The beauty of a mountain bike is that its limitations are few when it comes to where you can take it and how far you can push the boundaries of exploration on it. Set aside enough time, string in some good company and you can set off on a Sunday adventure right in your backyard before you have to face that Monday morning traffic the next day. You will be surprised at the new places you will discover on your bike – see things differently through a “bike’s-eye-view”.
Myself and Dewald planned to do a MTB ride out to Hartbeespoort dam, a 100km out and back route which we have done once before and loved it. We were itching to revisit our Harties ride again and planned our next ride for a Sunday morning, as the roads are a bit more quieter then. From Pretoria we cycled on singletrack next to the Waterkloof Airforce base, passing through Centurion and headed into the suburb of Erasmia (South West of Central Pretoria) where you hit a few turns straight onto one long glorious stretch of gravel road. The gravel road crosses the Hennops river three times of which the second crossing was a real adventurous task of getting across. With the heavy rains at the time the river was flowing strong and flooded the low cement bridge making it challenging to cross even by car. Shoes came off and bikes went onto the shoulders and into the soft mud and knee deep water we went while people in cars were contemplating on how to cross this flooded bridge…..bikes rules!
Both times we cycled this route we felt very safe, as with any out ride there is safety in numbers. The smoothly graded gravel road leads you through a valley of beautiful hills and bushveld straight into the R551 tar road which intersects with Hennops MTB and hiking trails. From here you have options on where to take your adventure further. Go hit the Hennops MTB trails and ride back home or as we did, take a right turn onto the tar and head up over the hill into town . The reward of coffee and breakfast at the Windmill Restaurant after that little climb is sure worth it plus the view of seeing the dam over the hill is priceless, especially because you got there by bike. I remember visiting Harties on a regular basis with family as a school kid, it was a big, full day outing, now I ride my bike there!
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to food and coffee spots once in Hartbeespoort, so take a ride through town and see what tickles your fancy. We made our rounds at the Windmill / Jasmyn Farmers Market, a popular attraction in Hartbeespoort, and while eating waffles for breakfast I said it would be cool to ride around the dam….let’s go! Dewald looked at my with his eyebrow raised, “you know I won’t say no but I know I will be pushing you back home later on……I’m in!” Needless to say he had to push me and deal with some groans of pain. The route through town was fun and safe enough with enough space next to the tar to ride on some dirt tracks. Ride through the tunnel and stop at the dam wall for some selfies and beautiful photos of the dam which flows into the Crocodile river. Once past the dam the route becomes a little bit hectic as there’s not much dirt next to the road or a shoulder to ride on which forces you to either get close to the cars on a relatively busy road…or find yourself stuck in the bushes. Keep it cautious here and this section of the loop will be done quick until you cross over the dam again, beautiful views are in abundance here, another photo stop spot. It’s a long stretch of tar back to another gravel road, smooth and fast if you have the legs left to hit it hard. Here you get the feeling of being in the middle of the bush, surrounded by beautiful nature. Back again on tar towards Pretoria. We took a different route back home and passed through the South African Air force training grounds, here you will see some cool old air force equipment displayed next to the road while passing through.
Along this 130km route there is more than enough spots to stop for great coffee, breakfast, lunch and snacks. Make a day of it and go have fun between Gauteng and North West province, remember to pack your legs! My fetal position when I got back home was proof that I clearly forgot mine!