We all know about Franschhoek in the Western Cape, South Africa, right? About 75km from Cape Town, it has some great vineyards producing spectacular wines, coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries. In 1868 French Huguenot refugees settled here and established various vineyards and their heritage has been acknowledged by the construction of the Huguenot Monument at the end of the town. The nearby Huguenot Memorial Museum documents the history of these early settlers, particularly those in the fabulous Franschhoek Valley.

The Huguenot Memorial in Franschhoek

The Franschhoek Mountains around the town were originally called the Oliphants Hoek Mountains, as it was here that elephants crossed the range at the change of the seasons. Interestingly enough, the settlers also used the well-worn Oliphant Pad to criss-cross the mountains, either on foot or horseback.

Today, this area is a mountainbiking Mecca and we joined Gideon Malherbe and his team from Franschhoek e-Mountain Bike Adventures one blustery morning this November for a ride into the mountains. (Update: Alas Franschhoek e-Mountain Bike Adventure are no longer offering guided tours but this still is a great ride to do on your own.)

We met up at Eikehof Wine Estate just off the R45, about 5 or 6 km from Franschhoek, loaded our bikes into their trailer and headed off to the start of our ride in the Berg River Dam Conservation Area. While the tours usually include nice Ghost Hybride Kato FS 3 AL soft tail ebikes, we elected to use our much loved Haibike Sduro FullNine full suss bikes - just because  we are used to them.

The custom built mini bus and trailer make transporting guests and bikes very slick.

The track was initially smooth and wide, and we soon found ourselves tracking a bubbling Berg River, the magnificent Franschhoek Mountains rising up in the background. We turned right after a while, crossed the river and began a pretty steep climb up a paved road, drainage dips every now and then filled with trickling water after the recent heavy rains.  The road soon levelled out and we were suddenly in the mountains, with wonderful views in every direction.

It's steeper than it looks - you could clearly hear the tyres grinding away on the paving.

We were in the lee of the mountain now, with strong gusts barrelling down the Berg River Valley behind us, the wind whipping up large cat's paws on the surface of the Berg River dam far below. The dam supplies water to Cape Town and was, we understood, 101% full, quite a relief from previous years. Interestingly, it holds about 130 million cubic metres of water, about as much as 52 000 Olympic swimming pools!

What a place to spend a morning - the views on the Franschhoek ebike ride were spectacular.

We followed the track, the condition varying from smooth gravel to rocky wash-aways, the latter due to the previous week's rains. Alas, the track came to an end all too soon, the fynbos clad mountains looming high above us. The ride down the valley was exhilarating, the full suspension earning its keep. Gideon, used to the roads, took off like a scalded cat. We caught him eventually, next to a huge rock, a red and white checked table cloth spread out on the ground and delicious fruit juice and snacks ready and waiting - a picnic, just what the bike mechanic ordered!

There were a few tricky sections so a little care is needed.

The ebikes, tired after some pretty steep climbs, having a rest while we munch delicious snacks.

The ride back to the car was a doddle, although the descent on the steep paved road does need some care so that things do not run away with you. What a pleasant way to spend a morning! The ebikes made the whole thing very accessible, even to the less experienced, although they may need to push through the technical bits, which are however few and far between.

There were a few water crossings - a little slippery in places.

Route distance: 20km

Route Conditions:  Generally good, varying from paved \sections to a few tricky, rocky sections. Less experienced riders may need to push through these.

Accommodation:  If you need overnight (or longer) accommodation, Franschhoek e-Mountain Bike Adventures also have several superb cottages and camping facilities available.

Heuwelsig Cottages with views over the vineyards.

The lounge in one of the Heuwelsig Cottages.