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Gravel biking - that's how it should be done!

Words: Oli Munnik, Photos: Wayne Reiche


You’ll never ride them we were told … you’ll be gagging for suspension on the dirt and will have your legs ripped to pieces on the road. Three years on, since these ill-fated words were uttered, Gravel Bikes have risen second only to brown bottle beer in the incredibly competitive hierarchy of any Bogan’s life.



During our short, but passionate relationship, gravel bikes have proven to be the bitch’s tits. Super efficient on gravel roads, fast enough with the right tyres and gearing to dominate The Argus and again, with the right tyre choice, GG1s are an absolute blast to ride on more challenging off-road sections. There is not much we can’t do on our GG1s. GG1 is the generic term Bogans use to describe gravel bikes with GG standing for ‘gravel grinding’ and the 1 signifying the fact that thoroughbred Bogans use 1x drivetrains exclusively.




It was in May 2014 that I got my first taste of GG1 when Nat-The-Tat (who has since unceremoniously retired from cycling after a disastrous 2015 attempt of Mont Bondone in Italy) and I cycled from Kloof Street in the heart of Cape Town to a mutual friend Arch’s farm, Zeekoegat 15kms from Matjiesfontein. This 3-day Karoo adventure ignited a burning desire to do more self-supported riding.


Fast forward to 2018 and into the bowels of East City Cycles where, while necking a few Bogan Beers one early Friday evening, it was decided that we needed to embark on an adventure on our terms. After much debate, we came up with a plan to test out the idea of organising an annual ride, which would be called Tour de Bogan.



If you are puzzling as to what a Bogan is, let me share with you Google’s definition, followed by the word’s usage over time – note the graph’s dramatic spike around the same time as the hashtag #TourdeBogan was introduced – coincidence I think not! Bogan: ˈbəʊɡ(ə)n ~ noun / adjective ~ an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status. Originating from Australia and/or New Zealand.When used in a South African context: “Pinner’s haircut is totally Bogan” or “I’m gagging for a Bogan Brew". 



The Tour de Bogan was born from our desire to hit the road with our cuzzies taking in some exceptional scenery and dare-devil routes that would drive fear into the heart of legendary professional classics riders like ‘The Lion of Flanders’, Johan Museeuw or Tom ‘#dirtyfaceswinraces’ Boonen. 


The two founding principles were that, for the sake of our wives, we would be Bogans for this weekend only, while the second principle was that the adventure would be administered on the basis of ‘total costs divided by the number of riders’. Without a profit motif, we felt we would retain the true essence of adventure and every Bogan would contribute towards the effort in some way ... from Bernie Eisel’s gas cooker to Beast’s trailer, it was a team effort. Also, if we f#cked anything up, we wouldn’t owe anyone anything – we wanted the Tour de Bogan to be unapologetically raw, and rad, and also somewhat unpredictable.


The Tour de Bogan would be for GG1s only and involve ludicrous distances, freezing lunch stops with rooster-bogan-boerie-brood braaied on a skottel in the shade in Seweweekspoort, expired gels washed down with boiling Bogan-Broth soup and delicious Dingo Dust (moer koffie).




The evenings would be spent challenging fellow Bogans to the straight arm challenge in Matjiesfontein’s ancient Lord Milner Hotel, while conversation would revolve around how rad the day’s riding had been. During candle-lit dinners riders reflected on muddy, two-wheeled drifts, the amazingness of a tailwind and those moments on the descent towards the Karoo Poort where it was so cold that relieving oneself on one's hands was a serious option!





This would be an ideal time to mention that real Bogans don’t wear gloves - ever. The only reason Charlie Boy – I’ve used a pseudonym to hide his true identity – didn’t stop to warm up his hands was because if he did, he would lose the group and no Bogan wants to lose touch with the lead pack.Like any Bogan, this mystery rider ‘Charlie Boy’ made the correct choice … and that was to hold the wheel! Just ask Sanchezo. His life revolves around holding the wheel.


 As it turned out, what was meant to be four hackers puzzling their way through the Klein Karoo, suddenly grew into 15 riders who happened to be in the right place at the right time and made their way onto the wattsapp group – not because it was an exclusive invite, but purely because they were in the loop at that exact moment in time. While the Tour de Bogan’s daily distances required considerable effort and generous dollops of Ass-Magic, the camaraderie and spirit of this GG1 tour was unique, compared to anything I have done in my years of cycling.




There are sure to be more Bogan-inspired adventures close to home, and if we dream hard enough and save enough shekels, perhaps we may even make it overseas. But in the end, the take home message from our three days in the Karoo was not so much the fact that what we did was groundbreaking or remarkable in any way, but rather the fact that we actually went and did it.


Ultimately, what the Tour de Bogan did was to drive the final nail into the ‘you’ll never ride them’ coffin. We are at this point in time where GG1s are exceptionally capable and paired with Strava heat maps, there are an infinite number of routes waiting to be explored. Flip, ride a mountain bike if you have to!


 So, we challenge you to crack open a few Bogan brews and start planning your adventure ... bearing in mind that the best tours are the ones that actually happen!