Race to Jo’burg on 1928 bike

2009-03-10 00:00

A 62-year-old Ashburton woman, Sheila Stead, took on the Durban to Johannesburg Commemorative Run — an annual motorcycle rally organised by the Vintage Veteran Club — on a bike several years older than her this weekend.

The race began in Pinetown and, via a series of back-roads, ended in the busy streets of the city of gold.

Sadly, after a series of malfunctions, Stead had to pull her 1928 BSA 250 cc to the side of the road and call it quits.

“I broke down many times on the way there,” said Stead. “I broke down, changed the spark plugs and went on, broke down fixed the mag and went on … But eventually, the mag broke in Ladysmith and that’s as far as I made it.”

Stead, who has participated in the race almost every year since 1991, said it was very disappointing that she couldn’t finish.

“I’m so frustrated. All of that work — months of preparation — just to break down,” she said.

The rally, which was started around 20 years ago, honours an annual motorcycle race that took place between the two cities until 1936. “We’re only allowed to ride bikes that were made before 1936.”

Stead said that the current race is based more on precision than the time taken to complete it.

Riders are given a stopwatch, the distance to the next checkpoint and an expected time of arrival. “If we arrive a second too early or a second too late, it is a point against you. At the end of the race, the person with the least points against them is the overall winner,” said Stead.

Stead, who runs the tuck shop at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High, first rode the race with her late husband Barry Stead, who owned a total of 36 motorcycles, “and three sheds full of spares too”.

She now rides with her 31-year-old son Clive.

Despite her bike troubles this year, Stead intends doing the race on the BSA again next year.

“I’ve been on that bike since I started racing,” she said. “Hopefully, it will get me all the way to Jo’burg — it has many times before,” she said with a laugh.

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