Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate, Paarl, Bike Park 2020
After the success of the enhancements to their singletrack, Val de Vie asked us to build a full-on bike park with a pump track, flow trail and skills trail. Again utilising heavy machinery we dropped hundreds of tonnes of stone and soil, shaped it and added a layer of durable laterite to the top before finally shaping by hand and compacting.
The pump track is 150m and the flow and skills trails around 400m each, we used reclaimed timber to make features such as the wine barrel trail, wooden-walled berm and the boardwalks, the kids were all over it even before we finished building! Over the following months the area was landscaped and irrigated to enhance the experience of riding there.
KAROO1 Hotel Village, De Doorns, Western Cape
Cross-Country Trail and Fun Trail
Nestled in the shadow of the mighty Matroosberg mountain, the Karoo1 complex offers stunning Karoo scenery, charming and quirky boutique hotel accommodation and a variety of outdoor entertainment. Using existing farm tracks we laid out four trails of varying distance to include the viewpoints, pools and natural features found on the farm.
In the bitterest of winter weather with sleet and snow falling and gusting freezing winds, using local soil we then built a circular funtrail with berms, rollers and tabletops.
Trail-Blazers was approached by Cape Nature to enhance the network of forestry roads around the reserve and make them mtb friendly. The land suffered a fire in the recent past and is completely devoid of trees; slowly but surely the natural vegetation is regrowing in place. The addition of singletrack sections add interest to the trails and weave through the natural rock features of which there are many, greatly adding interest to the riding.
The brief was to construct a 7km piece of singletrack to link up existing portions of the Infanta Trails in the Lower Breede River Conservancy and keep riders off the busy and very dusty gravel road to the town. We actually over-delivered in terms of kilometres, but stayed within financial and time budgets.
Although fairly flat, the trail incorporates many scenic views of the Lower Breede River and surrounds as it runs parallel to the mouth of the river as it exits to the Indian Ocean, an area known as the Whale Nursery- where the calves spend the first six months of their lives learning to swim and survive.
Hop over the neighbouring hill and you have access to the De Hoop Nature Reserve and it's plethora of trails.
The building of this trail was the culmination of the efforts of the Potberg MTB committee who had been trying to complete the trails for a long time.
“ Hi Adrian, I don't really have words to describe how chuffed I am with how the trail has turned out! Have ridden it along at sunset, with the family and with mates in the last 3 days. It's a dream come true and the realization of a 20 year ambition. THANK YOU!!”
The park comprises a 375m skills trail with obstacles designed to encourage and teach novices and children to improve their balance and handling skills by learning how to ride berms, drop-offs, see-saws and board-walks in safe and pleasant environment. Nothing is too technical and all obstacles have chicken runs around them! There is a mini skills trail for smaller children and a Y-bike (balance bike) circuit for aspiring riders from the age of two.
Behind that is the flow trail, 600m of berms, rollers and twisty single track tailor-made to bring maximum enjoyment to your ride. For the more adventurous a 175m pump track is designed to test your ability to get round without pedaling.
A beautiful shady picnic area under the blue gums offers a calm area to watch the family as they test themselves on the courses. Outside the bike park the farm offers a flat, 5.5km cross country trail with varying features also designed to help improve mtb skills.
This boutique wine farm situated off the Old Malmesbury road on the way to Philadelphia offers a MTB trail with majestic views for 50kms in all directions. Four route options from 2 to 15 km cater for all the family, and if you don't ride a bike, a running trail might suit you instead. Four length options from 2 to 12 km are available. None of the routes are technical, but you do need to be fit for the longer ones!
After your ride sit back and chill with a cool drink and healthy snack from Olivia's deli, then take a shower in the purpose-built shower block. For the hungry and better-dressed Mariella's Restaurant offers excellent lunches and dinners.
A new addition to the current trails is the Blue Route . A slightly technical and definitely challenging route around the whole of the mountain top offering never-been-seen-before views and trails over new farms in the Conservancy. A serous climb takes you to the top from where it is mostly downhill all the way back with switchbacks galore and flowing singletrack to whet your appetite.
It integrates with the Yellow and Red routes to offer more choice to more riders from both the Stellenbosch and Brackenfell sides.
In view of the sensitive nature of the reserve, the brief was to design three trails (short, medium and long) using only the existing 450km of Jeep tracks that criss cross this 80,000 hectare extremely remote reserve. As some of the tracks were overgrown, we opened up one side and use it as single track.
The large herds of varied buck are wonderful to see, however they bring another challenge as buck, like cows, like to use the route marker poles as scratching posts. Luckily a road building contractor was on site and offered to make us some small concrete pillars to which we attached the route markers, low enough to be out of the way, heavy enough not to move if kicked.
Although remote, this reserve is something of a mountain bike mecca, used as a stopover for annual 2,300km Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa.
Completed projects before 2017
Rooiberg / Breede River MTB Trail was completed in August 2016.
An approach by the Rooiberg Breede River Conservancy in 2015 opened up the possibility of utilising Conservancy land to build an entirely new trail just outside Robertson next to the R60. Firstly an aerial survey was done using Google Earth, then a ground survey was carried out by bike and on foot. Eventually an idea of what could be done was formulated and the findings presented to the committee. The green light was given in March 2016, route flagging began and by June we were ready to move in with the labour. A total of 15kms of single-track was built to augment the mostly jeep and farm track trail, nestled in the foothills of the scenic Langeberg Mountains. After 21 bridges, fence-ride-overs and styles were constructed, 120 poles planted and more than 300 signs attached, the route was opened on 1st September 2016.
The trail is laid out in three loops each with short, medium, long and extra-long options, catering for riders of all ages and abilities.
Starting at Rooiberg Cellars the Red Route covers up to 40kms of typical Karoo landscape, fairly flat riding, with a bit of moderate climbing on the L and XL routes. 5, 20 and 30km options available with the 4kms of single-track accessible from M, L and XL. This route can also be started at the Saggy Stone Pub, again with S, M, L and XL options (4, 18, 25 and 40kms; follow the Blue route arrows). Look out for springbok, duiker, ostrich, secretary birds and other raptors.
From the Rooiberg Cellar, follow the signs to cross safely under the R60 and head for the Green Route ‘Roam Rooiberg’. With 4, 7 and 8km options this is a shorter trail with more climbing, but nothing lung-busting unless you attempt the 10km XL option. A very pretty route consisting mostly of flowing singletrack that utilizes two kloofs on the property to create a thrilling, remote but non-technical trail. The optional XL route has a testing rough and rocky climb up and down with great views over the valleys below. Look out for Eland, baboons, klipspringer and tortoises.
Cross back under the R60 and head for the Purple Route. With 9, 13, and 19km options this fairly flat route follows a dry river bed into the valley opposite, alongside fruit orchards and vineyards before turning around to head back towards the cellar. On the way is an optional challenging climb up and thrilling ride down into a remote valley that brings you to the 3km easy flowing singletrack. This area is home to porcupines and wild boar, both nocturnal, but watch out for the holes they dig!
Hazendal Family MTB Trail (now an ongoing project)
A normal trail building exercise involves working in inaccessible places high up and out of the way, necessitating a large amount of work being done by hand. Carrying in tools and supplies, digging out and compacting the soil imposes an extra strain on the labour force. For the new trail at Hazendal we used a different build method due to the nature of the terrain. The farm was flat with open fields mostly comprising of very sandy soil with easy access, so it was possible to use machinery to do the heavy work.
Having mapped and flagged the routes, then brush-cut a rough path, we used a three ton roller to flatten and compact the soil. Working in winter can be hazardous though as the ground is deceptively soft in places. Walking over it gives no clue as to it's ability to withstand a three ton roller-compactor thundering along, and twice we had to pull it out of a muddy bog where it suddenly sank up to its axles.
Fortuitously, the farm was in the process of rehabilitation after most of the fields were mined for sand over the previous two years. Large heaps of soil were being trucked in and dumped prior to spreading. We hired a JCB to mix selected piles of soil and clay and drop them around according to our trail map. With the right consistency obtained it was possible to spread and compact the mix into a hard durable surface on top of the sand in a metre-wide ribbon, perfect for year round riding.
After spreading, we used a one-ton plate compactor to shape the trail so water would run off either side. Within two days it had baked hard and was ready for action!
Using the heavy machinery saved us many days of labour; this 5km trail was built in 15 working days, and the result is a beautiful trail through woodlands and open fields, flat and easy to navigate for riders of all ages and abilities!