Cog’native therapy – one pedal stroke at a time
Whether you’re into laid-back scenic pedaling, slip-streaming it on the open tarmac or hardcore mountain biking along the single tracks of the forests, Plettenberg Bay is the ideal destination for devotees of two-wheeled, muscle-powered motion. This Garden Route playground features hundreds of kilometres of bike trails and dozens of different options. And we’ve whittled our can’t-miss cycling list down to three primo adventures: a stunning selection of cycling trails, the rigorous Dr Evil Classic and the annual Tour de Plett. On top of that, we introduce you to local cycling favourites Aidan Connelly and Rogan Smart, who are tackling the world of competitive cycling head on and compete regularly in both local and National MTB races.
Plett is the quintessential pot of gold at the end of the MTB trail rainbow. Practically every nook and cranny of forest and farm road is bursting with ‘stofpad’ and single-track waiting to be conquered. Whether you are a seasoned rider or mere novice, there’s a trail out there with your name on it. One of the most exciting aspects of riding these forests is that one minute you’re slogging it through the dense undergrowth, thick with fynbos and the like and the next minute, you emerge from the canopies to behold the most incredible ocean view you could ever have imagined.
The Harkerville MTB Trail is one such route that will keep you coming back for more. From the easygoing Yellow Route to the stonking Red Route, there’s a challenge for every skill set. However, if you’re looking for a ride that will challenge and thrill in equal measure, then the red route is bound to tick all the boxes. All four routes start on the N2 opposite the Garden of Eden Department of Water Affairs and Forestry kiosk. Be sure to use the map provided or you may find yourself in the forest for a little longer than originally planned.
The Homtini Mountain Biking Trail is a 19 km pedal through the Knysna’s Goudveld Forest. A fairly moderate route with the exception of one climb, the ride is great for intermediate riders. Of course, the saying goes that a ride is as easy or hard as you make it and that’s true for most. Pedal at your max or enjoy a slow, picturesque spin, but whatever you do, be sure to stop and smell the fynbos every so often. If you’re very still you may even hear the sound of the Knysna Elephant. And if you happen across the path of a great wild boar, just wait for it to pass, nice and easy.
Petrus-se-Brand in the Diepwalle Forest, is another one of those ‘Wow’ places! The 22.4km cycle route which runs from Diepwalle Forest Station to Harkerville is a mixture of jeep tracks, single track and logging roads. Riding through the plantations here will take your breath away so be sure to stop every now and again for a quick selfie or a panoramic pic. Absolutely worth it.
Kom se pad is a biggy. From the Waterfront in Knysna riders climb up to the Simola entrance and from there left to the Gouna Forest Station up to the high point of The Pimple. The route continues through indigenous forest to the Uniondale Road, and then back along the ridge road to Simola before returning to the Waterfront – 57km of pure MTB delight. Be sure to take enough liquids on this one and you may want to pack a few energy bars too.
Cairnbrogie Dairy Farm is home to various MTB trails. An 11km signature Coastal Route takes riders through the spectacular Robberg Coastal Corridor where dolphins and whales play in the blue, through fynbos and Cape Pine plantations, to meet up with the Harkerville MTB trail. The best of forest and coast, the ride offers riders the perfect blend of tough and thrill. While mom and dad are out hitting the forest trails, the kids can enjoy the pump track and café at base camp and voila, everyone’s happy.
From going it alone at the speed of your choice, to joining your fellow bike enthusiasts in a race that will surely test your mettle, we move on to the BUCO Dr Evil Classic stage race, held annually in Plett in September. Three days of mud, sweat and gears, with a manageable measure of pain thrown in for good measure, this is one for the big boys and girls. The brainchild of our local beloved Leon Evans, aka Dr Evil, a name pretty well-deserved mind you, it’s a ride that establishes the pecking order zippy quick. There’s no denying that a sturdy set of collar bones is a prerequisite for this race, however riding the BUCO Dr Evil Classic is some of the most fun you could ever have on a bike.
This year, Leon and race director Zandile have made sure that riders will not only be challenged at every one of the three stages but that they will feel spoilt rotten throughout, with excellent food, fantastic scenery and a race ambiance second to none. With three of Plett’s iconic establishments hosting the start and finish of each stage, i.e. Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve, Kurland Hotel and Polo Estate and Cairnbrogie Dairy Farm, riders are in for a treat. A total of 168km raced, spread out over three days will surely separate the men from the boys…and of course the girls from the ladies. If you’ve missed the entry cut off for this year, then better pencil it in for next year. Take up the challenge and enjoy the spoils of victory…beer, lots and lots of beer!
Another exciting MTB event in the coastal adventure destination that is Plettenberg Bay, is the Tour de Plett. Race director, Colin Shave, has a passion for the sport and his NPO, The Kwano Cycling Academy (KCA), is the primary beneficiary of the event. Three years ago, MTO came aboard as the main sponsor for the event, securing the longevity of this amazing race. MTO’s mission “To be the leading Pan African timber product and solutions providers, offering a fully integrated one-stop-shop through access to a range of high yielding certified forests throughout Africa and excellent insights, notwithstanding a well-reputed brand, a quality team of industry professionals with a vibrant entrepreneurial culture”, echoes the ethos of the Tour de Plett.
The race attracts big names in SA’s cycling fraternity, who all thoroughly enjoy the race dubbed “Not for sissies!” Packed with plenty of heart racing twists and turns, the route offers a serious challenge to those who take part. There is a family friendly distance included, as cycling has become a family centred sport. To this end, Colin says, “We would like to grow the MTO Tour De Plett race year on year and we are also exploring the possibility of partnering with a planned multi stage “gravel race” in the future and possibly an “urban-type” event on the Sunday. That would create a Bike Festival for the entire weekend which would be great for Plett tourism and cyclists.” And as for future plans – the two big trends in cycling at the moment are e-Bikes in mountain biking and Gravel bikes (a road bike with more robust tyres and limited shock absorption) in road biking. Colin hopes to incorporate these two growing categories into the race very soon (e-Bikes are already allowed to enter). For a thoroughly enjoyable experience, be sure to enter and join the throngs who have made cycling their passion.
Now we come to a local MTB team of riders, who have taken their love for the sport and turned it into a lifestyle (although their parents hound them every so often about getting a real job!), Aidan Connelly and Rogan Smart. With their lanky physiques and pretty boy looks, the pair are often mistaken for surfer boys at MTB races, so much so that their pet name in the cycling fraternity has become ‘Team Point Break’. These Plett born and bred boys, are going at it hammer and tongs and if you happen to be out in a blizzard and you pass two bedraggled cyclists emerging somewhere from the forest canopy, odds are it will be the pair, training for a race or putting in valuable time in the saddle. The lads are currently riding exclusively for local MTB legend Kevin Evans’ Bike Shop with Scott and Strocam as co-sponsors with coach Dr Michael Posthumus pushing the boys through their gears. Aidan and Rogan first came under the spotlight when they won the Night Relay Race at the Pennypinchers Plett Easter Games at Cairnbrogie, three years on the trot.
It all began when Aidan’s dad started a development club for young riders back in 2013, aptly named Cycles in the Forest. Young Aidan and Rogan rose through the ranks quickly, winning their fair share of races either as a team or as individual riders. These days the stakes are higher and the competition much tougher. There’s no denying that being committed to intense training and leaving it all out there on race day is a large part of their success story. The overwhelming factor however, is their very close friendship. It’s not often that young riders have such an amazing dynamic within a team and more than anything, the friends have an awful lot of fun out there in their verdant boardroom. Just another day at the office, is their motto and let’s have as much fun while we’re at it, is the master plan. Be sure to keep an eye on these riders as they are most certainly destined for great things. Local is lekker!