The motorcycling landscape is changing, particularly in Cape Town. Here, the blossoming custom scene has piqued the interest of a new wave of motorcyclists: guys and girls that are more obsessed with riding than they are concerned with what they’re riding.
Motorcycling is becoming less pretentious and more inclusive—and I’m digging it.
The folks at BMW Donford Motorrad Cape Town get it too: their Buitengracht Street showroom is less a typical motorcycle dealership than it is a BMW emporium. Nestled between the new bikes and gear are a select few classic models—including a 1950s Stoye sidecar rig tucked away in the shop’s rustic reading corner.
Donford also gets a lot of non-motorcyclist traffic, partly thanks to Tribe Coffee Roasting’s new café—Tribe 112—that shares the premises. It’s an inviting space with motorcycle-inspired décor, a great menu and damn fine, locally-roasted coffee. The fact that both businesses are staffed by amazing and friendly people doesn’t hurt either.
Understandably, I’ve spent a fair amount of time there—which is how I met Jake and Angelo. Jake’s one of Tribe’s co-founders, and Angelo manages the Tribe 112 location. Both of them ride and love bikes, and both of them subscribe to the aforementioned philosophy.
Between the three of us, we’d already sampled some of BMW Motorrad’s 2015 range—but mostly individually, and for short blasts. It didn’t take us long to agree that a proper day out was in order. We pitched the idea to Donford, who responded immediately with an emphatic “yes”—and gave us access to their test fleet.
Deciding that the day would be wasted without photos, I roped in my good friend and Woodstock Moto Co. proprietor, Devin, to shoot it. Brett from Donford’s sales team joined us—mainly to answer our incessant questions about the bikes and make sure we didn’t break anything.
All that was left to do, was select our bikes.
The R nineT was an obvious choice, and the first on the list. Since it’s powered by BMW’s traditional air-and-oil-cooled boxer mill, our next pick was the liquid-cooled R 1200 R (for comparison’s sake).
Sticking with roadsters, we threw the 4-cylinder S 1000 R and parallel-twin F 800 R into the mix. The R 1200 GS rounded out our selection.
We met at Donford on a misty Sunday morning. As it turns out, they were hosting a breakfast run that day—the shop was buzzing. Jake and Angelo pulled shots while Brett wheeled out the bikes—fully fuelled and ready to go. After a quick briefing we each picked our first bike for the day, geared up and set off.
I’d mapped out one of my favourite routes for us—a 300km-plus round trip through the countryside. It covers five mountain passes, with unrivalled scenery and more than enough spots to pull over, take photos and swap bikes.
I ended up on the R nineT first—heading out of Cape Town’s CBD on the N1, before turning off at the R44 towards Stellenbosch. By the time we hit Helshoogte Pass the mist had lifted and layers were being shed.
I’d ridden this same route on the R nineT before, and again found myself enjoying the bike’s raw, stripped-down feel. It has the same soul as the 80s-model airhead currently in my garage, but with the refinement of a modern engine and components. And its classic, minimal vibe garnered the most attention from passersby wherever we stopped.
At our first switchover in Franschoek I handed the key to Jake, swapping him for the R 1200 GS. Jake had become pretty attached to the GS; for a moment I worried that our friendship was in jeopardy.
It quickly became apparent why. Despite being the only dual-sport bike on the squad, everyone that rode the GS got off it reluctantly, and with a silly grin on their face. I was lucky enough to take it up and over the famous Franschoek Pass and was floored by how quick it was off the line—and how effortlessly I could throw it into corners.
As we pulled up alongside Theewaterskloof dam on the other side, I passed it onto Brett as I took the S 1000 R over from Angelo. Angelo’s an experience sport bike rider—needless to say, we didn’t see much of him and the S on the pass.
Jake and I, however, prefer the comfort and subtlety of adventure bikes and classically-styled customs. Both of us mounted the S with trepidation when our turns came. It was unfounded though—despite the 165HP on hand, different riding modes (ranging from “Rain” to “Dynamic Pro”) mean that the naked four is only as wild as you want it to be.
Once I’d settled in, I took the S over Viljoens Pass, through the Elgin Valley and over Houwhoek pass. Devin (having just sold his Honda CB1000R) rode it later in the day, and echoed my sentiments: it’s brutal, precise and corners like it’s on rails.
My fuel light blinked as we pulled off the N2 towards Kleinmond, so we pulled over for a top up and a bite. My mind had been on the bikes up until now, but as we kicked back over food and the typical mid-ride chitchat, it started to dawn on me what a great crew I was riding with.
Riding is always awesome, but it’s that much better with the right people. Everyone was having a good time, behaving on the bikes and just generally being kiff. And Donford couldn’t have sent a better chaperone—Brett’s a super-chilled dude and a blast to hang out with.
Suitably refreshed, we continued on our journey.
It was my turn on the R 1200 R, which I took through Kleinmond and onto Pringle Bay. Just after Pringle Bay we found a narrow road heading up into the hills. Naturally, we followed it—and in the process found another rad spot for photos and a little more downtime.
From there we made our way back to the original route, and onto Clarens Drive for our last bike switch. As I handed the R 1200 R over to Jake for the last stage, I summed it up for him like this: it’s a mash-up of the GS’s engine feel and the S’s rideability. After riding it, he agreed.
The R is über-crisp on the road; powerful enough to go fast, but comfortable enough not to tire you out. It’s a pretty civilised ride too—kitted with ABS and similar rider aids as the GS and S.
For the last stretch—Claren’s Drive through Somerset West, and back to Cape Town on the N2—I took the only bike I hadn’t ridden yet: the F 800 R. Powered by the same 798cc parallel-twin mill as the F 800 GS, the R’s low centre of gravity and neutral ergonomics made for a fun time along the twisty, coastal pass. It was the only sub-litre bike on the day, but everyone found it to be more than capable; easy-going with enough grunt to keep things entertaining.
Brett peeled off at Somerset West as the rest of us pushed on down the N2—with a quick, last-minute photo stop in Macassar. While trying to figure out where in the CBD we could grab coffee that late on a Sunday afternoon, Jake reminded us: he had an espresso machine, located conveniently in a fully-furnished café.
My last memory of the ride was chasing Devin (on the R nineT) along De Waal Drive, as the sun dipped behind Table Mountain. The four of us regrouped at Tribe 112 and collapsed around the coffee table. I didn’t really want the day to end, but I had another thirty minute ride ahead of me to get back home.
Thirty more minutes to reflect on the incredible day we’d just had, and to wish that I could do it all again tomorrow.
Photos by Devin Paisley of The Woodstock Moto Co.
A massive thank you to Donovan, Brett and the crew at BMW Donford Motorrad Cape Town.
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