When the trip of a lifetime in their own backyard was plunged into jeopardy by unexpected snowfall in sub-Saharan Africa, four rookie adventure riders did what any self-respecting thrill-seeker would do… went anyway.
“We decided that even if we didn’t get there it didn’t matter because we’d have damn good fun trying,” says Street Twin Scrambler rider Alan Shenton.
The summit of the Sani Pass, linking South Africa with Lesotho, was the motorcycling pinnacle – literally and figuratively – for the Johannesburg-based buddies, who had previously considered the route ‘out of reach and impossible’ in their five years in the saddle.
All prided themselves on being modern classic riders, more at home around the city streets and suburbs of South Africa’s largest city. The mud, rain and gravel were for someone else.
“We’d never really considered ourselves part of the adventure riding scene, so we’d never really thought about that kind of ride,” says Alan, owner of the Bonafide Moto Co.
But armed with the Street, a Bonneville T120 Black, a Scrambler T100 and Tiger XCX 800, they decided to break out and ‘stretch their limits’.
“In terms of spec, the best bike for the trip was the Tiger, but we all agreed that while we should be informed about the limitations of a bike, it’s ultimately all about the mentality and adventurous spirit of the rider and not the bike he or she rides,” says Alan.
The guys had read the Wikipedia entry for Sani – warning that the Pass had claimed many casualties and that remains of vehicles lay strewn along its 9km length – before issuing the open invitation to the Jo’burg group and getting around a dozen responses.
Alan says: “Sani is a notorious stretch of road and I’d never done it because I’d always thought it out of reach and impossible, but after looking at the maps, it suddenly seemed plausible. Unfortunately, as the weather changed, people dropped out, but we’d made up our minds by then.
“We agreed that if the weather forced us to turn around, we’d turn around, but we set off in amazingly cool but slightly wet weather, which meant there wouldn’t be too much dust… another bonus.”
To see how the classics coped, especially on the route back through soaking wet clay that made any kind of traction impossible, watch the video.
“It’s all about attitude and desire and getting to your destination, with all the experiences in-between. And let’s face it, quicker isn’t necessarily best when you’re riding 25km of gravel through the countryside up a 1 in 3 gradient. If we’d taken the longer toll road, we wouldn’t have had the stories, the memories and the friendships that we made.”