Gravel Biking has been increasing in popularity internationally over the last 10 years, and recently it has attracted attention locally in South Africa. Gravel Biking has many appealing factors, such as: being able to cycle off the main roads and away from the dangers of traffic and it allows one to really explore and be a part of nature. With Mountain bike technology trickling across into road biking and manufacturers are now creating gravel bike specific groupsets and components which are becoming cheaper and more durable.
Hayterdale can provide the perfect location to enjoy this new discipline of the sport, being located on the R335 and with many jeep tracks on Hayterdale, gravel grinders can enjoy many miles with smiles. In this article we would like to introduce gravel bikes, the set up and features required and how you would make the best of them at Hayterdale Trails.
Ideal Hayterdale Gravel Bike
Within the category of gravel bikes there many different set ups used , from mountain bike frames with dropper bars to road frames that can just fit 35mm tires and many more configurations to suit the rider and the terrain. Generally a gravel bike will have a knobbly tread tire that is wider than 35mm and dropper bars with disk brakes. Riders can interchange the components to suit their individual riding needs. In this article we will discuss what we at Hayterdale Trails would recommend to ride on at our farm.
Ideally for the trails at Hayterdale we would recommend the following set up:
There are a lot of tire options to choose from nowadays and each tire has a specific advantages depending on terrain, distance and weather conditions. Depending on the time of year, the Zuurberg region is normally quite dry and dusty and so there is no reason for a wet weather tire.
To ride the more technical jeep track of Hayterdale, we would recommend a 40mm tire or wider. This provides advantages for riding in this region like the added grip a wider tire gives when ripping up the jeep track corners in the Hayterdale bush. Riders can also run the tires at a lower pressure which increases grip and comfort, the R335 is a smooth dirt road to train on but can get bumpy at some points, running a lower tire pressure will help absorb some of the bumps. Lastly, the Zuurberg bush is home to thorns and a wider tire will hold more air, and if the tire were to get a puncture from a thorn the sealant will be able to close the hole and the overall tire pressure will not be affected as opposed to a thinner tire because there is a greater volume of air in the tire.
We would recommend a low rolling resistance tire with smaller knobs. The roads and jeep tracks are relatively well looked after and smooth, this means you would not need a very knobbly tire (which would only increase the rolling resistance) because there is already reasonable grip on the surfaces.
We would definitely recommend running tubeless tires and topping up your sealant. If you cannot run tubeless tires then we would recommend a tire liner to help prevent thorns from puncturing through the tire into the tube. There are sealants available for tubes that will help against punctures, but tubeless tires with sealant will be the best option.
The Zuurberg region is known for its’ mountains and long rolling hills. The hills featured on Hayterdale are very steep and we would recommend to get a rear cassette with the largest cog to be at minimum a 32 tooth. If your bike has a single speed crank, be sure to choose a crank ring that is on the smaller side, and choose more than one chain ring if available. We would recommend a crankset like the Shimano GRX 2 speed, this has a small enough ring to easily get you up the climbs and a relatively large ring to push the miles out on the flat roads.
The number of gears( eg. 10, 11 or 12 speed) on a gravel bike doesn’t cause a big difference, its better that the rider is using something they are comfortable with.
We would recommend using disk brakes on your gravel bike. Hydraulic disk brakes would be ideal for the Zuurberg region but they can be an expensive addition to your gravel bike. Mechanical or wired disk brakes will still work well and should be considered if one cannot yet afford get hydraulic brakes. Rim brakes are not suitable for this region, they do not provide sufficient braking power and can be degraded by dust, which is plentiful in this region.
Miles, Smiles and more Miles!
Hayterdale is a great starting point for your next gravel ride. Ultimately once you become familiar with our trails and the local roads, you can create your own routes but for now we would like to discuss some recommended trail options below:
The Krom River Traverse
Starting from Hayterdale you can go north up the R335 past the Zuurberg Hotel and turn right at the Addo Elephant Park Safari turn off. The Krom River road winds all the way past the Addo Elephant Back Safari Lodge and to the N10. It is a well maintained quiet gravel road with plenty of climbing.
This ride out and back loop is ideal for riders looking for a mixture of miles and climbing.
The R335 Hill Climb Challenge
Starting from Hayterdale you can go north up the R335 as far as you want and then come back. If you get in a lot of climbing in your ride we recommend doing this. From Hayterdale to the north side of the Zuurberg Mountains there are 3 considerable climbs riders can do.
Sometimes a ride out and back route does not sound very exciting but the views and winding roads keep you entertained the whole way. If you are looking for a long distance ride you can go past the Elephant back Safari turn off and go all the way to Ann’s Villa Coaching Inn and turn back from there.
We suggest this to riders that are looking for a ride with plenty of climbing, the out and back loop to Ann’s Villa will have close to 1500m of elevation in only 70Km.
If you would like time in the saddle without a lot of climbing and beautiful citrus smells- then this loop is for you. Starting from the Hayterdale camp site, you will head South and turn right after the Coerney River crossing. After passing Dung Beetle Hill you will turn right at the fork and ride along gravel roads through the citrus farms. Be sure to stop at Lenmore’s Cafe for a quick refill before the final stretch back to Hayterdale.
This loop is relatively flat and an easy ride for riders looking have an enjoyable day on the bike.
Slagboom Dam Visit
The ride out and back loop to Slagboom Dam is an easy spin that highlights the beauty of the rolling hills that the lower Zuurberg valley have to offer. You will start at Hayterdale campsite and head South turning right after the Coerney River crossing. After passing Dung Beetle Farm you will keep right at the fork and follow the rolling hills until you reach the Slagboom Dam. Climbing up to the Quarry you will have a beautiful view of the lush landscape while taking a break before heading along the same route back to Hayterdale.