Overstrand MTB – the De Hoop Vlei Experience

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Dune with a view, in De Hoop. Not your average sunset mountain bike ride. (Photo: Jacques Marais)
Dune with a view, in De Hoop. Not your average sunset mountain bike ride. (Photo: Jacques Marais)
  • Mountain biking and nature reserves are a potential dream experience for riders.
  • But riding in South Africa’s best nature reserves is not always that easy.
  • That’s where events, such as the De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience, are valuable enablers for adventurous mountain bikers. Who aren’t that bothered about winning medals.

South Africa has an abundance of spectacular nature reserves, hosting excellent trails. But even in the rarefied context of South African nature reserves, De Hoop is unique.

The southernmost part of South Africa remains a place imagined by many, but comprehensively explored by few.

Unlike many venues in an era of Instagram, there remains a sense of enduring mystery about the deep Overstrand region and its Whale coast.

De Hoop nature reserve guards a significant portion of the magical Overstrand and its unique coastline, famed for its aquamarine water and frequency of whale sightings. But what few South Africans correlate when one mentions 'De Hoop', is mountain biking.

mountain bike
The De Hoop Vlei MTB experience route might not have forest singletrack, but there are fast and rocky descents. (Photo: Oakpics)

Built to work with the local terrain 

De Hoop makes up for what it lacks in a sheer coastal mountain range with its rolling topography. And amid these hills are some terrifically rewarding singletrack trails. And astounding views at the crest of each climb.

Every trail network is the product of its topography, soil pattern and geology. It’s what makes for the diversity of riding.

At the De Hoop Vlei mountain bike event, singletrack spectacularly meets scenery. Most of the trails register inspiring views of the Indian ocean or De Hoop’s eponymous vlei.

mountain bike
The De Hoop Vlei MTB event route map for day 2, gives some idea of how much magnificent ocean comes into view. (Photo: De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience)

Riding the Whale Trail

The riding is not your traditional South African event, with a desire to conquer three-figure distances or four-figure elevation profiles, in a day. It’s very much a mountain biking journey of privilege and quality.

Being allowed to ride in De Hoop, is memorable enough, but riders at this year’s events will have access to previously off-limit sections of the Whale Trail.

mountain bike
Some of the Overstrand’s best secret singletrack, is part of the De Hoop Vlei MTB experience route. (Photo: Oakpics)

Hand-cut trails 

One of the highlights at De Hoop, is the Flat Rock singletrack descent. Opened in 2019, it’s a 4km technical riding reward for riders on the De Hoop Vlei MTB experience’s first stage.

South Africans are competitive and mountain biking stage racing has created a calendar of events catering to that riding disposition. But too many events route riders on boring and unscenic gravel roads, to add kilometres and reach a specific distance goal.

mountain bike
The vlei area is flat, giving riders the opportunity to roll some easy distance. (Photo: Oakpics)

Routes that reward - instead of torture and bore

In a country with immense terrain and trail diversity, it’s wasteful to obsess about stage race dynamics at the cost of what mountain biking is supposed to be. And that is an outdoor adventure journey by bike.

Some of the traditional mountain bike stage races have reconfigured their offering and there is a rise in less competitive events. The journey and privileged access to sensitive terrain is the reward, instead of an especially torturous route profile.

mountain bike Overstrand
What’s a South African mountain bike event, without a bit of technical climbing? (Photo: Oakpics)

Ride more - race less

The De Hoop Vlei MTB experience adheres to the foundational principles of mountain biking and its Northern Californian origins. Enabling riders to shape their adventure in a pristine environment, with a guiding hand organisational support – but without an obsession to Strava KOM each part of the trail

Mountain biking is never about meters climbed. Or kilometres conquered. It’s about mindful time on the bike with like-minded riders. And that’s where events such as the De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience are better than a stage race.

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