MTB in Mbombela

Mankele Mountain Bike Park

Talk about legendary riding destinations, and the name Mankele is sure to surface at some stage during the conversation. This fantastically varied trail network is situated within indigenous forests blanketing the mountain ranges rising up near the Sudwala Caves. 

©Jacques Marais

Their bike park perches upon the banks of the Houtbosloop River, with a terrain mix of everything from sub-tropical forest, open grasslands and dense kloofs to towering peaks. In short, mention any kind of riding, and you can bet your bottom bracket it is possible here at Mankele. The beauty about Mankele as a destination is that the trail network is consistently being updated, with wooden boardwalks and bridges added at key points.

These additions perfectly complement the natural trails and pathways, thereby ensuring adrenaline-inducing riding with a superb balance between challenging ascents, downhill blasts, huge drops and super-smooth single-track.

Mankele rates as a training destination of choice for many of South Africa’s top riders, but there is something for everyone, no matter what your riding skill, fitness level or age. All trails are well-marked and colour-coded, with clear warning signs for any technical or extreme obstacles (these will generally have ‘chicken run’ detours).

Go All Out

©Jacques Marais

Start off with an easy pedal along the 5 km Blue Route, with a mix of flowing single-track, bridges and jeep track perfect for beginners practising their technical skills. Short but ultimately rewarding, this ride starts at reception and leads you out the main gate, where the fun starts.

Cross the bridge to drop into the right onto an awesome stretch of single-track following the river. Cross the watercourse after a km or so, cranking into a short climb and then along some flat jeep track leading back to the campsite. Continue into the Adventure Zone, up Mamba Koppie and back along the river’s edge to the start.

Or you can go all out on the infamous 55 kilometres Purple Route, but you better wear your big girl pants. The first 15 kilometres is a non-stop battle granny gear grunt of a climb, but you had better believe there are some magnificent views waiting for you once you reach the summit. The descent is all about sick single-track zigging through bush tunnels and huge hoicks, so get ready to redefine your view on hair-raising riding. Always be careful and scout the runs, and if at all unsure opt for the chicken run.

If this does not kick your adrenal gland into overdrive, there is always the utter mayhem of the 1.8 kilometre Downhill Run. This is reserved for full-on gravity riders, with a combo of sweeping switch-backs, drop-offs and rock gardens intent on ripping you off your bike.

For the slightly less insane, the new 1.8 kilometre Black Route is special and very technical. Black Dot sections on most routes will spice things up, but don’t complain if you lose your teeth on these! Best Time of Year: All year round destination; summer riding can be a hot, dusty and sweaty business. Off the Bike: Mankele boasts breathtaking hikes and trail run routes, with a wealth of animal and birdlife. If you feel like a chilled afternoon, go bass fishing or river tubing, or relax around the pool and braai area.

By Jacques Marais


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