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The Cape Town Cycling Culture

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa, by Owen Lloyd

It’s Argus week here in Cape Town, and what better way to bring it in than with a little look into what makes this place so special!

There are many great cities that claim to have a unique cycling culture; from San Francisco to New York, to Europe’s Amsterdam and Copenhagen, to Melbourne, and up to Hong Kong – the list goes on. Cape Town is no different with its very own culture, and I think you’ll all agree (if you don’t you haven’t been here yet), it’s simply on another level compared to the for-mentioned! I mean, just look around at the sea, the mountains and the rolling hills, filled with the historic buildings and stories of ages gone by, all mixed with interesting characters you’ll meet along the way – it doesn’t get any better! Now before you bring me the results of the G20, or Q20 or whatever it’s called – I’m not simply referring to whose got the most cycle lanes, or the most laws protecting cyclists (although we’re at the forefront there too), but all the little things that add up to make the entire package that makes it an unforgettable riding experience!

The roads of the Cape Wine lands

Cape Town is the home and inspiration base of BLS. Personally I was born, raised, and pedalled my first revolutions here in the northern suburbs. My first road rides happened on the roads surrounding Stellenbosch, and my first track experience was on the Bellville Velodrome. From an early age, I knew this is a special place, and with the love of cycling, grew the love for this place.

If you’ve been here, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and most likely reminiscing about your fond memories. If not, you’re wondering what’s all the fuss about right?? Well let me tell you what makes this place so great, and why it’s a must visit, and a perfect place to get a few shades more golden, for any cyclist.

The view from Chapmans Peak in Hout Bay

I’ll start off with the roads, as any cyclist knows, we’re always looking for the perfect roads – or Strava KOM’s for that matter (I think an article on the best roads and Strava segments in Cape Town is a must!), and there’s no shortage here! From the ride around the world renound peninsula that could give Monaco a good go (the route of Cape Town Cycle Tour route that 35,000 riders will be doing this very weekend), to inner city riding on a fixed gear down the insanely steep cobbled streets of the Bo-kaap, to the rolling hills of the wine lands surrounding Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, to the climbs of the surrounding mountains; and that’s only on tar; Cape Town is home to some of the best mountain bike trails in the world (just watch the Cape Epic or Wine2Wales)!   Along with this is 450km of cycle lanes and a strategy by the city to get more and more people commuting. It’s also home to the Bellville Velodrome, currently the only indoor Olympic standard velodrome in Africa, and choice of Team GBR for their summer training camps; and Paarl track, which hosts the oldest running track event in the world, Boxing Day sports featuring the 25 mile. I don’t think you’ll easily find a combination of all of these in one city! The sheer natural beauty of the surrounds is absolutely breath-taking, Table Mountain, coastlines, sunsets, rolling hills, historic building and monuments – it simply has to be seen to be believed!   It’s no wonder that Team Di-data and many national teams choose this for their off-season training camps.

The roads of Stellenbosch

Cape Town is also home to some of the best coffee shops and restaurants in the world. Cyclists tend to be coffee snobs (don’t even try to let your cappuccino-sipping persona deny it), and as every cyclist knows (could only be me and my sprinting buddies, but I’ll generalise this one time), a coffee stop is an essential part of any ride, and Cape Town surely won’t disappoint. On literally every corner of every town or suburb, there’s a local guy roasting his own take on the age old drink for your judgment, coupled with some French inspired pastries. Although some places tend to not like the descent of a group of cyclist into a coffee shop and complain about the bikes and the noise and the good looks – he he (I think this is a worldwide phenomenon though . . .), they soon get over it and embrace us; as I mean, who doesn’t like cyclists?? A whole lot of places even offer a discount or special deal for cyclists (those that don’t – take note!!).

Now once you’ve had your coffee and refreshed after your ride, it’s time to get serious! Cape Town is also home to some awesome craft breweries and world renound wineries. A beer or wine tasting tour is an absolute must when visiting (or a typical weekend for a local, although we don’t so much taste as we drink!). There are also some world class restaurants to choose from, most with a view to match! It’s genuinely a place that fulfils the lifestyle of a cyclist – good roads to train on, good coffee to drink and good food to eat!

The Sea Point Promenade

When you’re not on the bike, there are literally a million and one things to do and see; from hiking and other adrenalin pumping activities (tough choice after a ride though), to exploring the history in the museums and monuments, to tours through the many natural wonders. There are also loads of awesome cycling shops each with their own unique vibe and ex-pro to tell you countless stories about the old days. It’s also only a short drive from other amazing parts of the Western Cape like the west coast, garden route, whale coast, Cederberg mountain range, and more (you can Google the rest!).

Now, I know you’re thinking, this guy is biased, a local, come on it can’t be that great right?? You’re right – I mean I haven’t even mentioned the girls from around here; damn they’ll literally make your eyes pop out and can give any European podium girl a good run for her money (or her bottom as Peter Sagan would suggest)! HA HA, Well yes, as with any city it’s got its bad points, it’s a terrible place to be in winter with rain and rain, and a little more rain; the wind howls in summer like Team Sky is doing wind tunnel testing, and sometimes it gets a little crowded. But seriously though, the bad points are only a little golf ball dimple on a Zipp 808 compared to what this place has to offer. Not only that, but filled with friendly people (sometimes the guys in the Southern Suburbs don’t wave back, but we forgive them anyway) and an all-round great vibe! Did I mention the Rand? You’ll get a good R13 for one of your dollars (guys from Gauteng are laughing as they also use the Rand!), so along with all I’ve mentioned, an affordable destination too! It’s a place guaranteed to leave you with stories to tell and feelings you won’t forget!

A common weekend group ride

So to draw to a close, I think if you’re lucky enough to be a local, well done, you win at life bru! If your travel bug is jumping around in your belly, and you feel that inkling to ride your bike in another part of the world – come on over, and bring the bike, take some Instagram shots or even a story, and have the time of your life!

I like to think visitors will feel the same way I felt when I landed in New York for the first time – absolutely in awe of where I am!

If you’re riding this weekend, good luck and have a blast!

Note: If you have a coffee shop that is cycling friendly and would like to feature in a future article, contact us.

Matthew de Freitas

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