Some fantastic memories were made in a simpler time of motorcycling
Story and Photos by Don Querido
I thought that a “blast from the past” might hold some interest for Motorcycle Mojo’s older readers, especially those with a love for older motorcycles. I was born in South Africa and started riding at the age of 16, when my dad gave me his 1955 350 cc BSA B31, which he bought brand new; it was my pride and joy for several years.
I lived in Cape Town and soon made friends with several others who also had a love of motorcycles, and it wasn’t long before we started going for rides together on the weekends. Cape Town and the environs have some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and offer the opportunity to go for rides along the coastal road that runs right around the peninsula encompassing both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. A ride like this would take the whole day, starting at our meeting point in the centre of Cape Town.
We had some interesting bikes in our group but not all of us rode together at the same time – whoever was free at the time of a ride usually joined the group.
The BSA Clubmans racer used to run on Castrol R oil, which was a castor-based oil that was extensively used in those days by most of the racing motorcycles. When an engine ran on this, the aroma of the Castrol R exhaust fumes was something fantastic, and we always used to ride behind it to enjoy this lovely smell.
Once a month, we would organize a ride that started from the centre of Cape Town (Greenmarket Square) and continued along the National Road to Somerset West, a ride that took about 45 minutes, depending on the speed. Some of our riders were crazy and used to consider this a race, and it became a spectacle that was watched by many Capetonians, including the police, as the bikes flashed by on the long stretches of road with some of the riders lying flat on the tank! When I think about it now, I realize that some of us young folks must have had a guardian angel watching over us.
Weekend rides were many and varied, depending on the time of the year and the weather. One memorable ride took us inland on a very hot summer’s day. We were riding in shorts, which was not very clever, but in those carefree days we didn’t even consider the consequences should we fall off, and just rode in blissful ignorance.
One ride took us into a semi-desert region called the Karoo. It was very hot, and by lunchtime we were hungry, too, so we stopped alongside a windmill that was close to the road. Windmills were used for pumping underground water into a small dam alongside the windmill, and from which animals drank. We all stripped off and jumped in for a lovely cooling swim. Sandwiches and a cup of coffee at the side of the road refreshed us for the trip home.
Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate, which for us North Americans is easy to handle, with lovely warm summer days with temperatures reaching 30 C and above. The winters, which are usually mid-year from March to September, tend to be cooler, but never colder than 0 C. In Cape Town, the rain comes in winter, and depending on where you are, it can sometimes be like a deluge, so there are not many motorcyclists who venture out, except…