Our motoring expert and learner biker Vuyi Mpofu set off to Lesotho and tells us all about it.
A week after taking delivery of my brand new NC750X DCT motorcycle from Honda South Africa, I embarked on a cross boarder ride to Maseru, Lesotho. Not only was this my maiden voyage over such a long distance (1000 km return trip), the trip so happened to fall within the wettest period in living memory, when it rained non-stop for 10 days!
In case you are wondering, let me first clarify that my passion for all things motoring extends to motorbikes and one of my long-time dreams has been to master the 2-wheeled contraption. Having attained my learner’s license 3 months prior, and attended numerous lessons, I felt confident (ish) enough to accompany friends on the ride in spite of the weatherman’s prediction.
To prepare for the journey, I bought an oversized rain suit (which makes me look like the Michelin man’s bitter ex-wife), a new helmet, pink gloves (which don’t really match my blue motorbike) and proper riding boots. I learnt very quickly how to pack light – the operative word being light, which was an excruciating experience because as you know, a motorbike doesn’t have boot space. The motorbike only had 123km on the odometer so there wasn’t a need to take it for a pre-road-trip service/check, but as with a vehicle, I did my own basic check to satisfy myself that all was in order. This included brakes, front and rear lights and indicators.
Nervous but excited, I was awake before the birds when travel-day finally rolled in, but, it was still raining and reality begun to sink in. Was I crazy? How on earth had I thought this was a good idea to begin with? Why was I about to put myself through this ordeal. Folks, let me tell you that a combination of FOMO and a keen sense of determination will have you making all sorts of extreme decisions and mine was – hell yeah, I’m not going to miss out on this trip!
The crew ready, engines revving and the rain at a gentle but steady drizzle I was at the front of the pack, leading the way out of my residential area towards the highway. Within 300m of my own front door – I kissed the ground. That’s right I stumbled off my 830cm high motorbike onto the hard concrete. For some, that may have been a sign, but not for yours truly. Unbothered and more importantly unhurt, I brushed myself off and accepted the aid of my fellow bikers with picking up my 230kg metallic horse and climbed back on.
The thing about riding a motorbike is that you should be prepared to fall. In fact when later relaying my spectacular dismounts to friends and family (not my mother of course!) they all laughed heartily at the manner in which I fell but not the fact that I actually fell. You see, part of preparing for a ride – not matter the distance – is for the eventuality of a fall because many factors affect your stability. In my case, it was a matter of the motorcycle being too tall for my fabulous 1.5m height resulting in why my delicate toes couldn’t reach the ground.
After fueling up all the motorbikes, our trip was well underway and as the newbie rider I was at the front of the group, allowing the experienced riders to keep a reassuring eye on me. Our route took us from Midrand to Helibron via Vanderbilpark, then onwards to Senekal, Ficksburg and Ladybrand. What would ordinarily have taken 5 hours over the 550km ride became close to 9 hours due to rain, wind, potholes, stray animals and rest/fuel stops. Of course let us not forget that my travelling speed determined the speed of the other bikers who would most likely have covered the 550km distance at a much brisker pace.
- Losing my luggage – twice, because the fuel tank of my bike is positioned under the pillion (rear) seat which is where my bags were strapped.
- Numerous other spectacular dismounts from my 2-wheeler.
- So much rain that during our return trip the truck driver in front of our convoy put on his emergency lights to increase chances of visibility by other motorists.
- Negotiating my way around potholes whilst trying to find the tarmac.
- Battling the wind. The wind was the one thing I didn’t know about before leaving the relative comfort of my little home. In a car, you might notice that it is windy by looking at the lean of the trees along the road but on a motorcycle the rider is the lean along with the trees. I was totally unprepared for the wind factor and had to learn in my seat where in my lane to position myself in preparation for being slowly shifted from the left side of the lane to the right, but the wind. But before that realization occurred to me, I had confidently overtaken a truck, ridden alongside it during the manoeuvre thinking nothing of it, until it was time to return to my lane which is when a gust of wind (from which I had been shielded as I rode alongside the truck) blew me into the lane of on-coming traffic! Fortunately there hadn’t been a car coming towards me, else that would really have spiced up this story!
- Almost running out of fuel because I forgot that I was on a motorbike with a 14 litre fuel
- The upside of the trip was that it increased my confidence in more ways than I knew it could be intensified.
- I learnt to ride in the rain and wind and share the road with truckers, pedestrians and stray animals.
- I learnt how to ride defensively and communicate with other road users and developed strong ties to my Honda motorbike’s numerous safety and comfort features. For instance, my ride would have been vastly different were it not for the traction control features on the NC750X and I discovered that heated handle grips may not be out of place on it either.
- In that one weekend my overall riding skills improved exponentially, so much so that a week upon my return from Lesotho after the seat of my bike had been lowered I accompanied another group of friends to Coffee Bay, via East London.
One of the reasons I learnt how to ride a motorbike is because there seems to be a stigma that women – particularly of colour – should not do so. This emanates from family, in-laws, society, and tradition/culture for varying reasons but believe me when I say you can do anything you set your mind to. Despite what people may say, we all need to find that one thing we can do for ourselves which is completely our own. As women you remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup and whilst we are many things to many people, our mental health requires us to be something significant to ourselves as well.