December school holidays are a great time to be a South African. The sun is out, half the country seems to be on vacation and everyone is in a mood to relax after a long working year. For cyclists, the long days and great weather means early morning or late afternoon rides. Gaining fitness and working off the festive season’s inevitable overindulgences.
With that in mind here are some of the best spots to ride your road bike this December.
The Mother City has over recent years developed a vast network of cycling lanes making riding Cape Town safer than ever. Visitors can pedal from Melkbos on the West Coast into the CBD without ever leaving a dedicated cycle lane, which is fantastic. The route we would recommend though is the Atlantic Seaboard ride. There are few rides, globally, which can match it for beauty. Start at a Green Point coffee shop, or in the V&A Waterfront and follow the coastal roads (the M6 primarily) past the Cape Town Stadium, Sea Point, Clifton, Camps Bay, along Victoria Road into Hout Bay, over Chapmans Peak Drive and down into Noodhoek. The Noodhoek Farm Village is a hotspot for local cyclists and a popular turn-around point, after a coffee and a pastry. To cover more kilometres, forge on through Kommetjie, Misty Cliffs and Scarborough (on the M65) towards the gate of Cape Point National Park. From the Stadium to Noodhoek and back is a shade over 60 kilometres. The return route features the Cycle Tour route ascents of Chapmans Peak and Suikerbossie, so do not burn all your matches on the way out.
The friendly city of Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa’s event hotspots. Boasting a full IRONMAN and a 5150 triathlon, along with mainstays of the cycling calendar like The Herald Continental Cycle Tour, it is a great place to ride a bike. Eastern Cape locals are also famously friendly so joining a group ride with riders from the city will be easy. The route to ride is the IRONMAN bike course. Start at the King’s Beach parking area and follow the coastal road out though Summerstrand and past Humewood Golf Course. Once past the course nature takes over as the road cuts through the Nelson Mandela University Private Nature Reserve. Follow Marine Drive and then Sardinia Bay Road all the way to Claredon Marine, for a 45-kilometre one-way ride. On the way back the option to cut inland presents itself or to retrace the coastal roads back to Port Elizabeth.
The city of sand, sea and surf might be the place to go for water sports this December but riding a bike through the lush sub-tropical vegetation lined streets is not a bad plan either. Once again, the best route to follow is one well-established by the city’s flagship bike race: aQuellé Tour Durban. Starting in the shadow of Moses Mabhida stadium the route winds its way up to the M4 before following the coast north. Turn around points abound, depending on fitness levels, as do spots to stop for a mid-ride coffee. For an 80-kilometre ride turn at the Umdloti circle or push on to the Brettenwood Coastal Estate to clock up close to a century.
Holiday makers on the coastal stretch between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay have plenty of roads to ride, but the go-to option for that area should be a gravel bike. With endless back roads, through farms and plantations, to grind the best riding is off the asphalt. Staring outside Mossel Bay, in the resort town of Groot Brak riders can crank their way to George on the tarred R102, before hitting the gravel Seven Passes Road to Knysna. Tar through town links riders onto the Prince Alfred Pass. Rolling hills through the Knysna Forests make for spectacular riding before turning right onto the R340 points one in the direction of Plettenberg Bay. The route joins the N2 on the Bietourivier, between Plett and Keurbooms, after taking in a shade over 150 kilometres of riding. So, it is essential to organise to be picked up at the far end, or to cut it short by only riding segments of it.
The heartbeat of South Africa’s economy never truly sleeps and some cyclists will not have the luxury of a seaside holiday as they have to keep the country’s lights on. There are still great riding options tough and with public holidays aplenty in December lots of time for big days on the bike. On the road the Cradle loop is tough to beat. The central loop is 30 kilometres long, features a dedicated bike path the whole way around and a bike lane leading into it along the R114 from Muldersdrift. Cycling to the loop will, obviously, add kilometres while for riders more interested in a relaxed pedal the area boasts a host of great places to start and finish a ride – with restaurants and coffee shops providing the fuel for rides both long and short.
The Cape Town Cycle Tour would like to see you all on the start line on the 8th of March 2020, so you need to get through the festive season safely. The usual rules of riding still apply for December, so remember to protect your head at all times. No helmet no ride, even if it is just a spin to the beach.
Be traffic conscious too. Remember this time of year is filled with distractions and it is always better to exercise caution, act as if the drivers of cars around you are unaware of your fragile existence on a bike alongside them. Riding with a flashing red rear light will help ensure you are seen but riding defensively, using bike lanes and staying within the yellow line whenever possible should be your goal.
If you are holidaying somewhere new join a local riding group. Facebook is a great way to connect with fellow riders and doing so will ensure you get shown the best places to ride. Riding in a group will also help mitigate the risk of muggings and there is visibility as well as safety in numbers, so you will be easier to spot for drivers too.
See You in March
With all the riding you are sure to do this festive season you will only have to do a bit of maintenance when 2020 starts to get busy. So why not put that fitness to good use? Challenge yourself to attempt your best Cape Town Cycle Tour yet. Race for age-group placing, clock a sub-3 or knock-off those extra minutes and duck below the 4-hour mark. Entries to the Cape Town Cycle Tour are open and after a big summer of riding it is the perfect motivation to keep you rolling. Visit www.capetowncycletour.com to secure your spot on the start line, on 8 March 2020.