Guest post by Laura Knight
Touring by motorbike in South Africa is thrilling. Of course you can tell them how exhilarating it is to feel the wind tugging at your leathers, how a long, empty stretch of road begs you to open the throttle, and how the fact that there is nothing between you and everything around you makes your senses come alive so everything is more thrilling and breathtaking than when you travel by car.
And if you’re looking for a country that is like a little slice of heaven for a motorcycle rider, then South Africa is about as close as you’re going to get. Riding in SA is never boring; with long straight highways that allow you to relax a little leading to delightfully twisty regional roads that demand absolute focus and get the adrenaline pumping. And all surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty, whether you are traveling on road or off road!
Now while riding a motorcycle in South Africa is about as close to heaven as you’re going to get, there are 4 things you need to keep in mind while planning your two-wheeled adventure – especially if you’ve never visited this beautiful country before!
1. Always Gear Up With The Right Gear
You never climb onto your bike thinking that you’re going to have an accident, but with accident rates in SA being what they are the risk is much higher. So your protective motorcycle gear is all that stands between you and serious injury or even death if you ever are!
And if you’re a pillion, then the proper riding gear is even more important because statistics say that they are usually more badly hurt than the rider. Even if you’re riding just 2 km or you’re planning on a low-speed leisurely ride – obey the ATGATT rule (All the gear, all the time).
Always wear gear that doesn’t restrict movement, but not so loose that it slides around. A full face helmet that fits perfectly – doesn’t feel even remotely loose and doesn’t practically crush your skull, motorcycle gloves, proper motorcycle boots, and a jacket are non-negotiable.
Proper motorcycle pants are more of a gray area. While the best option is pants made from the same material as a motorcycle jacket, at the very least you should be wearing specially-reinforced denim for bikers or heavy denim that can stand up to some punishment if you fall.
2. Ride The Bike That Suits You And Your Trip
Everyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle will swear by a certain brand or even a certain model – and they’ll try to convince everyone they know that their choice is the best one. But every motorbike is different and every rider has their own riding style.
So sometimes, what is an extremely comfortable and pleasurable ride for one person, will be a nightmare for another! So try out different bikes, and find the one that matches your skill level and also suits how you plan to do most of your riding.
Super tourers are the ultimate when it comes to traveling long distances by road, but don’t think that you can just fit them with a set of dual sport tires and go on an adventure tour because they’re just not designed to take the punishment of off-road riding!
There are dozens of companies offering different kinds of motorcycle tours that accommodate just about every skill level there is, and more than a few offer motorcycle rentals as well. So even if you live in SA and only own a sport bike, you can hire an all-road bike and enjoy an adventure tour!
3. The Freedom To Speed Is Addictive – But Dangerous!
The speed limits in SA are pretty generous, but depending on where you’re riding, there is often no one and nothing enforcing the rules of the road. And whether they’re traveling on two wheels or by four, everyone takes advantage of this fact!
Now if you’re a biker, this is both fantastic and extremely dangerous. It’s fantastic because it allows you to open up the throttle to see if you can actually reach that top speed the bike you’re riding can supposedly do, which is usually pretty fast - even on a smaller bike!
But if you don’t know a route like the back of your hand, this can be extremely dangerous. Most roads are relatively well maintained, but there are some sections where the conditions aren’t very motorcycle friendly - featuring unevenly tarred roads, potholes, and loose gravel.
And then there is the actual route. You find yourself lulled into a sense of security by a series of gentle high-speed curves, only to be surprised by an unexpectedly sharp bend or a double switchback that sneaks up out of nowhere!
4. Some South African Road Users Think They Own The Road
The majority of drivers in SA are respectful of traffic laws and actually conscious of bikes, but there are those who seem to have gotten their licenses in lucky packets and should never be allowed behind the wheel – and the fact that SA has the 6th highest road traffic death rate in the world only highlights this!
Minibus taxi drivers are probably the worst traffic offenders (especially in towns and cities), although you’ll often find a driver (even a pedestrian) who shows complete disregard for the fact that there are other people using the road as well – especially in more rural areas and on municipal roads.
The most common South African traffic offenses that bikers need to watch for are:
- Vehicles changing lanes without warning
- Drivers not paying attention and suddenly slowing down to make a turn (or stopping to pick up passengers)
- Drivers (and pedestrians) who don’t realize just how fast you’re approaching and think they can quickly cross the road
- Vehicles (mostly trucks and ancient vehicles) traveling far below the speed limit and stopped or broken down in the middle of the road (especially on blind rises and blind corners)
- And vehicles pulling out of driveways and side roads (especially in more rural areas) without regard for anyone
With these 4 tips, you ought to have an amazing ride in South Africa!
Over the past 10 years, Laura Knight has been a motorcycle rider. She has built up an incredible passion for traveling by motorbike and always wishes to contribute to motorcyclist and traveler community. This is the reason why she created MotorManner.com where her passion is turned into useful and interesting information to the motorcyclists and travel lovers.