Words by Angus Burrell
Rhino/Ryan/Riley/Ramrod and I had first discussed the idea of bringing riders to ride some of the more remote and exciting parts of the world to ride. In 2019 I had been riding my Kevin of Steel through some beautiful corners of the world such as Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and South America. This had led to lots of questions from friends and customers asking when will we do a ride in some of these places? How fantastic would it be to bring people along to share in some of the amazing experiences we were lucky enough to have? Of course our ideas were squashed in early 2020, but determined to forge ahead we planned, brainstormed, studied the maps, and finally in the early stages of 2022 the gates of Australia would be opened and we set off for Africa!
The Rhino Run had been Ryan’s brainchild, a novel ultra endurance cycling race across a wild landscape home to wildlife and terrain unlike anywhere else. The course for the race took riders from Plettenberg Bay in South Africa to Windhoek in Namibia, a 750km route full of gravel roads and wildlife. The first 750km of the course was termed the entree section, an “easier” section, where upon completion racers would have the option to end their ride at the town of Stellenbosch. The race was growing, attracting a large and impressive starting list. Most ultra endurance bikepacking races around the world require a fair amount of dedication and can oftentimes permit only entrants, who can take the time off work or from, family to complete the adventure. For some, the prospect can just be daunting.. The roadside bivvy, uncertainty over resupply, challenging weather and road conditions.
Here at CURVE we wanted to create an experience that would allow riders to be closely involved in the ultra without the suffering and demanding challenges it often requires. The entree section became the basis for our expedition, a 7 day supported bike packing adventure. The trip was designed with the hope that the front runners of the Rhino Run race would overtake the group near the end of their tour.
The journey of an expedition starts well before the trip takes place, as it is important for bikes and legs to be in optimal working condition. Through our Melbourne Adventure Dojo workshop team, and our dealer network around the world, we support riders to ensure their bikes are serviced and inspected so that any issues are taken care of before the South African terrain has a chance to cause a problem on the expedition itself. Training advice is given and monitored in the leadup to ensure that the legs are ready to take on the challenge. An expedition is no walk in the park and designed to challenge riders with plenty of exercise! Preparing the mind and body are fundamental to keeping the fun factor high!
The Rhino Run entree course provided the foundation for the expedition. A route that traverses the Western Cape, following the world renowned Garden Route. The route provided the perfect taste of Africa, beginning with lush coastal rainforests on the outskirts of Plettenberg Bay. We then traversed over jagged mountain passes and we entered the Klein Karoo, the little desert of the Western Cape. From the bike we began to see the wildlife of the region. Ostrich, Giraffes, Zebra, Springbok, Baboons, Mongoose. The list goes on! The route left the arid plains of the Klein Karoo behind and brought us back toward Happy Valley. Beautiful valleys of dairy farms, expanses of South African farmland sprawled out in front of our eyes. The shadows of the mountain ranges always towering above. The remoteness and isolation of the route was forgotten as we crested the Franschhoek Pass, bringing us into the beautiful town of Franschhoek, a wine lovers haven situated in a valley of grapes often ascending vertically up the slopes. The valley is a feast for the senses with grapevines lining the roadside, cellar doors beckoning you to come and taste with only a short ride to the finishing town of Stellenbosch.
The expedition was designed to be challenging, yet enjoyable. Each days ride was a tough course over mixed surfaces, mostly gravel with some challenging and technical mountain passes. The end of each day would feature a unique South African experience, whether it was a treetop cabin, game farm, bush lodge or farm stay. The reward for each day’s challenging ride was the comfort of a bed, shower and always a delicious South African meal. Each rider was responsible for themselves, their bike, and equipment out on the road. A support car driven by a bonafide South African legend “Uncle Chris” carried overnight gear each day and allowed for additional snack stops where needed. In the heat of the Klein Karoo the extra water support was welcome and well needed!
The Touring Rhino crew was made up of a wonderful group of people from all over the world. We had old and new friends coming from as far as London, Seattle, and Melbourne to take part in this adventure. One of the great things about trips like these are the new friendships that are formed. As a guide, it’s such a rewarding feeling to see the looks on riders faces as they crest the mountain pass and the vista opens up in front of them, or they arrive at their accommodation after a long day in the saddle to a cold drink or are greeted by a Giraffe peering down to say hello! There are many memorable moments that we all will take with us whether it be the delicious supply of Biltong that never seemed to end, sharing wine around a Braai in the desert, or seeing Springbok leaping, or otherwise known as “pronking”, along next to us as we cycled our bikes through the Klein Karoo.
Rather than myself carrying on about the tour I think it’s best to let the riders speak for themselves! Below are some anecdotal recounts from some of our riders which paint a picture of the trip.
Jordan "Jonty" Addison | Owner, G!RO Cycles | Touring Rhino
"Having worked with Curve for over nearly 7 years now, I have always loved and resonated with their approach to riding bikes, and the adventures that can be had along the way! As soon as this trip was announced, I knew it was going to be a special time, and it exceeded every expectation!
The route laid out was the perfect balance of beautiful, challenging and unique! What an unforgettable week, that was made all the better with the support and accommodation, making a ride like this accessible for someone like myself who has a very involved day to day job. My favourite accommodation of the week was Chandelier, just outside Oudsthoorn. Tented lodges, backing onto wild open desert, complemented with the most stunning sunset!
Riding wise, the most memorable was without a doubt Rooiberg pass, a brutal climb which came at the end of a hot (45C+) day… This was probably the most challenging pass of the week, but it was rewarded with the most incredible descent with the backdrop of a vivid and wild African sunset… One of those moments that will stay with me! Added to this was the wildlife… that same day we got to see Giraffes, and Zebra. My favourite moment has to be when an Osterich ran alongside us as we rode through the Karoo…unforgettable. All alongside a wonderful group of people from all over the world, who i now count as friends.
What Curve have put together here is something really special, that needs to be experienced to be fully understood! I cannot recommend these expeditions highly enough!"
Ian Wan | Touring Rhino
"A lovely experience that was nicely curated by the Curve team. I don't think I’ve pushed myself so hard mentally and physically from a biking perspective and was rewarded with great food, views and experiences along the way. Definitely a bucket list ride for anyone who wants a unique touring experience that provides a challenge and sense of adventure without the anxiety of uncertainty.
My favourite accommodation - Teniqua Treetops where I showered in an exposed shower overlooking the forest as the sun set was delightfully liberating! As was the plethora of animals in the compound.
My favourite section of road/pass - Franschhoek pass - a nice smooth climb with a reasonable gradient was a great reward for accomplishing the last big climb of the trip. Views were amazing as well. Don't forget the countless hoon-able downhill sections too.
My most challenging moment - Klein Karoo - cycling for hours on a sweltering 45ºc day on top of that still needing to crest the Rooiberg Pass nearly broke me. At least there was a nice sunset to finish off the day! Also not recommended is doing the ride after only clocking in 1000 km prior to the trip this whole year hehe…
My favourite wildlife encounter - Being greeted by Sheila the Giraffe as we rolled into Chandelier Lodge.
My favourite moment or experience - Comradery of everyone during dinner time going over the days events after a hard day's cycle as well as taking in all the stunningly vast and varied landscapes that we came across."
Pete Toogood | Touring Rhino
"Every so often an opportunity comes along you just have to grab hold of. The Rhino Run expedition was a way to explore a new country in a way I'm not sure I'd get a chance to on my own. I was blown away by just how much the country changed over the 7 days of riding. In as short as 20km going from the damp and green Montagu pass into a dry valley that felt more like the Flinders Ranges in summer. Day after day I was lost for words as we came over another pass and a new landscape unfolded in front of us.
The hardest day through the Klein Karoo was unforgettable, riding alongside Giraffe and Zebra in the Swartberg game park followed by the physical and mental battle through sustained heat. A cold wet Melbourne winter had not prepared me for this! The pain of climbing the steep and rocky Rooiberg pass made the descent off the other side to our lodge for the night even sweeter, chasing a setting sun we were equal parts broken and elated.
Unwinding each night in the best accommodation South Africa could offer was a real treat, from sharing a beer with Shiela the Giraffe at Chandelier lodge to the candlelit farmhouse meal (and bakkie ride) with Keith and Michelle at their home, we did our level best to take in more calories than we spent that day. The days were tough but the Touring Rhino's were up to the challenge, bonding over the hard times to be a tight knit group that I'm proud to call friends.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat."
Berit Barton | Touring Rhino
"The Rhino Run Expedition was definitely a special experience that I will treasure in my heart for a long time. In only 7 days I made new friends for life and we got to see such a diversity of landscapes and wildlife, it was mind blowing even for this well traveled girl. I felt I traveled through a number of countries I’ve been to just in one day’s ride.
It’s hard to pick a favourite accommodation spot, as they were all breathtaking and so unique. One favourite moment was probably our candle light dinner with Michelle and Keith at their table in their beautiful farm house.
Favourite wildlife encounter was probably riding alongside running giraffes in the Klein Karoo - they looks so slow, but actually aren’t, ha!
My favourite Pass must have been Montagu - for its history and the beautiful stone wall. Because of the fog it felt like I was somewhere in Scotland!
One favourite moment was a mad descent into the sunset into a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park after having climbed Rooiberg Pass and what must have been our toughest day with riding in scorching conditions. We were whooping and screaming the whole way down (which was a long way) and we felt like kids, wild, free… and hungry.
The most challenging moment was saying goodbye to the Rhino Family at the end and I miss everyone ever since!"
Uncle Chris | Touring Rhino
"When Ryan asked me whether I would be prepared to provide the backup for the Tour, little did I realise that it would be such an amazing adventure! It allowed me to meet some amazing people and see some parts of my country that I have never seen before. I stand in awe at what they did and I really enjoyed being with them and sharing their experiences.
From my perspective the best accommodation was a tie between Rooiberg Lodge and The Post House, with Teniqua Treetops taking the honours for the most interesting.
Best meal definitely had to be the wonderful time we spent with Keith and Michelle in their home at Grootvadersbosch. It was great having a traditional South African Bredie together with such convivial company. Hats off to Keith and Michelle
The most interesting pass was by far the Rooiberg Pass; going down into the setting sun was awesome, pity it came at the end of a really hot and hard day for the Touring Rhinos.
My most difficult moment was trying to pass the Touring Rhinos on day one without splashing them with mud, and failing. Humble apologies Patrick., but thank you for sharing some of your time with me, it was great getting to know you.
Most amusing moment was the look on some of the team’s faces when Frikkie, from Chandelier, told us the Skilpadjies (tortoises) were actually chopped liver in netvet (cawl)
To the Touring Rhinos - It was great fun being with you and a pleasure supporting you. To me you all rock! I think we owe a big shout out to Gus - great job buddy!"
Jonty of G!RO Cycles in Esher, UK has put together a brilliant recount of the trip along with his wonderful photography. Read it HERE!
The Curve expedition team are building out future expeditions around the world. The trips are designed to be real bike packing adventures but with some creature comforts. You can expect to go without mobile signal and wifi while you’re on an expedition. Some of the terrain we traverse is very remote and at times services are out of reach. You should come with both your bike and body prepared to adventure through a new place. A high level of fitness is required, with a good amount of bikepacking experience. Expeditions are scouted, planned, and guided by the Curve team from the bike.
If this trip sounds exciting to you or you would like to learn more about the CURVE expedition program please get in touch with our team firstname.lastname@example.org