The ride so far

Well, how far back should I go?

I started riding motorcycles back in 1984 when I would ride my Honda MT-5 the 15km each way from home to school at Port Shepstone High, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Between finishing school and joining the army, I spent 6 months as a workshop assistant at South Coast Honda, and motorcycles have never been far away from me ever since. Sure, there were a few years in there as a young family, where other priorities found no place for a bike, but those times were fortunately never too long.

I would have to think long and hard to make sure I remember all the bikes I’ve owned. There was a time back in the early 90’s, while a member of the Road Rockers MCC, that I had 9 bikes – one was my wife’s, two were for the kids and one was just a frame and a box of spares, but I still like to count them! From my first Honda MT-5 to my current BMW R1200GS Adventure, there have been many. Some of my fondest were a XL185 I built from ‘the graveyard’ at South Coast Honda, and sold for more than double the going rate for 2nd hand XL185’s, a 900 Ninja, a GPZ-1100 B2, a Kawasaki Zephyr, a Honda CBF-1000 (hugely under rated), a BMW K1600 6 cylinder space-ship of a bike, and a Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 which I still own.

As with a lot of the skills found in the people of Africa, my friends and I were self taught on how to ride a bike. For many years I would lack any form of confidence in my riding, freaking out at the approach to any corner. With not much money for a decent helmet back then, often was the night of being dazzled by the lights of oncoming cars through a visor that would be made no worse by a vigorous attack with a pot scourer! A fair degree of settling for budget bike gear (and bikes) lasted through those years.

The start of a new chapter came to pass being introduced to the Essex Advanced Motorcycle Group in UK. Spending a lot of time with John Tipper of EAMG (who literally wrote their advanced training book) and travelling Europe extensively, improved my riding no end. Indeed, to the point I was able, a few years later, to go back and pass my RoSPA Gold Advanced Riding test – the highest civilian riding standard available. During my time riding in Europe, I managed to visit every country across the entire continent, except San Marino and The Vatican. Both are on my to-do list for when I get back to Europe later in 2019.

That new chapter was also the start of my single life (purposefully ambiguous). As such I was able to make decisions that I knew would only affect me, and thus chose to pursue my love of riding more than other material things. The combination of being able to buy a brand new bike for the first time in my life, along with decent quality riding gear, and a fantastic experience improving my riding under expert feedback, has given me an even greater love of riding. I have an almost evangelical enthusiasm for riders to continually seek to improve their riding by attending advanced courses or just getting feedback from other more experienced riders in their group. I put my money where my mouth is on that too, proudly renewing my sponsorship of a small part of the South African Motorcycle Safety Institute.

Here in South Africa we have one of the best, if not biastly the best, motorcycle riding countries in the world! New Zealand is often touted as riding Nirvana, and my experience riding there certainly left me with some awe-inspiring memories, but I still think South Africa is better! Over the years I have ridden to every corner of our beautiful country, and to every neighbouring country too. From the mostly empty long straight roads of the Karoo desert, to the majestic mountains of the Drakensberg and Maluti ranges, through the Cape Folds, to the inviting villages, towns and cities, I cannot think of another or better way to put a smile on your face and instil a love of our people.

That brings me on to the other side of life’s journey – people. As a left-brain structured thinker with a pretty high IQ, I found I was quite good working in Information Technology. That’s not the place to hone your social skills, and let’s be honest – you can’t be good at everything! I also have a keen interest in history, esp. scuba diving on historic wrecks. I guess that interest stems from questioning why we (in so many senses) are where we are today. There are lots of angles to that question that spark my curiosity, but in every way, it comes back to how the action of our predecessors and ancestors shaped their world, and how their world in turn has shaped ours. No doubt, what we are doing today is shaping the world for our future generations. We are in an unprecedented era of human evolution, with the explosion of technology from the time of the industrial revolution and the railroads which brought about unimaginable abilities to travel and move vast quantities of people and goods long distances very quickly (which has both caused and won wars), to the fast passed development of new technology today. That entire period from late 1700’s is only 250 years – a drop in the ocean of human evolution. To me, the two technologies that have developed faster than human evolution has kept up with, are transport and communication. The fact I am using both of those (my bike and the internet) in the way that I am, is not lost on me! Understanding what people hold dear today, how that might have come to be so from their history, and what they want to pass to their children, is a new area of interest for me. I wonder how many of the lessons learnt by our elders in their younger years are blindly neglected by the changes of today. Children teaching the grandparents how to use the internet and smartphones is well and good, but experience gained over many years is ignored at your peril. History has many lessons to teach us.

Still, there are lots more places to go and see, and lots more people to meet.