Darkfest
Playboy Australia|April 2018

The world’s best freeride mountain bikers make their way down to sunny South Africa to escape the cold winter months up north to build the biggest jumps mountain biking has ever seen!

Eric Palmer
This year DarkFEST has moved to an amazing new location just outside Stellenbosch on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, an hour outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Three of the riders went down a month before the event to build the new course and make sure everything was working properly before the rest of the riders arrived. Sam Reynolds who is the head of the project, started out doing some road trips with friends, going back to the roots and making the videos more about the riding and fun than the more formal cinematic-style videos most people are making these days. After three years of doing the Pure Darkness trips, two of them in SA, he decided he needed to step it up a notch and started DarkFEST. He brought two master builders with him, Nico Vink and Clemens Kaudela. Nico has his own Fest stop in Belgium called Loosefest with some of the biggest jumps in the world and is such a perfectionist in the digger that when he's done there is almost no spadework needed; he has built many world-famous MTB lines. Clemens is another powerhouse builder. Not only is he amazing in a digger, he is a master with wood too. He has helped build courses for events like Nine Knights and Masters of Dirt. These three are the dream team and after scouting the location and discussing how to use the features in the landscape they got right to work.

"So, the mountain range we built the course out of this year is actually a real course builders dream, the fact that we can follow down the contours of the mountain into the big valley and steep walls that we can build the big hips and jumps out of. So it's really cool to stay within the contours of the mountain and we didn't have to stack too many big piles of dirt. You can see the hip was completely dug into the hill, it’s stuff like that that really works. We tried to keep piling to a minimum to kind of keep it a bit more in with nature this time. Although it looks like we just turn up and get to dig exactly what we want, which is kind of the case, there are a few things that we had to do. We had to get the nature conservation guys in to make sure there were no special plants and stuff and there actually were a few that we had to avoid and where the watercourse is running down the middle of the valley we weren't allowed to build anything there. So, we actually had to change our layout from the original design to the course you see now for nature conservation reasons. I actually really like how the course ended up, I think it's better than what we originally designed, so that was actually pretty cool." - Sam Reynolds.

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