by Howard Stafford aka Howie Zowie
I seldom drive a car in Johannesburg. Traffic in this city is so bad that any journey has the potential to turn into a nightmare experience where people in cars suddenly find themselves trapped like rats because of some trivial incident 10km away. I hate not being in control and that’s reason enough for me always to commute by bike. Sitting in traffic drives me mental. On a bike, as I zoom past the hapless prisoners in their cages it’s difficult not to feel intellectually superior.
Let’s agree; commuting by bike is THE ANSWER.
- On a bike petrol will cost you less than half, maybe even a quarter, of what you’ll spend on fuel for a car.
- Bike parking is FREE and invariably you can park right outside the door of your destination.
- You never ever get stuck in a traffic jam. Come what may you get to your destination on time.
- Best of all you arrive with a smile on your face, chillaxed and, as I’ve already pointed out, secure in the knowledge that you are an intellectual giant J
In late 2015 a series of unfortunate incidents caused me to start driving my bakkie around town. This is what happened. Every evening when we lock up before going to bed my wife’s cats decide that this is the perfect time to go charging off into the garden. On an evening as Cleopatra scooted between my legs I grabbed her. She started to struggle. I grabbed her harder. She went aapkak and scratched and bit me. 48 hours later I was admitted to hospital with my left hand looking like an over inflated rubber glove. The charming infection from a cat bite is called cellulitis. Trust me when I tell you that you never want to experience it. I spent 6 nights and 6 days in hospital on intravenous antibiotics, anti inflammatories and lovely pethidine. As a result of the severe swelling the nerves in my hand were damaged and I had to go for carpal tunnel surgery. My left hand was now so weak that I could not pull a clutch lever and therefore could not ride a bike.
My bakkie is an extremely manly Toyota Hilux double cab V6 4.0 litre, a lovely vehicle on the open road. Around town it sucks juice in a manner that brings joy to oil producing nations. It’s big and difficult to park. As James Taylor sang “It hurts my motor to go so slow.” At work my bike parking was at the lifts. In the bakkie I sometimes spent 20 minutes driving up and down the parking garages looking for an elusive parking bay. I was not in a good frame of mind.
Things came to a head on a rainy morning. As you know the average IQ of drivers drops by 20 points as soon as there is a bit of rain and traffic becomes an even bigger nightmare than usual. I had travelled maybe 100 metres in 5 minutes and my fuse was getting shorter by the second. And then I had an epiphany. I called Chris Speight at KMSA – yes I do have Bluetooth in my bakkie so it was a hands free call – and explained my plight. “I have just finished running in a Sym 300. I was going to use it but your need is greater than mine. Come and collect it as soon as you like.” Bless you brother. A heavy weight fell from my shoulders. My mood brightened. The rain stopped. The sun shone. The traffic eased. That afternoon I collected the SYM GTS 300i EVO and rode home from the KMSA offices in Marlboro on the sparkling brand new silver limousine with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Of course the reason why I can ride the SYM, even with my weak left hand, is that the SYM is fully automatic. Twist the throttle and go go go. Thanks to the 263cc, liquid cooled, fuel injected motor the Sym is remarkably quick off the line making it easy to stay well ahead of the traffic. The handlebars are just 760mm wide and the distance between the tips of the fairing mounted mirrors is 860mm which means that slaloming between cars is a breeze. I haven’t kept a record of fuel consumption. According to the Sym spec sheet the bike sips fuel at a rate of around 4 litres per 100km. Seems about right to me. From time to time I put in R100 of 93 octane unleaded fuel and then don’t think about it for the next few weeks.
The SYM is urban transport at its best. Economical, swift, hassle free, practical and stylish. I love the SYM’s good looks, I love the massive trunk under the seat, I love the comfort and the safety implicit in the design. Most of all I love THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY.