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Pride of Africa Ride 2020 perched upon a BMW R 1250 GS

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To mark the end of a difficult 2020, my Editor (and sister), Vuyi Mpofu and I, put on our big girl drawers and set off on our annual Pride Of Africa Ride, aptly themed the “Mbokodo Edition”.

– Bongiwe Didiza, motorcycle journalist, driving in heels

Pride of Africa Ride (POAR) celebrates and highlights various historical, cultural and geographical elements in South Africa while focusing on societal values that embody the meaning of Ubuntu. Unlike the 2019 PAOR, the 2020 ride was an all female team, which served as a good platform to raise awareness for Gender-Based Violence.  

Riding out in style on the morning of our long-awaited departure day, Vuyi looked confident on her Racing Red BMW F 900 XR, while I perched upon a Black Storm metallic BMW R 1250 GS. We were ready for the trip ahead and determined to enjoy the adventure to Durban, KZN. Having already taken ownership of the bike a few days before the ride, I was looking forward to playing with the riding modes on my R 1250 GS, which comes standard with two riding modes (Road, Rain), Automatic Stability control, and Hill Start Control.

I was fortunate that the bike was still brand new, leaving it up to me to break in the stallion under my command.

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS

I happily discovered that my bike was fitted with the Pro riding mode, an optional extra which features additional riding modes (Dynamic Pro, Enduro/Pro), ABS Pro, Hill Start Control Pro, Dynamic Traction Control, and Dynamic Brake Control. I felt assured about my safety on the 600km journey which lay ahead.

The BMW R 1250 GS’s 1254 cc engine produces a power output of 100kW and a max torque of 143 Nm, which made me want to open the throttle and just get going.

Prior to leaving Johannesburg I had adjusted the bike’s seat height to its lowest position, so as to experience the as the ride from a different angle from what would be my normal. The standard seat height of the 1250 GS can be adjusted between 850mm(low) and 870mm(high).

I was fortunate that the bike was still brand new, which left it up to me to break in the stallion under my command. That said, this meant we had to ride easy for the first 200-250kms so that I could wear the new tyres in. The pace of our gentle ride turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to have much more fun than anticipated. We frequently stopped to enjoy the scenery, take pictures and wave at passing truck drivers who tooted their foghorn-like horns at the sight of two women on motorcycles. 

At our last rest and refuel stop, I noted that the bike’s fuel consumption which was at about 4.5l/100km

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS

We encountered many forced stops along the way because of road works and the ever changing weather. That said, we were fully prepared, thanks to the rain riding modes on each motorcycle and the protective riding gear we had on. I was kitted in a GS dry suit and GS Pro boots, while Vuyi wore a GS Rallye suit and BMW Venture Grip boots.

At our last rest and refuel stop, I calculated that the bike’s fuel consumption which was averaging 4.5l/100km. It differed to the estimated fuel consumption of 4.75l/100km, which was rather strange. I had expected the consumption rate to be higher or at least much closer to BMW Motorrad’s estimated consumption rate.

Then it me dawned on that the 4.5l/100km was on account of the moderate riding we had done over the first 200kms as well as the rain and road works which had required us to further adjust our riding speed.

After refueling, we headed back onto the main road and continued on our trip. Aware of the fading daylight, thinning traffic and improved weather, we picked up the pace and finally arrived safely our destination. Still in high spirits we settled into our lodgings for the next few days.

As I drifted off to sleep, I reflected on the superior build quality of BMW motorcycles which are well known for long-distance comfort; in this regard, the R 1250 GS had affirmed one of the German manufacture’s long standing brand promises.

One man admitted that we are putting the male gender to shame as most men are too afraid to ride motorbikes

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS
Day 2

We spent our time riding in around Durban, visiting the many tourist attractions offered by the seaside city. This included riding along the Golden Mile – a bustling stretch of beachfront, and well-known holiday destination.

We also visited many other popular destinations, such as the Blue Lagoon, Moses Mabhida Stadium and uShaka Marine World and the beachfront markets which are always filled with a rows and rows of brightly colorful Zulu arts and crafts, some made on the spot by the cheerful and skilled vendors.

At one stall, we successfully negotiated an agreeable price with one of the vendor’s for Vuyi’s traditional Zulu skirt – something she had wanted since the beginning of the trip. She wore it immediately, hopped onto her motorbike and started the engine much to the surprise of the small crowd which had loosely gravitated towards the “Joburg girls on big motorcycles”.

We had caused quite a stir from the very start of our trip when leaving Joburg. Motorists and the public in general seemed bemused at the sight of 2 Black women riding unaccompanied. Not that people have never seen women on motorbikes before, but rather, that we were on dual purpose bikes which are not usually associated with our race and gender. Some on lookers gave us disapproving scowls while other greeted us with encouraging curiosity.

That said, we were generally met by more people who enthusiastically shared positives attitudes towards us. They were inspired by what they called our bravery and demonstration of fearlessly going against the customary grain of what is traditionally acceptable behaviour, from African women.

With our Pride Of Africa Ride, Mbokodo Edition nearing the end, we visited BMW Motorrad Umhlanga, where we had our bikes inspected in preparation for a safe trip back home.

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS

At one rest stop, a man admitted that we are putting the male gender to shame as most men are too afraid to ride motorbikes. He added that the large majority of men were incredibly intimidated by women who rode motorcycles.

On the opposite end of the spectrum and at a different destination, a woman, accompanied by her husband, gushed about her secret desire to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Judging by the look of alarm on his face, he was hearing this for the first time. Undeterred she asked how we had gotten into the world of motorcycling, before asking how to climb onto a motorbike. As they drove away, Vuyi and I joked about the perceived mood in the car. 

On an afternoon when we felt too tired to leave the hotel, we opted to do a basic maintenance chain check (clean and lubbe) on Vuyi’s F 900 XR.

We did not need to check the R1250 GS since it has a drive-shaft. The drive-shaft however does need maintenance even though its maintenance frequency is less than that of a chain. If the drive-shaft is neglected and not maintained well, rust can get to the seals and cause damage to the bearings. 

Though not entirely surprising to me, I found the R 1250 GS suspension much harder in comparison to that of the R 1250 GS Adventure.

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS

With our Pride Of Africa Ride, Mbokodo Edition nearing the end, we visited BMW Motorrad Umhlanga, where we had our bikes inspected, in preparation for a safe trip back home.

The inspection included the paramount checks which bikers should never ignore or bypass prior to any ride: tyre pressure, front & rear brake, throttle & clutch response, lights and turn signals, hooter, oil & other fluids, and checking if the engine power cuts when the side stand engages.

While at Umhlanga Motorrad, I decided to adjust the seat height to high for a different experience. The bike felt more comfortable riding with the high seat adjustment so I decided to use that seat level on our journey back home.  

We proudly raised our fists in salute to the man whose sacrifices had made it possible for us as Black women to enjoy the freedoms we now do

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS
Journeying back home

Though I was not quite ready to head back home, the day finally came and the return journey back was greeted with an all-seasons type of weather conditions. Although accustomed to inclement weather, which tests both the rider’s skill & endurance and the bike’s handling & comfort capabilities, I always approach such a ride with caution and due respect.

Heading out of the city and onto the N3, our route back home first took us to Howick where we visited the Nelson Mandela capture site. Here we sealed the end of our 2020 Pride Of Africa Ride with raised our fists in salute to the man whose sacrifices had made it possible for us as Black women to enjoy the freedoms we now do.

Unlike superbikes, the GS is more forgiving in curves and bends.

– BONGIWE DIDIZA, MOTORCYCLE JOURNALIST, DRIVING IN HEELS

The remainder of the ride was peppered with intermittent  downpours of rain and crosswinds, but my iron stallion held firmly to the road and I confidently darted between trucks and other slower moving traffic. The power of the 1250 GS never ceases to take my breath away.

As I opened the throttle and weaved my way through the delicious twists of Van Reenan’s Pass, I let loose a scream of delight then immediately heard myself laughing happily inside my helmet; if you are a biker, you’ll understand.

Another impressive thing about the 1250 GS is its leaning ability, which, if one is not accustomed to may feel daunting; but to a more seasoned rider feels as graceful as a professional ice-skater gliding effortless across the rink. Unlike superbikes, the GS is more forgiving in curves and bends. It allows you to adjust minor mistakes a rider may make as they enter the bend, making the 1250 GS a menace to superbikers on track day.

Though not entirely surprising to me, I found the 1250 GS suspension much harder in comparison to that of the 1250 GS Adventure. The dynamic pro riding mode made the bike even more responsive; the kick and the punch it produced, made me feel as though I was riding the 1250 GS.

The 1250 GS is in the adventure category, but in my opinion, informed by my 10 years riding experience and due to all the things it encompasses, the 1250 GS truly cannot be contained in just one specific category as it can be whatever you want it to be.

I can honestly say, and without hesitation that if one is looking for a versatile bike then the 1250 GS is the two-wheeler for you. That said, be warned, once you straddle this horse, there will be no coming back as you will most probably get hooked. 

The BMW R1250 GS is priced from: R 322 900.00

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