track. All routes are well marked and the riding doesn’t get much better than this, so revel in your ride through reeds, bush, open veld and across rivers.
Route choices abound along the 60-kilometre-plus Skeerpoort MTB Trail (there is a good 150 kilometres of trail riding in total) meandering within the shadow of the Magaliesberg ranges, mostly traversing private properties along the Skeerpoort River and into the Cradle of Humankind.
The trails consist mainly of single-track, jeep-track and gravel servitudes. As these crisscross one another in a veritable spiderweb of route options, you can ride an altered loop or link every time you visit Van Gaalen Cheese Farm.
Some sections aren’t for rookie riders, and beginners should take extra care along the rocky climbs and descents. If loose surfaces, baby-head rocks and big-ass drops on routes such as Pofadder aren’t your poison, rather opt for a less skittish ride along the flat river section. Runners and horses share these trails, so remember your trail etiquette.
Overall, you can look forward to easy, fast-flowing single-track along mostly level, occasionally sandy trackss into the savanna bushveld landscape. The routes are well within the capability of relatively fit riders, as long as they’re technically skilled to deal with natural obstacles. Expect extreme temperatures in summer, with thunderstorms during the afternoons.
Van Gaalen offers paired cheese and wine tastings and the restaurant on the premises boasts an excellent reputation. The immediate region is a hub for all types of outdoor activities – click on www.hartbeespoortonline.co.za for more information.
Follow the R560 until you’re about 3,5 kilometres north of Skeerpoort, then look out for the signage. A map is available on www.vangaalen.co.za.
Side-wall cuts and thorns are a sure hazard along these trails, so fill tyres with a puncture-proofi ng compound before setting off. Try www.sludgeproducts.com.
Dust, extreme heat, insects, thorny branches and reeds mean this is one of those rides where eye protection is a must. I have a problem with overpriced sporting eyewear, as chances are they’ll end up lost or damaged on your outdoor missions. If you don’t want to compromise on quality, but still be kind to your wallet, check out the Ryders Hijack (from R995, www.ryderseyewear.com).
Grading: Intermediate to difficult.
Duration: Anything from one to five hours.
Configuration: Network of return and circular routes.
Start point: Van Gaalen Cheese Farm
Terrain: Purpose-built single-track and gravel roads.
Entry requirements: Daily permit from reception costs R35.
Cell reception: Good coverage on routes.
GPS co-ordinates: S25º 47’ 16”, E27º 46’ 19”
Contact: Cell 073-222- 8260, www.vangaalen.co.za
For detailed information on mountain-biking trails across South Africa, go to www.mtbroutes.co.za.
(Photograph by Peter Kirk)
Previous post by Jacques Marais:« A guide to mountain biking in the Green Kalahari
Next post by Jacques Marais:Mountain biking in the Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve »