Cycling in the Cradle

Posted on November 26, 2015

All roads lead to the Cradle. Photo courtesy of Jetline Action Photo

All roads lead to the Cradle. Photo courtesy of Jetline Action Photo

Last year's Cradle Cycle Festival. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Marshall

Last year's Cradle Cycle Festival. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Marshall

Around an hour’s drive from the urban hub of Sandton there’s a choice of cycling routes that lure road riders and MTB enthusiasts into the countryside to discover the fun side of the City of Gold.

Beautifully tarred country roads that provide access to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site have made cycling in the Cradle a pleasure. An added drawcard is that many wedding destinations have made their venues available to early-morning riders.

The Cradle route has a clearly designated 2m-wide bike lane, and cyclist signage is plentiful. Some sections feature reflectors that mark the cycle lane and prevent cars from using it. Apart from always being traffic-conscious, cyclists should also be aware of other riders – on the weekend large groups of cyclists from Johannesburg-based clubs train together.

For mountain bikers there’s an easy to intermediate 27km-long trail. From Beyers Naudé Drive (M5), take the turn into Kromdraai Road. Cross the Crocodile River and follow the road until you reach a T-junction. Turn right, cross the Blaauwbankspruit then turn right and ride past the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.

Cruising past the reserve on this stretch of the trail is undemanding and offers scenic views over the Crocodile River valley. When you reach the Muldersdrift/Lindley junction turn right and cross the Crocodile River again, continuing until you reach the Kromdraai turn-off.

The Cradle of Humankind is the world’s richest hominin site and has been recognised as such by being awarded World Heritage Site status for its global significance.

Fossil evidence indicates that the Cradle was a shallow sea some 2.3-billion years ago. Today the eroded dolomite topography has revealed caves and sinkholes containing the fossils of ancient plants and hominins.

You may choose to ride to the Cradle or you could drive there. While many professional riders meet along Hendrik Potgieter Road, the wide-shouldered arterial road that leads out west of Johannesburg, less experienced cyclists prefer to park at the Cradle and ease into their ride after an early cappuccino en route. Cyclists approaching the Cradle from the north should make use of widened roads that mark the Lanseria Airport development.

What to do in the area

There are many other outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the Cradle, so team your ride with one or more of these to make a weekend of it. Take your pick from hot-air ballooning, game viewing, trout fishing or a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves. And if you find the origins of humankind fascinating, make sure you book for a guided tour of the fascinating 2.2-million-year-old Wonder Cave.