As a proud Xhosa woman who was born and raised in the dusty village of Nxukhwebe, Eastern Cape, Bongiwe developed a love for motorcycles when she was a toddler and it has grown exponentially since then. It does however, draw curious looks and raised eyebrows!
I had been given the 2019 Honda CRF Africa Twin 1000L DCT for the December holidays and had already ridden it over 2600km from Joburg to Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape. This time, I was on my way to a traditional wedding celebration in Qwaqwa/Phuthaditjhaba, 338km away.
Straddling the 1.4m tall, 2.3m long adventure Africa Twin I was confident that its wheelbase of 1.5m, turning radius of 2.5m and overall handling capabilities would hold me in good stead when I got to the twists and turns along the route.
“Hey, my man!” he sang out happily.
I took off my helmet, smiled and said “Fill it up, please bhuti”
The attendant’s huge grin was instantly replaced by a look of utter shock. His step faltered and he gazed at me in amazement as he slow motioned to the fuel pump.
“Eish, sorry my sister” he muttered.
As he replenished the tank, still looking mesmerized, he asked where I was travelling from and where I was headed to.
“From Jozi and I am on my way to Qwaqwa”, I said cheerfully, which only served to increase his astonishment.
“Yo! No ways sister!” he spluttered, “all by yourself? But you are a woman and you are not scared of this thing?” he continued, referring to the Africa Twin.
I chuckled and shook my head.
As I rode off, I caught a glimpse of him in my side mirror. He had the look of one trying to put together an intricate puzzle which just didn’t fit.
Nearing my destination in Ha-sethunya, Phuthaditjhaba I came across a group of gangly teenagers and asked if I was headed in the right direction. They stared at me, mouths hanging open, seeming unable to speak. I smiled and repeated myself but still they gawked. I wondered if the shock of seeing a Black woman on an enormous motorbike had rendered them speechless and was about to take my leave when one of them croacked “Yes mama, you are in the right direction”. Bemused at being called mother I engaged the Gravel function on my bike and started off on the dirt leaving the stunned adolescents in the dust.
I took one look at you and concluded that you are one of those rebellious and defiant Joburg women ….
One of my favourite things on the Africa Twin is that it has power in spades. With 4-valves per cylinder and 70kW of power the 998cc powered engine of the Africa Twin effortlessly charged up the steep hill, with me standing on the pegs, grinning.
I arrived at the wedding venue, just as the guests were gathering to receive the bridal party. The buzz of excitement was palpable. All eyes immediately rivoted in my direction. I alighted, took off my helmet and heard a collective gasp. Feeling self-conscious I shuffled around the edge of the crowd and made a brisk beeline for the bathroom to freshen up and change out of my riding gear.
Re-emerging and now dressed in my traditional Xhosa maiden attire much to the amazement of the people I had walked past earlier. They had seen ‘a butch, tall lady’ in riding gear and had witnessed a dainty demure Xhosa woman walk back past them. Later, one of the men confessed that he had felt intimidated, when seeing me in my riding gear but that the change of attire made me more approachable.
With the celebrations in full swing, an elderly woman, marched up to me and declared that she had felt a strong sense of disgust when I initially rode in. “I gave you one look and concluded that you were one of those rebellious and defiant young Joburg women, but I can see now that you are a nice well brought up young woman.” I smiled and she added, “its just that you ride a motorbike which is such as pity”, her words trailed off.
As I danced and mingled with other guests I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to face a middle-aged man with a voice more highly pitched than his portly frame suggested. “I have always wanted to learn to ride a motorbike,” he squeaked “and now that I have met a woman who rides, well, I simply must do it” he concluded confidently. I managed a shaky smile but thought to myself – “Not this again! Motorbiking is not a gender competition.
As the day progressed men, women and children asked to take pictures next to the Africa Twin and not to be outdone on their special day, the bride and groom followed suit but only the groom was brave enough to climb it.
With dusk settling, it was time for me to head back home. I changed back into my riding gear, and walked back through the crowd to my metal stallion. A large contingent of the guests followed me. I recognized a few faces from earlier in the day and they too were in the circle around me, as if making extremely certain, that this was the same person who was indeed the rider of the big, ‘horse-and-trailer’ like motorbike, as some of the elders had described it.
I kicked off the bike-stand, revved a little and was about to push off, when a woman with a look of genuine concern, rushed up to me. Above the roaring of the engine I heard her say that if I didn’t feel alright travelling back on my own, I could always ‘put the bike in the boot’ of one of the other guests’ cars. I was touched – that was one of the sweetest things I’d heard all day.