VINTAGE motorbikes pulled into the James Hall Museum of Transport after an epic 700km rally from Durban. The oldest was made in 1909.
VISIBLY relieved, Samantha Anderson could not disguise her joy as she crossed the finish line at the James Hall Museum of Transport in La Rochelle, southern Joburg.
Samantha Anderson on a Humber Pedal Cycle 1909Samantha Anderson on a Humber Pedal Cycle 1909She had driven the oldest bike in the DJ Classic Motorcycle Rally along the back roads from Durban, leaving Hillcrest on 9 March and arriving in Joburg the next day.
Despite the gruelling 700km dash from Durban on a 1909 Humber motorcycle, Anderson looked surprisingly refreshed and bore no apparent signs of the strenuous journey. Out of more than 140 participants, she was one of the few women to ride in the race, which is generally considered to be a man’s territory.
“The bike belongs to my father, who did not want me to ride on it because he thought it was too dangerous.” But Anderson, who has been riding motorbikes since the age of three, found the pull of classic and vintage motorcycles too great to resist.
She spent three months practising, and said the motorbike had no gears, clutch or real brakes. “I had quite a difficult time riding the bike, especially up the hills where I had to peddle really fast to keep the momentum.”
Beverly Jacobs is another keen biker. She developed problems with her 1928 motorcycle on the first day, yet described the race as thrilling.
“I have done this for many years. This is my seventeenth year and I will not miss it for anything,” she said. Unfazed by the large number of men who compete, Jacobs vowed to participate again in next year’s rally.
“I have a passion for vintage motorbikes. They are rare and beautiful. It takes a lot of skill to ride them,” said Jacobs.
Organised by the Vintage and Veteran Club and the Classic Motorcycle Club, this year the DJ run – named for the route from Durban to Johannesburg – marked the 99th year since the first race took place. As always, riders made a traditional overnight stop in Newcastle.
Ron Tomsett 1933 Blues StarRon Tomsett rides a 1933 Blues StarThe first race that was held in 1913; the rally was stopped in 1936 after the authorities banned racing on public roads because of higher speeds and increased volume of traffic.
The idea to resuscitate the run came from Dick Osbourne, an avid vintage motorcyclist who persuaded a group of fellow enthusiasts to organise a commemorative DJ Rally on the roads that made up the route of the original race.
The first commemorative run was held in 1970, and the rally has taken place every year since then except in 1974, when the authorities refused permission because of the petrol shortage. All motorcycles have to be made before 1937 to participate – namely motorbikes that could have participated in the last of the original rallies.
Pierre Cronje, the clerk of the course and the chairman of the Classic Motorcycle Club, described the DJ run as the largest and most prestigious rally for old cycles in southern Africa. “It attracts a great lot of interest throughout the country and many people tend to sit alongside the road just to look at the bikes,” said Cronje.
The event is a competitive regularity, where riders have to try to ride as close as possible to set average speeds. Their performances are monitored by hidden marshals placed along the route who take the time as each competitor passes a check point.
Derek Harris, one of the supporters who came to watch the rally, said the event reminded him of his heydays when he used to collect motor bikes as a hobby. “I love the atmosphere and the smell of hot oil, which I remember from my student days in England,” he said.