Tyres

Riding on South African roads, whether on-road or off-road is not for the fainthearted. When considering a ride, ask yourself first if your bike is suitable for what you want to do. The main thing for a safe and comfortable ride is the tyres. Are they ideal for tarred roads? Are they suitable for gravel of off-road riding?

Metzeler Karoo is suitable for offroad driving, their long-lasting and durable. The extra spacing between the knobs allows for more footprint on the road, giving the bike more traction. Scorpion Rally brought out by Pirelli for the offroad races, such as the Dakar. The rubber compound has been tested under severe conditions and over long distances. The reinforced basic structure has decreased slide and temperature by 10% and 10degrees, respectively. The knob configuration on the front tyre improves handling, and the shape on the rear tyre allows for better manoeuvrability, especially on the turns and bends.

Heidenau has been manufacturing tyres for over 70 years and has 550 different designs to suit all road conditions. To counter all the loads and forces bikes put on their tyres, Heidenau has strengthened the tyre walls. To help riders, Heidenau has brought out the K60 Scout for all conditions. If you are riding on tarred roads, you will need a stickier tyre and a harder tyre for rough roads and off-road riding. Heidenau tested their tyres under South African conditions for two years before bringing out the K60 which has proved to be a winner under all circumstances.

Choosing the tyres for your bike

Bias-ply. The nylon plies run from bead to bead at 45 degrees to the direction of travel, alternation from the course at each layer. Radial Steel Belt. The first part is the casing which incorporates the single-ply running at 90 degrees to the beads. On the housing is the steel belt (coated in rubber to stop delamination) sitting under the tread, and then over the lot goes the rubber crown.

Radial steel belts allow for high speed on tarred surfaces. Softer sidewalls but thicker crown due to the steel belt. Wall and tyre act independently of each other. Bias Ply has thicker sidewalls for cut resistance. These tyres are a single unit, so when side walls deflate it affects the tread pattern. Correct tyre pressure is the key to good tyre care. Incorrect pressure can lead to heat build-up will affect the handling, shorten tyre life, and can even lead to tyre failure and finally, remember the saying from the South African motor Bike Association.

Motorcycle Rides of North Africa

North Africa – the home to the Tuareg, the Berbers and the Europeans. The dry arid country is part of the largest desert in the world. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia all makeup part of North Africa. Ancient cities such as Marrakesh, Fez, Algiers and Tunis are good starting points to get acclimatised to the Arab way of life. Riding a motorcycle in the desert makes you one with the ecology – dust and more dust! It will work its way into every crack and crevice in your clothes, and it will coat your face in grey to age you in a moment.

When leaving the cities, one will start discovering the villages and their inhabitants – just as it was in Biblical times. The village’s friendliness and generosity will make you yearn for the old days and leave the rush and stress of modern days behind. Do not follow the bikers who make straight for the Atlas Mountains, or you will miss out on the lesser-known Rif Mountains.

The scenery here cannot be found anywhere else in the world, with roads that seem to have been made especially for bikers that will give you plenty of twists and turns. If you take this route, you will eventually reach Fez – a city from a thousand years ago with its beautiful, fortified walls built to keep the enemy at bay. Pass through or stop and enjoy the ancient city of Chefchaouen, the city named after the blue painted house lining the terraces.

Atlas Mountains

On arriving in the Atlas Mountains, the highest mountain range in North Africa believed to be a possible area (of three regions) of the first human civilisation in the world, competing with Kenya and Southern Africa for this honour. Keep your eyes on the road as they will be drawn to the changing vistas as a moth is brought to light – not a good thing on a path of twists turns and bends. On the other side of the Atlas, the road will take you through a gorge formed by the Ziz River, and you will arrive in Tafilalet where you can cool down in a palm-filled oasis and stop for refreshments as thousands who have stayed there to water their camels, over the last millennium and more.

From then on, the road opens up to long, straight stretches reaching to Erg Chebbi, so now you can pick up a bit more pace (without breaking the road laws!). After Erg Chebbi, one enters the Dade’s gorge, definitely one of the main attractions of the ride. The switchbacks and twists and turns make for a memorable journey – one of the best in Africa. Then on to Telnet where you will find the Telnet Kashbah, a palace built centuries ago at 1800 meters above sea level. The Tizi-n-Test pass will lift you to over 2000 meters ASL but be aware of the almost vertical drops into the valley below.

Motorbike Riding in Russia

To intrepid motorbike riders considering Russia as a destination, there are many things to be aware of and not what could be expected of, for instance, petrol. Not all filling stations carry standard fuel for motorbikes, so plan – many vehicles use propane. Bikers may have to resort to buying fuel on the black market- not the ideal scenario for a tourist trying to stay out of trouble!

Russia is a land of contrasts – cities equal to any European city, but villages out of the old days with hardly any changes. Russia has a varied and fascinating history, having been invaded by such nations as Mongolia to Germany and having survived many internal wars and ruthless leaders. Having lived for many years under the Communist regime, Russia has dragged itself into the 21st century, but from this has evolved much poverty and social problems such as the street children with millions of kids roaming the city streets.

Countryside’s

As a biker you will cover many different landscapes from grasslands stretching for mile upon mile, mountains to traverse and dry soul-destroying deserts, so be prepared for big temperature swings! Crossing Russia is crossing seven time zones, sixteen significant rivers. There are many historical sites to be seen, including crumbling Kremlins (walled cities) to the famous Moscow Kremlin, a sight to equal any architectural buildings in the world.

There will be signs of warfare, including statues to war heroes. Many nomad groups still roam the desolate countrysides, unchanged for thousands of years. On these roads, people you meet will be most welcoming and hospitable, but few can speak English. They may even put you up for a night or two and feed you strange but plentiful meals and quite a few vodkas!

Tours

For those contemplating a ride in Russia, it may be best to join a tour. These tours supply a guide to ride with you to ease the language differences, find accommodation, find the best sights to be seen and to deal with the many police stops. This helper might make your journey a much better experience. Some tours even supply a support vehicle. On the average expect to cover about 500 miles a day, and the guides can take you straight to your destinations and save much heartache.

Accommodation

Hotels are expensive so that a tent may be a good alternative. Even rentable rooms can be inferior, from homemade beds to no TV or internet access to noisy plumbing and very poor ablutions. Finding a place to pitch a tent could be the best alternative and a lot cheaper, free in fact!

Roads

Roads throughout Russia go from good to bad- and back to sound again! Distances are vast, thousands of miles at a stretch and nothing like those experienced in Europe. All types of bikes will be seen on the roads, from Hondas to Harleys to Urals – Russia’s own bike and sidecar.

Epic Bike Rides in the USA

North-West Passage Scenic Byway

This 220-mile ride follows the old pioneers, Lewis, and Clark’s route that they forged across North America so many years ago. Although today, it is a much easier road to follow, Lewis and Clark must have seen things long gone never to be seen again, but the beauty and scenery of this area are still there to be enjoyed. If this road is quiet, you can take a lazy, restful trip on good American asphalt and appreciate the surrounds. If you are so disposed, one can also enjoy hunting and river rafting.

San Juan Mountain Byway

Starting in Ridgeway, Colorado, Route 160 takes you to Cortez and then on Route 145 north to Telluride. At Telluride, one can hop off the bike for a while, fill up, get something to eat and carry on past Placerville, onto Route 66 and back to Ridgeway. All this is 233 miles long. The route will take you past and through some parts of the Rocky Mountains in South Western Colorado and see old, deserted mining towns, and lovely parks and forests. Visit hot springs along the way and take in the beautiful canyons and green valleys.

State Route 1

For a long, enjoyable ride, State Route 1 takes you along for 656 miles of magnificent scenes of golden beaches and forests. Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, it is a most popular route – hence beware of other trippers eyeballing the scenery and not the road! It is a long journey, so take it easy, enjoy the view and arrive safely at the destination.

State Route 36

If you choose to stay off the very busy State Route 1, try another route. If you prefer to travel east to west, from Fortuna to Susanville, you will be able to enjoy the soaring mountains and see the awe-inspiring redwoods – the tallest trees in the world. The winding road demands careful riding as some of the bends are very sharp and obscured. This 400-mile road takes you past various national parks, lakes and the mountains give the Rocky’s the name of Little Switzerland.

Pig Trail Scenic Byway

Supposedly named after the wild pigs in the area, but more likely to be after the Arkansas Razorbacks who took this route to Fayetteville. The ride traverses Route 23 incorporating the Ozark National Forest, and this road has many off-shoots leading to exciting destinations. The journey is at its scenic best in autumn when the colour of the leaves is turning, and experienced riders and newbies can enjoy the roads. USA Today’s readers voted that this route which passes through the award-winning vineyards and goes on to and on to Ozark takes the first prize as the best in the USA.

Motorcycles from Inception

The steam engine was invented in the mid-1800s. It was not long after that that inventors put the bicycle and the engine together and created a motorised motorbike. Ernest Michaux, son of the inventor of the boneshaker bicycle, Pierre, soon had the machine in much demand by the public. Other inventors took the idea and using alternative motors soon had the public mobile on their bicycles. These were a coal-burning furnace and an alcohol burner chamber. In 1981 Lucius Copeland attached a steam engine to a Penny Farthing bicycle.

The next big stride in motorcycles was in 1885 when Germans Daimler and Maybach produced the first bike with a petrol internal combustion engine. This “Riding Wagon” named the Daimler Reitwagen is considered the opening of modern motorcycles. Since the practicality of this combination of bike and engine, many other inventors came up with their versions.

In 1895, ten years after the Daimler Reitwagen hit the road another pair of Germans, Hildebrand and Wolfmuller, started mass producing motorcycles but did not stay in business long. Popular demand increased, resulting in an increase in production at the beginning of the 1900s. These included the English Royal Enfield, the Triumph, the American Harley-Davidson and the Indian. The German’s Dampf Kraft Wagon (the DKW) built by Auto Union quickly became the most significant production bike in the world. After the Second World War army surplus and used army bikes were available at low cost and clubs formed throughout America and Europe.

Transportation

Motorbike became the main form of transportation in Asia. The Japanese were making inroads into the market with the production of the Yamaha, the Suzuki, the Kawasaki, and the Honda. Their motorbikes proved to be cheaper and less troublesome than their American and British opposition bikes. Honda’s Super Cub sold 100 million units, which are the most significant production of any bike type. In 1990 the Japanese domination of the motorbike world weakened. This was due to the introduction of the Western bike builders’ reliable bikes, – the Harley-Davidson, BMW, and Ducati, amongst others.

Numbers

Today over 200 million bikes are in service throughout the world. Countries where motorbikes dominate the road, are China with 34 million and India with 37 million. In 2015, India sold 48 000 bikes every day with 46 000 sold daily in China. The downside of motorbike riding is that the American Department of Transportation has revealed that fatalities per vehicle mile travelled are 37 times higher than for cars.

Motorbikes today are produced in three classes, the street bike, the off-road bike, and the dual-purpose bike for on and off-road use. From these three categories, various other types of bikes have developed from cruisers to mopeds and motocross off-road bikes.

Electric Bikes

Due to the slow depletion of fossil fuels, electric motorbikes have been developed. These motors are also emission-free and silent. Drawbacks are the limited range of the batteries and the low top speeds.

Motorcycle Shows of the World

The EICMA

The EICMA motorcycle show is held every year and showcases motorbikes from all over the world. Held in Milan, Italy, it includes a variety of bikes to suit all bike enthusiasts. Some of these are enduro bikes, sports bikes, tourers, cruisers, etc. The show also features custom, one of a kind bikes, from choppers to café racers and so forth. All the latest biking clothes are on display, and these include safety gear, branded apparel, boots, shoes and, of course, helmets.

This year’s exhibition will be held between 7th November and 10th November. The show overflows into the town of Milan where more entertainment can be found, including food stalls, and musical events for pleasure-seeking fans. Now in its 77th year, it is based at the Rho Fairgrounds sand is spread around various pavilions. The top brands of biking manufacturers will be placing their new concepts on display.

Potential buyers can test bikes or even just for the thrill of it! Allowance is made for the youngsters’ entertainment and the streets will be lined with food stalls and music for all. There will be a special exhibition for E-bike (eco-friendly) ideas which hopefully will be features of bikes in the future, and design and technical students will be demonstrating their futuristic ideas.

Sturgis Buffalo Chip Motorcycle Exhibition

The 2019 Sturgis Exhibition will be held from the 2nd to 10th August in the United States, and apart from the bike exhibition, there will be plenty of other shows such as concerts by world-famous musicians, crazy racing and contests. There will be bike shows to suit all bike enthusiasts and rides into the mountains and walks to the world-renowned Mount Rushmore National Monument.

Fans can expect to be entertained 24 hours of the day. Bike shows allow for all tastes – choppers, mini bikes, dragsters and very cool custom bikes. See also the Wall of death, the Chopper Show, meet the biking celebrities over your Flying Piston Breakfast where all profits go to various charities. On Sundays, check out the bike shows and races for all fans.

Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle Exhibition

For the motorcyclist who enjoys the finest and most iconic of all bikes, this is the show to visit! The Museum of Fine Arts is found in New York. Bikes on display are those that meet the criteria of aesthetics, technological innovations and excellence of design.

It includes the most desirable bikes in the world since the first two-wheelers hit the road! An example of these bikes is the BMW R32 designed by Max Fritz, an aeronautical designer whose brilliance is carried over to all BMWs in the 20th century. The Honda Super Cub was a winner in Japan before being exported to the USA where it proved to be the most popular bike on the road. Over 100 million came off the production line, more than any other motor vehicle!

Ulysses Motor Bike Club

On the 6 December 1983, the first club meeting was held in Sydney in Australia and was attended by a handful of members. These members considered and formulated a Constitution for the new club. Stephen Dearnly was the instigator, and Rob Hull suggested the name and the motto “Grow Old Disgracefully” was the brainchild of Pat Lynch. An age limit of 40 and above was agreed upon.

The principals of the club are as follows:

  • To provide ways in which older motorcyclists can get together for companionship and mutual support.
  • To show by example that motorcycling can be an enjoyable and practical activity for riders of all ages.
  • To draw the attention of the public and private institutions to the needs and views of older riders.

On 7 February 1984 eleven of the 25 membership held the first Annual General Meeting and elected the first National Committee. The Ulysses Club is now the biggest of its kind, i.e. for 40-year olds, in the world and Australia now has 138 branches, and worldwide another ten chapters and with representatives in another eight countries. Membership is currently at 16 000.

The Ulysses National Rally (Australia) is held every two years in the first half of the year and is also the time for the AGM. Events are planned for every day of the get-together and include socials, dinner on a Saturday night and church service on Sunday morning. There are also trade displays, bikes displays with test rides, excursions, social events and food stalls. These rallies attract members from international branches.

The venue in Australia changes every year, and the last few have been held in Alice Springs, Canberra and Launceston. There are self-guided rides for the independent members and guided tours for those unsure of the area on tarmac roads and dirt road tours for those bikes fitted with the appropriate tyre.

Ulysses Motorbike Club New Zealand

The club now has 28 branches and 3000 members and follows the Australian rules as set out by their constitution. The branches organise rides and social events and also hold a Rally every year at different venues.

Ulysses Motorbike Club South Africa

In 1998 Simon Fourie, a well know the character in motorbike circles, visited Australia to partake in the National Rally. The club welcomed Simon, and on his return to South Africa, he toured the country introducing riders to the club and its functions, and today the club is found in various towns and cities.

Ulysses Motorbike Club British Isles

Social lunches are held twice a month in Bamford at the Yorkshire Bridge Pub and once a month in the South Midlands and the North West. Excursions are organised to destinations in the UK and over the channel to the Continent. The name “Ulysses” comes from the poem of Lord Tennyson wherein Ulysses says that after his wars were over, that he was missing the adventures, he had with his old shipmates.

The History of Motorbike Racing

The first motorcycle race was held a few years after the first motorcycle was invented. It was held in France and covered about 400 km. Various types of motorcycle racing have evolved from that first race – road, track, off-road, and speed trials. Offshoots of these include hill climbs and drag racing.

These events are held on public roads such as the Isle of Man TT, track racing on purpose-built tracks, also used by motorcar racing, and off-road events are held on paved public roads as well as on gravel, such as the Dakar (this event shares the route with cars and trucks sharing). Speed trials are held over measured distances on flats, usually salt flats, where bikes travel at very high speeds attempting to break personal records and world records. Hill climbs are over short distances up steep hills such as Pikes Peak in Colorado in the USA. What used to be a Europe dominated sport soon caught on, and events have gained popularity all over the world.

Motorcycle Grand Prix.

There are three categories to this sport include Moto GP, Moto 2, and Moto 3. At first, only 500cc two-stroke engines participated, but this was gradually taken over by more massive four-stroke engines, which then became the standard for this category in 2003. In 2007, motors up to 800cc were allowed, and in 2012 this was upped to 1000cc.

Moto 2:

Originally 600cc 4 stroke engines were specified (before this 250cc two-strokes were the norm). Since 2011, only Honda manufactured controlled four strokes were allowed. As of 2019, these Honda motors will be replaced by Triumph engines. Only Dunlop tyres and steel brakes are allowed, but this will change in 2019.

Moto 3:

Since 2012 250cc single cylinder four strokes will be the only engine allowed in this category (with a max bore of 81cc). The ages of the riders are also controlled: up to 25 for first-time riders and 28 for all other riders and the minimum weight for rider and bike is 148kg.

Superbike Racing:

Superbike World Championships started in 1988 and racing is held on surfaced tracks, mostly shared with motorcar racing. All bikes used in the contest are production bikes that have been modified. The Formula One World Championships were scrapped in 1990 as Superbike races took over in popularity. The bikes were Ducati, Honda and Aprilia which had 1000cc engines and these raced against 750 2 cylinder Japanese bikes – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki. In 2003 the 750cc bikes disappeared from the tracks entirely, and motorcycles of between 800cc and 1200cc became the norm.

Ducati dominated superbike racing, and in 2004 organisers made some changes, only allowing Pirelli tyres at the cost of Dunlop and Michelin which were considered the best tyres by the riders. Partly because of this ruling the Motorcycle Manufacturers Association pulled out of the Grand Prix.

Palembang City, MXGP World Championship

Palembang City in South Sumatra had the world’s attention in 2018 during the Asian Games. Then soon afterwards it disappeared again off the world map. However now as recent hosts to the MXGP World Championships, it is back as a loved destination for hosting international sporting events.

Palembang City

Before the Asians Games, many people have never heard about this city at all. Palembang is situated in South Sumatra as the capital city of the province in Indonesia. It is second on the list of highest populated cities in Sumatra. Set on the banks of the lower Musi River, this city is one of the oldest in entire Southeast Asia. When the World Motorcycle Racing Federation decided that Indonesia should be hosting two MXGP series in 2017, the first choice for 2018 was Palembang. This was what the governor decided, so plans were going according to his decision. According to Sadikin Aksa, the Chairman of the Indonesian Motorbike Association.

Unfortunately, Palembang was also hosting the Asian Games then, and the dates were running very close to each other. Hence the MXGP was instead moved to Pangkal Pinang. This year Palembang had to be placed back in the limelight and was the obvious choice for hosting the event. Palembang was also a preferred choice above Pangkal Pinang this year. Due to logistical problems which the organizers experienced in Pangkal Pinang from challenging docking situations in the sea which is rather shallow as well as limited flights.

The Preparations

The immediate pressure when the final decision was made that Palembang would be the hosting city, was to complete a motocross circuit set on international standards. The 1.5-kilometre clay circuit was completed within three weeks with the assistance of Greek technicians. Although shorter than the initially planned 1.9-kilometre track, it was ideally located. Only a short distance from the five stars Wyndham Hotel based in the OPI Mall. The results of this unique track was a very positive response from racers. Some even refer to this track as the best globally.

The Circuit

The location of the circuit was much appreciated for being close to the hotel, and riders didn’t have to hang around at the track for unnecessarily long periods. This allowed racers to finish racing and walk off to take a dip in the hotel’s pool. The track is complimented for the challenges which it brings with different bends and shorter trajectories.

Success for Palembang City

The event has drawn 40 motocrossers from around the globe and as many as 30 000 spectators, although the international viewer count stretched well into the millions. The success with which Palembang City has managed to host this event is applauded internationally. Now the South Sumatra Provincial Government is keen on making Palembang the permanent host for this event in future. Currently, they are waiting on approval of their bid for 2020 and hopefully far beyond.

The Toughest Tracks in a Challenging Sport

In a race of speed and adrenaline, the physical challenge placed on riders is often taken to the next level on individual tracks. Challenging turns and corners give some tracks a name for being notoriously brutal on the rider’s physical and mental capabilities. Let’s take a closer look at some of these famous tracks.

Twin Ring Motegi

This Japan-based ring is considered to be the hardest braking circuit in the world. Brembo, an Italian manufacturer of brakes in the bike industry, invested some time in researching the amount of force that bikers experience when riders are breaking under normal MotoGP circumstances. The average power that they are experiencing varies between 1.1 – 1.2G, and when effects go to about 1.4G, it is considered as an ordinary high maximum deceleration. On Motegi, racers experience these most stringent racing circumstances with excessive and constant pressure on their breaks, even to such a degree that their breaks sometimes get hot red.

Sachsenring

This German track is home to Turn 11 or also known as the Waterfall. The corner is not only blind and situated on a downhill section, but also crazy fast and off-camber. It is often tackled at speeds of up to 300kph. A real challenge to the strength of both man and their machines. An added twist to the troubles delivered by this turn is the fact that it is right-handed which follows right after several left-handed turns.

Circuit of the Americas

Based in the United States this track present riders with a massive elevation. The Laguna Seca is no longer in use by MotoGP, but it used to send drivers up to the Corkscrew which went along with an elevation from a mere 18 metres to 137 metres over the length of the track. This is totalling the height of an entire 11-storey building.

Losail International Circuit

Mugello circuit in Italy used to have the title as the one delivering the fastest speeds in MotoGP when Andrea Iannone reached speeds up to almost 350 kilometres per hour in 2014 on a Ducati. This all changed recently when the Losail International Circuit in Qatar was home to the record speed of 350.5 kilometres per hour. Marc Marquez set the record speed in 2015.

Sepang International Circuit

Last but still worthy of note is this track based in Malaysia. Home to the highest G force ever recorded on a track. Given it was during an accident when Lori Baz had a crash in Sepang during a 2016 pre-season test run. Because when F-16 fighter pilots are up in the air, there are some brief periods during which they experience forces of as much as 9G’s. When Lori Baz’s shoulder hit the deck on this day in 2016, his shoulder did it with an impact of 29.9G. Making Sepang top of the list of highest forces reached. All of these tracks demand courage and nerve to be able to achieve the extraordinary from mere humans and their machines.