Mountain biking. The sport has been embraced worldwide hitting the mainstream in the past 20 years when bike manufacturers realised the growing popularity of the sport and began producing bicycles specifically suited to rough trails.
What is it? And how does it differ from regular bicycling? True to its name, mountain biking originated with people wanting to take bicycling from the streets to rougher and more challenging trails in the mountains. As the sport developed almost all off-road trail riding is now known as ‘mountain biking’ and now usually relates to the type of bicycle used. Mountain bikes have different tires, frames, breaks and gears which make them more durable and better able to handle rough terrain.
Given Uganda’s beautiful and vast wild places it makes the country a mountain bikers dream. A number of people in Kampala ride trails that are dotted around Lake Victoria, in Entebbe, or in Jinja. Even just a quick jaunt off the main road will often provide mountain bikers with a vast number of roads and trails to explore.
If you’re at all interested in the sport, a perfect introduction to mountain biking is coming up on December 8-9, 2012. The second annual Sipi Falls Mountain Bike Race is open to everyone and is just a few short weeks away. While entering a race might seem daunting this one is really just for fun with only a few hardcore competitors racing to the end in 1:34 hours.
The race itself follows a course that is 19km long and mostly off-road with a small bit of tarmacked road. It offers a few fast and technical sections but mostly some great climbs and downhills past breathtaking scenery including beautiful vistas and cliffs.
It’s best to take your own mountain bike and helmet (a MUST!) but if you don’t have one contact Sipi River Lodge and they can possibly help arrange something for you. You can find their webpage here: http://www.sipiriverlodge.com/bikerace.htm or their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/419181801461508/.
How to get there? Take the Kampala-Jinja Road through Jinja toward Mbale. Turn left 5km after you pass through Iganga. Drive time is about 4.5 hours on good roads with the only bad patch being right outside Mbale. You’ll want to make a weekend of it if you go to the race as it’s on beautiful Mt. Elgon and there there’s also plenty to do besides mountain biking and Sipi River Lodge is offering a 50% discount on rock climbing or abseiling that weekend. Rooms at the Lodge book quickly but they are also offering a camping special for that weekend only at $10 USD per night. Contact the Lodge for more details: http://www.sipiriverlodge.com/contact.htm
If you can’t make the race or would prefer something closer to home, Nile River Explorers offers mountain biking tours in/around Jinja and through Mabira Forest. Find out more here: http://raftafrica.com/site/other-activities/mountain-biking.html.
When mountain biking it is important to remember that you will often be far from civilisation so bring durable clothes, sunscreen, a hat, water, and a first aid kit. A helmet is also a must as bumps and spills are inevitable. If you aren’t travelling with a guide a GPS, map, or GPS app on your phone could prove helpful if you lose your way.
The last piece of advice is to have fun – a prerequisite for any adventure lover!