Dramatic vistas and challenging mountain routes
By Elzanne Erasmus
Namibia’s central plateau running from north to south with an average altitude of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres the rugged mountainous escarpment that descends in the west into the Namib Desert and in the east into the rolling hills of the Khomas Hochland west of Windhoek provides many opportunities for exhilarating and truly tough mountain biking and cycling.
Mountain bikers across the globe would agree that the main focal points of any ride are the trail, the terrain and the ever-challenging surroundings that play host to truly adventurous mountain-bike adventures. Technical sections in routes, hard climbs, and often dangerous, rocky terrain are all elements that lure adventure junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts.
Namibia’s geographical diversity makes it the perfect location for a wide variety of such gnarled routes. Mountain bikers and cyclists, both local and from abroad, flock to the rocky outcrops and steep passes in the country to get their fix. One of the most popular parts of Namibia, the deep south, has become home to many biking adventures in recent years. The rocky terrain and rolling hills here are interspersed with long, flat stretches of gravel, making for ideal mountain-bike and cycling locations.
Mountain biking in the south ranges from short self-guided trips to longer safaris and cycling events. With striking vistas and challenging mountain routes, the /Ai-/Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park hosts cycle challenges and cycling tour groups alike. It is a unique environment for adventure sport activities, having spectacular mountainous scenery, a remote wilderness character and the presence of a major river within a desert environment.
Routes have been established along the edge of the Fish River Canyon, while well-maintained gravel roads here allow for beautiful rides through the pristine and untouched landscapes. Two of the major cycling events held in the south are the Fish River Marathon and Cycle, where participants can choose between a 104-km cycle or a 54-km cycle, and the annual multi-stage MTB event, Desert Knights Cycle Challenge, combining five days of cycling, some of it at night under the full moon, with one day of canoeing on the Orange River.
There are numerous mountain bike events throughout the year in various parts of the country. The most popular ones are the Nedbank Cycle Challenge in February; the Klein-Aus Vista MTB Challenge, Windhoek Light Namib Quest and Kuiseb Classic MTB in May; the Otjihavera Xperience in August; the Desert Knights Cycle Challenge in September; the nine-day Cycling Namibia and Namibian Pick & Pay Cycle Classic in October; the 100 km of Namib Desert and Cycletec Spring Festival in November; and the famous FNB Desert Dash in December.
Increasing numbers of cycling enthusiasts are attempting to push their limits by searching for more challenging mountain bike adventures. In 2014 a group of cyclists even went head to head with the 300-metre high dunes of the Namib Desert in the Snow-2-Sand Fatbike Experience. Companies that facilitate guided tours in various parts of the country include Mountain Bike Namibia, H&I Adventures, DAS Bike Shop Adventure, Mabaruli Safaris and Be Local Tours.