Motorcycle diaries: In the slipstream of the Tour de France
There’s another way to see the world. It’s fast, focused and all about freedom ... and more fun in the Pyrenees
Once or twice a year, a group of friends and I get together to do a motorcycle tour. Usually these trips are in southern Africa and feature some dusty, wild, off-road riding. Occasionally though, we venture abroad – from the far-flung bucket-list destinations of bike devotees such as Route 66 in the US, to hallowed riding haunts like Scotland and the Isle of Man. Most recently we added Spain and France, through the picturesque Pyrenees mountain range, to the list. Devout walkers do the Camino de Santiago across the corners of Europe, but this is our pilgrimage.
Our bike group is diverse – we all come from different backgrounds in the UK, SA and Australia. Five of the South Africans immigrated from England and Scotland in the late 1970s and have been firm friends for almost 40 years. We “outsiders” have known the group for a couple of decades. We’re bound by our love of motorcycles, the freedom of open roads, and sandy tracks. We’re a brotherhood – even with our own low-key wave, which is simply a drop of the left hand.
When we talk about it, we realise that it was our longing for independence and freedom in our teenage years that sparked this love. Without fail, we all rode 50cc motorcycles in our youth. Remember the Yamaha DT, RZ 50, the Honda MT and MBX 50cc? Ours was not an unusual story. All across the country, similar scenes were playing out. On weekend nights we’d congregate at central points, sending out scouts to find out where the parties were. They’d report back to the group and we gangs of adolescent bikers would head for the action...