The battle of female riders: a road trip in the face of adversity and social misconceptions

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• Vuyi Mpofu and Bongiwe Didiza are bringing their interprovincial road trip to a close.

• The duo faced tough challenges en route back to Johannesburg, among others inconsiderate drivers.

• Their ride formed part of POAR: An initiative that tackles social misconceptions.

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Vuyi Mpofu and Bongiwe Didiza's interprovincial trip is drawing to a close. The duo left the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg for the calm demeanour of Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Now, as they embark on the return-leg to the City of Gold, they were confronted, again, by inconsiderate drivers driving recklessly, and onlookers questioning their abilities to 'handle' their iron steeds.

Our trip back to Joburg at the end of the Pride of Africa Ride 2020 was met with sunshine and clear skies. Somewhat despondent that our visit had been cut short, we knew our reasons for doing so were in our best interests.

Unlike the leisurely pace we had employed at the start of the adventure, our return ride was much more spirited. Riding in formation whenever safely possible, my feisty Racing Red machine tried to keep pace with the R 1250's charging force. Before long, I had all but depleted the golden fluid in its 15.5-litre tank and had to refuel sooner than expected, much to Bongiwe Didiza's thinly concealed amusement.

There wasn't much traffic headed inland, but we once again found ourselves playing the dangerously familiar game of cat-and-mouse with aggressively reckless drivers. Some seemed determined to prove (to themselves, no doubt) that their sporty cars were just as capable as our motorcycles while others drove so close they may as well have been our pillions.

bike,motorbike,bmw
POAR 2020

Reckless driving

In particular, one driver felt the inexplicable need to tail me wherever I positioned myself on the road. If I changed lanes to give him way, he'd change lanes too and position himself behind me. And if I returned to the right lane, he wasn't too far behind. A sense of irritation rose within me as this went on for a couple of kilometers, but stats about car vs. bike interactions quickly came to mind. I decided to teach the little bugger a lesson instead.

I moved to the left lane with the bugger in pursuit. As soon as it was safe to do so, I edged out of the left lane slightly, waiting for the bugger to monkey-see-monkey-do yet again. As he inched his little German hatchback into the right lane again to tail me, I opened the throttle, put the quick-shifter to work and weaved my way past traffic. As I sped away, I glanced into my side mirror and saw a glimpse of the inconsiderate driver now firmly stuck behind a truck. Petty satisfaction, you might think, but this sort of driving style can endanger a biker's life.

READ: Female riders challenge the status quo despite 'varying degrees of disapproval'

Soon enough, ominous dark clouds formed overhead, and the heavens marked our departure with a steady flow of rain. Spray from on-coming traffic gave us a secondary shower. Ice cold winds whipped around us, and my upright yet relaxed seating position gradually morphed into the forward-leaning stance of a superbike rider. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Bongiwe similarly bowled over, seeking protection behind the cover of her adjustable windshield.

It took me a while to recall that my 900 XR was fitted with heated grips, something my frozen fingers would have appreciated me engaging much earlier. As warmth seeped through my waterproof gloves, I felt myself relax and remembered why heated grips are one of Bongiwe's must-have features on a bike.

Almost without warning, the weather cleared, and with one revolution of our tyres, we found ourselves riding in dry, warmer conditions. The remainder of the ride would be much quicker, and as if on cue, we simultaneously twisted our right wrists.

bike,motorbike,bmw
POAR 2020

Curiosity remains

Stopping at various rest stops to refuel and stretch our legs, we yet again found ourselves at the receiving end of curious glances and pointed fingers. Interestingly, more men than women positively engaged us about motorcycling and almost all were surprised at the size of our chosen rides.

It is common for people to stare in awe at bikers and motorcycles, but along our journey, we had discovered that the attention factor surpassed the machines and was instead placed on our riding capabilities.

People actually stopped to watch if we would indeed get on the bikes and ride away - seemingly oblivious to the fact that we had arrived on the bikes they now questioned if we could ride. One man 'jokingly' asked Bongiwe if her 1250 GS wasn't too big for her, which was odd given that she towered head and shoulders above him.

READ: On the old Battlefield Route in memory of Mandela's staunch beliefs and resilience

As we pushed our bikes out of the parking bay at our last rest stop, a woman, making her way to the car next to our bikes, looked at me and exclaimed, "Yho, I didn't think you could do it. That bike looks heavy, and you are soooo short. I think you would be better off driving." There wasn't a hint of maliciousness in her voice, just pure unadulterated concern.

I sighed. The adventure was over, and it was time to get back to the familiarity of Johannesburg. Yet, as we close this chapter of POAR, we know that the experience opened up a whole new world. Not only to us, but to road users and onlookers who were shackled by society's conceptions. We've made an impact, and we plan on breaking down more misconceptions in 2021.

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