It’s time for riders to get out their bikes and start preparing for Mpumalanga’s not-to-be-missed annual Sappi Mankele MTB challenge, which takes place at Mankele on Saturday, 17 March 2018.

Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports in South Africa and the Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge is fast becoming a national event with riders participating from across the country. In addition, the challenge has also been incorporated into the Mpumalanga Marathon Series, which is open to all mountain bikers from all provinces.

“Sappi’s plantations not only provide a critical renewable resource to help grow South Africa’s economy, but together with our conservation areas our land provides a fantastic resource for planned recreational activities,” says Sappi’s General Manager Forestry in Mpumalanga, Dietmar Schroeder.

“We therefore support non-motorised activities, such as mountain biking and bird watching on Sappi land. This also forms part of our commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle and nurturing an appreciation of nature and the sustainable use of renewable resources” he adds.

Over the years the Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge organising body has developed unique trails running through Sappi’s bush tunnels and endless single tracks, which enables riders to have the best possible mountain biking experience. In fact, Mankele trails are rated amongst the best mountain biking trails in South Africa by many professional riders. In addition to a thrilling ride, riders can look forward to race medals and cash prizes.

Riders and spectators can also look forward to a free spa, which is set up annually to ease tired and aching muscles and treat visitors to complimentary spa treatments.

Sappi is planning a fun day for the entire family, from food stalls to a jumping castle for the kids. So why not bring the family and camp out at Mankele for the weekend?

All proceeds from the Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge will be donated to local charitable organisations, for the betterment of the community.

To enter the Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge, visit For more information, contact Mark at 082 338 9532. For more information about Mankele or to book accommodation, email or call 078 801 0453.

Sappi MTB schools’ challenge

This year Sappi is again challenging schools to enter their MTB teams into the race. The winning school – which is the one with the most entries – will win R5,500. There’s also R3,500 up for grabs for second place and R2,500 for third.

There were wide smiles at Uplands College last year when the school took first place in the schools’ challenge and was rewarded for its pedal power. Curro Nelspruit took second place and Penryn College came third.

Do you have what it takes to beat them this year?

Choose your battle for 2018

The 65km and all of its rewards: The 65 km race takes the rider up the kicker at Mankele and through Mikon Chicken Farm. Whilst your legs may start to protest, there are some flat areas that offer a bit of recuperation. Then there’s ‘Gums’ single track, followed by a bit of climbing and the first massive reward… BEEES will make you feel as fresh as ever. Ride down past Mayo Estates to Barry’s bush tunnel, then into Simon’s bush tunnel before you head higher and higher up Mankele ridge. The climb’s a bit of a dog, but the reward is well worth it. Enjoy the fast jeep track all the way to River Wild, cross the river on a new bridge and head up and down before you’re hit by a climb you’ll never forget. When you recover, you’ll head into Sappi’s bush tunnel and down to the cattle trail. This is an awesome single track that leads you to a few bush tunnels andfun all the way home.

The 34km (900m ascent): This ride, a rude awakening up the Old Sabie Road, will have you soon doubting your fitness levels. But once at the top, you will be rewarded with a beautiful pine, single track. Follow jeep track, rocky climbs and stunning views while you ride down into Sudwala Valley. When you reach the 25km mark you’ll get your second wind at the water point. From here is the reason we ride… Steep descents, bushveld trails, bush tunnels, Pecan orchards and single track all the way home!

The 22km (380m ascent):This ride offers a gradual climb up the district road, past Sudwala Lodge and into pine forests. Just when you think you can’t climb any more, there’s a water point at 9.2km, followed by undulating recovery time. From here there’s a mind-blowing descent through African bushveld, with a rollercoaster-style bush tunnel. After the second water point, at 18km, enjoy a fast finish along district road, one more steep descent and a fun single track to the end.

The 15km (170m ascent): Enjoy a flat start on district road, while your legs warm up, and head for the slight climb up to Thulani Depot. Then its single track which takes you all the way to the mines. Veer off onto Msilezi Farm, with a lovely rolling jeep track. The single track next to the river leads you home.