JBay Bike Park & Zebra Lodge MTB Trails, Eastern Cape
17/12/2020

Tulbach Bone Trail

Mountain biking can be a pretty cruel sport and chances are you will seriously suffer if you tackle the Tulbagh Bone Trail a tad undercooked. Yup, this is a tough old bugger of a crank into those high-and-righteous Witzenberg ridges …

The Routes

Local Buzz:

Welcome to sleepy Tulbagh, a typical Winelands village nesting in an unspoilt valley unfolding within the craggy amphitheatre encompassing the stunning Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area. There’s much more to the region than quality wine though, with much historic architecture, lekker craft breweries and a bunch of hiking trails.

But you’re here to ride your bike, Bru, and there’s some superb singletrack, thanks to the local MTB Club which has been putting in loads of hard graft. Top of the list is ‘The Bone’ or Schalkenbosch Trail, at 26km a fairly testing ride. The route traverses the mountainside above Tulbagh and – if you’re not that fit – t may be best to stick to the lower Fairy Loop.

Most of the steep and gritty singletrack climbing (almost 800m all in all) switchbacks into the craggy ridges above this once you’ve pedalled beyond Steinthal onto the mountain slopes. Keep it tidy along the lower technical sections around the river & ravine crossings, and avoid the midday heat if you can.

Trail Low-Down

Crank off on your MTB mission from the trailhead at Manley Wine Lodge just outside historic Tulbagh, keeping right on tarmac for a couple hundred metres before klapping a sharp left. You immediately hit your first stile and flat-line onto a trippy 3km singletrack stretch skedaddling along the lower reaches of the Klein Berg River.

This morphs onto a gravel road climb through verdant apple and plum orchards until you reach the split between the Green and Black Routes at around 6km. Now will be a good time to put on your Big Boy Pants, as you’re about to say hello to Granny as you wind a steep switchback trail to the Bone Trail summit (7.5km).

Pin your ears back as you descend to re-join the Green Route Green Route at just on 9km, having rejoiced in the high-speed joys of gravity, but the next ascent lies in wait. Much up-and-down follows as the trail rollercoasters about in wild abandon; what goes up most come down, and go up again a few times, until you finally bottom out for the last time at approximately 15km.

The fun is by no means done as you duck and dive via a river section to dip past Schalkenbosch gate (18km) on a speedy gravel section. We lost our directions round about here and (I personally blame a bit of heat stroke), but it seems we did not miss out on too much.

Keep it pedal to the metal as you bomb back into the sleepy Tulbagh main street, with whole host of quirky eateries vying for your cash dollar. When I did the ride, it was at least 34° Celsius, and damn, that 26km ride sure felt like 60 kays!!

The distance for the Bone Trail Black route is approximately 26km and requires a solid level of fitness and intermediate technical skills. The Green Route can be reduced to 15km with 250m elevation by returning via the tar-road from the first section of single track.

 

Best Time of Year:

 Tulbagh is situated on the edge of the Winelands Region and, although it has a climate predominantly Mediterranean, it is subject to climatic extremes. Freezing winter and boiling summer temperatures can be expected, so plan and dress accordingly when you take on the trails.

FAST FACTS BLOCK

GRADING: Intermediate to difficult
DURATION: 26km / 2 hrs
CONFIGURATION: Circular route
START POINT: Manley Wine Lodge
GPS COORDS:  33°16’15,5 S / 19°08’44,4 E (Manley Wine Lodge)
TERRAIN: Gravel road, singletrack and some tarmac
POST-RIDE BEER: Coffee & Cream Restaurant at Winley Wine Lodge
MUST-DO EVENT: This route will be part of the ABSA Cape Epic
ACCESS: Trail permit from Tourism Office required
CELL RECEPTION: Yes
ACCOMMODATION: Amazing camping at www.secret-falls-tulbagh.com
CONTACT: www.tulbaghtourism.co.za

Getting There

From Cape Town, follow the N1, take Exit 47 to Franschhoek/Wellington and continue for 116km until you reach Tulbagh. Turn left into Van der Stel Street onto the Winterhoek Road; after 5.5km you will see Manley Wine Lodge on your left.

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