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Updated 10 July 2013

Go on a cycle safari

Get on your bike and explore the countryside - at home or abroad.

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Dust off your bike and start preparing for a trip, whether it’s a getaway family weekend in the country, the cycle tour you’ve always wanted to tackle or a biking holiday in fabulous France.

It’s not just about exploring beautiful new environments. When you’re cycling along a quiet, winding road lined with sunflowers and lavender bushes, you become one with nature.

When you’re in a car, bus or train there’s a big steel cage between you, the sweet-smelling air and the lush fields. But when you’re on a bike you’re right in the thick of it.

You’re also getting out and about with family and friends: laughing up the hills, getting there together. And then there’s the escape from the daily grind. Even food tastes better and beds are softer when you’re hungry and tired after a long day in the saddle...

You can cycle along French lavender fields – but you don’t have to go that far. Lavender turns the road between Paarl and Franschhoek into a purply-blue heaven in spring and summer.

Other parts of our country also have gorgeous back roads ideal for cycling getaways. Here are our favourite four . . .

  1. Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek
  2. Grade Easy! Even kids aged eight will be able to keep up.

    Fitness level There’s no need to pedal more than 40 km a day and with so many great places to stop, you’ll barely feel the distance. It will take you about five hours a day to complete the route if you take it easy.

    Where? Through the Cape winelands, right in the heart of the Boland.

    Why? There are good directions along the way and you’re never on a highway. Pack a rucksack with your favourite snacks and stop for a picnic at one of the beautiful wine cellars en route, or turn off at Fairview Wine Estate for goat’s cheese and wine.

    Distance You’ll have covered about 100 km by the end of the weekend.

    Route description Take the R44 from Stellenbosch to Paarl. You’ll pass Elsenburg Agricultural College and cycle about 30 km until you reach Paarl. The next day cycle another 30 km or so to Franschhoek on the R301. On the last day pedal back to Stellenbosch on the R310 for the last 30 km.

    Good departure point Leave from Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium in Suidwal Street for the easiest route out of Stellenbosch.

    Contact For road maps and information on where to stay, contact each town’s tourist bureau.
    Stellenbosch: 021-883-3584, www.stellenbosch.co.za
    Paarl: 021-872-0860, www.paarlonline.com
    Franschhoek: 021-876-3603, www.franschhoek.org.za

  3. Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Clarens, Bethlehem
  4. Grade You shouldn’t be totally unfit for this route which is suitable for kids of eight and older.

    Fitness level If you’re used to an active lifestyle you should be able to complete this ride. You don’t have to be at peak fitness.

    Where? Between the stunning Rooiberge and Witteberge where the Free State and Lesotho meet.

    Why? It’s a safe route that takes you through the majestic mountain ranges, valleys and hills of the Free State to the picture-postcard town of Clarens.

    Distance Adapt the route to suit your ability and decide how many days you’ll need to complete the trip. It’s about 110 km from Ficksburg to Bethlehem.

    Route description Cycle from Ficksburg through Caledons Poort on the R62 for about 53 km to Fouriesburg. The next day ride along the R711 to Clarens for 13 km, or keep on going on the R711 to Bethlehem for 40 km. The following day bike through the Golden Gate National Park and back to Ficksburg.

    Good departure point The town hall in Voortrekker Street, Ficksburg.

    Contact For road maps and information on where to stay, contact the tourist bureau in each town.
    Ficksburg: 051-933-2130, www.ficksburg.org.za
    Fouriesburg: 058-223-0280, www.fouriesburg.info2us.com
    Clarens: 058-256-1542, www.clarens.co.za
    Bethlehem: 058-303-5732, www.bethlehem4u.com

  5. Mossel Bay, Grootbrak, George
  6. Grade Easy! Even kids aged eight will be able to keep up.

    Fitness level Even after a long, lazy December holiday without exercise you’ll still be able to cycle this route with ease.

    Where? Between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains on the beautiful Garden Route along the south coast.

    Why? It’s a safe route along the ocean with some of the most stunning views in the country. You can stop at the many farm stalls and other tourist attractions en route.

    Distance By the end of the weekend you’ll have covered about 100 km.

    Route description Leave Mossel Bay and follow the R102 past Hartenbos and Kleinbrak until you reach Grootbrak, about 22 km from Mossel Bay. The next day cycle from Grootbrak to Herolds Bay, still on the R102. After 12 km turn right at George airport onto the R404 for a 7-km cycle to Herolds Bay.

    Overnight in Herolds Bay or cycle further along the R404 past George airport and over the R102 to the Blanco residential area, where the famous Fancourt golfing estate is situated. George’s tourist resort is about 19 km further along on the same road. The next day cycle to Mossel Bay along the R102 for about 54 km.

    Good departure point The Point Waterfront area right next to the sea in Mossel Bay.

    Contact For road maps and information, contact the tourist bureau in each town.
    Mossel Bay: 044-691-2202, www.tourismmosselbay.co.za
    Grootbrak: 044-620-3338, www.greatbrakriver.co.za
    George: 044-801-9295, www.georgetourism.co.za

  7. Upington, Keimoes, Kakamas
  8. Grade Easy! Even kids aged eight will be able to keep up.

    Fitness level It doesn’t matter how fit you are.

    Where? Along the banks of the Orange River in the Northern Cape.

    Why? You’ll get a great look at the Green Kalahari’s characteristic landscape as well as its endless lucerne fields and vineyards. It’s a safe route and you can explore each town’s rich culture and history along the way.

    Distance Adapt the route to suit you and decide how long you’ll need to complete the trip. It’s 80 km from Upington to Kakamas.

    Route description Cycle from Upington to Keimoes on the R64 for 40 km and the next day from Keimoes to Kakamas, still on the R64 and for another 40 km. The Augrabies Falls are just 36 km outside Kakamas.

    Cycle back to Upington or arrange for a friend to pick you up in Kakamas – the towns are only an hour’s drive apart.

    Good departure point The Eiland Holiday Resort on the N10.

    Contact For road maps and accommodation information, contact each town’s tourist bureau.
    Upington: 054-332-1196, www.upington.co.za
    Keimoes: 054-461-6400, www.upington.com/ Keimoes.htm
    Kakamas: 054-431-838, www.kakamas.co.za

    Cycling in Europe


    You could of course hit the road abroad too!

    What makes a biking holiday in Europe so special is the wide selection of well-organised cycle tours. You can even put together your own tour.

    Cyclists are respected on the road and you’re not in danger of being run over, while trains and most guest houses and hotels will happily accommodate bicycles. Because there are so many options you might be able to afford one sooner than you think . . .

    Grade Routes vary from flat and easy for the whole family and hilly for those who are somewhat fit, to difficult for the cyclist who wants to conquer the mountain.

    Where? Just about anywhere in Europe. You can cycle through the flat Dutch fields; the French, Italian and German countrysides; the undulating Croatian and Austrian landscapes; and even Switzerland’s mountainous reaches.

    Why? Europe is geared for cyclists: the trains, guesthouses, roads (apart from major highways) and motorists are bike-friendly. The food, especially in France and Italy, is out of this world and you can really escape the daily grind.

    Distance From 10 km to around 70 km a day, depending on your level of fitness and how many hills dot the route.

    Contact If you’re considering a biking holiday in Europe, visit www.cycling-for-softies.co.uk for more on tours organised by Susi Madron. Also take a look at www.hookedoncycling.co.uk or www.2wheeltreks.co.uk.

    Cost The price of a cycling holiday (plane tickets and snacks excluded but bikes, accommodation and dinner included) can range from around R7 500 per person for four to five days to R18 000 per person for seven to nine days, depending on the route and accommodation chosen.

    There are often special packages for families sharing accommodation. You could also organise your own trip and accommodation – if you plan it right, it’s possible to halve the cost.

 
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