Hi Dirt and Trail magazine. We are Bert and Jovanka Mertens. We reside in Mossel Bay. We’ve started a motorcycle adventure touring business in Mossel Bay. Our approach is somewhat different compared to other motorcycle touring business; we will be using the Honda XR-190 agricultural motorcycle, a small to medium sized, 140 kg motorcycl. 184cc – 4 stroke, single cylinder, fuel injected motor. It is easy to handle, light weight, rugged, and reliable machine. The bigger picture is that we are targeting potential new riders, and especially new potential woman riders into adventure motorcycle riding… Would you guys like to come along and do a feature? We couldn’t make it, but Brian Cheyne went along and sent us his impressions…
About Brian Cheyne
Brian Cheyne is a freelance journalist based in Pretoria. He got his first bike at age 16 and currently rides a BMW C650GT. He got his start in journalism as a stand-in for the injured editor of Ultimate Drive and has since become a regular contributor to that publication. He also contributes to two regional papers and is the motorcycle journalist for the Afrikaans online platform Maroela Media.
Some of my most memorable moments have been on a bike. When I remove my dusty helmet, I almost always wear a grin and slightly messed up hair. I have ridden parts of the Garden route before, but I realized that I had barely scratched the surface when we rode the first section of the Seven-passes road in George recently. I wanted to explore further, but looking at my road-bike, I knew I had to make another plan if I wanted to venture onto these roads. I came across this new company in Mossel Bay that specializes in tours in and around the Garden Route. To my surprise I realized that I had met the co-owner Bert before, and when I contacted him, he promptly invidted me to come and do a tour with their touring company, called African Karoo Adventures. I said I wanted to do the Seven-Passes Road, and I wanted to sleep somewhere in the Karoo. I left the rest to him and his partner Jovanka. These two gave up a comfortable life in Gauteng and settled in Mossel Bay to start AKA. What tickled me, though was their choice of bike. When we arrived at the workshop that acts as their base, there were 6 brand new Honda XR190 CT motorcycles. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The bike is light, very economical, and quite punchy in second gear. Also, for a novice rider, this is probably the least intimidating bike I can thin of, apart from maybe a Jonway scooter. AKA wants to attract more female riders to adventure motorcycling, so they invited a female rider along with some very rusty riding skills. I have been down to Gamkaskloof on a big adventure bike, and I must admit that my first thought was that this would be som much easier on a
smaller bike. Hard-core adventure riders will probably scoff at the little Honda, but this is not the core target market for AKA. The bike itself has skinny tyres and a 21-inch front wheel. There is a rack over the pillion seat, and a side-stand on both sides of the bike, which points to its intended role as a farm implement. AKA added handguards, a gel seat, and a tankbag for all your goodies. There is no need to carry luggage, as all their overnight tours have a support vehicle to carry all that. You can just enjoy the scenery. Should you worry about your own ability in some of the sections, Jovanka will gladly swap with you. The night before we left, we discussed the brief outline of our tour. AKA is completely flexible with the itinerary. You can choose to book your own accommodatin, or you can let Bert and Jovanka do it all. Their rate includes the rental, fuel, the guide and the support vehicle. From there you can build your tour to suit your needs. They have extensive local knowledge, and having ridden here a lot, I was amazed at the little gems that they showed us along the way. Over the next three days, we rode through spectacular scenery and experienced all the elements thrown at the little Honda. W had wind, dry sand, rocky gravel, mist and rain, all in one day. The brave little XR did not bling once. I felt completely at ease on the bike, and with the bike governed to 100km/h, we had a lot of time to soak it all in.
Our overnight stop was in an old farmhouse on the Baviaans road. Here we could see the stars in all their glory, and I sat in amazement at what we put the Honda’s through and where these brave little troopers got us today. Would my experience have been better on a colossal Adventure bike? I think not. With Bert’s local knowledge and infinite patience, I experienced the Garden Route far better than if I was there on my own. And with a lighter, nimbler bike my confidence grew over the course of the tour. I have always wondered whether renting a bike is a viable option, and the answer is a resounding yes! You don’t have to make the investment, or worry about maintenance and insurance. So if you ever want tohave a wonderful tour on a bike through the most beautiful part of South Africa, be sure to look up Bert and Jovanka from AKA Tours.