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Blazing a Softail trail on Route 62

2013-07-29 07:02

ROLLING THUNDER: And I'm not just talking about the weather. This is the 2013 Harley-Davidson anniversary model Softail Deluxe, harking back to the 1940's. Image: DAVE FALL


When one's thinking about undertaking a road trip – especially one on two wheels – so-called knowledgeable people are often heard to say: “You know, getting there is half the fun.”

Darned fools…

They obviously don’t live in Cape Town  as I do and intended riding out over a winter’s weekend with every chance of nothing but rain to accompany me along the way, taking me back to my youth having to commute six days a week on an old and rickety Triumph Speed Twin.

OK, so I should know better as my choice of weekend away during July was a poor one with snow even being reported in the Hex River Mountains. As if that wasn’t bad enough, rain was to prove the order of the day along my chosen route, for most of Saturday, at least.


But hang on – as they say in the classics – let’s start at the beginning and tell you about the weekend route that was planned for me by Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, right down to coffee stops and petrol stations that can be found along the way.

This was going to be quite a road trip, taking in Wellington, Worcester, Robertson, Ashton, Montagu, Barrydale, Suurbraak, Swellendam, Bredasdorp, Napier, Hermanus, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and back to base in Cape Town.

A round trip of some 450km.

For starters, my chosen steed was a 110th anniversary (2013) Softail Deluxe model that seemed incredibly long but low with its 240mm wheelbase; it had triple spotlights, white hand grips, a white, leather-covered, single saddle, Dunlop whitewall tyres and footboards – all harking back to the 1940’s era of Harley-Davidson bikes.

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Nevertheless, the bike was completely up to date and fitted with a pair of powerful speakers on the pullback handlebar that just needed an iPod or similar to crank up the music. How decadent is that?

Looking closer at the bike there appeared to be acres of chrome and, as Cape Town dealer principal Chris Goebel told me, the bike’s “introvert” colour scheme is called Hard Candy Lucky Green Flake. Interestingly, this is a limited edition model and less than 2000 Softail Deluxe’s are being produced in this format.


Time to get going and it was a wet but cheerful biker who stopped in Wellington for a bite to eat before tackling the ruggedly picturesque but very slippery Bain’s Kloof Pass, where the Slanghoek Mountains join the Limietberg. The pass was built in 1853; it’s a wonderful feat of road-building and an excellent choice of route for which we have one Andrew Geddes Bain to thank.

I had by now got used to the Softail and found time to play with the trip data computer to give me a revs per minute/gear selection readout. (There’s also an analogue clock, total distance travelled and two trip recorders to toggle through.)

For the record, it’s worth noting at 75km/h the air-cooled, 1690cc vee-twin ticked over at only 1770rpm in fifth (top gear, overdrive sixth, couldn’t really be used much below this on level ground without snatching the transmission); increase speed to 90km/h, hook sixth and the Softail idles along at 1950 rpm.

All two-wheelers are blessed with a ‘sweet spot’; you just have to find it. This bike had two! One at 98km/h (2100rpm), the other at 118km/h (2300rpm). Not a hint of vibration – well, there wouldn’t be with such substantial and well insulated footboards. Not too shabby for a cruiser.


Saturday lunch-time traffic was picking up in Worcester but it was soon time to enjoy the open (and fast) road through to Robertson: 44km of straightish road with the occasional, long, sweeping curves and I had it virtually all to myself. Heaven-sent conditions for two-wheelers. The town’s a haven for wine enthusiasts but wine tasting was definitely out of the question this time around.

Back on the route, I pulled in at a safe lay-by at Cogman’s Kloof (named for a pastoral tribe that once roamed the area.) The name is better known these days as something of a spectacular pass, this one engineered by Thomas Bain, son of Andrew - six kilometres of stunning volcanic rock formations, many millions of years old, to wonder at.

The by now well warmed-up Softail ticked and clicked away as it cooled in the late afternoon that had now reached – wow – 15C. It certainly wasn’t going to get any warmer but at least the rain had stopped.

Route 62 proper. A fuel top-up in Montagu to carry me through to Swellendam via Barrydale and the well-known Tradouw Pass beckoned. Surely one of the very best passes to be found in anywhere in SA (the other’s Bain’s Kloof), and they’re both to be found in the Western Cape.

Distinct shadows one minute and sunlight playing on the cliff faces the next followed me most of the way through Tradouw, a pass that closely follows the gorge made by the river below. I well remember my first trip through here in the early 1970’s, the trail little more than a stony farm track, unpaved but not unloved. It was little more than a corridor between the N2 and the R62 back then.


My stopover destination for the night was elegant Swellendam, South Africa’s third-oldest town after Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Back in 1745 Swellendam was the haunt of the largest herds of representative game in the country. In the 19th century the area even had its own currency because of its go-ahead rich heritage of merino sheep-farming.

A welcome night’s rest beckoned and the following morning, Sunday, found the sun up, out and wanting to play. A superb breakfast, wipe the bike down to get rid of the previous day’s rain streaks quickly revealed that glorious paintwork sparkle and it was time to hit the road for Hermanus.

Firing up first press of the starter button, the Softail’s vee-twin beat soon settled down to an easy-on-the-ear 1000rpm, the music volume lowered as I left Swellendam town centre ready to tackle Day 2.

Only 14km along the busy N2 out of Swellendam – a road not particularly welcomed by bikers due to the constant traffic – and it was time to swing over on to the R319 towards Bredasdorp. This friendly biker’s road really ought to be high on your list for its sheer beauty alone: just sheep in the fields, the occasional large eagle or hawk looking down from a perch atop a telegraph pole while scanning your every move, rolling hills in every direction.

Blissful. Biking at its very best.


Skirting the centre of Bredasdorp towards the small village called Napier (R316) is always well worth a stop if you happen to be in the region. In its main street, centrally, is a farm stall that offers welcoming coffee while taking you back dreamily in time with its old enamel signs, bric-a-brac of every description strung from the rafters along with local memorabilia from days gone by; but I can guarantee the red cappuccino, koeksisters and muffins are right up date.

By now, a group of day trippers and locals stood and admired the parked Lucky Green Harley Softail, its 1940’s looks perfectly in keeping with the surroundings.

Back on the bike and more pleasant weather to ride along in, considering the wintry time of year. No crosswind and the sun on our backs. But by now the road through to Hermanus was becoming a little crowded. Plenty of fellow bikers to wave to, though, all heading towards Walker Bay, I suppose, to see the Southern Rights and other whale species.

We arrived safe but, alas, the monsters from the deep never showed up. Maybe the area was too wet for them!


The final leg of the journey was familiar (Clarence Drive and Franschhoek Pass) but always welcome. The weather that Sunday afternoon was simply glorious – considering this is supposed to be winter – a route that never disappoints no matter the bike. The brightish green, heavily flecked paintwork seemed to gleam and dance off the road’s surface.

It was finally back to the outer limits of Cape Town, such a disappointment after the inviting, safe and bike-friendly roads of the Overberg of the Western Cape. Now hooting traffic, the occasional errant car driver to contend with, but at the end of the day Home Sweet Home.

The Harley safely tucked up for the night ready for another day of adventure for some other lucky rider.

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe specifications
110 Anniversary model
Engine: Air-cooled, 1690cc
Gears: Six-speed
Wheelbase: 2400mm
Seat height: 670mm
Dry weight: 330kg
Fuel tank: 18.9 litres
Average fuel consumption: 5.3 litres/100 km
Price: R250 500
Road test bike from Harley-Davidson Cape Town

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