The weekend before last Hein, Cal and I headed over to Mankele Mountainbike Park, one of South Africa’s best MTB parks. After Gibba Gorge our expectations were set pretty high… it didn’t disappoint.
Hein and I had a pretty casual road trip over on the Friday arvo, arriving with enough time to set up camp in the last remaining day light then suited up for a night ride.
Subscribing to the “straight in, no vas” school of preparation, we jumped straight on the Nation series XC track! Savage pinches, plenty of bridges, a decent climb section with really variable grip across the whole track (read f’n greasy).
One particular section you drop off the road, down a very steep slippery cocky chute only to find a bridge and corner at the bottom. Somehow we both managed to negotiate it unscathed, but it had put the wind up us both, so at the next double black obstacle we decided to take the signposted “Cicken walk”… note the word walk… we didn’t and both nearly died trying to ride down the greased rock staircase that was 10 times crazier than the double black run we were trying to avoid!
All’s well that ends well and we got back without injury, having worked up a mighty thirst we showered up and hit the beers. Somehow Cal ended up more tired than us even though he didn’t do the night ride and slept most of the evening around the fire… much to our amusement.
The next morning we cooked up some hangover cure food and saddled up for the “Red” route, a 30km loop containing the longest section of single track in the park.
And so so sweet the single track is… but you have to earn it, the first 15km of the ride you barely get out of granny gear, grinding away up and over the hill, out around the back to take in some great Sabie views, right around to a telecomms tower (see the pic below, taken from our camp, if you look carefully you can see a orange and white tower on the hill in the distance) then down through some plantations (nice gum tree plantation, felt just like home)… only then do you hit the good stuff!
The first section is traversing and smooth dotted with some rocky obstacles, then it steps up a notch switch backing down the side of a hill into a series of bridges and burms. It just gets better as you literally drop into the “Bush tunnel” and rail the bottom of a gully till you get back towards the trails around the main park area, zigzagging across creeks and in and out of bush… so much great single track you almost fatigue your reflexes as much as your legs.
Can’t wait for another trip back there.