Trails: 3 Silos East London

Words & Images: Jacques Marais

There’s a little piece of pedal paradise below the Wild Coast and it seems just about no-one knows about it. East London boasts a handful of beaut trails, plus a bunch of damn fine beaches to boot …

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So, here’s a thought … If you’re still hanging tight hoping all those 2021 events will start to kick in, you should probably settle for a kick in the knaters instead. My take on the so-called “New Normal” (yup, I used the dreaded bunny ears there) is that we’re in for a big reset as to how we’ll work and play in the great outdoors.

Sure, there will be events, but the organisers have taken a knock, as had the expendable income for us Average Joes and Jills. Travel restrictions, curfews, bureaucratic regulations and fear-mongering will equate to less races, so your best bet when it comes to getting a fat-track fix will be to go ride trails.

And Slummies is just the place to start getting all crankalicious! Yup, I revisited 3 SILOS TRAIL on the way to Stutterheim a couple of weeks ago, and it still makes for a great day out on the bike. These days, EL is colloquially known as “Buffalo City”, but the sub-tropical vibes still rule, making it feel a little bit like an upmarket version of Havana.

The good news is that you have a whole bunch of trails to choose from these days. Check out anything from Lavender Blue Deli for a quickie 5km ride with the kids, to crackalacking cranks along a range of route options at Emerald Vale Brewery, Cintsa Bike Park, Hillview MTB Park or Table 58 Trails. More info at

Oh ja, best you take your board, too, as Yellow Sands Caravan Park is around the corner and the break here boasts some of the best laid-back surfing you’ll find anywhere in SA. This is a good space to be in (away from the inner-city decay), with stunning villages such as Kwelerha, Rainbow Valley, Sunrise-on-Sea and the likes just waiting to be explored.

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Trail low-down:

The route options at 3 Silos cover all the bases, from rookie to racing snake, and is situated a mere 15 min from Gonubie. All trails have been purpose-built by Mark Oberem, and caters for both mountain bikers and trail runners keen on a bit of adventure.

Once you drop into the valley below the trailhead, you’ll be bombing through constantly changing ecosystems as the singletrack dips and winds from grassland to dense patches of indigenous Eastern Cape bush. There are loads of game – from nyala to impala – so keep your eyes open, especially in the bush tunnels.

Expect it to be flowy, dippy and gritty, but utterly rideable, and with a range of fairly non-technical natural and man-made obstacles to test your skills. The landscape varies hugely, from eucalyptus plantations, densely wooded valleys, savannah grassland, to indigenous montane and riverine forest loops.

You basically have three main route options to choose from: the Blue (18km) and Red (20.5km) Routes include a biggish climb around the 7km mark, while the shorter Yellow (10.7km) Route bypasses this calf-cruncher. To be honest, you’ll probably end up with your own mix-and-match combo once you get going …

The Red Route can be extended to 24km by including some Yellow segments, delivering a superb session brimming with tight bends, a few stiles and wooden bridges, plus a bunch of gnarly drops, stream crossings, switchbacks, climbs and rooty descent.

I found some of the outlying sections of track to be in need of maintenance, but then, I was there over New Year, and everyone needs a break now and then. The Green Kiddies’ Loop caters specifically for family outrides, with 2km, 4km and 7.5km short cuts. (The floating pallet bridge is no more … such a pity).

The XC Trail (4km) should come with a moderate “health” warning, as the gritty climbs and tricky switchbacks will test you. Winter riding brings with it a few added challenges in the deep-forest sections, where wet roots, mud and slippery crossings may take their toll.

The trails there are constantly improved, monitored and re-routed, so you can expect a good ride, every time. Entry fees are payable via an honesty box system and trails stay open 24/7. It is also a brilliant night-riding destination, but please keep your head lights on and beware of nocturnal animals on the trails.

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