Africa Bike Week in South Africa: A reader’s story

Below we have a reader submitted story about the Africa Bike Week in South Africa, the biggest gathering of motorcycles in Africa. Gerald Young and his wife talk about their trip to the rally and submitted some fantastic pictures as well. Below is his write up of the event and pictures. He and his wife had quite an adventure on the ride over and back, so if you’d like to read the entire account, click here.

Hi Bucko and all the Sporty fans out there,

This is Gerald reporting from sunny South Africa again.

Well the Africa Bike Week has come and gone so I thought I could recap on how it all went down.

The Africa Bike Week is a Harley bike rally, targeted mainly at all Harleys in South Africa, held from the 28th April till the 1st of May each year, although it is open to all bikes, with many other types of bikes in attendance, including Super Bikes, so as I’m sure you can imagine the thousands of bikes in attendance.

The event was held in a town called Margate on the Kwa- Zulu Natal south coast  which is about 110 miles from Durban. The whole town gets geared up for Harleys and almost every shop it seems had Harley and Africa Bike week memorabilia for sale. The main beach road, i.e. Marine Drive was closed for motor vehicles and only bikes could drive along the beach front. Even the street and business names were changed for the occasion, such as, Harley Street and Tennessee street, The main Hotel, Margate Hotel, was changed to the Harley Davidson Hotel and was the Head Quarters for H.O.G. for the duration of the rally. There were also 2 stages set-up with live shows held and bands playing ear splitting music all day into the wee hours of the morning. Best of show bike competitions were held and the streets were packed with hundreds of stalls where HD dealers and HD clothing shops could sell their wares, but of course at  ridiculously escalated prices. The air had that fun fair atmosphere, and let me tell you, it was a ‘jol’

Harleys were parked on both sides of the streets and the roar from many Harleys was a sound you could never imagine. Even in the town itself and the outskirts there was constant thrum of Harleys going back and forth. It was  joyous mayhem!

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Quest for the Tail of the Dragon

Quest for the tail of the dragon

by Bruce Lessard

My passion to ride the tail of the dragon  became reality aug 5 leaving  toronto with an easy destination of dearborn michigan. Crossed the border and witnessed the hard times of detroit with street upon street of abandoned buildings . As soon as you cross the line at dearborn you are welcomed by starbucks and gas stations without cashiers in cages. Thus my first night turns out to be Extended Stay America totally adequate with all you need and the temptation to cook with all the facilities but trust me go with the order in pizza. I left behind a pound of cheese and a bottle of mustard as well as microwave pizza chips etc.

Day two i land in cinncinati make no mistake I75 is nothin but a quick way across a lot of flat land. One of the busiest trucking routes in North America its all about the quicker you get to your destination the better. Check out for more on that one. I maintained a 70mph average easily picking up to 80 to pass a transport or two. As i booked my first three nights in advance the second stop was Cinncinati Ohio staying at the millenium downtown.

Just my luck a bridal convention in town and hotel full of potential brides. i took a ride sans helmet as is legal in Ohio.I paid 8 bucks for parking overnight in a local lot as recommended by the concierge. Actually night security told me just drive out exit gate dont bother paying but in the morning a bike that loud commands attention which is what i got so decided to keep it on the up and up and paid up.

Day three found the geography gradually much more interesting as i rode deeper into kentucky.

Tiring and motivated by the thought of a hot shower and sleep i was feeling good.My destination in Robbinsville NC seemed close as  i took turn off for I129 as dusk was settling in after 6 miles or so on pretty much isolated  road i came across a gas station store . Jesse sitting outside informed me that Robbinsville NC was 47 miles thru the smokeys and id have to ride the tail to get there. I was at the wrong end of the dragon damn. You gotta do what u gotta do i found myself heading out in to the night with nothing but my destination in mind 50 so miles later after what seemed an impossible task i  arrived in Robbinsville.

Riding the tail at night like that is a magical experience. Lucky no bears were wandering the road that night. The number of bikes parked right out front of hotel assured me i was in familiar territory and the microtel in Robbinsville is more than you can ask for with free breakfast and friendly staff. They even supply towels just for wiping down the bike in the morning.

Across the street in the bank parking lot was a market where local farmers and artisans brought their talents and harvest to sell early saturday morning. The dragon truly earns its name my best ride ever.

Graham county is a dry county and thus the night life reflects that but after an amazing two days there i rode the dragon on my way out. By the way the restaurant at dealsgap is where you want to eat. Good food. Sunday i headed for Nashville because so close i had to see it. Sunday i was not sure whether to head home or check out Nashville which was 200 mi or so away and would change my route back to Toronto. Nashville here we come ….

My phone dead and not connecting with friends or family for days i pulled off in Knoxville at a Holiday Inn Express and asked if i could pay to use internet. The guy at the desk told me to help myself so i got out my emails, booked a room in Nashville via hotwire and planned my trip home. Nashville is definitely the place to go for music. Most bars on the strip had entertainment even though it was Sunday night and even my hotel (Hotel Indigo) which i highly recommend had songwriters night.  I never thought id complain about the heat but it was incredibly hot with the sun beating down and temps averaging about 100 degrees day and night. The temptation to ride without helmet was now what seemed absolutely necessary. Next day Nashville to Indianapolis another 300 mi or so also without helmet. Obviously the helmet is a life saver but i must admit it was a very liberating experience.

I had planned to stay in Windsor on my way home but the thought of waking up in my own bed was too tempting. I questioned my reason as i maintained approx 80 mi an hour down a stretch of the 401 that seemed to go on forever. I finally made it home and when i looked at clock i couldnt believe it was 2:30 in the morning. I had left Indy at appr noon so twelve and a half hours later.

I have to say Vera made it all possible. The 2006 1200 Harley Sportster XL (formerly Bucks ride) took me there and back under some pretty grueling conditions without a hitch. Altogether over 2300 miles from wednesday to wednesday. An amazing trip and just a taste of whats to come im definitely still a rookie but there is no better way to learn than to pack up and hit the road. The rest will take care of itself.

Friday the 13th – Port Dover

Submitted by Bruce Lessard

Still on vacation after returning from the Tail of the Dragon, I mapped a trip to Port Dover from Toronto (113 kilometres) – QEW to 403 Hamilton and then Hwy 6 south to Port Dover.

Nice little drive from Toronto to Lake Erie (never been but heard about the friday the 13th ride). Arriving at sunset I must have passed a couple hundred bikes leavin town. Camping was not a problem and thats where the partys at – as well as downtown.

Kinsmen Park provided camping for hundreds of bikers providing all you need: full bar, music and lots of good food.

Lots of washroom portables with hand washing stations and even shower facilities.

Waking up to country music at 7:30 it became quickly apparent that it was all about friday – half the campsite was already empty and nothin but signs of people packin up and leavin town.

But I can assure you, a good time was had by all.

Definitely recommend the trip and I’m sure I’ll be back next Friday the 13th.

Great party.

GoPro Hero Cam – North Oshawa Circuit

Yesterday I went for a cruise along my North Oshawa Circuit and thought I’d turn the goPro Hero Cam on. The following is a vid I cut together of the highlights of the route:

Music is DJ Shadow – “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt”

GoPro Hero Cam – Airport Rd at Dusk

Last year I bought a GoPro Hero Helmet Cam (standard definition, 3mp I believe) while shopping at an outdoor gear store. I never got much chance to use it … until now.

On April 5th Buck and I headed up to one of our favorite rides north of Toronto, dubbed the “Airport Road Ride” (see previous post here). Because of work we couldn’t get up there till dusk, so the light was fading. We pulled over quickly at the start of Hockley Road, turned the camera on, and started to ride.

Unfortunately, the video on Mono Centre Road – debatably the more interesting road to drive – didn’t turn out so well because the sun had set and we were facing east.

The goPro Hero Standard Definition Camera definitely works better with a lot of light – I mean, a lot of light. Like a clear sunny day, at noon. (Check out the first few test videos at the end of this post).

Then again, I am using a standard def model that is two years old and they don’t even make anymore – I’m sure the new high-def models are much better. I’ll have to wait to get my hands on one to test it out …

The Airport Road ride

This is a great ride that Buck and I are fond of. Whenever we get the chance we head up there for some great turns, some great hills, and some awesome scenery. The Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is right in this neighbourhood. There have been some routes added to the iPod/iPhone app “Greatest Road” (see our “Useful Apps” post) in the area, so I’ve compiled a new route map to incorporate them.

I give you the Airport Road ride:

Turning an H-D Sportster into a Touring Bike

Touring on a 1200XL Sportster

Touring on my Sportster through the desert

Commonly, the Harley Davidson Sportster is seen as more of a city bike, used mostly for commuting or short weekend rides, especially when compared to the larger Harley models designed for the more long distance, 400+ mile rides. I really enjoy my Sportster 1200XL because the smaller frame combined with the powerful Harley engine gives the bike a really nice kick. I’m also someone who really enjoys a really long ride when I can find the time, anywhere from 300 miles in a day to the 3,000 miles in 5-6 days that I did in 2008 to San Diego. So over the almost 3 years that I’ve had the bike now I’ve gradually incorporated customizations that make it perfectly suitable for touring.

Some really important things that I had when I first bought the bike were a windshield and engine guard highway pegs. The windshield is great for cutting through the wind, which can help with fatigue when you’re on the road for a while, as you don’t have to do as much work to stabilize yourself (important for when you’re riding through the wide open terrain like the Plains of central US). The highway pegs are great for changing the position of your legs when they start to feel stiff. It’s nice to have the bigger touring feel with your feet forward like that. Another touring tip to avoid your legs getting too stiff is to also use the passenger pegs (if they’re free). It just helps to have another position to change to, and also with your legs back, it takes some weight off of your tailbone, giving you at least another 20-50 miles that you can go without a break.

Mustang Seat, picture from the website

In ’07 when I did a trip from New York to Florida with my dad, one of the major problems I had was the 10″ seat that comes stock on the Sportster. It got to a point where I just physically couldn’t ride anymore. We ended up pulling over and getting a pad to put on the seat. I ended up upgrading my seat to a Mustang Seat, and, even though I kept the stock seat, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. 14.5″ driver and 10″ for passenger. The driver seat is a bucket seat as well which gives some lower back support. This completely solved the discomfort, and since getting this seat I have yet to again get to the point of being unable to ride.

Aside from comfort, another issue for touring is storage and luggage. So I added to my bike a rear fender luggage rack from J&P Cycles where I can mount a bag that fits over the sissy bar. It’s nice too because it lets me put a bag on the passenger seat and on the back on the luggage rack. I also got the dealership to put on some Harley saddlebag brackets to attach some over-the-fender bags (the brackets are necessary on the Sportster to keep the bag off the lights and shocks). A last nice little addition is a windshield bag. This is just a small bag that you attach to the inside of the windshield. It’s nice to keep the things that you need easy access to: wallet, keys, cellphone, id, change for tolls, etc..

A couple other things that I haven’t done yet but am definitely considering is an EZ pass and EZ pass holder for the tolls on the highway as well as a grip for the throttle where you can hold it with the heel of your hand.

If anyone else has any other stories or tips of ways you’ve customized your bike for touring, we’d love to hear! Also check out the full story of my 3 week, 6,000 mile trip that I did on my Sportster from Toronto to San Diego to see how well these touring customizations performed. You can also see the maps of my route here (TO-SD) and  here (SD-TO).