Saddle up and tap into the magic of Overberg mountain biking amidst a patchwork of canola and wheat fields lining the picturesque ‘Around The Pot’ 100-Miler route. This may just be South Africa’s ‘greatest gravel grind’, but the good news is you can ride it solo any time!
– Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais
Welcome to Swellendam, my Bru! This lekker dorp stands proud as the third oldest settlement in all of SA, and easily rates as one of my favourite riding destinations here in the Western Cape. You cannot miss Swellies where it nestles against the foothills of the spectacular Langeberg ranges.
These magnificent mountains ruck up along the verdant course of the Breede River, with some really top MTB trails just waiting to be explored within this scenic and fertile valley. At its heart, Swellendam is still a proper boere-dorp, with bakkies lining the main street and a co-op where farmers pull in to sip on a cup or two of ‘boeretroos’ while discussing the weather.
Gracious architecture, the grandeur of the mountains, excellent restaurants, year-round rainfall and a temperate climate, and a glorious river all add up to exceptional views across the bars, wherever you may decide to ride. Finally, the fact that it’s pretty much half-way between Cape Town and the Garden Route positions it as the perfect biking stop when next you’re cruising the N2 …
More info on the area at www.overberg.info
Ja-ja … I know this is a race. And I know it’s a bit gravel-bikish, but what the hell. These #Groad rides have become all the rage right now, and you can go and ride 100% of this 161km humdinger solo (or with your mates, otherwise it might become a bit boring in that pain cave).
This makes for good race prep (the event can be done solo, or in teams of 2-4. Riders crank from the Swellies showgrounds for a few kilometres of tarmac highway-swanning, before turning left towards a hazy and rather distant Potberg mountain. Most of the riding is along the generally good quality gravel roads bisecting the rural farmlands.
The anti-clockwise route is pretty straight-forward to follow, as long as you keep an eye open for the signs indicating Malgas. During the race, there is a 45min neutral zone here, allowing the riders to tuck into a deliciously decadent roosterkoek, an item arguably more prized than the finishers’ medal.
Nothing stops you from packing your own carb door-stopper to tuck in to before crossing the Breede River on the Malgas Ferry. This is the only remaining human-operated ferry in South Africa, but not for long (rumours are rife that the ferry-men will be replaced soon).
From here, it is a hard grind home along the final 60km return ride to Swellendam (and somehow it all feels uphill). All in all, you will clock a solid 1900m of altitude gain over this challenging 100-Miler, and you can safely say that ‘Around The Pot’ is a true test of endurance. If you did not pack a roosterkoek, make sure you stop at the Buffelsjag BP Service Station on the way back … you’ll need one of their home-made roosterkoeks to boost your flagging energy levels!
And if 160km sounds like a bridge too far, the route offers several short-cut options for both solo riders and racers … skip Potberg for a 98km Shortcut across the ferry, or opt for an adventurous and rather bumpy 40km mountain biking meander via Bontebok National Park.
There is also a quickie 25km Chicken Run which for the youngsters, as the minimum age for the 160km and 98km is 18. For more information on this Petrichor Adventures Event (now part of the SA 100-Miler Series), check out www.aroundthepot.co.za
FAST FACTS BLOCK: ATP Route
|GRADING:||Moderate (no technical riding)|
|DURATION:||06h00 – 10h00|
|CONFIGURATION:||Circular 160km / 98km / 40km / 25km|
|START POINT:||Swellendam Show Grounds|
|TERRAIN:||Gravel roads and jeep-tracks|
POST-RIDE BEER: Enjoy a beer at the finish line while your bike gets a free wash and
MUST-DO EVENT: Around The Pot 100 Miler
ACCESS: Public Roads
CELL RECEPTION: Yes
ACCOMMODATION: Tent village, or accommodation through www.visitswellendam.co.za
COORDINATES: S34°1.683’ / E20°26.546’
CONTACT: www.aroundthepot.co.za / Telephone +27 (0)82 866 6176
From Cape Town, follow the N2 in an easterly direction for 220km. On entering Swellendam, turn left into Cooper Street and then onto your first left onto Station Street. The showgrounds – where the annual #ATP Event starts – are on your left, but you can start from any given spot.