Updated: Sep 22
Nestled on the mountain tops of the Picket-Bo-Berg is the Moutons Valley Farm. Aside from producing fine quality Buchu oils the Starkes have also cultivated some of the most unique mountain bike trails in the country! The landscape atop the mountains does not lead itself to easy passage but Eric Starke and his team have carved an incredible array of trails into the landscape, taking you up, down, over and through the incredible terrain and indigenous vegetation.
These trails are known as much for their exclusivity, being ridden by invite only or during The U MTB Stage race. We were fortunate enough to crack the invite to join the route recce and sample 30km of sublime single track.
With our 04H30 wakeup call behind us, we headed out towards the big mountains only to be greeted by one of Cape Town's finest sunrises on our way up the winding Versveld Pass. Upon arrival at the Starkes farm, we were greeted by top notch hospitality, something we have come to know well and appreciate here!
After fuelling up, we set off onto the trails. As fate would have it, we found ourselves spending the entire ride in the company of Rupert Von Tutschek who provided great entertainment though his usual antics and commentary. He had his camera out to capture the experience (thanks for the photos Ru!) and with bluebird skies, it was a day to remember for sure!
It wasn't long into the ride that I punctured my rear tire. Having to remind myself at this point, that I wasn't on my enduro bike and these tires are not the most resilient when smashing rocks!
Now well behind the rest of the riders, but in no rush, we set about making our way through the veld, taking a few stops to soak in the surroundings. When riding these trails, your attention is often too focused to remember to keep drinking let alone stare at the scenery! If you get to ride these trails, we recommend regular stops. It is such a beautiful place.
The trail team has been at work over the winter months cleaning up a few of the existing trails and adding in a couple of extensions too! The bottom of the famous Suicide Run has been extended into a super fast and flowing section to what was already a world class descent.
We enjoyed a lengthly stop at the water point and ate our fill of what could be called lunch No. 1. The real lunch was waiting for us back at the "Summer House" which provided ample incentive to keep us cruising home. The single track just goes on forever out there. Out of a total of 30km of riding for the day, only 1km of it was jeep track road. It's surreal to think of but it seems so natural when you're out there. It goes without saying that this is real mountain biking. These trail reward good riding, carrying momentum and flowing through the terrain. If you are looking to test your technical riding skill then this is the place to do it!
The U MTB Stage Race is without doubt the next generation of stage race in South Africa. There is simply no other event on the calendar that offers this level of single track riding experience. That being said, the event is somehow misunderstood for being an easy 50km per day stage race when in reality, it is one of the hardest. The flow of these trails will test you to your riding core (strength, fitness, concentration) and that is precisely what makes them a must ride.
After a solid few hours in the saddle, we arrived back at base perched on the banks of a large, crystal clear dam. Despite it being a fresh spring day in the Western Cape, we were off our bikes and straight into the icy waters.
After a good bit of banter, sharing stories and catching up it was time to head back to the mother city. A brilliant day out and not one soon forgotten.