Trails End Bike Hotel, Grabouw - Old Pass and Gnarly Descent

It’s strange how things happen sometimes… We were sitting in a meeting with our publisher on the patio restaurant at Beaumont Family Wines in Botrivier (truly an awesome spot for a business meeting!) when in walked a couple, pushing their ebikes. As they walked passed our table I handed the guy our business card and suggested he may like to have a look at our ebiking website - lots of info there - gps tracks, where to stay, where to eat, etc. Can’t chat... sorry..... in a meeting ....... 

Later, after returning home, I checked messages and there was a WhatsApp message from one Pieter Silberbauer of the Trails End Bike Hotel in Grabouw: “Love the site. Pop over when you have a gap so we can chat”. And we did. And went for the most fabulous ride…

Easy to find, lots of secure parking and space for a pump track and other wonderful facilities.

Easy to find, lots of secure parking and space for a pump track and other wonderful facilities.

The Trails End Bike Hotel is situated on the northern outskirts of Grabouw, just off the N2, and perfect for easy access to all those wonderful cycling trails between the Hottentots Holland and Groenland Mountains. After many years in the construction industry Pieter and his wife Brenda converted their factory into an amazing purpose built bike hotel. Aside from the usual hotel facilities there is a wellness centre (great for post ride relaxation and massages), exercise pool, pump track, a small climbing wall, a bike wash, ebike charging points and a host of other bike centric facilities.

The ride takes you up the gum tree lined Old  Viljoen's Pass. I wonder who planted these huge trees?

The ride takes you up the gum tree lined Old Viljoen's Pass. I wonder who planted these huge trees?

We met up with Pieter and Brenda the following Teusday morning and headed out for our first ride with them. Temperatures were forecast to hit a mild (and ideal) 23°C and the wind was calm (it picked up later - a cold, blustery blast from the the west, mist and cloud swirling around the Hottentots Holland peaks but we were almost home so all was good). A short pedal along the tar road took us to the entrance to one of the local apple orchards. Now, this is a bit of a privilege. Pieter has negotiated a MOU with the owners of the farm to allow riders from Trails End access to certain tracks and trails on the farm, provided that they stick to the agreed trails, follow normal, accepted riding etiquette, have paid the R50,00 per rider trail fee and signed the indemnities. We have no problem with this at all.

Soon we cleared the apple farming activities and after skirting the Eikenhof Dam, started climbing the Groenland Mountains by way of the huge eucalyptus tree lined Old Viljoen’s Pass, some of the original stone walling still visible after all these years (it was built in the 1860s). Whereas the farm roads were well manicured, the pass was fairly steep and the road somewhat rutted. Nothing too hectic at all - one just needed to pick one’s line with a little care. The views across the valley to the west were fabulous and we stopped often to shoot pics.

The ride up the pass offers magnificent views over the valley, the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the distance.

The ride up the pass offers magnificent views over the valley, the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the distance.

The summit of the pass required another photo stop and we enjoyed the view once more, watching several large trucks, laden with apples, labouring their way up the modern pass below us. A few kilometres further on, we crossed the R321 between Grabouw and Villiersdorp (be careful, the traffic builds up at a fair rate of knots on this section and visibility is a little limited) and headed further up into the mountains before dropping down a rather steep, gnarly section that may very well need a “get off and walk” by less experienced riders. It’s not long - better be safe than sorry - and then the road smooths out for the ride back to Trails End.

There are some wonderful patches of fynbos on the route.

There are some wonderful patches of fynbos on the route.

It's mountainous country with some rather steep sections of track.

It's mountainous country with some rather steep sections of track.

The excitement of the ride happened on the section of track running along the shore of Eikenhof Dam on the way back. Pieter and I were tapping along, chatting away, when something caught my eye on the road in front of me. Just a few metres away from my front wheel (like 2 metres) was the most beautiful, full grown puff adder, stretched lazily across my path. Handfuls of brakes were grabbed, Pieter wondering what on earth the panic was, while I managed to get the bike stopped and dismount away from the snake without losing too much dignity. Pieter, puff adder and I eyed one other for a while, allowing us to appreciate the snake’s lovely colouring, before it turned and slithered off into the thick fynbos on the side of the track.

The final run back to the hotel is by way of a superb bit of single track - a few hundred metres or so. It was smooth, fast and crossed and re-crossed a small stream, the bridges made from old wine barrels.

The cappuccinos and chat with Pieter and Brenda afterwards were great. What a super way to spend a Tuesday morning!

The interior of the hotel is large, airy and very welcoming.

The interior of the hotel is large, airy and very welcoming.

Route Distance: 22km.

Route conditions: Mostly very ridable, smooth gravel tracks, roads and single track. There are some ruts on the climb up the Old Pass and a fairly rocky, gnarly descent after crossing the R321. Some pushing may be needed. The sections of single track are easy to ride.

Trails End Bike Hotel

Google Maps: https://g.page/trailsendza?share

GPS: S -34° 08.564' E 19° 01.062' 

Download the GPS track for the Old Pass and Gnarly Descent Loop