Gravel Grinding in the Overberg

You're probably one of two people reading this. Either you're so sick of hearing how cool gravel biking is you throw your cortado in the face of anyone mentioning gravel bikes or you've turned hipster and swapped out your toight lycra for flannel and baggies. You may have even begun to grow a beard, since aero isn’t everything to you anymore. Whichever side of the fence you find yourself, there is no denying that gravel cycling is taking the cycling world by storm.

There are a bunch of places in South Africa that could fight it out for the title of “Best gravel riding destination in SA” and each will have their favourite, but it's very likely that the Overberg will be on most lists. We packed up an Isuzu MU-X from Reeds Isuzu in N1 City and hit the road in search of some gravel grinding goodness. Our destination - Cape Agulhas.

As cyclists the vehicle we choose needs to cover specific lifestyle criteria. If you prefer off-road cycling, having a vehicle that can comfortably go off-road is a starting point. From the first moment we got into the MU-X it screamed practicality. Checking out their track record, including some hardened loac carrying long mileage farmers, it seems there are few brands out there that can boast a reliability record as potent as Isuzu, the bosses of bakkies and the MU-X is no different - just a whole lot more comfortable - especially for the family or mates who you don't want to force to join your weekends away. MUX s built on a similar platform as their legendary KB bakkie series making this SUV not just another pavement hopper in adventure guise. It’s the real deal, even though we had the 4x2 version the MU-X was very capable on steep and loose rocky terrain. All models of the MU-X come with Isuzu’s bullet proof 3.0 turbo Diesel engine, your choice of either 4x2 or 4x4.

On the open road heading out of Cape Town the MU-X was incredibly smooth. The diesel engine is not quiet like petrol but is a spacious and very comfortable vehicle. Considering the fact that it has 7 seats and myself, at 6’2, our crew with helmets, spare wheels and beer crates spread out in all 7 seats and didn't feel cramped. The MU-X might have slightly less horsepower than its competitors but on the open road we barely felt it. Accelerating to overtake is made easier with a Sport mode transmission harnessing its 130kw power output and an economical 6 speed automatic transmission which shifts effortlessly when required. Fuel economy for the 2 ton beast was a pleasant surprise. On the open road, loaded with bicycles and gear, the consumption hovered around 8lt/100km. In town it was closer to 11lt/100km.

Remote trail and gravel riding adventures usually involve fun bundu basking experiences. We all remember the days of trashing your mom's golf on a raised middle-mannetjie or veld camouflaged rock. Not lekker and usually your last chance to borrow her car. With a ground clearance of 220mm, about the standing height of a grown warthog, there was very little jeep track that we couldn’t drive in our search for the Overbergs best gravel routes. Fortunately we didn't get to test this but MU-X has apparently been awarded a 5 star safety rating with its 6 airbags and impact absorbing chassis. The suspension swallowed up ruts and corrugations on some rough roads, giving us a smooth & comfortable ride, something a rigid or even hard tail gravel bike isn't known for. The MU-X felt equally at home in town as it did in the fynbos covered mountains & gravel roads between the N2 and the rocky coast.

The best part of an SUV is that, unlike a bakkie without a canopy etc, when you stop for road snacks or a toilet break you don’t have to worry about the safety of your gear. Having it all locked away inside the vehicle was a big plus for us. The MU-X felt like it drove like a legendary KB series bakkie but had the safety and convenience of a car, the best of both worlds. An adventure wagon that can tackle just about anything you throw at it, but still keep your stuff safe when you’ve stopped at Seattle for latte.

In summary Isuzu might not have put a ton of ultra-modern features into their flagship SUV but you get everything you need. There are no fancy unnecessary gizmos here, they've focused the attention into places that matter, like french-stitched leather interior and the fact that all 5 of the back seats fold down flat giving you more packing space than its competitors - you can leave your back wheel on your bike in the back with passengers in the middle row. You also get cruise control, a reverse camera and full mobile connectivity with Apple CarPlay / Android Auto etc on a 6.5 inch touch screen.

Instead of adding flash Isuzu have built a comfortable adventure hungry beast that will give you a real driving thrill and have you as amped to drive on the Monday morning commute as you are for your next riding weekend getaway.

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