Riders out for 2012 D-J run
While most of us were having our breakfast this Friday morning, nearly 150 intrepid motorcyclists made their way from the outskirts of Durban to Johannesburg, having left Pinetown’s start-line at one-minute intervals for the commencement of the 2012 Durban-Johannesburg Commemorative Motorcycle Trial.
Perhaps there’s nothing startling about that except the motorcycles are all at least 76 years old (some 90 years old), while several of the riders are 80 years young plus!
Known these days as the D-J, this annual event was first thought up in 1913 and ran through to 1936 when officials decided to call a halt to proceedings because it was considered too dangerous. For the record it was AW McKeag who won that first race nearly 100 years ago on a Bradbury single-cylinder machine.
His time was 14 hours, 46 minutes — quite a remarkable feat because there were no tar roads back then, just dusty, muddy tracks and what must have seemed like a million farmer’s gates to open and shut on his way to Durban and victory. [The early races were run in the other direction, Ed.]
Resurrected in 1970 and run each year since (with the exception of 1974 due to national petrol shortages), the regularity trial is in a lot of ways just as tough because it is run at the hottest time of the year. Interestingly, the ‘modern day’ D-J event has international status and is just as popular as ever, it seems, attracting several riders from overseas who want to take part in the oldest motorcycle race in the world.
More than a dozen of this year’s competitors are first-timers hoping to do well on ancient-as-you-like, but much-loved machinery.
Motorcycle aficionados are in for a treat if they happen to be in the area and see the riders on their chosen route through to Newcastle for the overnight stop. Jo'burgers can check out the riders and bikes at the finishing post at the James Hall Transport Museum at Wemmer Pan around 3pm on Saturday (March 10, 2012). The event, I can tell you firsthand, gets more competitive towards the close of the race!
As usual, a superb array of British motorcycle marques from yesteryear will battle for overall honours with illustrious names such as Sunbeam, Velocette, Norton, Scott, Levis, Excelsior, Royal Enfield, Ariel and Matchless to name just a few, while Indians and Harley-Davidsons will be well represented from the U.S. Then there’s Zundapp, DKW and BMW to look out for from Germany.
The oldest bike competing in the 2012 edition is a 1909 Humber and is ridden by lady rider Samantha Anderson from Pietermaritzburg. It won’t all be plain sailing though for Anderson, because LPA (light pedal assistance) will be much in evidence – especially negotiating steep climbs found along the 600 km route such as Field’s Hill in Pinetown and the infamous Town Hill climb out of Pietermaritzburg.
The oldest rider will once again be Stewart Cunninghame (90). His steed this year is a rather special 1930 Norton International.