Nestled on the Klein Karoo plain at the mouth of the magnificent Seweweekspoort is the settlement of Zoar. Sadly, despite the natural beauty which surrounds it, it is one of the most impoverished villages in the Western Cape. Unemployment, alcoholism and drug abuse are high, with young people in particular bearing the brunt of these social ails. It is for that reason that Mark and Colleen le Roux founded the Zoar Bigshots.

“The aim of the cycling programme is to provide a healthy and fun activity for the young people of Zoar to take part in, which gives them a reason to avoid turning to alcohol and drugs” explained Mark le Roux. “Providing a positive outlet for their energy and a space within which to develop their sense of self-worth are both exceptionally important benefits too. Already in the nine months that the Zoar Bigshots have been cycling as a club they’ve been able to travel to a few races around the Klein Karoo and Garden Route. Though results aren’t the aim, it’s great for the riders to get the opportunity to travel locally and experience different areas too.”

The mountain biking in the area around Zoar is spectacular; with rides into the Seweweekspoort or along the network of gravel roads which criss-cross the veld providing endless options. Photo by Mark le Roux.

In order to continue to grow the programme the Zoar Bigshots are hosting a two-day mountain bike tour in October. Dubbed Tour de Zoar they will take place on the 17th and 18th of October 2020. Would be participants are asked to make a R500 donation to the Zoar Bigshots, which will be used to purchase more bicycles, cycling kit and pay the travel expenses of getting the riders to future events.

“At R43 262, in 2017, Kannaland [in which Zoar falls] municipal area’s real GDP per capita is much lower than both the Garden Route District’s average amount of R69 970 and the Western Cape Province’s R87 110” explained the Western Cape Socio-Economic Profile of 2018. “Due to the financial situation, pre-the Covid-19 pandemic, in most households in Zoar there would simply be no way in which the youth of the village would have access to bicycles” le Roux pointed out. “The Tour of Zoar will help us keep the momentum we had built before the lockdown and showcase the talent and love of mountain biking which the riders of Zoar have developed.”

Zoar, in the Kannaland region of the Klein Karoo is one of the Western Cape’s poorest communities. Photo by Mark le Roux.

“Each Tour de Zoar will include two days of riding” Le Roux continued. “The first will be a 50-kilometre loop into the Seweweekspoort. It’s the undoubted highlight of the region and the best way to experience the incredible pass through the poort is by mountain bike. Day 2 will be a roughly 40-kilometre route, featuring jeep and goat tracks through Zoar, Amaliënstein and Opsoek. The highlight of the second day will be the amazing singletracks the Zoar Bigshots have been building in the area. Mountain bikers are in for a surprise, the trails are rapidly expanding in length and are fantastically fun to ride.”

Due to Covid-19 regulations participant numbers for each ride is limited to 100 people. Riders will be divided into groups of 10-15 individuals and will depart from Le KaRoux, in Opsoek, at 5-minute intervals. To further ensure the safety of everyone involved there will be no official water points, though each day’s route will offer ample opportunities to refill water bottles at natural springs or spaza stores.

Cyclists have been donating old cycling kit and bicycles which the Zoar Bigshots have given a new lease of life too. Photo by Mark le Roux.

To secure your place in the Tour de Zoar email Colleen le Roux at Riders will be required to book their own self-catering accommodation for the duration of the weekend, and do so in one of the numerous local guest houses. Nearby options include Le KaRoux Guest Farm, Barn 62 Backpackers, Opsoek Valley Farm Cottages and the Klein Karoo Valley Guest Farm.

Tour de Zoar promises an opportunity to spend down-time in the Klein Karoo off the bike too. Photo by Mark le Roux.