Blaze a trail across the Tankwa Karoo in the 2023 News24 Karoo Burn

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  • South Africa unquestionably has the world’s best gravel riding and racing terrain. Most of it spread across the Karoo. 
  • If you want to ride the best Karoo gravel roads in a single day, there’s an extreme event that provides the opportunity. 
  • The News24 Karoo Burn is 242km of mindfulness and suffering through the Tankwa. 

 Gravel is growing in South Africa, and the News24 Karoo Burn is primed to spark the kindling. 


South Africa’s most infamous unpaved road is its proving ground. The R355 makes the News24 Karoo Burn a must-do event for all off-road riders: both gravel and mountain bikers. 

At 242km, a standard hundred miler would call it a day when the race really gets going at the Tankwa Padstal at the foot of the Katbakkies Pass. 

Tankwa Karoo
4. Katbakkies Pass, located 168km into the 242km route, is the race’s major challenge. (Photo: Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.)

'Burners' will know the route well

Fans of a good time in the desert will already be familiar with the R355. It leads to AfrikaBurn’s Tankwa Town.

While the bike race will feature less trance music, it will boast just as much dust and welcoming hospitality. Riders might also be best served with a mutant bike for the News24 Karoo Burn, scheduled for 25 February 2023.  

Tankwa Karoo
1. The News24 Karoo Burn takes riders along South Africa’s longest uninterrupted gravel road, the R355. (Photo: Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.)

If in doubt, bring the big-tyre bike 

"To be honest, the road isn’t great right now," Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management confessed. "I’d recommend mountain bikes over gravel bikes. Or maybe a monster cross, hardtail 29er with drop handlebars…"

"The flash floods which swept through the Tankwa Karoo in December have done wonders for the veld, but the roads took a beating," Rademeyer warned. "Never say never when it comes to the toughest riders completing a route on gravel bikes. A mountain bike is the sensible decision for anyone wanting to blend speed and comfort."

Tankwa Karoo
3. Despite its distance, the News24 Karoo Burn is made achievable by the superbly stocked Dryland Event Management water points. (Photo: Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.)

Comprehensive support all the way  

The imposing distance and African summer sun make Calvinia to Kaleo sound unfeasible.

With Dryland Event Management’s support, conquering the R355 becomes more achievable.

The 242km route features six water points, with the first two well-spaced before coming at around 30km intervals from the 111km mark onwards. 

Tankwa Karoo
2. The race starts in Calvinia at 05h00, on 25 February. Competitors will race the first hour pre-dawn and witness a Tankwa Karoo sunrise at 06h30. (Photo: Justin Reinecke for zcmc.co.za.)

Share the suffering - as a team

The event also features team categories for riders nervous about solo attempts.

Racing as teams of two or four ensures a partner (or three) to ride in the wind for half the race and keep you company across the lonely desert planes. The alternative is to hope to hang onto a group. But that can often lead to hours of solo pedalling, riding in search of fellow strugglers after getting left behind at a water point. 

Entries to the team and solo categories remain open until 10 February. However, would-be entrants are encouraged to confirm their participation before then to secure the optional extras, which include a vehicle drive service and accommodation at both the start and finish. 

For more information and to secure a ride in the 2023 News24 Karoo Burn, visit www.karooburn.co.za.

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