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Tourism News
GSX1300R Hayabusa To The Poetic Rally 2010
01 May 2010

The plan was to meet the maats and ride from the Grasmere Engen at 16:00 on Thursday afternoon but at 15:15 a Highveld monsoon descended over Fortress Stafford so I called Gus and said "Look, if you okes wanna waai then I'll see you on the road or else I'll see you in Winburg." There was no way that I was going to put my and my vrou's delicate carcasses on the saddle of a brand new GSX1300R Hayabusa in torrential rain. We eventually got to Grasmere at 16:30, fuelled and then headed south at speed. There was rain all around but we ran between storms. It was beautiful on the road with swallows flocking under the highway bridges and near Parys a skein of maybe forty geese winging their way to the east. But it was inevitable that we would hit rain and 2km before the Kroonvaal Engen phat drops started pelting us. By the time we stopped to put on rain gear at the garage the heavens were open for bizniz big time. We rode in rain past Kroonstad but by Ventersburg the skies were clear and we rocked up at the Winburg Herberg in glorious late afternoon sunshine.

We rode at 07:00 on Friday morning with a route of 850km ahead of us for the day. Breakfast was planned for Bloemfontein so we sailed down the N1, treating the Verkeerdevlei toll plaza with the contempt it deserved. Just the week before there was an item on the news that read "The DA has called for the suspension of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) chief executive Ranthoko Rakgoale for approving salary increases above delegated limits. An audit report showed that RTMC executive directors were awarded salary increases of up to 389 percent, receiving R3-million each in 2009, compared to R647 090 in 2008." Yes I know that the toll roads are operated by SANRAL and not RTMC but SANRAL are also useless and do not fix potholes. Not paying tolls on a bike is my small way of clawing back some of my tax that is squandered by the piggies who are enriching themselves at our expense instead of doing their jobs. After breakfast at the Wimpy in Bloem we followed the route that Gus had planned for the day. None of us had much appetite for droning down the N1 and the alternative route was only 120km longer. We rode due west to Petrusburg for fuel. At the garage I offered the Hayabusa to Mike. He had been looking longingly at it the whole morning and I knew that he wanted to go blitzing with Alan who was riding his hot ZX-14. But I also had an ulterior motive. June was taking strain on the pillion seat of the Hayabusa and as we all know an unhappy pillion makes for an unhappy ride. I don't know what it was about the seat. Eight years ago June and I rode a Hayabusa on a 1600km weekend and it was perfect. Maybe we're not as young as we were and therefore less flexible. We happily swapped the Hayabusa for Mike's Yamaha FJR1300. It was 09:00 when we left the town but already it was getting warm. Just outside of town we were getting back up to speed when I noticed a big truck approaching with a bit of a haze behind it. As the truck passed it was like riding into a hail storm. The truck was transporting mielies and the lose kernels were flying off in the slipstream clattering against the bike and off our helmets. The road was littered with bouncing mielie pips. No harm done and we continued at speed past Koffiefontein and Luck-hoff before stopping on the Havenga Bridge over the Orange River downstream from the Vanderkloof Dam. The river is beautiful at this spot, running clean and clear between steep grassy banks dotted with trees. Directly below the bridge there were big fish swimming and we watched a giant leguvaan swim to the bank and disappear into the reeds. Alan and Mike had enjoyed a little high speed bad craziness and the readout on Alan's GPS showed that they had hit 299km/h at some point along the road. We cruised through Petrusville with the intention of refuelling in Philipstown and that's where we ran into moeilikheid. There's a truism about riding in Africa, take fuel where you find it. We should have refuelled in Petrusville because both garages in Philipstown were dry. The next town was Hanover, 70km away, and there were three bikes that were never going to make that distance; the Hayabusa, the FJR1300 and Bettie's VFR800. Gus asked the petrol jockey "When will the petrol tanker come?" "Maandag" was the unhelpful reply. We stood around like twits making unintelligent suggestions and then our saviour in the person of Andre, the garage owner, arrived. Within ten minutes he had siphoned fifteen litres from his car, five litres each for the three needy bikes. We were back in business and happy to pay him R10 per litre which we offered in gratitude for him saving the day. The road to Hanover was special. The landscape is almost perfectly flat and the distant mountains are smudges on the horizon perhaps 40km away. The plains were home to a variety of wildlife. We saw herds of twenty  wildebeest, flocks of blue cranes and a couple od ungainly-looking secretary birds galloping away as we approached. I've ridden past Hanover many times and never bothered to ride into the town. From the N1 the town looks like an unattractive dustbowl but the reality is very different. It's a pleasant dorp with tree-lined streets and picturesque old buildings. We stopped for lunch at the Hanover Lodge Hotle which turned out to be a very friendly venue that served delicious toasted sandwiches for the princely sum of R15 each. But there wasn't time to linger on the shady veranda. We still had 400km to ride into the sweltering heart of the drought stricken Eastern Cape.

June and I were back on the Hayabusa. The N10 from Hanover was in good condition and we rode the 65km to Carlton Heights on the N9 in 20 minutes. From there we were back on familiar roads and continued at speed past Middelburg and thence to the ever delightful Lootsberg Pass. The first time I ever rode Lootsberg was on a Hayabusa with June on the back so there was a nice feeling of deja vu as we hauled up that magnificent road and then down onto the plains of the Camdeboo. It was cooking in the Karoo and after fuelling in Graaff-Reinet it just got hotter and hotter on the R75 to Jansenville and Wolwefontein where we turned west onto the R329 for the last 60km of the day to Steytlerville. With just 30km to go I was feeling so moeg and so dehydrated that I pulled off the road and stopped in the deep, cool shadow of some pepper trees while the rest of our travelling companions carried on. There was a slight breeze and when we took off our jackets it was heaven to feel the sweat evaporating from our torsos. We chilled for ten minutes under the trees drinking water and stretching our legs. As we put our jackets back on there was an explosion of movement from 20m away on the other side of the game fence bordering the road. A pair of big kudu bulls, which had been perfectly camouflaged in the bush, must have been watching us the entire time we were there. They took off over a low rise and we took off to the Karoo Theatrical Hotel in Steytlerville to meet our fellow rally goers. 2010 was the eleventh invitation only Poetic Rally organised by the Koppe, Cuzzins, Twisters and the bikerza e-mail list. Every year on the first weekend of February about eighty old friends rock up at a remote destination and spend the weekend partying. This year our hosts were Mark and Jacques who bought the derelict Karoo Hotel eight years ago. They have developed it into a thriving tourist attraction and it was the perfect spot for our purposes. The bar and billiards room lead onto a cool veranda which looks out over a sparkling pool. The veranda is the preferred siesta spot for the hotel's seventeen cats. The hotel is beautifully decorated, littered with objets d'art and the rooms are light and airy. It was a relief to get out of our kit, drink the first beers of the day and collapse into the pool. As the sun was setting Simon and Sharon from Bike SA arrived. They had flown into Port Elizabeth that afternoon and ridden dirt on a BMW F800GS to join the fun. That evening there was a helluva party that continued into the early hours but I was in bed at a reasonable hour because I was going riding in the morning. Since its launch in 1999 the Hayabusa has been the undisputed king of speed. The first models were unrestricted and would run to true speeds greater than 300km/h. But that all changed in 2000 when there were fears that the European Union might ban the import of hypersport motorcycles. This led to a gentlemen's agreement between the major manufacturers to electronically govern all motorcycles to 300km/h. Therefore the debate as to whether a stock ZX-14 has a higher terminal velocity than a stock GSX1300R will forever remain unresolved. From 1999 to 2007 the Hayabusa remained unchanged. 2008 saw the launch of the second generation Hayabusa that included a cosmetic makeover and an upgraded chassis and engine. The 2009 model I was riding was a spectacular silver bullet. The styling has always been controversial but the more time you spend with a Hayabusa the more its looks grow on you and especially so when you acknowledge that the bulbous aspects are all in aid of streamlining and hyper speed which is why men buy the bike in the first place. In fact every aspect and every component of the Hayabusa contributes to its insane top end potential. The second generation motor was upgraded to 1340cc while, naturally, retaining its DOHC, 16 valve configuration but the valves are now titanium with a valve angle of just 14° for enhanced flow. Suzuki's Twin Swirl Combustion Chambers and lightweight aluminium alloy pistons enhance the efficiency of the four stroke Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow cycle and together with a higher compression ration of 12.5:1 provide a claimed power increase of 11% over the first generation motor. The motor breathes through ram air inlets which feed the fuel injection system which controls twin injectors in each cylinder. The exhaust is a 4-2-1-2 system which terminates in enormous black triangular canisters which most blokes will immediately replace with aftermarket pipes to further enable the motor's breathing, reduce weight and allow the Hayabusa to bark like the top dog that it is. Of course a motor of this displacement and potency generates a great deal of heat which is dealt with by the curved radiator with twin fans and a massive oil cooler located immediately below the radiator. Even at sustained high speed the motor runs cool. The rigid twin spar aluminium chassis has been upgraded to deal with the additional power and the swingarm has been redesigned for increased rigidity, the better to deliver the horsepower to the road. Suspension front and rear is fully adjustable and the brakes are state of the art with a new larger 260mm rear brake and the front 310mm rotors gripped by radial mount callipers. The Hayabusa is a high speed weapon and it's way faster than needed by most mere mortals like me. The distance from Steytlerville to Willow-more is 87km. Gus had ridden the road a number of times and recommended it to me. I was keen to take the Hayabusa out for some top end runs and a lonely desert highway seemed like the right place. At 10:00 on Saturday morning the road was deserted, an arrow of tar running due west across the wide open spaces. To say that the Hayabusa's acceleration is outrageous is like saying that Hitler was an unpleasant chap. Both are extreme understatements. The rev happy motor howls to the 11000rpm redline with startling swiftness. 1st brings up 120km/h, 2nd is good for 170, in 3rd things start to get wild at 220, and 4th is an insane 260km/h. After that I was watching the road ahead as I booted to 5th and 6th and the needle on the speedometer swept into the 300kmh sensory overload zone. I backed off to a comparatively pedestrian 240 and cruised for a few kilometres getting my breath back before simply winding on the throttle and speeding back into the realms where it takes a scant twelve seconds to cover a kilometre. 50km from Steytlerville the tar road ends and the remaining distance to Willowmore is via a concrete strip road that is wide enough for one vehicle. The 50km to the end of the tar took fourteen minutes to cover and I could have done it in less if I hadn't backed off so often to get a grip and relax. But there was always the opportunity presented by the return trip. I rode a few kilometres along the strip road before stopping for photos. As I walked around the bike I looked at the rear tyre and was not surprised to see threads of rubber on the Bridgestone Battlax BT015. At the speeds I had been maintaining the forces exerted on the tyre as it translates massive horsepower into velocity against an unforgiving road surface simply have to shred the tyre. The strip road is peculiar. Each slab in the strip is about 3m by 3m and the net effect is that you cannot ride the strip at speed because the joints between the slabs are uneven and the faster you ride the harder you get hammered. I didn't feel like a further 35km on a washboard and turned back towards Steytlerville. It was a windless morning and conditions were perfect. Visibility was great and I already knew that there were no animals on the road and that all the gates I had ridden past were closed. There was never going to be a better opportunity for a sustained flat stick blitz. My challenge to myself was to ride the Hayabusa at 300km/h for one minute and cover five kilometres in sixty seconds. I tucked in as tight as I could and let the beast loose. And I just couldn't do it. I backed off before I had travelled three kilometres. It's difficult to describe just how the brain responds to unrelenting sensory overload. The wind flogs at your body, your neck is rigid as you attempt to control the buffeting on your helmet, the howl from the ram air and the exhausts penetrates through your earplugs, the dotted white lines become a single solid line, your eyes struggle to comprehend the quantum of speeding input, and most of all your sense of self preservation conjures hideous images of what will happen if you hit the smallest bird or animal. It's just too much to deal with. It's overwhelming and unsustainable. Or it least it was for me. I backed off to 140km/h and cruised the rest of the way back to town with one stop on the way. I had spotted an abandoned Karoo farmhouse set back from the road and it looked like a good place for a photo. I rode up a rocky driveway to a latched gate, let myself into the yard, rode around the house and parked the bike. Most of the panes in the windows were missing and I stuck my head through a hole to see what was inside. The room exploded into blurred motion and hysterical cackling. There were twenty chickens roosting in the room and I don't know who got the bigger fright, the chickens or me. I smacked my head on the window frame as I leapt backwards and staggered around the yard in uncontrollable laughter which was, I suppose, some kind of emotional release after the high speed antics of the morning. Back in Steytlerville I stopped at the Royal Hotel where some of the maats from the rally were parking off on the stoep. I downed a couple of beers in quick succession and then rode helmet-less across the main drag to the garage to fill the Hayabusa. As I got off the bike I let rip with a monster belch. The pump jockey shook his head and muttered loud enough for me to hear "Dis nie melk daai nie." I got the cackles and tipped him R10. Back at the Karoo Hotel there was a lazy afternoon in store. We lounged in the pool for hours talking rubbish with the never ending stream of friends who came to cool off. It was exactly the kind of bonding that you'd expect from a bunch of good friends who only see each other on odd occasions because they are geographically separated. As the sun was setting Gus called me from the road. He was walking from town to the hotel and had come across a tortoise. He was a big old boy, perfect for the kind of photo that I've been taking for years and a good omen for the ride home on Sunday. Dinner that evening was special. Eighty hairy bikers took their seats in the dining room which was beautifully prepared. The tables were decked with linen and silver and on each table there was a large candelabrum. When the main course of Karoo lamb and veggies was finished Mark and Jacques presented their cabaret which is one of the primary reasons why the Karoo Theatrical Hotel has garnered such fame over the years. Mark's mastery of the grand piano had the audience rapt but it was Jacques we had all come to see. Dressed in an astonishing collection of outfits his alter ego Lola Lamborghini mimed songs that included I Will Survive, All By Myself, and New York New York. It was an amazing performance and what was equally amazing was to witness a bunch of hairy bikers whistling and clapping and hooting and pounding the tables in appreciation of a drag queen. It was a helluva night and a fitting end to a great weekend. I highly recommend the Karoo Hotel, an unlikely and welcoming oasis in the middle of nowhere. Sunday was always going to be a long day in the saddle so Gus and Lawrence and I were up at 05:00 and rode at 06:00. Just outside town as we rode through Noorspoort there was almost an unfortunate incident. I was riding in front and as I came around a corner there was a bloody big tortoise walking across the road right in front of me. It was a close call but no harm done. The 50km to Wolwefontein was horrible as we rode directly into the rising sun but then we headed north at speed for our first fuel stop of the day in Graaff-Reinet. I still wanted a few more high speed runs on the Hayabusa across the plains of the Camdeboo so June hopped onto Gus's RT and spent the rest of the ride back to Joburg as his pillion. North of Graaff-Reinet near the turn off to Nieu-Bethesda there's a 10km long straight and in the cool of the early morning I ran the bike up to 300km/h again just because I could. Warp speed is addictive. We were in Colesberg for breakfast by 09:00 having already ridden 400km and with only 630km to go for the day. We droned up the N1 at a lazy 200km/h with stops in Bloem and Kroonstad for fuel and by 14:40 we were enjoying a post ride celebratory beer at O'Hagan's at Comaro Crossing. It was a great weekend of riding and served to confirm the deep respect that I have for the Suzuki flagship. Look at it like this. For a measly R152000 you can own the undisputed king of speed, your ticket to ride at 300km/h if you can find a place to do so. Try it. You'll scare yourself silly.

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