MTB Road Trip – Mankele

Final stop on the 2013 MTB Trail Mapping Mission saw me and Matthew Drew pulling in at Mankele Bike Park, undoubtedly one of SA’s prime MTB destinations. This Mpumalanga spot has been a top trail destination for as long as one could care to remember, and the roots of the sport runs undeniably deep here within the Mpumalanga heartland.

The riding is very different from Karkloof Mountain Bike Club – a lot more aggressive and steep, with kick-ass climbs, rocky drop-offs, slip-sliding bush tunnels and gritty, gravelly corners on the back-country trails – but the single-track rocks.

The weather did not play ball for the first time on the trip, but we still managed to weasel out a few shots amidst the downpour and lightning bolts. By 4PM we called it a wrap, and Matt and I headed up on the bikes along the Northern Loop. Fortunately I was on the Scott Spark, as solid a climbing platform as I could wish for, but my legs were toast after four days with the big dogs.

Matt cruised up the track while I slugged it out with gravity, then waited for me at the summit, where we ducked left onto an exhilarating switch-back dipping and carving amidst cabbage trees and big-ass aloes. Disappearing light, dead monkeys, thunder rolls, bloody ears and a bit of a bike abseil later, we made it back to Mankele in the dark, but with endorphins buzzing through our veins.

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