Rietvlei Cycle Park – Johannesburg

Vlei Cycle Park

Vlei Cycle Park

Andrew Steer has been riding at the Vlei Cycle Park in the south of Johannesburg for a few years now and the great riding trails never fail to leave a smile on his face.

The Vlei Cycle Park is in Alberton, 15 minutes drive from the Joburg CBD. Beyond the trails, there is something for everyone in the family, as the venue, Rietvlei Zoo Farm, offers a host of alternative attractions that make it a hard venue to top for special days out in the sun with the whole family, friends or both.

The riding
The routes are divided into three difficulty grades: yellow, green and blue, all starting and finishing at the main parking lot.

The yellow route (easy) is a very basic non-technical loop of around 4,5km, made up largely of dirt roads and jeep track. There are no really significant climbs and the single-track at the end, although very basic, is good fun for riders of all levels. It may be a bit long for the youngest riders, but the start/finish line is always within view and shortcuts can be taken should a more direct route home be required.

The intermediate green route makes up the majority of the riding, and is around 13km long. It is a varied and fun track that can be enjoyed by riders of all levels. There are obviously tougher and more technical sections, compared to the yellow route, but nothing seriously dangerous if ridden with care. It takes riders through lots of tight twisty forest single-track, bridged river crossings, some great single-track along the river that flows through the park, short, challenging, rocky climbs and of course, the fun descents that follow. There are even options for riders to choose between a chicken run and bull bun, the latter being the more adrenaline-inducing choice.

Rietvlei Cycle Park

This is a great way for new riders to cut their teeth on slightly more technical routes without having to worry about going home in an ambulance. But I would suggest tubeless tyres for this and the blue route, as there are quite a few rocky sections along the koppies the trail crosses. Again, as with the yellow route, you can cut it short if required – just familiarise yourself with the route map on the bike shop wall beforehand to get an idea of the lay of the land – it is pretty simple to keep your bearings though.

The blue route is the advanced option, and is made up largely of the green route, but with diversions indicated by blue arrows. Although well marked, you just need to keep your eyes open for them as they can sneak up on you. It is the most technical riding in the park, largely due to the rockier terrain it takes riders into, and it also encompasses the biggest climbs on the course. Towards the end of the circular lap, the rocky Japanese garden and several drop-offs give a proper technical challenge to send you home with a smile on your face.

Whether climbing or descending, the blue route will always keep you on your toes and provides a good power workout despite the relatively short distance. The sections are very well marked and due caution should be taken when attempting any of the blue sections. If you are unsure, it is always better to err on the side of caution – these challenges are specifically designed for the more technically adept riders.

rietvlei cycle park routes

Click here for larger route map

The routes are subject to change without notice, especially after severe thunderstorms, so always follow the route markings.

The other stuff
Overall the trails are well-kept, well-marked and although the limited distance on offer – up to 19km for a full blue loop – might not satisfy the needs of more advanced and fit riders, the trails are simply so much fun it’s really not an issue to do two loops if needed. Clearly a lot of passion went into the set-up of the trails as they are well-built and have a really good flow to them. Riders can enjoy the aptly named sections as they travel through the park – Wendell’s Revenge, Bennie’s Bend, the Boxing Rink, Sybil’s Place, The Clinic… and get an idea of their history. Another bonus is that with the green and blue loops encompassing a lot of the same trail, riding parties can easily split up into stronger/weaker riders and still be sure to meet up and enjoy each other’s company along the way. There is also the option to take on sections in bits as you build up your strength and confidence along the routes.

After a good ride, there is nothing like sitting down to a well-earned meal/coffee/cold drink while chatting with your buddies about the ride. This is where Rietvlei really trumps many of it’s competitors, as riders can sit down under shaded trees and enjoy the great food from Lady Marmalade’s Tea Garden, while the kids play on the jungle gyms or enjoy many of the other great attractions. The resident bike shop is also an excellent bonus, as riders can get their equipment booked in for servicing or browse the many wares on display.

Facilities
Plenty of secure parking
Safe and secure, fully fenced riding area
Restaurant – Lady Marmalade’s Tea Garden
Resident bike shop
Nice clean ablutions
Bike rental

Directions
Vlei Cycle Park is situated on Rietvlei Farm, Swartkoppies Road, Brackenhurst (on the border of Liefde en Vrede, Alberton)

GPS
26°18’44.64″S   28°04’47.61″E

Hours
Riding Trails:
Open seven days a week,
Weekdays from 8am-5pm
Weekends from 7am-5pm

Cycle Hub bike shop:
Open 6 days-a-week (closed on Mondays)
Tues to Fri 8am to 5pm
Sat and Sun 8am to 1pm

Rietvlei Cycle Park

Words and photos Andrew Steer
First published in Ride Magazine, February 2014.