Words & Images: Jacques Marais
The coastal stretch west of “the world’s perfect wave” in Jeffreys Bay rates as one of SA’s undiscovered
mountain biking gems. There’s no huge trail network, but you’ll get to super-charge your soul along a range of sumptuous coastal rides.
There’s a little piece of pedal paradise awaiting fat-trackers just west of the glorious swell of Super Tubes … all you need to do is wend your way up the coast past Aston Bay and Paradise Beach, and you will soon discover St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay.
These names conjure up visions of pristine beaches, white-walled and thatched homesteads, epic surfing and a whole host of other aqua adventures. But who knew the mountain biking trails here would be a match to rival the ocean stoke? All these scenic coastal towns are highly rated conservation villages, and the locals are renowned for the emphasis they place on preserving the natural environment. As such, it is of key importance to keep this in mind when saddling up along these remote coastal trails and beaches. For more info on where to ride, get in touch with www.stfrancistourism.co.za
Mountain bikers can enjoy safe and extreme cycling at Kamarai; this used to be known as Tim’s Trails, and is situated just off the Oyster Bay Road. Three individual routes cater for all levels of riders, with the easy Yellow Route a perfect starting point for beginners and families with kids; this is non-technical and perfect to introduce novices to off-road cycling.
The Green Route is for average mountain bikers, with easier technical sections. A 3.2km lap features flowing singletrack with berms, table-tops and about 70m of climbing. A technical, longer Red Route is for competitive mountain bikers, with testing rock gardens along a 6.5km lap including steep ascents. Facilities include bathrooms, a kiosk, play area and pet farm – contact Sumare on +27-82 / 550 9606.
St Francis Milk Run
The road brigade would enjoy this 37km route starting in St Francis, with 60% gravel and 40% tar. It is a fast, scenic ride that starts off along the R330 towards Oyster Bay, passing wind farms, crossing the Kromme River and several dairy farms, before returning to St Francis. There is also an Oyster Bay Loop starting from St Francis and heading to Oyster Bay. This 56km loop has 650m of climbing, 85% gravel and 15% tar, with spectacular views as you pass Impofu Dam.
Oyster Bay Beach Ride
Go rent a fat bike from Oyster Kaya (www.oysterkaya.co.za) in Oyster Bay and cruise the beach at high tide on a 7km ride to Thysbaai. During low tide, you can add an extra 2km to the ride, although there may be some hike-a-bike involved … it is totally worth the effort. A further 8km ride in a westerly direction along the beach will take to you to Klippenpunt.
Round the Mountain
A 104km route with 1529m of climbing (85% gravel and 15% tar) starts off from St Francis towards Oyster Bay, before turning right to Humansdorp. Pass through town and cross the N2 on the R330, continuing to the mountains. Turn left on the R332 to loop and descends back to St Francis, offering clear coastal views of Jeffreys Bay and St Francis. This is not a ride to be tackled lightly, with heat and wind playing a large role at certain times of the year.
St Francis Singletrack Loop
This breath-taking 20km trail meanders along 70% singletrack (with the occasional stretch of gravel or tar as connection) between SFB and CSF (yes, I’m sure you can figure this out) … Start in St Francis Bay and head to the harbour along Otters Landing, then turn into the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve.
Pass the legendary Cape St Francis Resort and head right into the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve in the direction of Seal Point (ask any surfer and they’ll point the way). Join the designated singletrack past the lighthouse from here, continuing back into the Flora Reserve before joining onto the R330. Finally, turn right via St Francis Airfield on a new singletrack section that will bomb you back into town.