South Africa 2009

 

South Africa 2009

 

In the depths of a Colorado winter, the noted tour-guide heads south of the equator for some summer riding in South Africa

Guzzi's and CBX

South Africa



Baboons on Road
South Africa 2009

Leaning the R1100S into a left hand sweeper disappearing around a blind curve, down into fourth gear and set up for the tightening radius. Out of the corner of my eye a big ol’ baboon squatting on the guardrail spanking his monkey. I try to shake the image and concentrate on the exquisite, fast climb up Franschhoek Pass.
 
The heavenly wail of a well-tuned CBX in the hands of an enthusiastic ex-road racer, making repeated, joyous, howling runs up and down Montagu Pass. Two 70s-vintage Moto Guzzi LeMans and a Laverda Jota parked at the top of the pass in all their eye-talian, eye-pleasing mechanical beauty: the Guzzis in perfect, voluptuous red/black regalia, the Laverda looking tall, proud and manly in a fresh coat of bold, in-your-face orange paint.

South Africa
 
Body surfing in Hermanus, on a sparsely peopled beach dotted with stranded jellyfish being mercilessly consumed by battalions of Lilliputian snails. Arriving at a major classic car show in Lance’s Maserati and brazenly driving it onto the field to park among the show cars.
 
Drag racing on the BMW against Lance on his V-Rod and Richard Florence on the Eddie Lawson Replica. Tossing the lean-and-mean Laverda 750S into fast twisties with its high-strung 360 twin on the boil, screaming like a banshee on crack.
 
Richard galloping a long-suffering ostrich around a corral, then sitting down to a plate of tasty ostrich meat and a good local beer.


South Africa
 
Squeezing through narrow crevices between majestic rooms of a vast underground cave, and looking south toward Antarctica from the lighthouse at Cape Point. Dicing through the picturebook-pretty canyon of Meiringspoort, a tight ravine with baboons loitering at roadside. Stopping to check out a waterfall spilling into an idyllic azure pool, and jumping in for a brief swim.
 

Well-tuned CBX

South Africa 2009


The time went too quickly, and the above anecdotal images don’t begin to relate the great time Richard and I had visiting and riding with Lance Allam, Richard Piller and another half-dozen good people in South Africa in late January and early February. From the moment we arrived to our rueful departure from the cape, there was no place else I wanted to be, and I’m betting Richard will nod his agreement. 
 
Lance and Richard put together some fine riding for our stay, and during our six-day tour the four of us were joined by four other riders, all members of the Italian Motorcycle Owners Association out of Cape Town. This was to be a “classic bikes tour,” and though there was some modern machinery in the mix, the two old Guzzis, Jota and CBX made a hell of a statement, and one morning Gavin Liggett joined us for breakfast on his pristine Water Buffalo. I was on Lance’s LeMans for most of the tour, and was duly impressed with the bike, reminded once again of why I love old motorcycles.
 
The old LeMans announces at every twist of the throttle, and railing through every curve, that it’s a rorty, character-rich machine from a time and place where passion was a virtue and the promise of effortless competence was science fiction. Riding such a bike nowadays is mildly shaming to those of us whose everyday mount is a V-strom, an oilhead BMW or the like. On these bikes, little effort or input is required to extract the performance and set it to the task for which it was computer-designed. On the LeMans, though, as on a Norton Commando, the rider must constantly make decisions and commitments and compromises to assert control, and is rewarded not by a humbling demonstration of well-programmed design parameters but rather becomes a partner in an enthusiastic romp with a rowdy friend. Rather than punching a ticket to ride a predictable, even-tempered mare, you are blazing along with your legs wrapped around a horny young stallion, nostrils flared and eager to work the kinks out. This is old school sport riding, the kind of sweaty, giddy bonding exercise unknown to young riders brought up with modern machinery.
 
Where was I? There were a few minor incidents and mechanical glitches, but no show-stoppers. We enjoyed each other’s company, ate well, made merry at every opportunity, and basically had a great romp of it. This was a tour for the books, and I hope to do it again soon.

Coming Down from Franschhoek

South Africa 2009

 


Eight Guys

Eight Guys

 

 

RC Herman
Crestone, CO March 2009