Road trip: Taking on a Midnight Trip to Coffee Bay – Day 2 of 5
East London, Drifters Raceway Theme Park and a Ride to Coffee Bay, now riding a 2019 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT).
A day after our long trip from Johannesburg to East London, I was excited to wake up refreshed and energized to take on a brand-new day. We were still on our trip, the second-leg of our maiden, Pride of Africa/Ubuntu Adventure Ride 2019. We were now set to point our adventure bikes in the direction of our final holiday destination, the iconic natural wonder Coffee Bay, which is perfectly located on the Wild Coast, in the Eastern Cape.
I was happy this ride would reunite me with the beautiful Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT. A bike, (wrapped in Honda Racing Colours – HRC) – I was more familiar with out of the two Africa Twin models that were at our disposal. I had become somewhat intimate with it when I used it to tackle a predominantly wet and windy round trip from Johannesburg to Maseru in Lesotho, a mere week earlier!
I was also honoured to have lived with the same DCT bike for about a week, having had the privilege of conquering busy Gauteng traffic on it. Pulling into my office basement parking on it was never the same,
it made me feel like a superhero. If I were Captain America as a superhero, this bike would have represented his super powerful shield, so we can safely say I was on more than a first name basis with it!
Link to a related Lesotho article:
Fun and Games at Drifters Raceway Theme Park
I was pleased to ease into a day with a short ride to Drifters Raceway Theme Park, an outdoor adventure and amusement park in Cambridge Hall, East London. Activities at the theme park include Go-Karting, Paintball, Quad biking and Volleyball. As a group of five comprising of three bikers and two non-bikers, there was no doubt what our priority activity was – Quad-biking! But we found we had to quickly adapt from balancing 2-wheels to manoeuvring and managing the 4-wheelers on very different off-road conditions, namely a wickedly narrow and tantalizingly twisty track, nestled in a forest of vegetation, complete with sharp inclines, surprise descents and overhanging branches.
A few hours later after enjoying a whole-hearted lunch on the venue’s sundeck and refuelling our bikes and the Isuzu mu-X at a nearby filling station, we conducted final pre-trip inspections on all our vehicles, said a short pre-trip prayer for Godspeed before departing from East London.
Fun and Games at Drifters Raceway Theme Park
Coast to Coast Ride from East London to Coffee Bay
Now, we were all set and ready for what was going to be an afternoon trip between East London and Coffee Bay. We were running late, and it may not have been the best idea to leave at the time we did, given it was going to be about a 300km ride through curvy mountain roads. Eastern Cape drivers are known to be notoriously unsafe, and December excitement hung so heavily in the air you could kiss it. In as much as I was excited about the ride, I must be honest I did have some concerns about road safety at the back of my mind!
With my gluteus firmly planted onto my bike saddle, it was time to set the wheels in motion. On the fly I was soon reminded of how the Honda Africa Twin DCT breathes confidence to the rider, it is quite capable on and off road, yet it is so nimble as an adventure bike. I think this bike is going to ruin me for manual bikes, I had already gotten used to not shifting any gears with my left foot. In car terms I would compare the functionalities of the DTC gearbox to that of a DSG gearbox with paddle shifters. The world is moving away from manual cars, so why not also move away from manual bikes?
It’s awesome to see, the Honda Africa Twin DCT is an automated clutch and shift operation system that retains the direct acceleration feel of a manual transmission with the ease of use of an automatic. The DCT functionality allows the rider to focus on accelerating, turning and braking, rather than gear shifting. This increases confidence and control for the rider. It must be noted on Manual mode, DCT gear shifts are at the rider’s command like on a manual gearbox, the bike will stay in the gear that has been selected without being invasive to the rider.
To no surprise I am aware there is a big concern from adventure bike riders about the DTC gearbox. For example, on small slow technical stuff where you use the clutch to feather the bike to keep your balance, or to go around obstacles or corners, and to get over rocks. With the DCT gearbox you can’t stall the bike which is beautiful. You don’t have to worry about clutch control, since there isn’t one to worry about to begin with, this bike in its execution even off-road gives you that point and shoot attitude.
Vroom! Taking on the scenic N2
We rode the first section of our trip to Coffee Bay between East London and Qunu mostly in daylight, enjoying the picturesque route from Butterworth, through Idutywa towards Jojweni. The route was mountainous, had twists and bends, very steep inclines and declines, just about everything a biker would want in a ride! Negotiating these twists and bends on my Africa Twin DCT was a flawless blast. Having cut my teeth in a somewhat similar road geometry in Lesotho a week prior, I couldn’t have asked for a better follow up route to test the DTC’s pulsating energy once again. We were careful and mindful of safety hazards etc, as the route crosses homesteads.
The handle bar position and steering feel of the Africa Twin is impressive. It gives the rider so much poise, making you realize that with good road tyres you can get away with throwing it around into corners as if you are riding a motard.
Riding the last 75km section between the N2 Off Ramp (near Jojweni) and Coffee Bay as it grew darker, on a mysterious road called “Main Street” on Google Maps is what I would call, a ride from the underworld!!
Firstly, the fuel gauge of my Honda Africa Twin was nearing reserve tank, it didn’t help much that the only local fuel station in the area was already on evening shutdown by the time we arrived there. Secondly, we were unaware of what type of riding conditions lay ahead of us, but soon discovered they would include pitch-black darkness, gushing winds and insane potholes. When I say insane, I mean there were more potholes than tarmac and each pothole seemed to have its own unpleasant character. Most could have effortlessly swallowed the 7-seater Isuzu mu-X whole, while others were the equivalent of diminutive craters. For all I know, all of them could have had a set of razor-sharp teeth and all of them lay there, gaping wide, ready to chew us up if we made the slightest mistake.
It didn’t help that as we neared the coastline, the wind rushed to envelope us in a bear hug not too unlike the one you get from your very drunk, very large uncle, but without the warmth of his cuddle. It was as though the wind was in combat with the potholes to see which would wrangle us off our bikes first. In a nutshell – it wasn’t our most gracious ride.
From my observations as an up-and-coming road engineer, I would say about 45% of a usable roadway or surface was missing. I have never seen pothole damage quite like this on any road before. To keep ourselves safe from the above abnormalities, at some stage we had to reduce our riding speeds to below 30km/h. It took us more than two and a half hours to travel between Jojweni and Coffee Bay. It was one of the most terrifying, exasperating rides I have ever been on and I don’t scare easily.
As the driver of our support Isuzu vehicle, my fellow rider and I inelegantly darted between potholes, hungrily seeking leftovers of asphalt to ride on; I reflected on the decisions I had made which had led me to this point in life. Apart from leaving earlier so that we could ride the entire journey in broad daylight I firmly believed that this was still pretty much worth it for me.
I wouldn’t recommend repeating riding after dark though. Let’s just say my friends and I made that foolish mistake for the sole purpose of you not having to follow suit. That said, daylight riding along the same road posed a different bundle of problems which none of us could have anticipated, (I’ll tell you all about that on Day 5) the trip was still pretty much worth it for me.
Our annual Ubuntu Adventure Ride Leg 2, Day 2 concluded with us happily seated around the dining room table of our holiday accommodation – Eagle’s Nest Backpackers Lodge. It had been a roller-coaster of a trip I must confess! Thankfully, we were safely in one piece even though utterly shattered from exhaustion; but as you know, one is never too tired to reward oneself with 1 (or 2) commemorative stiff drinks before calling it a night. The groups’ love and comradery returned as all frustrations had been instinctively forgiven.
Mostly everything I had been told and had read about the Honda AfricaTwin DCT held up well against every test that had been thrown at it. The two Honda Africa Twin bikes and the Isuzu mu-X SUV support vehicle had been put through yet another test, they all proved to be consistent long-distance travel partners once again.
Another related article:
For more about Coffee Bay, click here http://coffeebay.co.za/
For more about Hole in the Wall, click here https://reservations.holeinthewall.co.za
For more about Eagles Nest Backpackers Lodge Coffee Bay, click here https://booking.com
|God first, village boy originally from KwaZulu Natal, a senior road designer/engineer by craft, Chairman of South Africa Road Federation Northern Region (SARF), director at Bikers Social Responsibility Foundation NPO, biker for over 25 years, bike enthusiast, and contributor at Bike Talk SA.|