Bike Trip in the Fairest Cape

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story & Im­ages © Jim Free­man

It might be a mis­nomer to say: “ev­ery cloud has a sil­ver lin­ing,” given to the paucity of cu­mu­lonim­bus in the West­ern Cape these past three years. How­ever, if there is an up­side to the pro­longed drought, it is that two-wheeled Road­tripers get more months of the year to ex­plore the prov­ince.

In fact, a clear day dur­ing Win­ter can of­fer more glo­ri­ous rid­ing than one dur­ing Sum­mer: there are gen­er­ally fewer cars on the road and it is not so sticky un­der your leather and hel­met.

I have shared some great bik­ing ad­ven­tures with my mate Paul Wren in Mau­ri­tius. As a way of say­ing thanks for his ef­forts to se­cure me a bike each time I visit “his” is­land, I asked him to come to Cape Town and see what we had to of­fer

My in­vi­ta­tion was prompted in part by read­ing a so­cial me­dia lis­ti­cle that ranked the top ten coastal roads in the world. Sur­prise, sur­prise ... three of those ten were in the West­ern Cape.

Paul and I did two of those three (be­cause Paul was work­ing for Har­ley­david­son at the time, we took them on astride Mil­wau­kee’s finest) and, after a few days of mag­nif­i­cent rid­ing, he was quick to agree.

The three roads are Chap­man’s Peak Drive (Hout Bay to No­ord­hoek), Clarence Drive (Gor­don’s Bay to Klein­mond) and the Na­ture’s Val­ley road (which goes ba­si­cally nowhere but starts at The Crags just out­side Plet­ten­berg Bay).

I have rid­den all three on many oc­ca­sions – the first two on many, many oc­ca­sions – and some­times find it fun to do so on a bike that is em­i­nently un­suited for the route.

Chap­man’s Peak

“Chap­pies” could have been built for Har­leys and BMW GS ad­ven­ture bikes be­cause it is very twisty and there is al­ways lots of traf­fic. You have to take it rea­son­ably slow, which makes the road quite chal­leng­ing when you ne­go­ti­ate it with a 1300 cc Suzuki Hyabusa in a howl­ing gale.

Any­one who has ever rid­den a Hyabusa will tell you itis fright­en­ingly quick, but tra­di­tion­ally likes driv­ing in a straight line. Ac­tu­ally, they will tell you that rid­ing it on a road like Chap­man’s Peak is an ut­ter night­mare; the thing hates cor­ners. Not so the 2017 model I took round the moun­tain. It felt more like rid­ing a Fire­blade on steroids than a ni­trous ox­ide-burn­ing dump-truck.

When you get to the end of Chap­pies, you have the choice of turn­ing left onto Red Hill Road, short-cut­ting into Si­mon­stown, or go­ing straight to­wards Scarborough, Misty Cliffs, Kom­metjie, Cape

Point, Smitswinkel and the like, be­fore even­tu­ally com­ing out at Si­mon­stown. I chose the lat­ter and a good choice it was, too, be­cause the sec­ond part of the ride brought out the best in the Suzuki; there are some nice open stretches where you can ex­plore the up­per ranges of the revcounter (though not for long). Stop in at the old Viper Lounge South in Glen­cairn to show of your bike but, try not to do it on a day when you will get as sand­blasted as I (and the Hyabusa) did.

Clarence Drive

The big Suzuki would be far more suited to Clarence Drive be­cause its tight bends are in­ter­spersed with fast sweeps and some rel­a­tive straights – es­pe­cially the sec­ond sec­tion from Rooi Els to Klein­mond and be­yond.

Hon­estly, the road is my ab­so­lute favourite to ride on just about any kind of bike (the ex­cep­tion be­ing a Har­ley trike I tried about four years ago and the BMW Ninet, though, in the lat­ter case, it was be­cause I was try­ing to keep up with bike racer Dave Petersen ...). There are two kinds of rid­ers that take on Clarence ... those who want to ride the hell out of it and those who want to ap­pre­ci­ate its beauty. If you are in the sec­ond cat­e­gory, be on the look­out for whales dur­ing calv­ing sea­son. If you are in the first, look out for ba­boons.

You can turn around at Rooi Els (after the oblig­a­tory stop at The Drum­mond Arms), or con­tinue to Ara­bella and re­turn to Cape Town via Sir Lowry’s Pass and the N2. Paul and I did a two-day road­trip, tak­ing in both Chap­man’s Peak and Clarence Drives, which are largely linked by Baden-pow­ell Drive. Baden-pow­ell fol­lows the At­lantic Ocean coast­line from Muizen­berg to the out­skirts of Som­er­set West. It is fast, but be weary of the South­easter po­ten­tially hav­ing blown beach sand across the road.

The two of us did the trip on Har­leys, he on an Ul­tra Lim­ited and my­self a Road King, and these were per­fect for the whole route; we could bum­ble when we needed to and

blat when we could (“loud pipes save lives”). We started in the early morn­ing from Sea Point, go­ing against the traf­fic to Camps Bay and Hout Bay, fol­low­ing Vic­to­ria Drive. By the time we got to Her­manus – after stop­ping for a late-ish lunch at An­to­nio’s Pizza Place at the start of Clarence Drive – we had ex­pe­ri­enced the best of Ta­ble Bay and False Bay, and were knack­ered but ju­bi­lant. “Man, this is some of the best rid­ing I have done any­where in the world,” Paul en­thused.

Na­ture’s Val­ley

The Na­ture’s Val­ley road takes a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach be­cause you have to get there first, and it is 550 km from Cape Town, on the other side of Plet­ten­berg Bay. This means you need a bike with pan­niers, so you are most likely talk­ing about a Har­ley-davidson or BMW ad­ven­ture bike.

The first time I tack­led it was in mid­win­ter on a hulk­ing 1580cc H-D Street Glide I had rid­den up from the Mother City en route to Port El­iz­a­beth. I stayed over for the night at the nearby San­parks chalet at Storms River Mouth.

It rained heav­ily dur­ing the night, leav­ing the Na­ture’s Val­ley road wet and strewn with small rocks from nu­mer­ous mi­nor rock­slides. The en­trance to the val­ley was quite har­row­ing be­cause a heavy Har­ley does not par­tic­u­larly en­joy a) wet roads, b) steep down­ward slopes, and c) hair­pin bends. It also does not have the ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity to wind around de­bris.

Rid­ing up out of the val­ley was much more pleas­ant, but un­less you are con­tin­u­ing to Port El­iz­a­beth, you have to turn around and come back. A much more sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was rid­ing the same road in sim­i­lar con­di­tions on my beloved BMW F650GS aka The Betsy.

Get­ting to Plett was not such a com­fort­able cruise, but the nim­ble and rel­a­tively light BMW han­dled the val­ley con­di­tions with aplomb. If you are go­ing into Na­ture’s Val­ley vil­lage, be­ware of bush­buck jump­ing out of the scrub in front of you.

Where to stay

Book your overnight stay at the San­parks fa­cil­ity at De Vas­selot in the Tsit­sikamma sec­tion of the Gar­den Route Na­tional Park and head back up the pass to the N2 for break­fast at the Old Nick Vil­lage.

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