Closest Town: Hartebeespoort/Skeerpoort
Grading: Intermediate to Extreme | Duration: Depends on fitness and route
Location (Area/Province): Eastern Region and North West
Configuration: Up to 100km of trails
Start Point: Van Gaalens Restaurant
Access: Purchase a day permit and sign the indemnity form at the farm
Beware of: Horses on the trail. Stop cycling if approached by horses.
Facilities: Restaurant and toilets at the start. Picnic spots next to the river, accommodation.
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Van Gaalen as the ‘Big Cheese’ of mountain biking in Gauteng this historic cheese farm, situated on the edge of the rural community of Skeerpoort has become a bit of a go-to destinations for mountain bikers from Jozi and surrounds. Their constantly evolving MTB trails traverse much of the Magaliesberg region, combining top-quality single-track with an endless network of gravel roads.
The rural landscape, rugged koppies and spread-out grasslands makes it difficult to believe that you are only 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg and Pretoria. There is a real sense of place at Van Gaalen, with old Dutch-style architecture set within a picturesque valley, plus of course the abundant natural grandeur and history one finds here at the foot of the Magaliesberg and in the Cradle of Humankind.
On your bike
The trails are predominantly along purpose-built single-track, and the riding does not get much better than this as you bomb through reed beds, arid bush veldt, open grassland and across rivers. The extensive network of trails, all on private land and stretching across 10 farms, offers cranking options of up to 100km. The core riding loops are mainly on single-track, jeep track and some horse trails, with additional options along servitude and gravel roads. Everything is linked together so you can create as many alternative routes and loops as you want.
Thus the variety is mind-boggling, allowing everybody to discover their own little piece of cranking heaven. Start from reception on any of the well-marked routes – colour-coded for various skills levels – to explore the river trail with wooden and even floating bridges under a canopy of trees. Play through reed tunnels and then tackle the technical climbs – with ups and downs through dongas and kloofs – with differing gradients as you head into the rocky koppies.
Most of the trails cut by Eric (the owner of Van Gaalen) use the natural contours along the rugged ridge lines, creating technical, rocky single-track descents, lung busting ascents and spectacular views. The single-track along the Skeerpoort River cuts through thick reeds and bush forming a ‘bush tunnel’ corridor, with a flat profile and very little climbing … think pure cranking bliss!
’ Pofadder’ is possibly the steepest climb on the Van Gaalen trail network; the ascent lasts for a full 3.5km and ascends in the region of 250m over this distance. The old ‘Dagga Pad’, carved out by smugglers during the days of yore, this craggy ride is sure to get your adrenalin pumping as you snake along a sheer cliff plummeting a good 10m to your side.
Beware that some of the riding at van Gaalen is not suited for beginners, especially the rocky climbs and huge drop-offs. Rookies should rather opt for the flat river trails, where you can play to your heart’s content. A great deal of mountain biking takes place in the area, and some routes are shared by runners, mountain bikers and horse riders, and safety is therefore not an issue.
Off the bike
Enjoy a lovely relaxing picnic on the banks of the Skeerpoort River and admire the abundant birdlife, do the cheese tour or stay active and run/walk the many trails available.
Tel: +27 (0)12 207 1289
Cellular: + +27 (0)83 226 7834
GPS: S 25º 47.271’ E 27º 46.327’