Motorcycle tour of Cape Town South Africa

A Motorcycle tour of the Route 62, Western Cape and Klein Karoo, South Africa - Part Two

Author: Steve and Carole Eilertsen.

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Route 62 on a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

What has this tour got to do with Route 62? Montagu and all the towns in the area are on the longest wine route in the world i.e. Route 62, an alternative to the more famous coastal Garden Route along the N2. In every town wineries offer wine tasting and will arrange to have a case of the 'best' shipped back home for no extra cost (the Harley panniers were not that big!)

The Harley rental special was made possible by the fact that the Western Cape is a winter rain fall area and being summer in the northern hemisphere does not attract the same amount of tourists during this period. This potentially could have resulted in a miserably cold and wet weekend on two wheels. Our weekend however was perfect. The near zero temperatures overnight were dispelled by 10am in the morning and we would tour in glorious sunshine tell sunset at 5pm.

Our route the next day included Ashton, Bonnievale, Swellendam, Heidelberg, Barrydale and back to Montagu. A visit to 'Lys se Kombuis' near Bonnievale was a lot of fun. Lys, a retired coloured housekeeper runs a small tearoom in her village next to the main road. She also gave us a tour of her 'Tokkalossie Museum'. Now this is not the thing . . . it is Lys herself who is the attraction. She is a warm and charismatic character with lots of stories about local life in the valley and is well worth a visit.

Motorcycle tour Western Cape Town

Coffee and Vetkoek at Lys se Kombuis - what character she is!

Later on that day we jumped onto the N2 highway and headed East. I rolled the throttle open to keep ahead of the fast moving traffic. I found the bike solid until I approached the 140km mark. At this speed I found it to be very sensitive to the slightest imperfections that ran along the road surface. At one point the bike developed such a pronounced speed wobble that I pulled over to check the tyre pressures. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend and we seldom went faster than 130km after that. 


At Heidelberg we turn North again and headed for Barrydale along a more sedate and twisty country road. Touring lesson number 37. "Never consult one map only". Touring lesson number 38. "If you consult a second map and the two do not agree believe the more conservative version". I poured the power on as I leaned the bike through yet another magnificent bend when I saw IT 100m ahead of us . . . the end of the tar and the beginning of a dirt road heading into the mountains! I eased right off the throttle and let the big bike coast easily along off the tar and onto the dirt. We gradually lost speed and finally stopped 200m along the dirt. What now? I estimated the dirt to be roughly 25km. At this point the surface was hard and had embedded stones, all of which offer excellent traction. I had recently read in a Harley magazine about a dude who had travelled around the world on a Harley. Inspired we ventured forward. The deviation was very pleasant. I played by the rules and gently powered the cruiser through anything that looked even remotely loose and less than an hour later we were back on the hard stuff again and heading for Barrydale via Tradouws Pass.

If you live in South Africa you have to add Tradouws Pass to you 'must ride' list. Many passes just cut up the side of the mountains and over the other side. This is not possible here and so the road clings to the side of a deep valley cut by a river that goes right through the mountain range from the coastal plain in the south to the Klein Karoo on the other side. The road was in magnificent condition and almost deserted. Many times I was able to open the throttle for a few seconds and hear the engine's powerful throb echo off the steep mountain cliffs on both sides of the valley. The pass (like so many in the Cape) had umpteen blind bends to the right. With a big bike and such a narrow road there was the constant worry about oncoming vehicles crossing the double barrier lines onto our side, as we would have very little real estate to spare. This was the time that I was acutely aware of my lack of 'Harley' riding experience.

By this time I was very comfortable with the different approach to braking on a Harley. I had been advised that the correct way to brake was 70% on the rear and 30% on the front. This is contrary to what one does on all other bikes where the stopping power comes mainly from the front.

Now is a good time to mention the tall motorcycle screen. It was not only awful but dangerous. I would have given anything to take the damn thing off and post it back to Cape Town. I am of normal height i.e. 6ft exactly. I could not look over the screen when going up hill and I could not look through it when going downhill. The edge of the screen, which distorted the road optically, cut right across my vision of the most critical part of the road ahead. This made leaning into fast sweeping bends difficult as I was constantly struggling for an un-obscured view of the road ahead before I could even choose my line.

That awful Harley screen with the distortion clearly indicated. Disconcerting when you are leaning into a fast sweeping bend!

Once over Tradouws Pass we flew along Route 62 back to Montagu to yet another awesome dinner in one of the many restaurants along the main road.

Sunday morning we had a strange encounter. We were just leaving the town travelling in a Westerly direction. We approached the cutting that is the entrance to the town when the Tachometer needle (rev counter) dropped like a stone and pointed directly downwards (-2000rpm if the dial was marked). The actual revs of the bike remained unchanged (3000rpm) as we continued along the road. The Speedo acted normally. The needle stayed there for a while before starting to move slowly in an anti clockwise direction until it went back into the positive side of the dial and read 7000rpm! It stayed there awhile before dropping back down vertically. This behaviour continued for about five minutes with the needle moving lazily around the dial with a mind of its own. I was already embarrassed thinking about how I was going to explain the 'broken' tachometer and whether I would be expected to pay for it. I did not have to worry however as without warning the needle whipped back up on the positive side and indicated the revs correctly. The instrument never gave a moments trouble for the rest of the trip!

Motorbike tour on a Harley Davidson

Cogman's Kloof just outside Montagu - the scene of our Bermuda Triangle experience!

Possible explanation? The hotel literature told us that Montagu lies on powerful 'Lei Lines'. This is an energy force field, which combined with the hot spas in the area accounts for its reputation as a place of healing and spiritual refreshment. According to the Harley-Davidson dealer in Johannesburg the instrument could have misbehaved under a very powerful external magnetic force but . . . it should have influenced the Speedo as well which works on a similar system. I have read about aircraft instruments behaving in a similar way when travelling through the Bermuda Triangle. Luckily for us we did not mysteriously disappear into thin air!

Motorcycle tour Western Cape South Africa

Valleys, mountains and passes - this is biker country!

The rest of Sunday went by without incident and saw us travelling through Bonnievale, Stormsvlei, Riviersonderend, Springerskuil, Stanford and onto the famous whale sighting town of Hermanus for lunch. Despite being winter we saw a couple of whales lazing in the deep water below the cliff. I have passed through Hermanus a few times and have never been disappointed. 

We then continued along the R44 to Betty' Bay, Pringle Bay and arrived at Gordon's Bay where we found a beautiful B + B with a huge fireplace overlooking the peninsula. We drank in the magnificent view and watched the sun set over the water while sitting on our balcony eating the town's best take-aways i.e. fish and chips!

The next day we took a slow ride back into the City just 70kms away, collected a rental car at the airport and sadly returned the big cruiser to its owners.

What an awesome weekend, what a privilege to have had such a holiday. Yes, we have happily returned to our F650's but we are definitely richer for the experience.



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