Indian was a big chief
OF THE FOUR ON THE LIST, THIS WAS THE LEADER OF THE PACK This cruiser’s bulk certainly belied its assured handling.
Non-bikers look at us two-wheel fanatics sometimes as though we are people from another planet. You guys who sit in your tin boxes wonder why we would expose ourselves to the elements as we do.
There are times, I must admit, when I wonder that myself, as I did earlier this year when riding a bike back to Johannesburg from the Free State just at the start of winter. Even with my protective clothing, helmet and gloves on, the cold cut right through me. When I stopped, I was amazed at how long it took my frozen fingers to return to the rest of my body...
Then again, there are those times when nature can be right there with you when you’re riding. Like the sights, and smells, particularly, of the countryside. That fresh smell from the soil after the rains, the aroma of things like the cosmos flowers – all of which you people miss out on.
Recently, out on a leisurely ride, the pungent smell of animal manure was unmistakeable!
Being a biker of, shall we say, middle age, I have certainly had the riding like your hair is on fire moments from my youth. And every now and again, when I get the chance to ride really high performance machinery, I seldom turn it down. But, mindful of the old saying that “there are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers”; these days I much prefer comfortable cruisers to head-down blasting machines.
And those were the machines I made a beeline for at the recent SA Bike Festival held at Kyalami racetrack. My son Doug and I headed out to the circuit on the Friday, which was the media day. This was to avoid the crowds that were expected. What a pleasure! Short queues and heightened anticipation just added to the excitement. The previous year, I had stood in the long queues waiting to book rides. One could avoid it by booking online, but we decided to take a chance and it was fine.
Of course, it is always COOL to be among like-minded bikers, our kind of music, lots of pretty things to look at, both human and metal, happy, friendly folk, and the glorious sound of our favourite bikes roaring past.
Being confirmed bikers, our express purpose was to ride the new bikes on offer, only realising later that I didn’t see any of the stalls on the first floor.
Ah well, I saw them all last year! The bikes I chose to ride were the Honda NC750 X Auto, the Honda Africa Twin Auto, the BMW R NINE T and the Indian Dark Horse. Quite a mix! A commuter, an adventure bike, a naked street bike, and a cruiser.
I chose them because these are the kind of bikes I enjoy riding, especially the Indian, which is great on the open road. The other three would be just as capable, but man, that Dark Horse really makes a statement. You have arrived!
The Indian Dark Horse was, for me, the most comfortable of the quartet. Its bulk belied its assured handling. Being a cruiser, one takes one’s time in corners and makes nice slow gear changes and enjoys the supreme comfort while being more aware of country life as you ride by.
The two auto Hondas were a touch of class as all Hondas are but, surprisingly, the cheaper NC 750X’s gearbox was much smoother than that of the Africa Twin. I have the earlier NC 700X manual, which is a great bike, although its one shortcoming is that the rev limiter kicks in at 6 000rpm. (just as I am halfway past the pesky M3 that thinks it’s faster than bikes). Also, the auto has longer gearing, which is a bonus.
The BMW shook a bit too much for my liking. As I was riding around the circuit, the speedo and rev counter were doing a merry dance, keeping time with the piston thuds. Still, a very capable motorcycle with lots of grunt.
So, of the four, ridden in cruiser style, the Dark Horse was my favourite. Nothing beats a 1811cc, 357 kg ,138 Nm V-Twin.