Having only a handful of long-distance riding experience under me, it was quite the experience, to ride down to East London with Suzuki SA in support of the Buffalo City Riders bikers meet. What was most notable about this particular rally hosted at Orient Beach was observing the extent to which Suzuki SA was actively involved. Historically, having such a strong brand presence from entities such as Suzuki SA tends to be as frequent as a blue moon.
Early Friday morning, the 21st of October, we departed from Aliwal North and made our journey down to East London with myself on the Boulevard and Chris Kuun (Motorcycle Marketing Suzuki SA) on the GSX-S1000GT. The 350 km trip was a spectacle in its own right. The vast open road, beautiful landscapes to either side and the spontaneous mountain regions boasted a series of corners that both bikes handled with ease. I will say, the overall riding experience on the Boulevard was sublime!
The ‘Bully’ surprised me on the open road by ticking what I think are ideal travel companion boxes. The Boulevard has comfortable ergonomics, in that the low cupped seat, wide bars and cruiser pegs set you up for a relaxed and stretched-out ride whilst keeping you tucked low enough to minimize wind blast. Suzuki’s legendary 1,783cc V-twin motor feels like it was born on the open road, with plenty of torque low down to overtake (without having to tap down on the box) and also plenty of rpm to allow for a decent cruising speed.
A fine masterpiece of Japanese engineering all-round, an absolute head-turner. It sure did make me wonder…what was it about this head-turning smile-initiating cruiser that had the average Joe and Palesa in their feels? Was it this young African dude riding it or the eye-catching black and chrome design or perhaps it runs even deeper?
You see, this event didn’t only bring bikers and biker clubs together, it openly invited the motorbike-loving public. Right from the entrance to the main stage, the ladies came out in their summer wear and the gents walked unsteadily with cooler boxes in hand. A fully diverse crowd, above and beyond the mix of ethnicities.
Soon, the nostalgia hit, I recall a time when I was often met with glittering eyes riding through my hometown of Mamelodi. There is a certain gaze we receive, particularly as African riders in our respective communities which actually stems from that, “I wonder how it must feel to be him or her on an actual motorbike” afterthought.
That right there, that’s the deeper, for many years catching sight of the odd Harley riders group every other weekend, was the main stimulus that gave us Africans’ aspiration to ride motorcycles. At that moment, I realized the sheer wonder of the Boulevard. Particularly why it thrives in the African community. It is now to the African community what the Harley-Davidson has been to the Caucasian community for many decades—a freedom machine.
Additionally, having founded a scooter touring company in Pretoria called Velatswi. That was one of the main objectives I was hellbent on, rewriting the script when it comes to inclusivity and being a gateway for first-time pillions. An element which has staggered the steady growth of the biking industry within African communities is the reality that most start their riding journey right in the deep end—most heading straight into the supersport or superbike class without first steadily climbing the ladder.
A brand as big as Suzuki SA being actively involved in such events shows much-needed solidarity from the top, as they lead and take the initiative most have not. They didn’t only show brand presence but went the extra mile to provide much-needed standby mechanical support. It will be interesting to see the long-term future impact such collaborations have on the biking communities across the nation.
After helping set up the Suzuki tent, all was good to go for the main event on Saturday. From start to finish, the event went according to plan. The weather gods smiled favourably upon us and we had a merry time all-round. Games, challenges and sponsored giveaways from Suzuki were some of the fun activities explored.
Before we journeyed back up to JHB, I had the privilege of going on an exclusive M109R ride with one of the members from the “M109R SA” group Makhenzo and a close friend, Lucky, out to Port Alfred. We travelled approx 130 km from Orient Beach, with ample opportunity to open up the V-Twin of the 1800 VZR Boulevard, leaning ever so comfortably and securely corner to corner. We were served with nothing short of breathtaking views as we took a lunch break by the docking bay.
All in all, aside from all that, I can only describe my time with the Suzuki SA team members, Chris and Doug, as nothing short of wholesome, engaging and all-round informative. I was in a position to learn about the finer mechanics of the brand’s initiatives and missions to reach the motorcycling community as well as their various planned approaches and so much more. It is safe to say, that there most certainly isn’t a nonchalant frame of mind from Suzuki SA.
I would also like to end with a quick word of thanks to ZA Bikers for welcoming me to the team and recognising the need to cultivate growth within this fast-growing market.