Crispian Olver is an environmental activist, entrepreneur, and passionate cyclist who is campaigning to make Joburg more cycling-friendly. He helped us put together this guide to cycling in the city.
"Nothing quite prepared me for the absolute joy of being on a bike, in this great city and the surrounding highveld, under the dramatic African sky. You experience the landscape differently by moving under your own power. Cycling is also a powerful way to connect with people. In February I was part of the first Freedom Ride, a social ride linking Joburg and Soweto to celebrate the legacy of Nelson Mandela (freedomride.org.za, intended to be a bi-annual event). It was amazing to see young, old, black, white, rich and poor shed their differences to cycle across the city.
Ours is a car-obsessed society, and drivers are often unaware of cyclists on the shoulder of the road. The city needs cycling lanes and signage protecting cyclists (the first bike lanes opened along Mooki St, Orlando, Soweto, in April). I used to be nervous riding on Joburg’s roads, and instead used my mountain bike along the Braamfontein spruit - a stunning ride from the Melville Koppies through Delta Park down to Bryanston and on to Leeuwkop (in all, about 25km one way, or a 50km loop, but you can turn back at any point). But I’ve grown to love being on the city’s roads.
Participating in the leisurely and offbeat Critical Mass night rides opened my eyes (last Friday of every month, starts cnr Juta and De Beer Sts, Braamfontein). The sheer numbers (sometimes up to 3000) means cyclists take over the roads. The ride passes Maboneng where you can stop for a beer. There’s no dress code, but ample opportunity to creatively adorn yourself and your bike with lights. For the serious-minded there are many cycling clubs that go out on organised morning rides (ask your nearest bike shop). There is no better way to start your day."
BEST JOBURG CYCLING EVENTSI love riding the well-organised Momentum 94.7 race in November. The route takes you on a 94.7km loop through the city and northern suburbs. It is the world’s second largest timed cycle race with 27000 participants in 2013.
BEST SUNDAY CYCLING ROUTESSuikerbosrand nature reserve, off the N3 to Heidelberg (south-west). The turnoff onto the R550 is about 30km from the city, and in all it is about 50km to the gates of the park. The place is a real treasure, with 15km and 70km cycling loops plus opportunities for the family to also walk, picnic or check out the wildlife. I regularly see zebra, wildebeest, Red Hartebeest and Brown Hyenas on my rides. The prominent Ventersdorp and Witwatersrand rock formations make for some steep gradients, excellent for some hard hill training.
The Cradle of Humankind to the north-west has a network of clearly demarcated cycle lanes popular with weekend cyclists. The landscape is riddled with dolomitic limestone caves that trapped and preserved the remains of early hominid species. Set off from the Sterkfontein caves.
RENTING A BIKE AND BIKE TOURS IN JOBURGHunter Cycling at 61 4th Ave in Melville, has a pilot bike share scheme, where you can drop in, pick up a bike and ride to Maboneng or around Melville (drop-off points).
In Soweto Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers rents out bikes and can take you on a guided tour of the historical sites and lets you experience township life, close up.
In Alexandra, there’s Jeff Mulaudzi ‘s Alexandra Bicycle Tours (www.alexandratours.co.za, tel. +27 71 279 3654), which offer a unique look at this famous township just a few kilometres from Sandton.
BEST BIKE SHOPSHunter Cycles has the latest in cool commuter gear.
Cajee’s Cycle Corner has a network of cycle shops and give excellent advice with a good range of on- and off-road bikes.
Dunkeld Cycles is one of the absolute best. Speak to Marc or one of his keen young helpers for top advice.