Cape Town’s heavenly motorcycling roads

Many people think Cape Town is about sandy beaches, majestic mountains and valleys of wine. To me it’s about tarmac.

Because of the mountainous terrain, the black ribbons of tar that radiate from the city are a bikers dream. Marc Cohn sang that if there’s a God in heaven he drives a Silver Thunderbird. But if he designed the Cape, he must surely ride a Harley Davidson – a celestial pin cushion for rally badges with a white beard streaming in the wind.

Recently Harley Davidson Africa saddled me up with a few of their bikes and I took them on my favourite Cape rides. I’ve ridden these roads on sport bikes, cafe racers, scooters, sidecars and scramblers – any bike will do for me – but I fell for the ’48. The Big Guy would ride nothing less than a Road King, but whom among us could be so worthy? What the ’48 does is make you feel like a sinner.

2014 Harley Davidson Road King

2014 Harley Davidson ’48

Even short bursts into town can be a formative experience and that’s why, in this recommendation of rides, I’ll start with one of my favourite stretches and gradually move out of the city.

These are my own assumptions according to my riding experience which I consider average. All riders should adhere to speed limits, obey the rules of the road and ride within their own limits. The best time to ride any of these roads is early morning when there are few cars about.


De Waal Drive

If you’re a biker, and you live and work in Cape Town, you’ve made a mistake. The key is to live in the suburbs and commute to work. With its smooth, perfectly cambered curves you’ll get to work with a silly grin on your face. Just taking this road twice a day makes work an attractive proposition. De Waal Drive becomes ‘Mrs. De Waal’ a soft spoken Human Resources Manager who whispers sweetly, twice a day: “Stay.”

Difficulty: 2/5 Scenery: 3/5 Fun: 4/5 Fear: 2/5


The S on Kloof

The S in this case stands for “savage”. Look at the shape of that funky little kink. It’s tighter than a Swiss banker. It winds down a shady forested slope meaning much of the view is hidden – a good thing since this bend needs all your focus. Best to ride it uphill for more control. If you can make it in a fluid motion you deserve the view that opens up as you reach the top. Then ride to Signal Hill for the iconic vista of the city bowl and Table Mountain. This particular stretch of road is a doddle and you’ll want to ride it slow for the view.

Difficulty: 5/5 Scenery: 4/5 Fun: 3/5 Fear: 4/5

Northern Stretch of Victoria Road

Victoria Road

This is an ideal start or end to a breakfast run in combination with Rhodes Drive or Chapmans Peak (below). Its also an incredible commute. If you live in Hout Bay and work in Cape Town you must regularly win employee of the month. There is a glorious dichotomy to Beach Road: does one look at the view – waves crashing on rocks, seals playing in the surf – or does one focus on surviving the corners? The key is to ride it both ways: Once for the view and once again for the fun.

Difficulty: 3/5 Scenery: 5/5 Fun: 5/5 Fear: 2/5


Rhodes Drive

Only ride this in the very early morning when there is no traffic. The corners are tight and the degree of camber extreme. You are riding through tall forest meaning trees cast dark shadows on the road and you can’t see traffic approaching the corner. The ditches on either side of the road are deep and painful looking. So take it easy. Why ride it, you ask? At a moderate speed these corners are still a dream.

Difficulty: 5/5 Scenery: 1/5 Fun: 3/5 Fear: 4/5

Chapman’s Peak Drive

Thankfully the scenery will slow you down on this tight cliffside course. The views of the ocean and pounding surf far below are outstanding and you’ll understand why it’s worth paying the toll (have cash at the ready in your glove or pocket – R23 for motorcycles). Riding from Hout Bay towards Noordhoek, the first few corners after the toll booth are splendid – tight but perfectly formed. Once the road starts hugging the cliff, it’s time to slow down and enjoy the view. From the viewpoint at the highest point of the road all the way to Noordhoek, it’s dangerously tight. This part of Chapmans isn’t for heroes. It’s a long tumble to the rocks below.

Difficulty: 5/5 Scenery: 5/5 Fun: 4/5 Fear: 4/5


Clarence Drive

You take a 60 km ride from Cape Town to reach this dramatic road across False Bay. It hugs the coast between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els on the way to Hermanus; an exciting interlude to a whale watching trip or an extended ride through Elgin circling back to Cape Town via Franschhoek Pass (below) to take in the winelands. The scenery is outstanding with views across the bay onto the distant Table Mountain and the peninsula, waves crashing on the rocks below. The danger is that this is a fast road with sudden, sharp corners that can catch you unaware. Added to this is the danger of rock falls. I have often rounded a bend to find a football size part of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve in my path. Take it easy. Enjoy the view.

Difficulty: 5/5 Scenery: 5/5 Fun: 3/5 Fear: 4/5


Franschhoek Pass

If ever you’ve been to Franschhoek and noticed the many bikers enjoying breakfast or lunch there, you can be sure they came for this road. One side of the pass offers breathtaking views over the winelands. The other side has you gasping at the perfection of the corners. I’ve never been to Franschoek without riding it twice. It takes an experienced rider to get the most out of these corners. Ride it at least once to gauge the extent of the long bends and hairpins, and then again for sheer enjoyment.


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