Women in Wheels | SA's Jo Rust rode around the African continent on a motorbike, all alone

• Jo Rust rode a bike around the African continent.

• She recently held a training school for bikers who wanted to improve their skills.

• She is the embodiment of the word "gumption".

For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

Over the past few months, I had the pleasure of spending time with some of the most iconic women in motoring.

While they have all made considerable contributions to the dismantling of the gender barriers in motoring, one, in particular, can lay claim to having quite literally blazed a trail for women motorcycle riders.

Biker, adventurer, author, speaker, mentor... choose the epitaph you want to use to describe Jo Rust. They all fit. Jo is one of the world's most prominent women in adventure travel, but she is much more than that. She is an inspiration to all those who know her; the epitome of bravery, determination and confidence.

If you are looking for the embodiment of the word "gumption", Jo Rust is it.

Many firsts

Jo holds several records, including being the fastest female solo cyclist from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and the first person to cycle solo around South Africa.

But even those feats of endurance pale next to what is arguably her most remarkable achievement: being the first woman to ride solo around Africa on a motorcycle - a journey that saw her traversing 45 000km, through 28 countries, tracing the outline of the continent over a year.

Her trip around Africa is well documented in her book Woman Alone Around Africa, but it was in her role as an internationally accredited professional off-road motorcycle instructor that I had my most recent encounter with this awe-inspiring woman. The occasion was a dual-purpose motorcycle training session held at ADA South Africa's training facility, near Broederstroom in the North West.

Best trainer

If you want to learn how to ride a dual-purpose bike correctly, you can do a lot worse than being taught by the woman who took on and conquered every mud hole, rutted road and obstacle Africa could throw at her. Confident without seeming arrogant, she stands in front of the group of mostly male students, cracking a joke here and there to keep the atmosphere relaxed.

She talks about the choice of tyres and tyre pressure, and the importance of proper protective gear. And her students lap it up unquestioningly because they, like me, are well aware that she's earned this particular T-shirt - over and over again.

Talk turns to practice as she demonstrates body position for riding standing up. After giving the students time to practise this, she moves on to the next lesson, and the next after that. It is quite a curriculum to get through in the space of a Saturday morning, but she does it effortlessly, interspersing theory and practice with first-hand demonstrations.

jo rust,motorbike

Jo Rust training riders (Dries van der Walt / Wheels24)

Greater understanding

This particular session isn't very advanced. The trainees don't get to ride over errant logs or scale steep inclines. But by the time the training ends, the outcome is noticeable as the trainees walk away with increased confidence and a greater understanding of the capabilities and limits of their machines, regardless of whether they are more experienced riders who want a refresher course, or newbies who want to use their adventure bikes to do what they were designed for.

Jo flashes her easy smile after the training session, happy to have once again transferred a small part of her vast knowledge and experience to an eager audience. I look at her and reflect on the perseverance it takes to achieve what Jo has achieved. As a life-long biker, I haven't done a fraction of that. It's hard not to admire someone like Jo Rust, who not only managed to do what some would think impossible, but who is happy to pass on her hard-earned skills.

If you'd like to read a blow-by-blow account of Jo's amazing adventure around Africa, click here.


Do you know a phenomenal woman who's made an impact or difference in any sphere of the auto industry? Email us your/their story, with images.

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