Cape Town day trip: around the mountains on a motorcycle

Posted by Tyson Jopson on 9 June 2017 Tags:, , ,

Below you’ll find a Cape Town day trip perfect for motorcycle riders. And also a cure for madness. You can do it in a day.


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As far as oceanside roads go, Clarens Drive is one of the world’s best. On this route you’ll catch it in the late afternoon, when the sun starts to golden like a perfectly done hashbrown. Photo by Greg Beadle.

‘No time’ is such a common complaint these days that it might as well be a medical condition. Many of my riding friends have it. I once asked one if they were keen for a weekend away and they said ‘I can’t. There’s just no time left.’ It’s the kind of sentence that throws you into a blind panic. What do you mean NONE LEFT? WHERE DID IT ALL GO? HOW ARE WE STILL HERE? It’s madness.

So when given the BMW R nineT Scrambler to test ride, I came up with a short Cape Town day trip that you can do in a day – even less, actually. It takes you from the city up into the Franschhoek Mountains, then south into the Overberg and along two of the world’s most spectacular ocean drives back to Cape Town. It’s got everything from tight switchbacks to long undulating sweeps, scenic stops, good food, and the kind of ocean views worth craning your neck for. There’s also a ‘secret’ gravel pass. It’s a great route for bikers, and for those fighting the degenerative disease of time, it might just be short enough to restore a little sanity.


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The R nineT Scrambler scores big in the nostalgia department. Photo by Greg Beadle.

Here is a map of the route, a link to it (and directions) on Google Maps, and seven highlights you’ll find along the way:

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This Cape Town day trip takes you around two of the Cape’s closest mountain ranges: the Hottentots Holland Mountains and the Kogelberg Mountains.


1. Breakfast on Bree Street

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Bacon and eggs at Culture Cheese Club. Supplied photo.

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In the green (with envy) corner: the indefatigable BMW Boxer engine, a heavy thumper in its twilight. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

I’m not usually one for trendy breakfast spots but this bike and Bree Street are made for each other (I mean, just look at it). The only problem is that early isn’t trendy, especially on weekends. Most places only open at 9am so I ended up doing a lap of Cape Town’s busiest breakfast avenue with nobody watching. If you do get a late start (not judging) try Culture Cheese Club. Their winter breakfast menu is currently under alteration, but if you can find a meal with mushrooms in it, you won’t be disappointed. Opens 9am.

TIP: If you’re getting a late start but still want to get a jump on the breakfast crowd, try Skinny Legs and All. They open at 8.30am on Saturdays (closed Sundays). 0214235403


2. Franschhoek Pass

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Franchhoek Pass on the R nineT is bliss. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

Perhaps the most iconic pass in the Western Cape, Franschhoek hums on Saturdays with weekend warriors who like to get their knee down. It’s an insanely fun pass to ride and, if you’ve got time, I recommend doing it twice. Heading up from Franschhoek town, the pass starts off with a steep ascent and a succession of tight switchbacks before opening out long undulating sweeps as you crest the plateau and head towards Theewaterskloof Dam. On the R nineT Scrambler the fun factor doubles. The throaty twin engine, squat bulldogish frame and simple one-clock dash bring the scrambler era back to life as you haul it through the bends.


3. Pie stop at Peregrine Farm Stall

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Of course we all come for the pies, but the fresh bread rocks too. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

It’s a Cape classic for a reason – the pies just are that good. If you didn’t get your breakfast in Bree Street, this is the place to stop. And even if you did, leave some space for something from the bakery. My favourite is the springbok pie (R25). It’s also a good place to stop and check your map because you won’t be taking the N2 (at least not for more than 200 metres) to where you’re going next. Open from 7.30am.


4. Highlands Road

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Highlands Road: a short course in getting to grips with gravel. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

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Knobbly tyres on a retro ride. Very much a match made in style heaven. Photo by Greg Beadle.

Hiding behind Peregrine Farm Stall is a relatively inconspicuous side road (Viljoenshoop Road) that leads you up to a gravel pass that not all that many travellers know about. Predominantly a logging road, Highlands skirts the northern reaches of the Kogelberg as it twists and climbs higher over the Elgin Valley. It’s a well-graded road and easy in any car but if you’re on a road-shod motorcycle consider your skill level: it’s quite loose in sections and you need to have your wits about you. It was an absolute breeze with these Metzeler Karoo tyres though, which more than made up for the increased noise levels they create at high speed on the tar. They also look damn fine.


5. Clarens Drive

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With no fewer than 77 bends, Clarens Drive on a sunny (and relatively traffic-less) day still rates as my top road in the Cape. Photo by Greg Beadle.

After the gravel thrills on Highlands Road, the R44 will carry you around the Kogelberg and back towards the Cape Peninsula. Kleinmond is a good place to stop for fuel but really any of the small seaside escapes along route (Bettys Bay, Pringle Bay, Rooi-Els) are great for a short detour to the ocean. The real magic for riders, though, happens between Rooi-Els and Gordon’s Bay – Clarens Drive. It twists and writhes its way along the contours of False Bay for a whopping 21 kilometres, presenting a slew of splendid, never-ending bends with spectacular views.


6. Ooskus Fish and Chips

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Best fish and chips in False Bay is at Ooskus Fisheries, in this humble author’s opinion. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

Cheap, cheerful and great value for money – you can’t beat a lunch stop at Ooskus Fisheries in Gordon’s Bay. It’s also a great spot to stop because it’s right at the end of Clarens Drive too. R77 for a hake and chips combo that you’ll find tough to finish.


7. Chapman’s Peak Drive

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When there’s little traffic, Chapman’s Peak is a blast. Those moments are few though. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

If you’re a little short on time, it’s a straight shot from Gordon’s Bay back to Cape Town on the N2. I wasn’t quite ready to dismount the R nineT so I took a detour back along a route I first rode in reverse on the bike’s South African launch a few months prior: Baden Powell (R310) past Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, onto Muizenberg, up Ou Kaapse Weg and into Noordhoek to the start of Chapman’s Peak Drive – Cape Town’s classic scenic route. It’s nowhere near as long as Clarens Drive (just nine kilometres) but is very tight and twisty – fantastic for riding but not so fantastic for traffic. It’s difficult to pass and a lot of the corners are blind so things tend to pile up. Take it easy, or even better: treat it as an opportunity to stop and stare out at the ocean every few bends. There’s a toll payable (R27 for motorcycles) so keep your wallet handy.


The BMW R nineT Scrambler

The BMW R nineT Scrambler. Photo by Greg Beadle

I imagine when someone at BMW headquarters suggested giving its much-loved (and apparently soon-to-be-retired) 1200 boxer twin engine a home in a scrambler-style racer, they were called mad. But in this pared-down (minimal electronics: ABS brakes and traction control are the only rider aids), bootleg version of the R nineT, it all kind of makes sense. The minimal style puts the engine in the spotlight, it feels good beneath you and the torquey gurgle always brings a smile.

And while the heavier steering and stiffer suspension (compared to the R1200R and stadard R nineT) do make it less comfortable than other Boxer incarnations, it translates to a ride that not only wins points for looks in the retro department, it feels raw and suitably unrefined. If you’ve always been a big fan of the Boxer (and I am), you’d do well to complete your appreciation of this icon with a ride on the R nineT Scrambler.


Road Trips