The ultimate guide to road cycling in Cape Town

The Capetonian landscape is a marvel for all those who live in it, and the travellers who visit or pass through the city. This fact makes for thrilling biking or cycling experiences. 

About five years ago, you wouldn’t comfortably name Cape Town one of the cycling-friendly cities in the world. But the city has since stepped up and done a lot of work in the past few years to boost the travel tourism industry. Biking lanes have been created to make cycling experiences easier and better. Today, the city of Cape Town hosts one of the biggest cycle races in the world.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour takes place on the Cross-Cycle Tour 364 route on the ‘365th’ day of the year. This route is one of the four major tour routes, which include the Cross-Cape route, Cederberg Circuit and the Overberg Meander. However, while these routes promise to provide you with cycling pleasures you won’t get anywhere else in the country, they’re more off-road routes than they are on-road. There are other areas where you can ride your bike in Cape Town as the city is wealthy with areas you can take up your biking activities. These places include Sea Point, Hout Bay CBD, Chapman’s Peak, Rhodes Estate and the Cape Winelands. These in-city routes are close to nature, and are some of the most scenic views, which should tell you that you can fully enjoy as you take your sweet road ride.  

How is road cycling different from off-road cycling? The simplest answer to this question is that road cycling specifically refers to cycling on the road or pavement as opposed to mountain biking or riding on rugged terrain, rocky trails or gravel roads. Road cycling is for everyone; whether you’ve only recently taken up biking now or have been at it for years. You’ll be cycling strictly on the road for an extended distance, which is a fun and free thing to do. Another reason is that road biking is friendly to the environment, which eliminates the worry of negatively impacting on the planet you live in. But most importantly, it’s great for the improvement of your physical and mental health.

Getting into road cycling encompasses a lot of factors; it’s not a matter of picking up your bike and hitting the road. You have to be prepared in advance. You need to pick everything from a bike to bike accessories, cycling apparel, your cycling route, the kilometres involved, the time and date, and weather conditions of your departure and destination. If you read on below, you’ll find a more in-depth guide on how to take up your road cycling adventure in Cape Town.

Finding the right bike 

Finding yourself a bike that will serve your needs and help you achieve your goals is not that much of a difficult task. It starts with understanding the different types of bikes that are available on the market. If you’re heading over to a bicycle shop in Cape Town to search for one can be a little overwhelming if you’re not well-versed in the bicycle language. But if your goal is simply to enjoy cycling, you don’t have to stress much about the technicalities. Search for bikes that are specially designed for the road. 

A road bike is usually lightweight with narrow, smooth and hard tires. The features on the bike include more gear combos, drop bar handlebars and flat-bar handlebars. These features are built with speed in mind. Alternatively, you can pick up a mountain bike because although it’s meant to withstand rugged terrain, it is still alright to use on the road. The tires are typically heavier with larger threads and have features such as shock absorption. Of course, the technicalities are not that important if you’ll be cycling for fun, but understanding a little bit about the wheels on your bike can help you with your riding goals. In essence, the more lightweight the wheels are, the better your chances are at increasing your speed. You can rather opt for hardtail mountain bikes as they’re lighter and more versatile for road cycling. A lot similar to the road bike. 

Another option would be to pick up an electric bike. There are four different types of electric bikes (e-bikes) electric commuter bikes, electric hybrid bikes, electric road bikes and electric mountain bikes. The latter two are good options; you can go for either one. If it all still sounds overwhelming or you’re unsure, you can talk to cycle experts like us to learn more about options that will be suited to you.

Gear up with the right clothing 

Cycling apparel is actually imperative to have, even though it’s not necessarily regarded as compulsory to be fully kitted out in it. Thing is, you need to put on cycling apparel built for cycling purposes. The same way a football team would never run on the field in a denim jean, you also cannot cycle wearing everyday wear. 

Cycling clothing has specifications meant to support you and protect you on the road; whether that be from accidents or weather conditions. It is then essential to get yourself sleeveless or long sleeve cycling jackets, jerseys, base layer tees, short or long sleeves t-shirts, bib shorts, tights, shorts, cycling shoes and a helmet. A helmet is particularly important here because it protects your head from a serious injury should you crash into something, or crash and fall head-first. In fact, cycling without a helmet is illegal in South Africa, according to the National Road Traffic Regulations

Accessorise your bike 

Bike accessories also need to have essentials for your bike. You don’t have to overthink accessories; you can buy what you’ll need. And the rest can wait for later. The important basics include a tyre lever, hand pump, spare tubes, multi-tool, water bottle or a hydration pack, eyewear and gloves. If you do feel like your pockets run deep, you can buy yourself a cycling computer. This innovative gadget comes kitted out with tracking mileage and navigating routes.

Choosing your routes 

As you have already seen above, Cape Town has a lot of routes available for you to explore whenever you please. But it’s not advisable to just pick your bike and go. You have to plan your route in advance. Look for routes with cycle paths to ensure that your safety is guaranteed. 

You need to consider road routes with less traffic, and you need to think about the distance it will take you to your destination and back. All of this is dependent on the dates and times of your cycling adventures. This is where a training or cycling schedule comes into play. Creating a schedule will help you strategise better. It doesn’t have to be a chore; you can make the schedule more spontaneous. Planning doesn’t necessarily mean you throw away the fun out of your activities.

Consider safety on your next adventure 

Always be vigilant on your cycling adventure. Make sure that you follow cycling rules as stipulated by  The National Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and the National Road Traffic Regulations. The legislation clearly states that you have to stop at all red traffic lights, stop signs and give way to pedestrians. The rule is that if there’s a dedicated cycle path or lane, rather use that; otherwise, the open road is available to use on areas where these are non-existent. If you’re riding in the evening or in the dark, always wear colourful clothing and have the headlights on for you to be visible to other riders. These rules are not only for the protection of other motorists and pedestrians, but for yourself too. The more you understand that the rules are to protect you, the more likely you are to follow them and stay safe. 

Cycling, in general, is good for your health, it can boost both your physical and mental health. But road cycling, on the other hand, is less competitive and requires less strength in comparison to off-road cycling, which would take you to rough terrain. So, essentially, road cycling is a fun, free adventure that’s loved by many, especially those who live in urban areas with dedicated cycling paths or lanes. Cape Town is a perfect example of such a place, being one of the cities that host the biggest cycling events. 

Not only that but the city has a plethora of cycling routes and areas to take advantage of. So, to experience the city in its finest glory whilst cycling, you have to plan ahead. You have to have the right equipment. Everything needs to align and work with you towards your goal. 

That’s everything from the bike you choose to the bike accessories, cycling apparel, cycling route, the kilometres involved, when and what time of the day, and the weather conditions of your departure and destination. Once you have answers to all of these things, you’re good to go on your road cycling adventures and taking in the scenic views of the Mother City. 

Visit Chris Willemse Cycles online or physical store to pick up any of the items mentioned above.