Dur­ban to Johannesbu­rg

Old Bike Australasia - - DJ ON A VELO - Story by Dave Whitnell

In late 2014 I was con­tacted by my fa­ther who in­vited me to travel to South Africa in March 2015 and par­tic­i­pate in the clas­sic Dur­ban to Johannesbu­rg (DJ) com­mem­o­ra­tive mo­tor­cy­cle rally. With him ap­proach­ing 81 and still ac­tively rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles, I saw this as a great op­por­tu­nity for us to en­gage in a shared pas­sion. The DJ is a 2-day reg­u­lar­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity rally that com­mem­o­rates the fa­mous mo­tor­cy­cle race that took place be­tween 1913 and 1936. Ar­guably it is the premier clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle rally in the world, held since 1970, and all par­tic­i­pat­ing mo­tor­cy­cles needed to be man­u­fac­tured on of be­fore 1936. I had par­tic­i­pated in this event twice be­fore and was well aware of the pres­tige, ca­ma­raderie and sat­is­fac­tion that it brought. Dur­ing my pre­vi­ous en­deav­ours I had rid­den a 1936 Zenith 600cc sin­gle; a re­li­able but tem­per­a­men­tal steed of un­re­fined pedi­gree that my fa­ther had sold some time ago. He had ac­quired sev­eral Ve­lo­cette mo­tor­cy­cles from a de­ceased es­tate and had a 1936 MSS 500 sin­gle set aside for my ad­ven­ture. I had never rid­den one be­fore and was ex­cited about the prospect. In re­al­ity I was keen to ex­plore the mys­tique of this ve­hi­cle and see for my­self what all the fuss was about. So my wife and I flew from Perth to Johannesbu­rg for a re­union with my fam­ily. On first im­pres­sion the bike looked won­der­ful and was in im­mac­u­late cos­metic con­di­tion. Its chrome gleamed and it wore a set of leather sad­dle­bags that I had made for my fa­ther many years ear­lier. Parked along­side was a 1936 Ve­lo­cette KSS, 350cc sin­gle that was in­deed my fa­ther’s pride and joy. I would be start­ing at com­peti­tor num­ber 76 in the ‘B’ group whilst he would be leav­ing 1 minute be­hind me as com­peti­tor num­ber 77. Of par­tic­u­lar note to me was the painted in­scrip­tion on each tool­box, “In mem­ory of Alan Harris”. Alan was a close friend of my fa­ther’s whom I had met on sev­eral oc­ca­sions; a true gen­tle­man and world-renowned Ve­lo­cette afi­cionado who raced the mar­que in­ter­na­tion­ally for the fac­tory and had been in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of the Ve­lo­cette Thrux­ton dur­ing his ear­lier years. He had sadly passed away in March 2014 af­ter a long ill­ness and this was a fit­ting trib­ute to his legacy. Af­ter just a few hours on the ground in South Africa it was time to kick these two steeds into life and ride them to the monthly meet­ing of the Clas­sic Mo­tor­cy­cle Club (CMC) in Ger­mis­ton – a round trip of 40km or so. To my en­thu­si­as­tic joy, the 500 sin­gle barked into life with lit­tle more than a re­peat­edly tick­led car­bu­ret­tor and a cou­ple of kicks of the starter. So far, so good. This was the first time that the MSS had been rid­den since be­ing ac­quired by my fa­ther and whilst it was re­fined in na­ture and re­spon­sive to the throt­tle, there was an an­noy­ing ten­dency to jump out of first gear and slip at the clutch. Later that day af­ter a few beers and a won­der­ful Braai with fam­ily and friends, Kevin Robert­son, a lo­cal well renowned Ve­lo­cette en­thu­si­ast and six-time win­ner of the DJ Rally, set about mak­ing fine ad­just­ments to the ma­chine as a sur­geon would

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