Words & photographs: Mikko Nieminen, Motorcycle Sport & Leisure editor
This was a different day of riding in two ways: first of all, it was cloudy with showers forecast. For the first time on the tour I closed the air-vents in my jacket, and as if by a miracle I wasn’t instantly covered in sweat.
The conditions were actually perfect for riding: low 20s, gentle breeze, and the showers no more than a misty spray for a minute at a time – back home you wouldn’t even count it as rain, humidity more like.
The second difference was that I was on my own. Not because of something I’d said, but out of choice. So far our group had ridden together every day, with nobody wanting to do their own thing, but I remembered that in the beginning our tour leader Nigel has suggested that going solo was perfectly fine. So I thought I ought to try it.
It was a bit of a shock to the system to navigate on your own after following someone for over a week, but I was well equipped for the challenge. Motorrad Tours had sent us the routes to upload to our satnavs before the trip, with detailed instructions of how to do it. In addition they had given us route notes – a printed list of every turn you have to take on your travels and all the coffee stops and fuelling options marked too.
These were intended to fit into map holders over the fuel tank (also provided). But I had come with my own secret weapon – a route holder that you can attach to the handlebars, slip the A4 sheet of instructions inside the plastic covers, and then just roll the instructions as you make your progress, so that the next step is always on display.
It’s brilliant! Admittedly, it’s used more by the classic bike guys who don’t have the snazzy satnavs that I had on the GS, but I found the combo perfect for navigating my way around.
Unfortunately, not even the most elaborate preparation can entirely negate human error. So I went wrong. At the first junction. I missed Nigel! But this was all part of the fun, I told myself, got back on the right track and carried on. Disaster averted. Hurrah!
As the day progressed I got better at remembering to keep glancing at the satnav and the route notes every now again. It was actually really fun to be riding on your own – you could decide your own pace, stop when you wanted and take a detour if you saw something you liked. Although I did miss the others when I stopped and there was nobody to chat to.
Today’s ride was fairly short, but perfectly formed. After clearing the coast on the usual straight roads to Caledon, there was a nice twisty section weaving through vineyards and mountains, bringing me back to the coast at Hermanus, the whale-watching and shark cage diving centre of the region. Unfortunately (or luckily) I didn’t have time for either activity, so I just picked up a fluffy whale toy for my boy, had a coffee by the sea, and continued the journey.
The next bit of road was one of the finest of the tour. Hugging the cliff edge, a nice long stretch of tarmac (it was so smooth that you could have played curling on it) zigzagged between the mountains and the ocean.
The road was quiet, which meant that I could let the GS enjoy the ride like its makers had intended it to. Whenever there was a slower vehicle stopping rapid progress you could just pull into one of the many parking areas by the road, take a couple of pictures and then carry on. I could have ridden it back and forth all day, but my stomach was rumbling so I pressed on to Gordon’s Bay for a burger by the sea.
From Gordon’s Bay it was only a short ride to the outskirts of Stellenbosch, where we spent our last night on the road. Well, not exactly on the road. We stayed at a vineyard. I know, not a bad way to get ready for the last day of riding!