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Rhodes 500

24th January - 26th January 2025.

06:00. Rhodes, Eastern Cape, South Africa


Rhodes stands as a testament to those who dared to venture into South Africa’s Highlands. Many people have ventured into the landscape for an unforgettable experience and to find adventure. The Rhodes 500 is a bikepacking event that recreates that journey and is one of the top routes from the Gravalist. 

Cycling through diverse terrain, a rich tapestry of landscapes from lush green valleys to rocky mountain ridges amidst the dramatic scenery of the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains. The route is remote, where only the sound of birds echoing and the whirring of your bicycle wheels run through the pristine air. 

Through the journey, we aim to challenge not just your physical endurance but also your mental resilience and spirit. It’s a journey of self-discovery and the process of becoming a better cyclist and opening your mind to new places and cultures.

The Rhodes route is 500 km, and the race is limited to 13 participants. You will meet them at the start line, and once the timer finishes counting down, you will each take on the journey, but the adventure will be different. The Rhodes 500 is not just a cycling route. Discovery, endurance, and camaraderie will leave participants inspired and exhilarated.



412 km, 7,530 m. Rhodes 500, an extraordinary adventure set in remote and rural landscapes that will challenge your assumptions about history, yourself, and safety. This demanding journey underscores the importance of meticulous planning for accurate resupply, given the exceptionally remote roads. Riders must carry up to 6 L of water and nutrition, considering a potential two-day race/tour strategy. Beginning in the romantic town of Rhodes, the route includes the famous 'TTT' (Tenahead – Tiffindell Traverse), impacting average speeds and requiring strategic resupply decisions. Explore the stunning Mount Fletcher and loop outside before reaching Maclear for a detour filled with added beauty. After a beautiful descent between towns, brace for another loop of extremely rough gravel, testing resilience at an altitude of about 2700 m. Past experiences offer a sense of remoteness, allowing reflection on fuel decisions, whether racing or touring the Rhodes 500. Safety remains paramount in this challenging yet breathtaking adventure. Full route release to riders two weeks before the start date.
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Route Highlight


Nestled in the Eastern Cape, the origins of the name Rhodes are as mysterious as the mist that graces its mountainous landscapes. Legend has it that this tiny town, merely 16 km away from its own kingdom and perched on the edge of Lesotho, was christened after Cecil John Rhodes. His visionary dreams sparked the railway and mining endeavors that shaped the region. Yet, the allure lies not only in its enigmatic name but in the romantic nature that permeates the air. A village with unknown origins, embraced by misty mountains, Rhodes beckons with a charm that captivates the hearts of those who venture into its hidden embrace.




John Naudé was a 19th-century explorer and geologist

Naudes Nek Pass, nestled in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, is a thrilling pass for backpackers racing through the picturesque Drakensberg Mountains. Named after the intrepid explorer and geologist, John Naudé, this pass sits at an elevation of approximately 2,620 meters (8,596 feet) above sea level. In the early 19th century, a resilient adventurer named Samuel Thornton embarked on a daring journey to explore the uncharted territories of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Samuel, an English trader with a passion for discovery, heard tales of untapped riches and new opportunities beyond the rugged Drakensberg Mountains.Equipped with little more than a sturdy backpack and a determination to forge new paths, Samuel set his sights on the challenging route through Naudes Nek Pass. The pass, shrouded in mystery and surrounded by breathtaking peaks, beckoned him as both an obstacle and an opportunity.As Samuel navigated the winding trails of the pass, he faced treacherous weather, unpredictable terrain, and the constant risk of encountering unfamiliar wildlife. Yet, fueled by the spirit of adventure and the promise of undiscovered lands, he pressed on.Along the way, Samuel encountered local communities nestled in the mountain valleys. He bartered with them, exchanging goods from distant lands for essential supplies. Samuel's charismatic demeanor and genuine curiosity earned him the trust of the indigenous people, who shared stories of their traditions and the challenges of life in the mountains.

Eventually, after days of challenging travel, Samuel emerged on the other side of Naudes Nek Pass, greeted by a breathtaking panorama of the Eastern Cape's vast landscapes. Undeterred by the hardships, he continued his journey, establishing trade routes and leaving a legacy for future settlers and traders who would follow in his footsteps.

Samuel Thornton's courageous expedition through Naudes Nek Pass became a legendary tale among early settlers and traders, inspiring others to explore the beauty and potential of the untamed Eastern Cape.















Mount Fletcher: Secluded Summit and Limited Resupply Options

The Eastern Cape, nestled between the Drakensberg Mountains and the Indian Ocean, is known for its diverse topography. The Amathole Mountains, Winterberg Mountains, and Stormberg Mountains are some prominent features in the region. These mountains contribute to the picturesque scenery and offer opportunities for long, lonely, fully-packed bikepacking bliss. In the vicinity of Mount Fletcher, one encounters rolling hills, grassy plateaus, and the rugged beauty that is characteristic of the Eastern Cape. These landscapes often play a role in the stories and histories of the local communities.The Eastern Cape holds immense historical significance, particularly in the context of Nelson Mandela's life. The small village of Qunu, near Umtata, is where Nelson Mandela spent his childhood. Qunu is part of the Transkei region, one of the homelands established during the apartheid era.Homelands, also known as Bantustans, were designated areas for different ethnic groups, with the aim of enforcing racial segregation. Nelson Mandela's homeland was Transkei, and Qunu specifically was his ancestral home. The landscape around Qunu is marked by rolling hills and traditional rondavel huts, contributing to the cultural richness of the region.

Mandela's childhood in the Eastern Cape played a crucial role in shaping his character and beliefs. His autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," provides insights into the landscape and the cultural context of the Eastern Cape during his formative years.

While the history of the Eastern Cape includes the struggles of apartheid, it also reflects the resilience and strength of its people. The landscapes and mountains stand as witnesses to the unfolding stories of the past and present, including the journey of Nelson Mandela from a small village to becoming an international symbol of freedom and reconciliation


Gravalist Race Manual

View the Gravalist Race Manual