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Review: Elgin Adventure Centre’s Exhilarating Tours

Owned and run by Ryan and his wife, Tamaryn, Elgin Adventure Centre is an adventure-focused eco tour company, situated in Elgin. Naturally, they are famous for their fun segway tours. But did you know they also offer incredible bike tours?

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Elgin Adventure Centre’s exciting tours are – like their sister tours, Cape Canopy Tour Elgin Grabouw – unmissable local attractions. Best of all? Both of these phenomenal tour experiences take you through the heart of green Elgin Valley. This is your chance to ride through Oak Valley, one of the most famous wine estates in the Western Cape… Simply put, it’s a stunning outdoor adventure from start to finish!

A Clever Change of Plans with Elgin Adventure Centre

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Although I was originally meant to meet up with Elgin Adventure Centre for one of their famously fun, fabulous segway tours… In the end, it would have been cutting things too close on the day, as I had arrived on Ceres Rail Company’s Elgin steam trail. (The train visits Elgin on Saturdays and Sundays, allowing passengers to savour the incredible Elgin Railyway Market before the journey home.)

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So instead, Tamaryn cleverly organised for me to do a guided, one-hour e-bike tour with Ryan himself. (Note: Normally a Silverback MTB bike is used on tours.) Oh and did I mention this bike tour included a wine-tasting at Oak Valley Wine Estate?ย  (Hey, no one said you can’t drink and ride… ๐Ÿ™‚ )

I was initially a bit worried when Tamaryn explained I would be doing this rather than the segway tour… But both she and Ryan immediately put my mind at ease. So, after a brief visit to the Elgin Railway Market with my parents, I was ready for our adventure.

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This proved to be one of my best outdoor experiences to date. And if, like me, you haven’t ridden a bike since you were 12, let me take you through it…

E-bikes: They Work for You

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Before I elaborate on what an electric bike – commonly referred to as an e-bike is and does for review purposes – let me first mention that, almost exactly a year ago, I visited Elgin for a ziplining tour with Cape Canopy Tour Elgin Grabouw.

And I, who am afraid of man-made heights and physical exertion, was utterly blown away by the experience. I cannot recommend that outing enough… Now I have two experiences I consider to be unforgettable – the second is Elgin Adventure Centre’s bike tour.

E-bikes, in a nutshell, are electric, battery-charged bicycles that essentially work for you. And once you settle (at first, they feel a bit faster and jerkier than a normal bicycle – and they are definitely more powerful), it is blissfully easy, speedy riding.

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

The (E-bike) Adjustment Period

The e-bikes are pretty heavy, sturdy bikes and I did struggle a bit getting onto the bike. This made me feel slightly incompetent at first – but Ryan, who assured me I would get the hang of things in no time, was a patient and encouraging teacher. And he has seen everyone from professional cyclists to novice, childhood riders like me.

So, don’t be embarrassed if riding feels awkward or uncomfortable at first – it’s something you do adjust to in time. (Like they say, you never forget how to ride a bike… you just get really rusty?)

How it works is, you have different pedal-assist modes – in my bike’s case: Eco, Boost and Trail – that you can engage via two small buttons on the left handlebar. These modes make life a lot easier… what is it like to struggle up a hill on a bike? I can’t remember… That’s how effective they are. Even if you are hopelessly shaky and inexperienced like me.

Eco, Boost or Trail?

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

Eco is the gentlest, most everyday setting but it still assists you nicely. We generally used this mode for most of the trip. Except when we encountered steeper sections or tougher going, then it was a case of alternating between Boost and Trail. (I used Trail the least but it was one of my favourite settings.)

Boost, meanwhile, greatly assists with giving you that extra push. Although I found it about the trickiest mode to handle… but then, I was very nervous in the beginning.

On the right handlebar, you can also adjust the steering and stiffness of your wheels but I’m no expert so I generally just followed Ryan’s guidance with my bike settings.

Discovering Beautiful Elgin by Bike

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Once I was peddling well enough to stay on my bike without a) swerving into the main road (it’s Elgin so it is quiet but still…) or b) falling off, it was a joy to ride my e-bike.

I didn’t have much time to catch my breath though because, after passing the train platform, we descended into the heart of the forest.

For those who don’t know, Elgin is a famously fertile, green valley. It is one of the best fruit (primarily apples and pears) areas in South Africa. What’s more, it is well-loved for its lush greenery, rolling farmlands, forests, mountain biking – and of course, its cool climate wines.

But what really sets Elgin apart are its people – all of whom are friendly, laid-back and aware of their good fortune in residing here – and its impressive scenery.

Elgin never ceases to take my breath away with its beauty. And riding along its oak-lined lanes, passing wide open fields with majestic mountains looming in the background or navigating secret forest trails, only made me love it more.

4000 Historic Oaks, A Will… and the Promise of Wine

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As we rode, Ryan shared some unique insights into Elgin and Oak Valley’s history and wine production.

Elgin is South Africa’s coldest wine-producing region. (If you are a fan of crisp or fruity wines, especially white wines, you are going to love Elgin’s wines.)

What’s more, Oak Valley Wine Estate was established in the 1800s by Antonie Viljoen. Antonie, it turns out, was an inspirational man. Ryan explained how he planted 4000 oak trees and in his will, made it a condition that they never be cut down or removed from the estate. If that isn’t a worthy lasting legacy, I don’t know what is.

And as Stef – Oak Valley’s tasting room manager – later told us, he was also an activist and feminist. Despite being under house arrest during the Boer War (which is how he came to possess Oak Valley), he was eventually knighted too.

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

As we rode through the towering oaks, around muddy forest paths and under or over wooden bridges, Oak Valley made a deep impression upon me. This is one historic estate, with a very real and powerful legacy.

But the best thing about it, is that its owners have preserved every inch of its history and beauty… Just as Sir Antonie intended. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cool by The Pool Room…

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We slowly rode up the drive to Oak Valley’s well-loved, most gorgeous spot: The Pool Room. The driveway got a bit too steep for me so I hopped off while Ryan brought our bikes around. Leaving them near the entrance, we crossed the peaceful lawn.

As we did so, I was greeted by a most tempting sight… There, fronted by the long turquoise pool and sun chairs, the sunny, beautifully restored manor house. It is here that The Pool Room calls home.

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Although The Pool Room was formerly a popular, highly rated local restaurant, it is currently only being used for the tasting room. This may change in time (I hope it does) but even now, it is a most tranquil, elegant and airy space. It’s not hard to see why it is such a time-honoured place.

Stef immediately made us welcome and prepared one of the loveliest wine tastings I have had to date. While she wowed us with Oak Valley’s beautiful wines, I couldn’t help but relax completely into my surroundings, as we all chatted about the valley and estate.

As an outsider, it is startlingly clear how passionate the people of Elgin are about their valley. Every addition and new achievement is applauded and awarded pride. This is something true from the Elgin Railway Market right through to the local estates and service providers.

Oak Valley Wines: An Estate of Note

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Oak Valley is an estate known for its quality wines, accommodation, MTB, exceptional free-range wagyu, beef and acorn-fed pork, fresh cut flowers and delicious fruits… But more than that, this is a truly quality estate, where passion, love and dedication are simply a given.

They are also the producers of the coolest climate wines in South Africa… personally, I think they’re the coolest for plenty of other reasons too. ๐Ÿ™‚

And in Stef, they have found one of the best, most down-to-earth, consummate professionals I have met. She is a joy to speak with and has a soothing way of welcoming you to The Pool Room.

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A Wonderful Cool Climate Wine Tasting

For the first part of our wine tasting, we tried two wines from the oh-so-good Elgin range. This is a quality range from start to finish. Each of its labels are hand-drawn and tell a wonderful, poetic story about the estate and its history. I won’t give the secret away, as it is best discovered for yourself – but the labels – and the names – each tell their own tale.

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Jacques du Plessis, Oak Valley’s winemaker, is still new to the estate so these 2019 wines are his first offerings – and they certainly impress so the future seems exciting indeed.

We began with The Fountain of Youth Sauvignon Blanc 2019, a deliciously fruity wine that I immediately took to. I am biased towards white wines but nevertheless, this is a seriously gorgeous wine. It was faultless to me so I am delighted to award it a 10/10 rating.ย 

Next, we tried the Stone & Steel Riesling 2019. Which, as Stef explained, is a more traditionally German Riesling in its nature, as it is crisper and dryer than typical local Rieslings. This was, again, a truly lovely white and receives a 9/10 rating from me.

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A Premium Mountain Range

After that, we sampled two beautiful wines from the estate’s premium Groenlandberg Range 2018. So named after the famous Groenlandberg mountain range… Its highest peak, 1,181 metres in height, is taller than our own Table Mountain. Above all though, Groenlandberg has a major influence on the valley, casting a shadow over the vineyards and directing the cool air down into the valley.

We began with the Groenlandberg Pinot Noir 2018, which was a really good red. I am not normally a huge fan of red wines but this could win me over any day. It was not my favourite overall though, so it gets an 8/10 rating from me.

Finally, we tried the Groenlandberg Chardonnay 2019, which I shamelessly loved… Oak Valley’s chardonnays are to die for. Again, it’s a firm 10/10 rating.

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Oak Valley Wines offers wonderful, high quality wines, which are both easy drinking and yet, an experience of note. I strongly recommend visiting the estate to sample these beautiful cool climate wines.

The Pool Room is only open seven days a week for wine tastings. Opening times are as follows:

  • Monday โ€“ Friday,ย  09:00 am โ€“ 17:00 pm
  • Saturday โ€“ Sunday, 10:00 am โ€“ 16:00 pm
  • Public Holidays, 10: 00 am โ€“ 16: 00 pm

For more information on Oak Valley Wine Estate, please visit their websiteย or contact them on: (021) 859 2510 or mail@oak-valley.co.za.

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Wines2Whales and Riding Among the Best

After a farewell to Stef, who was an amazing host, and Charlie (the resident cat) – we were back on our way… and I have to say: I was a better rider after that excellent wine.

As my luck would have it, I happened to visit during the first of three stages of the Wines2Whales cycle race. Stage 1 sees the race going from Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley Wine Estate. Stage 2 is again Oak Valley and then Stage 3 takes the riders from Oak Valley to Onrus… cleverly incorporating both the wine and whale side of things.

On the day of our e-bike tour, some 2000 riders were camped out at Oak Valley. Everywhere in the fields and forests, we encountered riders, as on our ride back, Ryan took me past the Race Village.

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

This was both an eye-opener and a fun end to our ride… although I was a bit daunted riding past all the pros like that. Fortunately, it seems my balance and skill on an e-bike is greatly enhanced after some wine… For a change, I rode like the wind as we tried out the Boost and Trail modes.

The ride back past the Village and to the forest where it all began was truly special. It was smoother because I was more comfortable and less nervous – so naturally, it proved to be more enjoyable as a result.

We zipped through muddy fields and puddles, missed potholes and whizzed over wooden bridges and around narrow forest trails… It was exhilarating stuff. I loved every minute of it – and was fairly chuffed with myself for improving in the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

How It Rated

Overall, my e-bike tour and wine tasting made for an unforgettably fun, unique outdoor experience in Elgin. It was a beautiful experience, with stunning scenery and wonderful moments thanks to both Ryan and Stef of Oak Valley Wines.

It is a really great, outdoorsy activity for adults and is perfect for experienced riders or those (like me) who are a bit less sure of themselves on an e-bike. Either way, you will have a blast and it will be a special trip!

Ryan was an excellent, patient guide. He was very encouraging and careful – and I know all their other guides will be great too.

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I will definitely return to try out the segway someday – but for now, I strongly recommend Elgin Adventure Centre’s bike tour. It is well-priced at R195 per adult. Especially as the one-hour tour includes the wine tasting at Oak Valley Wine Estate.

As such, I am pleased to award my e-bike tour a firm 10/10 rating for the following reasons:ย 

  • a unique outdoorsy experience, which showcases the natural beauty of Elgin Valley – and in particular, of Oak Valley Wine Estate;
  • a fun way to get in some light exercise and enjoy a wine tasting;
  • an informative, carefully guided tour that provides great local insights;
  • a memorable wine tasting at The Pool Room, Oak Valley Wine Estate;
  • excellent service from Ryan, Tamaryn and the whole Elgin Adventure Centre team, as well as Stef and Oak Valley Wine Estate;
  • and above all, an eco-friendly, altogether great experience from beginning to end.

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A Word of Thanks

I wish to extend a special thank you to both Tamaryn and Ryan, who went out of their way to ensure I had a wonderful experience with Elgin Adventure Centre.ย 

And to Skye Leask ofย Discover Overberg, thank you for helping to make this trip possible.

Finally, I would like to thank my parents, who were patient and kind enough to wait at the market until my return.

This is an incredible, exciting outdoor Elgin Adventure Centre experience… You simply have to try it for yourself.

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Photo credit: Elgin Adventure Centre

Elgin Adventure Centre are available seven days a week for pre-booked tours. On weekends, you will find them at the Elgin Railway Market.

For more information on Elgin Adventure Centre,ย please contact: +27 (071) 509 1747 or email them at: explore@elginadventurecentre.co.za.

You can alsoย visit their website to find out more or book a fun tour.

Elgin Adventure Centre is also on leading social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram –ย so be sure to connect with and follow them there.

Author: Tamlyn Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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