16 Sep 2016 Mountain biking
Mountain bikers in South Africa are spoilt for choice, with events taking place every weekend.
In the last year, PPA assisted 17 event organisers to put on their own MTB events. We are there to support these event organisers whose primary objective is to raise funds for charity through hosting mountain bike events. PPA ourselves have five MTB events in our own portfolio and three of those events are of a family/social nature; one takes place in Bloemfontein and the other is the Tiletoria Elgin Valley MTB.
We have noticed a decline in entries for some of these events. We did some homework and came up with a number of reasons as to why some MTB events are on the decline, while the so-called “bucket list” events, like the Cape Epic, Wines2Whales and Sani2C remain largely unaffected.
Our MTB events are essentially entry-level events. In other words, we provide the entry point for aspiring cyclists into the sport of mountain biking. We note that a significantly bigger portion of female riders do our MTB events (25%), than road events (13%). This could be due to the more relaxed atmosphere of MTB events, or the fact that these are essentially entry-level events.
We are happy to provide that first step, seeing that our core mandate is to get more people riding bicycles. We try to keep costs down by focussing on the essential logistics, safety and a good route. We urge the fully-supported events that we assist financially to keep their entry fees low and to offer PPA members a discount in order to encourage PPA members to ride these events.
The current economic climate makes it difficult for a family to enter events. Once the entries are paid for, there is still the cost of fuel to consider. Time has also become a big factor. With events being up to 90 or more minutes away from home, some members are choosing to ride socially, closer to home.
The abundance of excellent trails on our doorstep almost makes entering events redundant. We shouldn’t say that, but it is a reality. Tygerberg, Bottelary, Welvanpas, Meerendal, Rhebokskloof, Elgin Valley,Table Mountain,Constantia Greenbelts, Delvera… The list goes on. PPA members in other provinces are equally spoilt if we look at the trail reviews published in cycling magazines.
However, a lot of cyclists still have a competitive streak and are looking for an event to measure themselves against their peers and the terrain. PPA remains committed to putting on quality events, adding as much value to an event (road or MTB) as we can, elevating it to a level where it is noticed and attracts the riders.
Please see the events report for more feedback.
Tokai remains closed and a lot of lobbying has been going on in the background, trying to get the trail network repaired and opened sooner. The Table Mountain MTB Forum (PPA is one of 4 founder members) engaged with San Parks regularly throughout the year and continues to do so.
The Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for Mountain Biking, a document governing cycling within the boundaries of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), required a revision and together with Amarider, PPA has funded this 2-year-long process. The final revisions are just about done and SanParks should sign off the EMP in the next 6 weeks.
Linked to the EMP process is the opening of a number of hiking trails to cyclists as part of a SanPark-supported trail-sharing initiative.
We are slowly beginning to see a trail network developing that links the City Bowl with the Southern Suburbs, using SanParks and City land. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens have also come to the party and will allow controlled access to their land in order to link Newlands and Cecilia Forest. Kirstenbosch recently opened a parcel of land below Rhodes Drive to cyclists. This has proven to be very successful and appreciated by cyclists looking for safe places to ride.
Since the fires in Tokai, trail access has been a real issue, pushing cyclists into off-limits areas, creating scenarios for conflict between cyclists and other user groups. Silvermine and Ou Wapad have been open since December 2015. Tokai is set to open end-December 2016, but may be a month or two sooner. Nothing has been confirmed though, so we work on December. PPA has committed funding of R175 000 to assist with rebuilding trails in Tokai, of which some R60 000 has already been spent.
This situation needed to be managed and the opening of a section of the Constantia Greenbelts to cyclists has proved a resounding success. Initial scepticism has vanished amongst many of the residents and regular users, as cyclists embrace the trail and share it in a safe and responsible manner. The local ward councillor has been supportive of our efforts, as has City Parks. This allows PPA and others to explore the trail-sharing model in other public open spaces.
PPA continues to fund the maintenance of public trails as and when required.
PPA is looking further afield and recently set aside funding for the maintenance and upgrading of ‘The Spruit’ in Johannesburg.
PPA has also been asked to serve on the advisory committee of the Crosscape Trail, the vision of MEC Alan Winde to create a cycling route from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town.
Next year we are looking at starting a MTB league and rewarding young mountain bikers through our PPA Academy.