Namibia’s central plateau running from north to south with an average altitude of between 1 000 and 2 000 metres, the rugged mountainous escarpment that descends into the Namib Desert in the west, and the rolling hills of the Khomas Hochland west of Windhoek, provide many opportunities for exhilarating and truly tough mountain biking and cycling events.
A pioneering mountain-bike safari operator is Mountain Bike Namibia (MBN), offering a Namibia Classic Bike Tour that includes almost all the must-see places in the southern and northern Namib Desert, the Etosha National Park, and central Namibia. Also offered by this company are the 8-day Namib Desert, 8-day Damaraland, 15-day Kaokoland/Etosha, 14-day Namibia and 18-day Namibia tours, and a safari from Kaokoland to Vic Falls. The tours are supported by professional back-up teams and practical bike trailers, which makes loading and off-loading fast and easy. Providing bikers have a reasonable level of fitness, there is no age restriction, with many participants being over 60 years of age.
Another operator is Cycletech Adventures, which specialises in adventure packages and combines cycling, hiking, climbing and exploring. Some of the cycle safaris offered include the Skeleton Coast Expedition, Damaraland Classic, and the Mountains, Sand & Sea tour, on which cycling, hiking and driving are combined.
Klein-Aus Vista offers self-guided mountain biking through the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park. The area is characterised by granite gneiss outcrops, rugged valleys, meandering dry river courses and vegetation of the Succulent Karoo. Cyclists have to bring their own bikes.
Extreme off-road cycling
Before embarking on the 24-hour FNB Desert Dash, teams have to prepare themselves mentally and physically to endure intense heat, strong winds and cold fog as they cycle through the night with endless horizons stretching ahead. With an option of four categories to choose from, riders commit themselves to completing a minimum of 140 km (teams of four people), 200 km (teams of two people) and a daunting 340 km for solo entrants. There is also a category for tandems. The route follows the C26 out of Windhoek, continues along the D1982 down the Us Pass and then crosses to the C28 via D1985 into Swakopmund.
The race is held in December and is attended by a good mix of local and world-class international cyclists.
The Otjihavera Xperience is a strenuous two-day, two-stage mountain-bike event hosted by the Rock and Rut Mountain Bike Club. The route starts at Heja Lodge, from where it follows jeep tracks and farm roads passing the Otjihase Mine and then into farmland until it reaches Midgard Lodge. Day two leaves from from Midgard Lodge, from where the route goes towards the Otjihavera Mountain Range and finishes at Okapuka Lodge.
Another competitive cycling event is the Nedbank Cycle Challenge, which takes place on the second Sunday of February each year. Cyclists can participate over 20 km, 35 km and 75 km as individuals, families or teams, and children are welcome to participate in the Kidz Challenge, while the Mountain Bike Challenge covers 15 km and 30 km.
The annual Namibgrens Marathon includes trails of 13 km and 38 km, and a challenging 73-km route through some of the country’s most scenic areas, presenting several challenging obstacles.
The Namibia National Cross Country Championships takes place yearly in July. The route measures in at roughly 6.5 km per lap, where cyclists ride between one and five laps, depending on the category entered. The championship takes place at Farm Kleine Kuppe, on the outskirts of Windhoek.
The annual Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge takes place in April, where participants can compete in a 2-day stage race. It is a very tough event on mostly single-track mountain-bike trails in the Aus Mountains. Cyclists can enter for a 110 km full-marathon or a 60 km half-marathon. There are separate categories for men and women, and for juniors.
A new initiative, launched in 2011 by African Extreme Promotions, is the 500-km Windhoek Lager Namib Quest Challenge. Made up of six stages over six days, riders depart from Windhoek, cycle over the Khomas Hochland, through the Namib Desert and finish in Swakopmund.
Besides a large portfolio of cycling events, the Rock & Rut Mountain Bike Club also organises several Cross Country races each year, and with Windhoek Pedal Power and OTB Sport, regularly posts cycling events on its website.
Cycletech Spring Festival
An annual event that brings the crowds together through sport is the Cycletech Spring Festival, a multi-sport event that is held on the first weekend in September. Participants can choose between a trail run, off-road tri-/duathlon and mountain-bike race. Further activities include a YAM Fitness challenge, fun walks, volleyball and a cycling route for children. The event starts and finishes at the Black Pearl below the Avis Dam wall on the eastern outskirts of Windhoek.
Desert Rhino Cycle
As an initiative of the South African tour operator Rhino Africa Safaris’ Challenge4aCause programme, the 340-km Desert Rhino Cycle was launched in July 2009. The route starts at Palmwag, heads to the Hoanib River, proceeds further south over gravel plains to the Kai-Ais Spring, on towards Wêreldsend, west towards the Skeleton Coast Park, back to Wêreldsend, and finishes at Damaraland Camp seven days later. Funds generated go to the anti-poaching unit of Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust, the Wildlife ACT Fund, and Good Work Foundation.
Kingdom Cycling Club
Launched in February 2011, the Kingdom Cycling Club (KCC) initiates a variety of cycling projects to raise funds for specific needs within the Namibian community. The KCC’s primary objective is to use the cycling club as a platform to spread the gospel of Jesus. In its first fundraising event, the KCC and Kosmos 94.1 Cycle4Cancer 24-hour relay collected a total of N$56 000.
Mike Hearn Memorial Cycle Namibia
This is another extreme cycling event that is held annually. The Mike Hearn Memorial Cycle Namibia entails a seven-day cycle over rugged rocks, tracking black rhinos and looking for elephant, giraffe and gemsbok. The tour raises sponsorship for Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia, specifically to build an education centre for the tribal communities owning the land. It was held for the first time in 2005.
The Namibian Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Classic
This cycling event will be held for the 14th consecutive year in 2013. Starting at the SKW grounds in Olympia, cyclists can choose between routes of 20, 30, 65 and 100 km. The event serves as the only pre-qualifying race outside South Africa for the premier Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town. Initiated by the Windhoek Rotary Club, the primary aim of the Cycle Classic is to raise funds for various community projects. In 2011 mountain biking was added as an additional category, where riders can compete over a distance of 40 km or 15 km. The annual race runs over a three-day period.