Flying into the gravity scene


Karl Ebel

How does one start doing “gravity” or downhill riding? Put effort into refining your riding skills – learning to wheelie, manual, jump, corner etc on less vertical trails on any bike (preferably with a more aggressive setup). These will serve as the cornerstones of a safe and successful riding career when you start hitting the steep stuff. What is the difference between enduro’s and downhill riding? Enduros are stage races that take place on the descent sections of a demarcated race route. only the descents are timed. The gradient and obstacles are usually less radical and bikes, although capable, are not as aggressive as the DH rig and sport single crown forks.
Downhill is a sprint race over approximately three to four minutes down a near vertical mountain trail. The riders make their way to the top via a shuttle and let go individually at predetermined intervals. The course often has soul searching obstacles in it that when conquered give you a great reward on the clock. Bikes usually sport at triple clamp fork and slack head angle. What makes downhill more special that the more mainstream XCO racing? I think it is what every mtb rider secretly aspires to … but truthfully it is what mountain biking was created for – absolute exhilaration (see Klunkers the movie). What extra skills should a potential downhiller have or work on in order to progress? You never ever stop working on your skills and you learn something new every time you ride. The aforementioned skills are a great start and more than that dedication and time in the saddle …. oh and interval training … till you puke … What are the biggest differences between long travel trail bikes and downhill machines? DH rigs have more travel with incredible geometry – the new generation of LT enduro bikes are amazing but really nothing beats a DH rig. Where can riders be coached in downhill or enduro riding? Johann Potgieter in Eastern Cape and Chris Nixon in the Western Cape. From a national point of view where would you like to see the sport in five years? We are already experiencing a flood of youths coming into the sport … We would like to see even more and more sponsors making more events possible.

Karl Ebel flying at a recent SA Downhill event.
Photo: Ewald Sadie



What is the downhill and enduro scene like in Gauteng?

Its booming, there are always new riders as it’s friends of a friend that are welcomed into the DH/Enduro family, and with a lot of riders with different styles, it’s always great coming together and supporting each other and learning new skills from each other.

What groups, clubs or associations are available to join?

There is Mountain Bikers Do It Downhill and Mountain Biking South Africa on Facebook, where you can ask questions and swap or sell any MTB gear, bikes, parts etc.

Where could one get some skills lessons?

If you’re not too sure about something you can always speak to Trailhead family, they can help with skills, parts, services, food and great riding advice, as well as giving a good conversation with a joke here and there. Jason, Tom, Sean or Donna are always willing to help with anything and they make a good coffee while you wait.

What are the best trails available and where are they?

For a nice DH track you will want to go to Helderkruin Hill or Hakahana, some hairy sections but always fun with friends. For a nice MTB trail, definitely start at the Trailhead, you can take a nice relaxing ride to Emmarentia Dam or if you want some speedy windy trails you start on the left side of the Trailhead.

What are the events taking place and when?

• 26 – 29 Oct – Crank Chaos Lesotho festival – Michelle 082 256 2232 or Tamy 082 486 3966

• 2 – 3 Dec – DRI (Dustin Rudman Invitational) – Dustin – 072 306 4285



What is the downhill and enduro scene like in Western Cape?

We have the hottest contested scene in the country. We have a larger choice of steeper gradient than most other provinces which is why we have a fairly deep pool of downhill and enduro riders.

What groups, clubs or associations are available to join?

In Cape Town, we have WP Downhill (WP downhill on Facebook) … each of the other regions have their own clubs.

Where could one get some skills lessons?

There are a number of skills coaches but for Downhill in the Western Cape Johan Pottie Potgieter is highly recommended.

What are the best trails available and where are they?

There is pretty good gravity all around the Western Cape … The Cape Town Shuttle Co. on Facebook would definitely be a gateway into seeing where the proper downhill trails are.

What are the events taking place and when?

We have a downhill series hosted by WP Downhill that takes place at each of our venues.We have about two DH nationals and Provincial champs. Soon we will have an additional DH series. We also have two enduro series, one by WP Downhill and one hosted by Dirtopia.



What is the downhill and Enduro scene like in the Eastern Cape?

Enduro racing is non-existent at the moment, however the Trail riding scene is hotting up and there is a hardcore group of Enduro riders who participate and travel to events around the country.

What groups, clubs or associations are available to join?

Fat Tracks is the only club in the Port Elizabeth area for MTB riders. They have put a lot of effort into trail building and maintenance and have developed a fantastic network of trails within the city. Members can enjoy free entry to a number of trail parks within the PE area.

Where could one get some skills lessons?

RBC (Robbie Powell) and Johan Potgieter offer skills clinics in the PE area. RBC hosts a skills clinic once a month and Pottie will do a one on one clinic for interested riders.

What are the best trails available and where are they?

There are a number of bike parks and riding areas open to the PE riders covering a variety of terrain and skill requirements. Within the city limits is the Baakens Valley bike park. Further out on the Kragga Kamma road is the Norm Hudlin bike park featuring some awesome twisty singletrack. Hopewell trails, just off the Old Cape Road before St. Albans is a wildlife conservancy offering some amazing riding through the hills and valleys between PE and Uitenhage. Crossways/ Three rivers bike park, just off the N2 at the Thornhill turnoff is the furthest out of PE and has an extensive network of trails that are graded and marked for all riders’ abilities.

What are the events taking place and when?

Mountain Events and Red Cherry €Adventures both host events in and around the PE area from stage racing to XC and marathon races. Check their websites:;




What is the downhill and enduro scene like in KZN?

In KZN the downhill and enduro scene is quite big, with many people racing in both disciplines, but Enduro definitely attracts more riders and a larger segment of female riders. We are lucky to have a number of parks and trail networks that really suit the enduro.

What groups, clubs or associations are available to join?

There are dozens of MTB clubs in KZN, as well as bike parks that have their own clubs one can join. In KZN, if you want to enter races you actually have to belong to a club to become a member of KZN MTB, who are affiliated to Cycling South Africa. I am a member of the Karkloof Trails Club, because that is where I ride the most and where I make the most impact with my bike – I feel it’s important to put your money and support where you are making the most impact.

Where could one get some skills lessons?

There are a number of people who offer skills lessons, but I would typically start by contacting a club or park to ask if they offer skills lessons or can refer people to coaches. That is the best way to get in touch with people who are active and on the ground. I have found that if you want skills lessons from some- one who rides well, they are generally quite amenable to help you out for a small fee as
there aren’t a lot of “professional” or certified DH and enduro type trainers.

What are the best trails available and where are they?

My answer is pretty subjective, but I would have to say the ones I have already mentioned: Giba Gorge, Cascades, Howick MTB Trails and the Karkloof Trails – they never disappoint in terms of gravity orientated riding. Giba and Cascades are different in that one can shuttle there, whereas the Howick and Karkloof trails are on Sappi land, where no public vehicles are allowed. You’re in for more of a pedal at Karkloof and Howick, but no-one really minds as the trails are so well put together and exciting.

What are the events taking place and when?

In KZN we have the KZN MTB provincial series (three events) which runs from early February to late July, and typically consists of enduro on Saturdays, and DH on Sundays. The KZN Champs, the Cascades MTB Festival and the SA Champs normally fall within that period too – so enduro and DH riders are kept pretty busy! Howick MTB Club holds the Sappi Howick Enduro race in March, Karkloof holds the Stihl Karkloof Enduro in May, and Giba Gorge holds the Giba Enduro in July, the Giba Enduro X in August, as well as the Giba Enduro Lite in September.


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