The best selling motorcycle magazine in Africa.

Three Baggers on the Paradise Rally - Click on your required items

Three Baggers on the Paradise Rally

Suzuki Intruder, HD Street Glide Special and a Victory Cross Country

The Paradise Rally is taking place once again in the mecca of all motorcycling, the town of Sabie in the province of Mpumalanga. With less than a month to go, we wish to remind everyone of the joys of riding in paradise, so herewith Howie Zowie’s story of paradise from 2016 when he decided to go the bagger route:

For many months I had my eye on the Suzuki Intruder. It looked like the perfect perch for my mrs and me for the Paradise Rally 2016. So I called the ever obliging Yvonne Fourie at Suzuki and booked the C1500T for the first weekend in June. I was looking forward to some genteel Slowveld cruising.

And then things got better. I had a call from Cara Fowler who manages the HD demo fleet. She had a variety of 2016 bikes on offer and logically I chose a bagger, the sleek and sultry HD Street Glide Special, because it was the same genre as the Intruder.

I’m sure that good things happen in threes because short before long I was on the phone with Melane Osher from Victory and a crimson Cross Country was added to the list of most excellent machines that would be striking out from Sabie over the course of the weekend. There was no shortage of takers for the demo bikes. Jamie and Rich made up the squad of three.

As grown men do, we started counting sleeps to the Paradise and it was a happy crew of a dozen Cuzzins (our fearless biker gang) that met at the Ogies Petroport on the N12 on a crisp autumn morning. We had a 1000km weekend ahead of us in some of the best riding country on the planet and with the added bonus of another Paradise Rally as our destination. We rode at 10:30 and with approximately 300km to Sabie we could afford to take it easy. Jamie was riding the Street Glide and Rich was on the Cross Country. We rode three abreast at an effortless 150km/h, kings of the road as we exchanged broad smiles and thumbs up. The stinging R53.00 Middelburg toll plaza was not on our list of beneficiaries for the day so we rumbled gently through the left hand lane and continued on our merry way eastwards. There was a sharp drop in temperature as we rode into the eastern highlands, a land of rolling hills and shimmering trout dams. Past Belfast and Machadodorp was more easy riding on virtually straight roads but there was a lot of traffic and we had to have our wits about us.

On the road to Kaapschehoop. Jamie, Rich, June and three big baggers. Adventure awaits.

On the road to Kaapschehoop. Jamie, Rich, June and three big baggers. Adventure awaits.

Machadodorp is the most expensive toll gate in the country – R78.00 believe it or not. I fail to comprehend why despite many representations over the years SANRAL still thinks it’s logical and justifiable that the fee for a motorcycle should be the same as the fee for a taxi transporting 18 people and towing a luggage trailer or an SUV towing a caravan. But that’s fine. It’s unjust and I consider it my civic duty to combat injustice by unapologetically declining to contribute. That’s just the way it is.

A few clicks past the toll gate the road splits. To the right the N4 continues and follows the valley of the Elands River down to the Sappi Mill at Ngodwana. To the left is the far more interesting ride on the R36 through the valley of the Crocodile River and over Crossroads Pass, De Beers Nek, and Patata Nek before arriving at the western end of Schoemanspoort. Collectively this spectacular 60km road is known as Schoemanskloof, a fertile land of citrus orchards and subtropical fruits. The road surface is in excellent condition and the corners are mainly long sweepers with some tight little sections to keep you alert. Unfortunately, instead of sticking to the N4, many heavy vehicles use Schoemanskloof which was never designed for 18 wheelers. There are very few overtaking places and trucks create mobile chicanes as they hold back strings of a dozen cars. But as always it’s great to be on a bike because you can blitz the queue in one smooth, swift passing manoeuvre and howl along the deserted road ahead of the lumbering truck.

At the T junction with the N4 we turned right and rode 15km to Ngodwana and then bolted up the sinuous mountain road to Kaapschehoop. There are any places to eat in the hamlet which is famous for its wild horses. Our choice was Salvador because it’s cheap and cheerful and serves tremendous burgers. After lunch we powered back down the mountain, turned right on the N4, took the R539 towards Sudwala Caves and then followed the fist magical Lowveld roads of the weekend over the mountains to Rosehaugh and Hendriksdal and then down the lower reaches of Long Tom Pass and into Sabie. It had been a great day in the saddle. Perfect weather, great roads, excellent bikes, good companions and, best of all, incident free.

Victory Cross Country. Striking presence due to its crimson paint scheme and imposing dimensions.

2015 was the first year in which Floreat Riverside Lodge in Sabie was the Paradise Rally HQ. The Lodge is a perfect rally venue which sprawls over many hectares on the banks of the Sabie River. There are spacious chalets for blokes like me who think that roughing it means no room service. And there are lovely lawns and shady trees for those who like to camp. There’s a variety of restaurants on the site and plenty of room for the usual rally fodder merchants who keep the wolf from the door. On Friday night we caroused until late because Saturday was going to be a leisurely day of touring some of the legendary Lowveld roads.

On Saturday morning we rode at 10:30 and took the magical R537 that winds through the mountains to White River. This is one of my favourite roads and I was looking forward to some high speed cruising on the Intruder. Baggers are big business in the United States. There’s a certain allure to a big V twin with luggage, an invitation to ride a road to an unknown destination and to find adventure along the way. But big V twins are expensive and freedom isn’t cheap. Hang on a second. The Intruder C1500T retails for R155,000 (approx. $11,500). In these days when so many bikes cost upwards of R200K the Intruder is genuine value for money. The motor is an under-stressed 1462cc liquid cooled SOHC 54° V twin which transfers power to the rear wheel through a five speed gearbox and a maintenance free shaft drive. The radiator is located unobtrusively between the down tubes of the frame and many bikers are deceived into thinking that it’s a classic air cooled engine. The C1500T is the blackest bike I have ever ridden. Wheels, engine, stacked starboard exhausts, bodywork, luggage – all black. The monochromatic colour scheme is a perfect foil for the bike’s long low swooping styling. Overall length is 2570mm and the seat height is just 720mm. The Intruder is one of the more comfortable cruisers I have ridden. The separate rider and pillion seats are broad and flat, the metre wide handlebars are pulled back to enable an upright sitting position, the enormous clear screen provides excellent weather protection and the non detachable luggage is adequate but not great. Best of all, from a pillion perspective, the Intruder was fitted with a backrest and luggage rack. A simple back rest gives your pillion a huge confidence boost and we used the little luggage rack to tote an extra bag with warm kit in case we needed it. At low revs I found the engine performance disappointing. There’s not enough torque to lug along at low revs. To avoid jerk and snatch in the drive train I soon adapted to keeping the mill spinning in its happy rev range though I can’t tell you what that range might be because the Suzuki doesn’t have a rev counter. Once you recalibrate your riding style this isn’t a big deal but I suppose I just expected more low down grunt from a hefty V twin. In fifth gear the Intruder will cruise comfortably all day long at 150km/h, will easily maintain 170km/h and will hit 180km/h on a flat road. Full of fuel the Intruder weighs 363kg and when you add rider, pillion and luggage the rolling mass is well over 500kg. Handling is reasonable for a bike of this size and mass. Fast corners with surface irregularities will induce the frame to flex and the bike to wallow a bit but it’s not alarming. What is good fun is the ability to ground the floor boards in tight corners and if your vrou is like mine this means that you suffer a good few punches in the kidneys. But it’s worth it. There’s only a single brake disc up front and to stop half a ton I quickly got used to using front and back brake together. There’s also no ABS, traction control or, for that matter, any electronic rider aids. The Intruder is an old school bare knuckle fighting machine. What you see is what you get, an honest value for money motorcycle.

HZ in manly pose on the Suzuki Intruder.

HZ in manly pose on the Suzuki Intruder.

On the road from White River to Hazyview I took the Harley Davidson Street Glide Special. What I have written is a synthesis of Jamie’s impressions and mine. My vrou opted to stay on the Suzuki because she was put off by the size and slope of the HD’s pillion perch and the lack of a back rest. Fair enough. In my view the Street Glide is designed for the Lone Ranger, the Ace Pilot, the Pat Malone who isn’t gonna set out on a long ride with a babe on the back but who wants to be able to give a filly a ride if he gets lucky along the way. I’m afraid that if you ride a Glide you will find that you are a babe magnet for the simple reason that this is a outrageously beautiful bike, a symphony in gloss black and chrome. From the sculpted front wheel through the batwing fairing to the fuel tank which arcs above the magnificent 103 cubic inch chromed motor and on through the fat bottomed rear end with the streamlined luggage which hangs above the fat chromed exhausts this is a eye catching machine. The downside is that you won’t only pull the chicks you’ll also pull dodgy old coots who want to tell you about their uncle who rode a HD in 19 voertsek. The Glide has keyless ignition. The fob that you keep in your pocket is your remote. Of course when we swapped bikes Jamie rode off with the fob in his pocket and I was stranded at the side of the road with a lifeless machine. Fortunately Jamie twigged why I didn’t appear in his mirrors and turned back after a few kilometres. Turn on the ignition and the HD goes through its impressive start up routine. The 6.5 inch touchscreen infotainment system comes to life with the appearance of a fiery orange HD shield and bar logo which fades into the home screen. Music blasts from the BOOM Box sound system and it’s time to hit the road. Punch the starter button and the twin cam 1690cc mill bursts into life with the characteristic HD thunder and vibration that confirms what you already know – you’re on a serious piece of iron. The Special is littered with electronics including the ABS linked Brembo braking system, cruise control, GPS and USB. Besides the infotainment system the cockpit is home to 5.25 inch speakers which flank the usual array of HD analogue dials – fuel, speedo, rev counter, volt meter. It’s a classy cockpit. Boot into first and the HD gets going with a surge of power. Lovely low down torque propels you through the creamy six speed gear box and the open road beckons. The Street Glide will cruise all day long at speeds in excess of 160km/h with the mill throbbing gently between 4000 and 5000rpm. At these speeds the bike is supremely comfortable thanks to excellent weather protection from the batwing fairing and the slot just beneath the minimalist windshield which effectively eliminates any buffeting around your helmet. Handling and braking are confidence inspiring and on the high speed winding roads of Mpumalanga it was in its natural habitat. The Street Glide Special is a most refined and civilised machine. It’s a bike that will trivialise 1000km days and will be the envy of bikers and civilians alike. Back to reality… it is priced at R319000 (approx. $24,000).  Yikes!

Jamie looking good on the Harley Davidson Street Glide Special.

Jamie looking good on the Harley Davidson Street Glide Special.

On weekends like the Paradise Rally I pause to consider just how fortunate I am to have access to the many demo bikes I am privileged to ride. In Hazyview I stepped off a R300K HD and onto a R300K Victory (Ed note: sadly, the Victory brand went out of production in 2017, but thankfully this was to put more effort into the Indian range, which is like Victory but better). The Cross Country is one of a number of baggers in the Victory stable, the others being the 8 Ball, Magnum and Magnum Stealth – like I said before – baggers are big business. The bike we rode was unmissable thanks to its lustrous crimson paint work – a colour that Victory name Havasu Red. I googled Havasu and found that Lake Havasu is a dam in Arizona on the Colorado River. I don’t get the allusion so if you do please let me know. Wherever we rode the Cross Country stood out due to its colour but also because of its imposing and muscular presence. The heart of the bike is the magnificent 106 cubic inch, that’s 1731cc, Freedom 50° V twin, SOHC 4 valves per cylinder, air cooled engine which delivers a whopping 144Nm of torque, the kind of torque you feel in your broek and which translates into fewer gear changes out on the road. If you spend time on the Victory website www.victorymotorcycles.com you’ll certainly notice as I did that there’s a strong focus on Victory power and performance. A number of home page pictures, including the Cross Country home page, feature a photo of the motorcycle doing a burnout with smoke pouring from the rear tyre. You’ll never find a smoking tyre in a HD spec sheet. On the road the Victory translates cubic inches into sparkling performance. The bike accelerates with gusto and thrives on being revved to the 5000rpm redline. Full throttle gear changes are smooth and positive and 180km/h comes up swiftly enough to surprise you. Handling is impeccable for a bike as big as the Cross Country. It’s 200mm longer than the Suzuki and the Harley but riding at speed to Graskop over Kowyn’s Pass the Victory handled the uneven corners with grace and pace. One oddity about the bike we rode was that it was fitted with forward crash bars which extended beyond the hinged rider’s floorboards. In other words the first item to hit the road in really exuberant cornering would be a rigid crashbar and that’s not good. Having said that the ground clearance of the Cross Country is remarkably good and none of us came close to decking the crashbars. Comfort is a given on a big bagger. Roomy dimensions translate into easy long distance riding and voluminous lockable luggage is more than adequate to accommodate all the kit you need for a weekend on the road. The wide handlebar mounted fairing effectively shields the rider’s torso from the weather and is home to a feature rich cockpit that includes four analogue gauges – fuel, speedo, rev counter and volt meter – idiot lights, a digital readout panel and sound system. In summary, the Victory Cross Country is a worthy contender in a very competitive market segment and will appeal to riders who want something out of the ordinary.

Rich styling on the Victory Cross Country.

Rich styling on the Victory Cross Country.

In Graskop, the home of many previous Paradises, there was an ebb and flow of bikes in the street outside the Riders’ Rest Bar. Happy groups of bikers sipped their beers on the pavement while they enjoyed the warm Lowveld afternoon sunshine. Shannon, the owner of the bar, was in good spirits thanks to the spike in business brought about by the Paradise Rally. I really like Shannon’s bar and as I’ve written before I reckon it’s the best biker bar in Mpumalanga – klaar. Pull in. You’ll be glad.

From Graskop we rode over the mountain to Pilgrim’s Rest where we settled into The Stables for a late pancake lunch. As you probably know some years ago Pilgrim’s Rest was nearly destroyed as a tourist destination when the Mpumalanga government arbitrarily decided to allocate rented properties to cronies. Overnight businesses that had flourished for years and had provided employment for many local people were forced to close. Fortunately the courts overturned the stupidity and Pilgrim’s Rest has struggled back to a semblance of viability. Leona, who owns The Stables, is optimistic about the future and grateful for the revenue that the Paradise injects into the town. As the shadows lengthened we rode back over the mountain and then followed the magical winding road home to Sabie. That night was another big opskop (like a party but with more debauchery) in the hall but June and I were in bed early so that we were well rested for the short trek home on Sunday morning.

We rode at 09:00 so that the mist on Long Tom had time to disperse. From Lydenburg to Dullstroom was a quick dash and we ate a late breakfast at our favourite Dullstroom restaurant The Rose Cottage. We stopped in Belfast for a swift beer at the Pig and Pickle and then blitzed the N4 back to Joburg to be in time for MotoGP at Die Kneipe in Kensington. The cherry on top of a fantastic weekend was Valentino Rossi winning the Grand Prix de Catalunya in convincing fashion. What a splendid weekend. Yet another brilliant Paradise Rally. Three magnificent bikes. Perfect weather. Good mates. Life is good.

Dozen Cuzzins. Our fearless scooter gang has been going for 20 years. 1996 to 2016. Back - Terence, Markham, Lori, Witkop, Gavin, Robert Front - Gavin, Jamie, Mikely, Howard, Ricky, Charley.

Dozen Cuzzins. Our fearless scooter gang has been going for 20 years. 1996 to 2016.
Back – Terence, Markham, Lori, Witkop, Gavin, Robert. Front – Gavin, Jamie, Mikely, Howard, Ricky, Charley.

 

Suzuki C1500T Intruder is the blackest bike I have ridden. Handsome value for money machine.

Suzuki C1500T Intruder is the blackest bike I have ridden. Handsome value for money machine.

 

Late lunch at The Stables in Pilgrim’s Rest. Leona makes a mean curried springbok pancake.

Late lunch at The Stables in Pilgrim’s Rest. Leona makes a mean curried springbok pancake.

 

Marcus and Anita on their Intruder. They’ve had it for a year and love it. Note the humungous after market screen.

Marcus and Anita on their Intruder. They’ve had it for a year and love it. Note the humungous after market screen.

 

The Street Glide Special can accommodate a pillion but it’s really a bike for an Ace Pilot heading for a far horizon.

The Street Glide Special can accommodate a pillion but it’s really a bike for an Ace Pilot heading for a far horizon.

 

Street Glide. 103 cubic inch twin cam air cooled 45° V twin.

Street Glide. 103 cubic inch twin cam air cooled 45° V twin.

 

Suzuki Intruder. 1462cc liquid cooled SOHC 54° V twin.

Suzuki Intruder. 1462cc liquid cooled SOHC 54° V twin.

 

Victory Freedom engine. 106 cubic inches, SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, air cooled 50° V twin.

Victory Freedom engine. 106 cubic inches, SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, air cooled 50° V twin.

 

The Intruder’s old school tank mounted instruments are bare bones functional.

The Intruder’s old school tank mounted instruments are bare bones functional.

 

Cross Country cockpit provides all the information required for a confident day on the road.

Cross Country cockpit provides all the information required for a confident day on the road.

 

Street Glide cockpit is littered with electronics and dominated by the 6.5 inch display.

Street Glide cockpit is littered with electronics and dominated by the 6.5 inch display.

 

Related Posts