Mountain Biking

One of the “Rhodes visionaries” dating back to the “Hippie era” in Rhodes, the late Raymond Samuel Hallatt, took it upon himself to establish one of the first mountain bike races in the country, known as the “Rhodes Mountain Bike Challenge”. Often referred to as the grandfather of mountain bike races in South Africa, it was first pedalled on the 29th October 1994.

 

At that time, telecommunications were by means of the original “windey-windey” systems complete with a telephone exchange in Barkly East. This placed enormous limitations on organising an event of such magnitude from Rhodes. Hallatt accordingly undertook to set up and organise the event for a period of five years. He did this with great success evidenced by the fact that almost 600 riders was the highest number of entrants in 1997. Hallatt also netted the artistic skills of Susie Mills who did the artwork for each of the five event posters during Hallatt’s period of tenure. Signed copies of all five posters can be seen at the Thankshjalot Bar at Walkerbouts Inn.

 

The race started in Rhode s and headed out along R396 to the Naudesnek Pass. On the watershed where the descent into the Maclear district begins, the route left the R396 and followed the road to the Cairntoul Police Station. From there, it continued along the border patrol road to where it joined the road from Rhodes to the Tiffindell Ski Resort and meandered across the Ben McDhui plateau to begin the descent via the Carlisleshoek Pass. The top section of this pass was concreted to limit erosion and was conducive to the top racers reaching speeds of up to 60km/hr. The route descends by 320m over a distance of 2.2km by which time, it is a gravel surface. It then follows the contour to a final descent into the valley and continues to Rhodes. The total distance is 84km. Starting in at 1820m and the highest point en route is 2668m, a difference of a mere 848m. This pales into insignificance when compared to the total vertical climb of  …. ! When part of the Mazda Series, the race attracted the top mountain bike riders in the country who completed the route in less than 3 hours!

 

Initially, the border patrol road was indeed a road albeit with minimal maintenance. It has subsequently been completely ignored by the authorities so is more of an eroded track than a road nonetheless, it is still eminently rideable but not for the faint-hearted or, from a safety point of view best not attempted on one’s own.

 

But Rhodes is not only about race routes and the like. It is, in fact, an ideal venue for family mountain biking expeditions or, for younger children, merely peddling around the village is an enjoyable option. The R396 allows access to nearby valleys such as the Kloppershoekspruit, Maartenshoek and of course, the Carlisleshoek valley, each of which has a charm of its own. Apart from these “out and back” routes there are several circular options that can easily be plotted on the diagrammatical map that includes distances but, at this stage, no vertical climb data!

Last but by no means least, Hallatt is one of the least acknowledged “village fathers” whose boundless contribution played an immense role in the development of Rhodes.

Some of our spectacular mountain bike routes, to name but a few. Riding at own risk.
Please contact us should you be interested in undertaking any of the below routes: 045 971 9003 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1) Rhodes -Maartenshoek/Table Hill -Rhodes.
A very scenic and fairly easy ride of approximately 41 km’s long which takes you out along the Barkly East road, into Maartenshoek and up to the top of the valley to the poplar forest where the old Table Hill farmhouse once stood.
The ride is mostly on a fairly rough public gravel road and a single track private road and has no serious inclines.
No major technical skills are required.
There are, however numerous “wet”crossings of the Maartenshoek spruit and weather conditions must be carefully observed due to the danger of flash floods.
There are various picnic and swimming spots along the way. (These will be designated and marked at at a later stage)
This route is suitable for family groups including capable children.

Rhodes - Maartenshoek - Table Hill - Rhodes

2) Rhodes -Donkerhoek/Clontarf -Bokspruit -Rhodes.
A route of approximately 42km’s that will require strong hill climbing legs and good brakes, takes you out on the Barkly East road to just before the Donkerhoek sale pens, down through the farm ‘Clontarf’ on a very steep and rough 4×4 track before you cross the Bokspruit and join the public gravel road back to Rhodes.
There is a very long and steep ascent as you climb your way back up to Donkerhoek where you get back on to the Barkly/Rhodes road.

Rhodes - Donkerhoek - Clontarf - Bokspruit - Rhodes

3)Wartrail Loop. Rhodes -Carlisleshoek/Tiffindell-Volunteershoek/Wartrail-Mosheshesford-Rhodes.
The longest route on our present list, of approximately 94 km’s, takes one out of Rhodes on the Naudesnek road and then into the Carlisleshoek on the road to Tiffindell. At the top of the valley one encounters the infamous concrete strip road which has to be negotiated to get you up the mountain. A distance of about 1.5km’s elevates you some 700 meters!
From the top of the concrete strip it is a fairly easy ride on a good gravel road towards Tiffindell Ski Resort and on to the top of the Volunteershoek pass. At this stage one has climbed almost 1000m above the altitude of Rhodes village.
Volunteershoek pass then drops very steeply down into the beautiful Wartrail valley. It is then a long ride back to Rhodes through the scenic Joggemspruit pass and Mosheshesford.
This is a long ride and it is recommended that riders are accompanied by a support vehicle.
Another option would be to turn this into a two day excursion with riders booking in to one of the numerous accommodation facilities in the Wartrail valley.

Wartrail Loop

4) The Grandfather. Rhodes- Naudesnek/Cairntoul/Tenahead/Tiffendell/Carlisleshoek-Rhodes
This is also a very long and tough route of approximately 81 km’s.
The Grandfather is the route along which the now non-happening Rhodes Mountainbike Challenge used to be ridden.
On leaving Rhodes you take the public road up to the top of Naudesnek (Alt + -2600m,and almost 1000m above the village.).
A few sharp descents and inclines then take you to the edge of the great escarpment with spectacular views out over the Elandsheights and the old Transkei.
You then turn off the public road and follow the border patrol road, past Tenahead Lodge and along the Lesotho border before reaching the Rhodes/Tiffindell road.
The concrete strip road with its very steep descent then takes you down into the Carlisleshoek valley and on towards Rhodes.

The Grandfather


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