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Cradle Cruising – a great place to ride your bike

 Words and photos: Andrew ‘Average Andy’ Steer. Article from Ride Magazine December 2015.

Probably the most popular training route for road cyclists in Johannesburg (and even Pretoria) is the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site, recently in the news for being the birthplace of Homo Naledi, the latest member of our own genus.
Ride Magazine

Just over a decade ago, cycling lanes were built by the government in the area to create safer riding conditions, and in so doing, a healthier lifestyle for the residents of Gauteng. The lanes didn’t quite hit the mark the first time around, with some shoddy work making large tracts unrideable, but these days the 1 5m bike lane works a treat and runs for nearly 50km in and around the Cradle This, together with some of the other popular riding routes in the area, provides a great training option in close proximity to the two major cities.

The bike lanes are well marked (although the cones that serve this purpose do create a few issues), but there are many signs, the speed limit is 60km/h and, for the large part, motorists are far more accepting and welcoming of the cyclists on the roads in the area There have been some problems in the past, with locals not enjoying our presence. These concerns seem to increase around peak cycling times, owing to the massive number of cyclists – often bursting out of the lanes – that frequent the Cradle around then, but relations have been fairly good of late and hopefully, through better rider education, we will continue to enjoy this little gem without creating too much ill feeling among the local motorists.

The Cradle loop and bike lanes (see map)

RideThe basic loop is just short of 30km long with nearly 350m of climbing It’s seldom flat, but two longish climbs aside, it is generally along pleasant rolling hills The scenery along the route is cool – mountains all round, many crossings of the Crocodile River and more game en route than you are likely to see on your average game drive.

Lion, giraffe, plenty of buck, bison (yup, bison!) and a white tiger You may even catch a glimpse of some rhino This countryside feels almost surreal with the heavy city skyline lingering not too far away on the horizon.

It’s fun to alternate riding the loop in different directions For some reason, the anti-clockwise route always feels a little faster to me. Some basic rules on navigating the circle: if you’re riding it clockwise, always turn right – and if you’re riding it anti-clockwise, always turn left. So, as an example for the clockwise trip: from the R374, turn right onto the R540; from there, turn right on the M5 and then turn right back onto the R374… If it sounds complicated, have a look at the map – it isn’t really.

The bike lanes extend west for around 8km from the big circle near the rhino and lion park and take you out to the Sterkfontein Caves. This fast little out-and-back session adds 16km and, while it will up your average speed a fair bit, it’s also a welcome escape from too many loops when doing a long ride.

Extending your ride

Loops aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the 50km of bike lanes don’t have the ability to satisfy every rider’s cravings.

Apart from riding out to the loop on the day, there are several popular routes in the area that can be added to bump the mileage up.

There’s Hekpoort (one of the toughest climbs around) which you can get to by heading further up the R563.

Then there’s the option of going out towards Hartbees- poort and the Broederstroom road, which you can get to by heading up the R512 You can also go west over Krugersdorp Hill (another serious lung-busting climb) via the N14 (R28) out towards Randfontein.

Although there are many options, sadly, few of these routes offer even half the safety you’ll have in the Cradle.

Weather

Out on the road you are quite exposed for much of the route, so keep that in mind with regard to hydration and sun protection.

Where to stop?

Apart from the riding, the great part about getting out into the countryside is the many| options from which to choose as a riding base for the day. No foray is complete without a post-ride recap and a freshly brewed coffee or ice-cold beer. Here’s our ] pick of the most popular stops in the area.

Something Country

RideA quaint country house serves as the restaurant, with most of the dining happening outside on benches on the lush, green lawns. There’s a nice little shop with interesting wares, and a kiddies’ play area, and they are even licensed, should you wish to reward yourself after a long, hard ride. Plenty of secure (and some unsecured) parking available, along with basic ablutions.

GPS co-ordinates: 25°59’48.81″S, 27°49’9 52″E, Tel: 011 957 5008, Cell: 084 589 8687, Email, www.facebook.com/ Something-Country, visit website

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve

RideThe Neck & Deck Cafe right on the main Cradle loop has secure parking, ablutions, and a simple menu that caters for most It offers 360-degree views over the Cradle, and you can feed a giraffe, if that’s your thing.

GPS co-ordinates: 25°58’530″S, 27°47’566″E Tel: 011 957 0349/0106/0109 Cell: 082 800 5305 E-mail: Email or Email www.facebook.com/rhinoandlion, or visit website

Toadbury Hall

RideThis well-known bridal favourite is in a tranquil setting on the banks of the Crocodile River and the ideal place to unwind after the rigours of chasing your latest Strava KOM. There’s a great (and healthy) menu, and safe parking, plus ablutions are available.

GPS co-ordinates: 25°56’56.65″S, 27°52’42.12″ E Tel: 010 593 7523 Email www.facebook.com/ToadburyHall Twitter: @ToadburyHall or visit website

Valverde Country Estate

RideUp the hill from Toadbury Hall is Valverde Estate, a multi-purpose establishment that’s long welcomed cyclists. The restaurant serves a fine range of cuisines, the facilities are top-notch and cyclists can leave their kids with an experienced child minder (on booking) for a morning of fun activities while they ride.

GPS co-ordinates: 25°57’16″S, 27°52’33″E Tel: 010 591 6840 Cell: 061 483 2678 Email or visit website

Avianto

RideA hotel (also a winner for nuptials) that has embraced the cycling culture in the area. Apart from its great MTB track, Avianto offers a great starting point for road rides in the area from their clubhouse. Post- ride you can enjoy a bite to eat, a cold drink or delight in the scenery.

GPS co-ordinates: 26°01’40″S, 27°50’17″E Tel: 011 668 3000 Email www.facebook.com/aviantohotel Twitter: @AviantoWed or visit website

Riverstone Lodge

RideJust a short ride away from the main Cradle loop, this popular wedding and conference destination offers great facilities, including secure parking, a kiddies’ play area, and a restaurant that serves a fine breakfast and tasty cuisine.

Tel: 011 668 3111 Email www.facebook.com/ LodgeRiverstone Twitter: @LodgeRiverstone or visit website

RideThe Hertford Country House

A great stop, just a short ride off the main loop, the Hertford has gone as far as laying out rubber mats to allow road bikes a comfortable trip over the short dirt road into the hotel. The restaurant serves a wide range of breakfasts – some especially for cyclists! Safe parking and ablutions are available.

GPS co-ordinates: 25°58’287″S, 27°55’260″E Tel: 011 023 7080/1 Cell: 086 631 5901/084 761 2017, Email www.facebook.com/ HertfordCountryHotel, or visit website

You can also get caught out by  strong winds, but fortunately, for every headwind you encounter,   you are just as likely to grab a ride on a nice tailwind

The elevated spots along the route allow  you to keep an eye out for inclement weather, which is a bonus when it comes to Gauteng’s famous summer thunderstorms!

Security

The routes are busy, particularly over weekends – and there have been very few crime-related incidents over the years Motorists tend to stick to the speed limit of 60km/h, and the well-marked cycling lanes ensure protection for cyclists

How to get there: (see map)

Your route into the Cradle depends largely on where you plan to base yourself for the day.

The main roads into the area are Hendrik Potgieter (M47) from the West Rand, Malibongwe Drive (R512) from Randburg, Cedar Road (R552) from Fourways, and the N14 for the guys coming in from Pretoria

It used to be common practice to ride out to the Cradle (and in the early morning, it’s still quite a nice option), but the traffic and congestion on those roads after 9am in the day can leave you feeling very exposed.

If your family is joining you after your ride, cycling out to the Cradle will obviously earn you some bonus miles.

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