Heels & Horsepower Magazine


Dads on Motorbikes: Ishmael Tlhophane

Continuing with our celebration in the Fantastic Fathers’s Forum we caught up with biker – Ishmael Tlhophane and talked with him about his passion for motorcycles and what biking means to him.

Fantastic Father: Ishmael Tlhophane

Full time job: Fiancé and Fantastic Father to Lebone (7), Kaone (3) and Morongwa (2)

Between 8 & 5: Works as a Customer Service Manager 

Brrrps around on a: Suzuki GSXR 750 k7

I remember a day  when I was on my bike in the middle of town and I had my first near accident in which a vehicle grazed my knee

1. H&H: What sparked your interest in motorcycling?

IT: I grew up in Mossel Bay and motorbikes where the normal mode of transport to get to the beach and school. I was fortunate enough to have a neighbour who used motorbikes to go to work and my friend Raoul Erasmus also had a motorbike. Having bikes so close within my vicinity helped me to become familiar with motorcycles. This sparked my love for motorbikes and I started riding them at the age of 13yrs.  

Back in the day when a young Ishmael started out in biking. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
2. H&H: Who taught you how to ride, what was your first motorbike? 

IT: My friend Raoul taught me how to ride a motorbike, we used to go off roading and hit the trails (beach and bush) using his 50cc scrambler.  I still have a couple of scratches on my legs from the “cool” falls.  Boys being boys, we would once in a while steal a ride on the main roads when there wasn’t too much traffic. 

I remember a day  when I was on my bike in the middle of town and I had my first near accident in which a vehicle grazed my knee. Any closer than that, I no doubt would have sustained some type of injury; which would have been a physical and negative turning point in my life.  

It taught me the importance of being more vigilant and observant; not only when on a motorcycle but also when faced with split second decisions.  I attribute the fact that I have never been in an accident on any of my motorbikes even when riding through storms.  I believe that first brush with a near fatal accident taught me the patience required for being on a motorbike.  It also helped raise my on-road awareness levels as well as the importance of being extremely observant.

 My first bike was a Suzuki RGT 125 which I got in 1996.

I named my bike Naomi, after the famous model Naomi Campbell

3. H&H: What made you choose the Suzuki GSXR 750 k7 over other bikes on the market?

IT: For starters, it is a very reliable bike and I commute daily to work on it. The seating position is also ideal for me and it offers great torque; servicing my Suzuki is easy and so is getting parts for it.  It’s fuel tank range is ideal for long distance as well as track riding. I got this bike in 2009 when it had 7800kms on the clock and it is now at 93 000km.  Needless to say, I have had many happy miles on this baby.  

Incidentally,  I named my bike Naomi, after the famous model Naomi Campbell.  I did a bit of modeling in high school and had potential to pursue a modeling career. At the time Naomi Campbell was the model I looked up to – a tall, beautiful, African woman and stand-out model. Similar to the famous model, my bike is an ageless beauty. Truth is, many models don’t always make it into the big league but Naomi Campbell did, just like my Naomi has. 

My Naomi is one of the most recognized bikes in the biking community and no matter how old she gets, she still reigns supreme.

Naomi takes a shower. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
4. H&H: When you initially started out, how did your family / partner feel about your taking up on 2-wheels?

IT: It was a struggle convincing my parents to get me a bike.  I was 14 years old at the time but after showing my parents the benefits of not fetching me from school and sports practice, they ultimately agreed as I could go to school and back alone without their assistance. It really assisted that my friend also had a bike and he was a year younger than me.

One thing that stood out though when buying the bike was my dad refusing to buy me a helmet, he thought it was too expensive. He only bought it the next day. 

Later in life, when I met my partner, she was very reluctant about me being a biker.  I decided to take her on a ride and through that experience, she got to see my passion and how happy I was on a motorbike. She started to warm up to bikes although I appreciate that her main worry remains the issue of my safety.   Through riding with me though, she started to trust the safety processes I employed and became a little more settled about me being on a motorbike. 

Naomi strikes an elegant pose. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
5. H&H: How do your kids feel about you being a biker and would you encourage them to ride in the future? 

IT: My kids’ dream about and love bikes; they have been exposed to my bikes from an early age so the biking bug has already bitten them. I do encourage them to ride as they are very fascinated about bikes. Starting them at the track is a must, so they can learn the basics properly with expert assistance. I have been very fortunate to have never been in an accident, so that helps a lot. I also have safety conversations with my fiancé and parents so that has also assisted.

Riding with my club High Rollas MCC and exploring the Mpumalanga area is one of my favorite memories

6.  H&H: Do you ride with your children? 

IT: I ride with Lebone off road on a scrambler and we ride quad-bikes too. However, I only ride on quad-bikes with my other children – Kaone and Morongwa. My fiancé rides with me as well; she has become very comfortable and has come to love our riding experiences over time.

Future Moto GP champion in the making. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
7. H&H: Biking is an enjoyable lifestyle. Share with us some of your most memorable highlights from your biking journey thus far.

IT: Riding with my club High Rollas MCC and exploring the Mpumalanga area is one of my favorite memories. It is a a wonderful area with amazing scenery and a lot of roads on which you can enjoy your bike and interact with fellow club members. I have also had memorable riding experiences in Lesotho, Botswana and The Garden Route. Nelspruit Naspoti, is my most enjoyable trip. We have a beautiful country but that said, I look forward to exploring Namibia early next year on a GS Adventure. 

There was a time where I did a solo trip from Johannesburg to Mossel Bay and met a biker who was stuck on the stretch between George and Oudtshoorm. I stopped to assist him but we were unable to fix his bike which resulted in us having to push both our bikes to a nearby farm, (I had to push mine so that I could accompany him).  The conversation we had as bikers was extremely fulfilling and I met a stranger that turned into a brother.

8. H&H: Biking is not just about the machine – it’s a skill. What if anything have you learnt from being on 2-wheels?

IT: Biking has taught and improved my overall discipline in life and this has affected me at home, work and in everyday life experiences. It takes a lot of discipline and level of focus to ride a motorbike safely.  When you consider that being part of the biking community, one exposed to countless different people from numerous biking clubs and backgrounds.  

The pass has an altitude variance of 581m and is just over 13kms long with a gradient of 1:23 with the steepest sections being 1:10

It can be quite an adrenalin rush when meeting so many people and being in such different environments and it is understandable that people tend to become excited and high spirited.  The discipline that is required not to let that type of adrenaline get to you is something I am proud to say I have mastered.  Not because biking does not excite me but rather, I’ve learned to carry myself with a sense of composure which cannot be shaken by these kinds of events.  

My composure and discipline have taught me to remain calm in all sorts of situations including when riding.  I am not easily taken by excitement nor do I make drastic, spur-of-the-moment decisions. To the best of my abilities everything I do is at my own pace, as well as thought through as possible;  I accredit this life skill to motorcycling. If you can perfect self-restraint over adrenalin you will have mastered an excellent level of discipline. 

One of the best passes to braaap on – Outeniqua Pass. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
9. H&H: It can be said that riding a motorcycling is dangerous. Share with us one of your scariest biking moments

IT: Riding alone through the Outeniqua Pass was both amazing and intimidating.  I was on my way to my high school reunion and decided to take that route. I did have another route option, the Montagu Pass, but at the last moment, opted to use the Outeniqua Pass instead.  Even though it was raining on the day, I don’t regret doing so.  Visibility was not that great due to heavy mountain mist. For those who aren’t familiar with The Outeniqua Pass, it connects the town of George with the Little Karoo area.

It has 40 bends, corners and curves along it, most of which exceed 90 degrees.  The pass has an altitude variance of 581m and is just over 13kms long with a gradient of 1:23 with the steepest sections being 1:10.  That said, I managed to ride through the Pass, taking in the breath-taking scenery and enjoying the fresh crisp mountain air.  I hope do it again soon, but with friends. 

Asides family, my heart belongs to Naomi. Image courtesy of Ishmael Tlhophane
10. H&H: How often do you ride and what are some of the places you’ve been to?

IT: I commute daily to work and weekends with fellow bikers and my club members. The memorable rides I have been to are Mossel Bay, Botswana, Lesotho, Queenstown, Kuruman, Lebowakgomo, Parys, Nelspruit and Kimberley. 

11. H&H: If asked to hang up your helmet forever would you do so?

IT: Never! It would be like asking me not to breath, LOL.

12. H&H: You win the lotto and start swiping your platinum card. What bikes do the neighbours see being delivered to your home?
  1. BMW GS 1250 Adventure: This bike is one heck of a machine. It is comfortable and has the capabilities to performance expertly on the dirt. I would like to explore both wet and dry land on an GA 1250 Adventure. 
  2. Suzuki GSX-R 1000 RA: In my view, this bike has the best top-end power. It has razor sharp handling and race track focus making it a safe rideable road bike.
  3. Harley Davidson V-Rod: I like this bike because in my view, its the next best thing to a cruiser yet it rides like a super bike.
  4. Ducati Panigale: This is an incredible Italian machine. It’s sexy and it demands respect. It’s made for flaunting and I would flaunt the heck out of it like only I can!

You can follow Ishmael’s biking adventures on Instagram @ishmael_tlhopane

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