I rolled onto the freeway in Pretoria at 5.30 AM with the mercury at 4 Degrees C. Gqeberha a distant 1140 k’s away, seemed awfully far given that I was on TVS’s flagship, the Apache 310RR. Don’t get me wrong, this little motorcycle has some serious credentials, including a 24-hour Indian endurance record. I told you about that in my lead-up to this story, but I have been reflecting on that record.
The 24-hour Motorcycle record for individuals was set recently by Ivan Cervantes, riding a Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer with 4012 k’s covered in 24 hours. Granted, that was by one rider however it was on a 1200cc motorcycle with a 30-litre tank. TVS set their 24-hr record with 3x 310 RRs running simultaneously for an incredible 3657,92 k’s, only 354 k’s less than the mighty Triumph. The 310 RR has an 11-litre tank which required topping up every hour. The Triumph could make way fewer stops for fuel which helped the average speed hugely. Averaging 153 k’s an hour meant that the little RRs were literally flat out for 24 hours, testimony to their design, overall quality, and astounding reliability.
I was riding on the road, and although not planning to thrash the RR mercilessly, I also did not want to take forever to get to Gqeberha. I decided to hold the bike to 8,000 rpm, just above the peak torque developed at 7,700 rpm. This would hopefully translate into decent hill-climbing ability and decent fuel economy. 8,000 rpm translates to an indicated 130 km/h which should keep me safe from the law. Just.
The 11-litre tank would mean filling up every 200 k’s or thereabouts. Five fuel stops in all. My plan was to splash ‘n dash, literally stand for some respite from the riding position then get going as quickly as possible. I ate a decent cereal and banana breakfast which had to see me through to PE.
Only past Jo’burg’s early traffic could I settle to a steady pace. It was getting progressively colder. The TVS’s motor was running at 69,5 degrees C, almost 20 degrees below normal operating temperature. I pulled into the One Stop beyond Parys to fill up and check my consumption and decided to have a coffee to try and warm up and allow the sun to start warming the planet somewhat. For some inexplicable reason, the first light is always the most frigid. The TVS sports fantastic lights which had cut a swathe through the darkness.
The hot coffee did the trick, and I was a happier chap running past Kroonstad. Fuel consumption seemed consistent at 24 km/L, so 200 k’s per tank was achievable with some reserve. I was using a mechanical cruise control which holds the throttle open at a constant setting. I would set it to 125 km/h on the flats, assist it on the uphill and allow it to run away on the downhills. This gave my right-hand plenty of opportunity to rest.
The kilometres melted away as the little TVS strutted its stuff. I was amazed by the seat comfort. What looks like a race bike pad is a sort of memory foam which proved to be incredibly comfortable and supportive. Despite my 6’3” frame I never felt any leg discomfort for the duration of the ride. The RR is amazingly roomy for a smallish motorcycle. The clip-on bars are high enough and close enough to keep your torso in a gentle crouch. The screen deflects wind from your body to about mid-chest height, allowing your helmet to be in clean air. As fatigue set in towards the end of the ride, my neck could feel the effect of holding my head up for hours on end. For the rest, I was surprisingly fresh.
Topping up in a now much warmer Colesburg, I was getting my long-distance Mojo back. There were a bunch of guys on big BMWs with a backup vehicle carrying their kit. I chuckled as I swung my leg over my minimalistic RR with a tiny tail pack with all my gear and headed south. Soft boys!!
Filling up in Cradock I was looking forward to the best part of the ride. Bring on the mountains! With its superb chassis and suspension and Michelin tyres, the RR is as good a handling bike as you could wish to ride. For those who have travelled this route will know, it is littered with countless trucks carrying cargo to and from the port of Gqeberha. Cars can get stuck for tens of k’s behind a convoy of trucks. Not so my plucky Apache. Tucked in and now enjoying the mountain roads, the 310 blitzed slower traffic. Cars that had passed me at speed were re-passed and never seen again as the RR strafed the bends. 60 km/h posted suggested limits were a doddle at 120+.
Eleven and a half hours after leaving Pretoria I rolled into PE having averaged a very respectable 108 km/h and better than 24 km/L. A great evening relaxing with family over a great dinner and a few glasses of decent red soon got rid of any residual aches and pains, and a good night’s rest had me fresh and ready to spectate the incredible event that had precipitated my trip.
Row for rhinos. A lady by the name of Sharon Jessup has taken the plight of the rhino to heart and made it her life’s work to make a difference. She is an endurance athlete of note, completing a Guinness Book Record for the most consecutive half marathons by a female, running 102 consecutive half marathons. She has run through every rhino-bearing game reserve in the country to draw attention to the threat to these iconic animals.
The ‘Rowathon’ was another Guinness record attempt. Teams would attempt to row for 24 hours and set a new record. The attempt was staged at the recently revamped Boardwalk Shopping Mall, starting at 3 PM on Friday and rowing until 3 PM on Saturday. My daughter Jenny was partnering with a Grey College rowing club member.
The format was to row for 30 minutes then rest for 30, for 24 hours non-stop. Sleep deprivation took a huge toll on the athletes, especially the Grey boys who, despite their athletic prowess were not used to the long-sustained effort. The ladies seemed to fare better. The sessions seemed to blur into a never-ending flurry of row, eat, drink, and try and rest aching bodies for mere minutes before doing it all over again.
I had a chat with a ranger, Eric Singqoto, who was collecting donations from passers-by and spectators. He is a seven times Comrades finisher and accompanied Sharon on her game park runs, carrying his rifle for ‘just in case’. “So, what motivated you to become a game ranger, Eric”, I asked. “Dave, I was in the SAPS, and having grown up in a village in the countryside I love the outdoors. As a Christian, God laid on my heart that we were given dominion over the animals, and I asked myself what were we doing with what God has entrusted us. I resigned and joined Wildlife Conservation because I thought I could make a difference”.
Wow! I found myself almost choking up at the heart of this humble and committed man who sacrifices so much for the animals that he loves. We need more Erics, that’s for sure! He tells me that so much poaching is still ‘inside jobs’. Poor people are swayed by the lure of money. Money is certainly the root of all evil! So much crime is a direct result of the dire economic state in SA exacerbated by rampant ruling party corruption.
At 10 PM I left the Mall to catch some shut-eye. My heart went out to the athletes labouring on for hour after hour. I was back at sunrise to try and encourage where I could. Despite aching bodies, spirits were high. By 19 hours into the attempt the previous record was already broken, now they just had to endure until 24 hours for the job to be done.
And so, it was! It was a bunch of exhausted but elated rowers that gave high-fives all around. Teams had rowed the equivalent of around 250 k’s in their 24-hr effort. Donations in favour of rhino conservation can still be made in the wake of this event up until the 11th of August [Donate Here]. Thinking of Eric’s commitment, and the efforts of these athletes, it seems just too easy to throw a few rands for the cause. What we desperately need is big corporate funding and feet on the ground. People like Sharon Jessup and Eric Singqoto, will not only give money but give of their time to make a difference. Rhinos are part of our national heritage and treasures that we cannot allow to be lost. If rhinos go extinct, what will be next? Lion parts for muti? God alone knows…
After a chilled evening, especially for Jen who was really walking wounded after her heroic ordeal, it was early to bed. Jen’s endurance event was over, but the second half of mine was still to come. I was up early and after a quick coffee I was packed and on the road by 6.45 AM. I rode out into a beautiful sunrise with red-tinged clouds scattered over a calm sea. It was a balmy 13 degrees C, a huge difference from the 4 degrees out of Pretoria a few days earlier.
I was able to dispense with a lot of layers so I was way more comfortable on the bike. I knew it would get colder towards Cradock but first I had the Olifantshoek Pass to enjoy. The TVS, gulping the dense coastal air and now properly loose from the open road miles, was running like a long dog. The 18% power gain at sea level for normally aspirated motors is really evident on a small-capacity motor. The pass was infested with trucks returning from having disgorged their loads at the port. No sweat for the RR. It goes through corners faster than the ANC through taxpayers’ money. Trucks were mere mobile chicanes for the flying Apache. On and up we went, revelling in perfect riding conditions.
Riding a smaller-capacity bike fast is incredibly rewarding. You cannot be sloppy. You stay in tune with the motor all the time. The light and responsive handling helps you make the most of every bit of power. Running at and around the torque peak meant that only on the odd occasion was it necessary to drop to 5th gear to accelerate or maintain decent momentum. It is almost like riding two strokes back in the day. You need to be focused on where the motor is in its happy zone and then engage with the bike to keep it there. The RR has enough midrange to stay in top gear when accelerating from 80 km/h up to cruising speed. Once in top gear, it runs uphill and down dale with gusto. I was amazed by the overall comfort given the tidy dimensions of the bike. It was literally only my neck that got fatigued over time.
Ten hours later I rolled up to my front gate. The average speed for the up trip was 113 km/h and fuel consumption was still an excellent 23 km/L. I was blown away by the TVS Apache 310RR. Checking the oil level showed that despite running hard for 2,300 kilometres the RR used no oil whatsoever. Even the chain lube lasted for the duration. For giggles, I popped into Wayne Pheiffer Cycles in PE. A BMC Roadmachine racing bicycle will set you back the princely sum of R134,599. The TVS Apache 310 RR can be had for a mere R79,999. I certainly know which one I would rather ride. Gives one some perspective of relative value, doesn’t it? Huge thanks to TVS for entrusting me with your spectacular Apache 310 RR. It can wear its 24-hr record with pride!
TVS Apache 310RR
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