The Franskraal Tour
Bike SA|February 2021
Much selling and buying of motorbikes happened in the Yell household over Christmas. It was with great sadness that I finally decided to sell Sir Galahad (my 30-year old Honda Africa Twin XRV750) and buy a half share in a bike more suitable for Annette to ride as well. We’d been talking to her ex editor’s husband, De Wet, about the possibility of buying his tricked-out 2008 Suzuki DR650 for some time, and struck the deal as soon as Sir Galahad was sold.
Nick Yell

So I was hoping to bring you the “Blouperd Shakedown tour” this month, but en route to have the bike serviced at Grabouw Suzuki, we learned that owner Louis had come down with the dreaded Corona virus. Thankfully he’s okay now, and I’ll hopefully be able to bring you my first impressions of this gritty old stalwart (with many extras such as a pumper carb, long range tank and Two Brothers racing exhaust etc.) in the March issue. But setting off on Yeeha!, my faithful and well-travelled KLR650 of 14 years, is certainly no hardship; especially with Annette following in the little Pajero. It was, of course, a compromise as we’d planned to ride together after a long hiatus; yet, as I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, there are no plans this coronavirus can’t stuff up royally.

What it did mean, though, was we could find many a pretty spot under the bluegums, sit on comfy camp chairs, drink coffee and become naturally numb whenever we felt like it.

It was in 2001 — when I moved from Johannesburg to Napier — that I first got back into off-road riding. At that stage I’d been about 15-years out of the saddle, but the abundance of vermicelli-like dirt tracks around my new home called to me daily and were also well suited to a nonroad licensed dirt tracker like I was at the time. I soon found Jonny’s bike shop in Bredasdorp and there stood a revamped old Suzuki PE250 (Geelperd) with my name on it.

As the PE prefix implies, the PE is a ‘Pure Enduro’ machine, and although many folks had them made road legal back in the day, mine was not fitted with any of those encumbrances. So if I wanted to avoid fines, I needed to stick to the hundreds of kilometres of dirt tracks running through the rolling-hilled farmlands of the Overberg, and I got to know them well.

I plan to revisit a number of these old favourites on the KLR today. As we pull off the N2 at Dassiesfontein to embark on the scenic back route to Caledon, I remember the raging powerband of the old two-stroke PE250 which threw you back in the seat at about 4,000 rpm, and the comparatively calm and steady thump-along of the KLR feels very tame.

Yet, twenty-years on, I’m more than happy to just trundle meditatively along and embrace the crisp country air, the earthy smells, the birds, the shaggy crowns of imposing bluegums rustling in the breeze, and the odd wild animal that crosses my path. And with Covid a fact of life for the next year or so, there’s never been a better time to get out there and just be.

I’d asked the Bearded One (aka Iain Buchholz, the Laird of Tesselaarsdal) to join me on his Triumph 900 Scrambler — I mean we were going right past his turn-off, I told him — but he was once again engaged with some farm maintenance chore or other. So on we went, braving the ball-bearing gravel that’s so prevalent on the section between Caledon and Van Brakel’s Stoor; me wishing I’d changed my worn front tyre for a new one, yet grateful for the superb traction still offered by my Moto-Z Tractionator Adventure tyre on the back.

The Oskop and Schietpad gravel tacks have always been among my favourite Overberg dirt tracks. I’m reminded of this as we turn off the R316 and the narrow road wanders off through the shorn wheat fields and hedgerows like a misplaced English country lane. Just as I’m thinking about how good a cup of coffee will be, a perfect picnic spot hoves into view.

It’s a copse of spindly spidergums, not only offering a shady respite, but also a superb view over the rolling rûens baking to a crisp in the midday sun. With the comfortable camping chairs and coffee flask retrieved from the back of the old Pajero, Annette and I languish there for some time, taking in the hoopoes, bulbuls and drongos flitting about the small forest. We don’t say much; it’s enough just to be entranced by it all in the moment.

Refreshed, I reboot the bike and take a side route to an old deserted church (1853) and then get us lost while attempting to get back onto the Schietpad to Napier. Consulting my Slingsby’s Overberg map at the next 4-Way stop, I see we passed the old Hansiesrivier Gold Mine earlier, a place I’d always meant to visit when I stayed in Napier but never did.

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