Following our previous episode featuring trails requiring longer travel mountain bikes, we headed off to Cascade Country Manor just outside Paarl, to see if the rumours were true.
Nestled between the lower slopes of the majestic towering peaks of the Du Toitskloof Pass, the 4-star boutique hotel serves as base and starting point for the three trail options. With 80% of the trails snaking through the dense pine forest, some much needed shade is provided during the scorching summer months, but it's a double edged sword as the winter rains turn things slippery very quickly. A-line (and to a lesser extent B-line) is recommended only for very experienced and skilled riders and longer travel bikes are essential as some of the features would feel well and truly at home on an international downhill course. For the less experienced, the Enduro trail features super fast, fun and flowy singletrack, with some tight switchbacks thrown in for good measure, winding all the way from the top of the trail network back to the hotel. 50 bucks and a signed waiver gets you all-day access to 24km of pedaling and some stunning views, hopefully with more to be added in the near future.
It was November 2014 and on my lunch break I disappeared into the forest for yet another look. I could never have dreamt that this might actually become a provincial race track. I was just hoping to build something I could ride before work.
Trail builder, mountaineer and keen downhiller Eckhardt Kühn
It's a relatively small area, and the trail network at Cascade is only in its infancy, however the steepness more than makes up for the shortage in kilometres.
Keks' legs might only be 10cm long, but he charges A-line like a seasoned trail dog.
The trail office at Cascade could easily be mistaken for a villa in Europe somewhere.
Old man Dan pointing out the obvious. It's steep.
Cascade Manor sounded like a local legend, but little did I know I'd be dropping in to some of the gnarliest, steepest and technical terrain I've come across in the Western Cape. I can honestly say this is the first time in a while that something has got me nervous and on edge. The gnar factor was at an all time high and Eckhardt really put on a great spread of trails for us to open it up on. Trails went from fast open and lose terrain to steep forest switchbacks and big techy features. Rad day to be on a bike.
Summer riding at its finest. Fast, hard single track with a pine canopy to keep things cool.
Daniel dropping into the steepest part of Cascade en route to the wall ride 10 metres below.
Eckhardt and his crew did a great job of creating man-made features without over grooming it, and losing the natural feel.
Every time I've visited Cascade Manor, I have left with a bit less skin and a few more skills! Eckhard's belief that we need riding that keeps us challenged and progressing is definitely apparent on a few of his trails and I am a huge supporter of his type of thinking! Cascade is also one of the few places left in the Cape with trails flowing under pine trees and along with the incredibly steep gradient, it's most certainly one of my new favorite destinations.
Daniel Dobinson | iRideAfrica
Small sections of trail exit the pine forest to reveal open, off camber, fast and loose single track.
Natural, crystal clear spring water runs through the Cascade trail network, also providing drinking water to the hotel.
A four star hotel with manicured gardens is not the type of venue that first comes to mind as a mountain bike trail centre, but Cascade Manor just outside of Paarl has some seriously good trails. All thanks to the hard work of their live-in trail builder Eckhard. His trail building vision and passion for riding come through in the trails, with super-inventive features demanding your full focus from top to bottom, often leaving you stoked just to have ridden a section, never mind doing it fast! And what better way is there to finish off a day of awesome riding with mates, than from the verandah of a manor house, with beers in hand, watching the sun set over a pristine garden?!
Views for days looking back over towards Paarl.
Exiting the forest with the majestic Du Toitskloof mountains keeping an eye on things.
Kicking back with a couple of ice cold beers and some snacks after an afternoon of shredding hard, priceless.
Good night Cascade Manor. Its been a good day.
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Riders: Daniel Dobinson | Matt Lombardi | Harry Millar