We haven’t got enough mountain bike tourism in South Africa – although you wonder if any destination can ever have enough of it.

Responsible tourism ‘creates better places to visit, and better places to live in’ – but the hidden challenge, the one we’re so damned good at avoiding, is the question of transport. We’ll never have a sustainable (and therefore responsible) tourism industry until we have a sustainable transport industry.

But the bicycle comes close.

There’s no doubt that cycling is growing in South Africa – as it is in the rest of the world. Here, though, it seems currently to be the new golf: a sport filled with alpha males aggressively interested only in the races they can enter, and the times (and the competitors) they can beat. And that’s sad.

Hopefully, though, this’ll change and non-competitive mountain bike touring will take off in the very near future. And if this happens, it’ll be because of books like this one by Dave Bristow and Steve Thomas.

“The Spine of the Dragon trail and this guide to riding it are not an exact science,” they tell us. “The riding was designed to be fun, and the route was designed to be flexible.”

They divide the trail – like their book – into nine sections, “each one of which could be ridden as a shorter mountain biking holiday. Each section is further broken down into stages… a total of 58… each equivalent to a day’s riding.”

This books is a delight to read. You get the feeling that MTB touring ought to be a laid-back, relaxed affair, and here’s how you can achieve this. But cycling’s also a highly practical affair, and the advice here will be valuable to anyone on the road.

You’ll want to own ‘Riding the Dragon’s Spine’ if you love to ride. And if you’ve a guest house anywhere along that spine – the mountain ranges of western Limpopo and Mpumalanga, eastern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Eastern Cape, Western Cape – you have to make it available in your guest library if for no other reason than that it’s sure to excite your guests’ interest.

And that usually leads to extended bookings…

‘Riding the Dragon’s Spine: Beit Bridge to Cape Town’ is published by Struik Travel and Heritage.

Buy it in the format of your choice:

  • In paperback here 
  • In Adobe DRM ePub here 
  • In Adobe DRM PDF here