Buffelsdrift Mountain Bike Park
Words & pics Andrew Steer
Birds, beasts, berms and bushveld – it seems Buffelsdrift has it all. “Average” Andy Steer headed up to Buffelsdrift Mountain Bike Park to see if it was as good as the rumours suggest. We still can’t get the grin off his face.
Just 15 kilometres north of Pretoria lies Buffelsdrift Mountain Bike Park, hosted at Sefudi Lodge. Safely situated within the Buffelsdrift Nature Conservancy and just a stone’s throw away from Roodeplaat Dam and N1 highway, it also borders the popular Dinokeng Game Reserve, a free-roaming Big 5 park. It’s got a wide range of other animals too: kudu, zebra, impala, bushpig and porcupines (wouldn’t that be a truly South African puncture to get). There’s also a massive range of birds due to its close proximity to the dam, the many canal systems and the Pienaars River that runs through the conservancy.
On our ride alone we caught on the fly many blue waxbills, African hoopoes, a woodland kingfisher and even some raptors.
We hadn’t trekked up here from Johannesburg for the wildlife or birding though – the rumblings had been growing about the awesome new additions to their trails, so it was long overdue that we paid them a visit.
With four routes on offer, the park has something for pretty much anyone. The pink and yellow routes provide a nice, safe and comfortable ride for less accomplished riders, while the blue and red routes have enough on offer to challenge even seasoned mountain bikers of a good fitness level. Since the start of the year, a huge amount of time and effort has been put into the trails, and there is no doubting that time has been very well spent. Plenty of purpose-cut trail, over a wide range of terrains, surrounded largely by glorious bushveld – it’s a special treat enjoying the natural beauty of the area perched atop your steed, riding some glorious fast flowing singletrack.
At just over 7km in length and with little in the way of climbing or technical challenges, the pink trail is a nice, easy spin for entry-level cyclists trying their hand at mountain biking – a bit of singletrack, jeep track and dirt roads with a good chance of spotting some of the local game is a great way to spend a morning. The optional ‘bull runs’ along the Pienaars River, are recommended for a little spot of adrenalin for those feeling up to the challenge.
Just over 16 kilometres in length, with just over 200 metres of climbing (most of it from one longish haul up the concrete climb), the yellow trail is ideal for the relatively fit and basically competent cyclist. There are minor technical challenges, but for the large part, your speed will govern the severity of the challenges you encounter. Enjoy the river section and choose your poison – chicken or beef bull? Either will ensure a fun time.
A proper step up from the Yellow trail in terms of its overall challenge, the Blue trail at just over 25km in length, is a decent challenge for mountain bikers of reasonable fitness and a with a basic skillset. With over 400 metres of climbing, it’s not a stroll in the park, but with gradients kept pretty reasonable at all times, and the fun factor cranked up to the max at all times, it’s a great route with so much on offer: bridges, berms, rocks, singletrack, river bed rides, tight bush singletrack – you name it, this route’s got it. Key to a good time is momentum, else the many, very rideable rock sections, might get the better of you. If you don’t come off this trail smiling, you know you’re doing something wrong.
The big brother of the Blue Trail, the Red Trail is quite possibly the best trail I have ridden in Gauteng. At 43km in length (and counting) and with over 600 metres of climbing, it’s a proper trail in every sense of the word. There are four main climbing sections, some a bit more gradual and discreet than others, but all of which get the heart rate up. The reward, though, in the shape of many simply awesome downhills through all manner of terrain, means you almost enjoy the climbs as you just know the suffering will be worth it. Singletrack heaven, purpose-built bridges, fast rocky and rideable descents, berms coming out of your ears – even mini wall rides and bush tunnels are to be enjoyed. And how much cooler does it get than some gnarly berms through some old ruins? The smile will seldom leave your face on this interesting, varied and fun ride. Rocks 2 Crocks, the Mamba, the Pienaars River trail and the grand finale, Supertube – with plenty of other fun little sections, get you back home with a grin that might well make your wife a little nervous. Of particular enjoyment is the fact that everything is really rideable, as the gradients are kept at a reasonable level and you aren’t clambering for gears and grinding away on your latest 11'ty speed groupset. So, yes: fun, hard, exciting, varied, sensible… what more could you ask for in a trail?
The trip from Johannesburg took a little over an hour and for most folk in Pretoria, you’re not looking at much more than 15–20 minutes of driving. It’s easily accessed off the highway, and even the dirt road for the last few kilometres is in good condition and a comfortable drive in a sedan. The venue itself is nice and neat with plenty of parking and all the other necessary facilities for a great day out on the bike. At R30 entry and R250 for a year pass, this is clearly not a venture fuelled by money, but by passion. That notion is evident in pretty much all you encounter throughout the day. The riding is top-class, with something on offer for everyone, while the coffee shop is great for a bit of post-ride recovery and refuelling before reluctantly heading home with a clean bike and massive smile on your dial. And there’s more to come! Trails are still being added and the owners want to keep improving their offering for cyclists. Win, win, win.
Annual Ticket Holders: 24hrs every day of the week and weekends.
Week: Open every day of the week.
Please note that day tickets must be purchased before midday at the office.
The office will be closed after midday during the week.
Weekends: Day visitors: 7am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.
Please purchase your day tickets before midday as well.
It’s warm most of the year, and in the summer months in particular, care should be taken to apply sunscreen and keep hydrated as the riding is challenging and the trail does become quite open and exposed in parts. Don’t make the mistake I made of trying to ride the last 12km of the red trail without any water, you will pay! In terms of rain, the routes seemed to deal with it well as I can’t recall much in the way of mud to contend with, despite some very recent rains.
R30 per day visit
R250 for an annual subscription
Cash only, no credit card facilities
Buffelsdrift AH, 0130 Pretoria, South Africa
GPS Coordinates 25°35'17.00"S 28°19'36.7"E
Take the N1 north towards Polokwane. Take the offramp at the Zambesi toll gate (the R513) and turn right towards Cullinan. Take the first left thereafter (R573) towards Roodeplaat Dam. Follow this road past the police station on your left, past left turns: Spioenkop, Rynoue. Past a Spar centre on your right. Then turn left on to Buffelsdrift, a dirt road. Follow the road, it will bend to the right. You will then go through the Buffelsdrift gate. After that you will have Nyala Rd on your right, followed by Bosbok road (also on your right). After that you will see Sefudi on your right, home to the Buffelsdrift MTB trails.
Source: Ride Magazine