If you haven’t yet experienced the amazing Trail’s End Bike Hotel in the Elgin Grabouw Valley – you need to treat yourself. Described as “The Centre of the Great Outdoors”, this is exactly what it is with adventure at every turn! The ideal family getaway.
Established in 2016 as Africa’s first bike hotel, Trail’s End is fittingly at the trail head of some of South Africa’s most spectacular mountain bike trails. The Grabouw Forest Trails, Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Trails are all connected and offer a great variety of trail types and distances for all levels of cyclist – from novice to highly skilled! (And if bridges and berms scare you, you have the chance to practice on Trail’s End’s very own Declan O’Malley Flow Trail).
Whether its mountain biking, trail running, hiking, quad biking, or wine tasting, Trail’s End is the perfect hub from which to explore and discover all that the Elgin Valley has to offer. The Elgin Railway Market (the one that you keep hearing about) is a short 4km away – or, if it’s more of the adrenaline filled adventure stuff you are looking for, Cape Canopy Tour’s world famous zip line is 11km further, on the same route. Right next door to Trail’s End is Oude Molen Distillery, so – if you want to see the biggest copper pot stills in the Southern Hemisphere whilst sampling the Cape’s best pot-stilled brandy – it’s a short walk down the road. Alternatively you can just stay put and be pampered by their in-house masseuse!
Trail’s End was the brain child of Pieter Silberbauer. After spending more than 30 years building some of South Africa’s most beautiful timber homes he was looking for a change that would allow him more time at home (and on his bike). “The obvious thing to do, was to convert our factory into a ski-lodge for bikes” quips Silberbauer. The idea actually came from his daughters who love mountain biking and anything that sounds like an adventure.
After input from various quarters and a superhuman effort from Pieter’s building partner, Johannes Mathewson, the factory morphed into what many think is a purpose-built bike hotel in just 9 months. The Hotel Cycle in Hiroshima, Japan inspired many of the ideas incorporated during the design phase. Hotel Cycle is a converted warehouse on the Onomichi channel in Hiroshima. The full circle was complete when “Toy” Eisho Yamawaza cycled into Trail’s End in early 2019 as part of his bike packing tour of the trails of the Western Cape. Toy, as it turned out, is a tour guide for Hotel Cycle! It was a very special visit and Pieter made time to take Toy on scenic mountain bike tour before he continued on his way.
The Trail’s End vision from the outset was to become a global destination for adventure enthusiasts and, beyond that, a place where local meets the world and ideas are shared. The Elgin Grabouw Valley, like many rural areas, is a microcosm of South Africa with so many challenges and so many possibilities. Trail’s End has used its network and influence to give back to the Grabouw community. Working with local visionary NPO, Grabouw Beautiful, and in partnership with Qhubeka, Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) and PPA, more than 250 bikes have been earned by Grabouw residents. Many of these are school children who have undertaken projects that will improve the lives of others.
A spinoff of this project has been the skills training of a number of enthusiastic youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. They have moved up a notch and some ride mountain bikes donated by generous people who have met them or heard their stories. They have become part of the local cycling community and regularly take part in the many events that take place in the Elgin Grabouw Valley. It is heartening to see how the bicycle has been a major catalyst in changing lives and bringing hope to this struggling community.
And what of the future? The coronavirus pandemic has been a time for introspection. For the time being at least, people are avoiding large crowds and many big events have been postponed or cancelled. People are realising how important it is to spend time with family and with good friends. Trail’s End is seeing more and more group bookings: families who know each other; father and son groups (mother and daughter groups too!); cycling clubs and cycling friends wanting a change of scenery; and so many bike packing groups heading off on an adventure of discovery.
It’s also the ideal venue for team-building, conferencing (with an active spin thrown in), boot camps, yoga retreats and so much more…