Forty minutes before the plane was due to board, and 30 minutes from the airport, the plug in my rear tyre gave up. You get that sinking feeling, literally, as the rear end goes all squishy and you focus on getting the whole thing to the side of the road in one piece.
The urgent need was to get my wife Peter (pictured above in less stressful times) to George airport for the last flight of the day to Johannesburg; she had a connecting flight to Dubai that she couldn’t afford to miss. I was using the V-Strom on its brand new Mitas tyres, complete with the newly plugged rear, following its bolt-puncture incident just 24 km into its short life.
Our two-month-old bakkie (pick-up truck for those outside South Africa) was off the road: a woman pulled out of a side road and stopped right in front of me on a dual carriageway. I was fortunately sticking to the 60 km/h speed limit, so she wasn’t hurt; I merely felt the intense pain you get in your sternum when a seat belt does its job – but the bakkie would be off the road while the insurance industry did its thing.
The first thought after the tyre went flat was to have my wife take off her biking gear and stick a thumb out for a passing car. A police car heading the other way stopped and the female officer was very sympathetic, even offering to call her husband and see if he’d take Peter to the airport. He wasn’t answering his phone and, meantime, none of the seven or eight cars that sped past showed any sign of stopping.
Two bikers also sped past, wearing Renegades jackets, but a minute later reappeared from the opposite direction to see if they could help. I asked if they were heading to George, and they said yes. Would they take Peter to the airport? Of course! So she got her biking gear back on and sat on the back of a large black cruiser (I was too concerned that she should catch her flight to bother about the make, but I reckon it was a Harley clone from Honda or Yamaha). The other guy, on a Yamaha sports bike, took her heavy sailing bag and slung it over his shoulders like a rucksack, and they headed off. The clock was ticking; thank God for online check-in.
The cop gave me a card for a local breakdown service, and a guy with a bike trailer duly arrived within 20 minutes, loaded the stricken V-Strom and took me home again. Pricey, at R950, but you don’t have many options with a bike puncture, especially one this size.
Peter made it with 25 minutes to spare, and I was back in front of the TV set in time to watch Ireland defeat Scotland on their way to winning the Six Nations Rugby Championship and the Grand Slam. (You have to be a rugby fan to appreciate that feat, and Irish to know why it means so much, but well done lads!)
So thanks to the two Renegades for proving to be Samaritans as well – you saved the day. As for plugs in motorcycle tyres, I’ve never been a fan. I’ve just ordered a new rear boot for the Suzuki, having set a new personal record for the distance covered on a new tyre: 75 km! Prices have shot up in the few short weeks since I last bought one, so between the tyres and the rescue I’m out R3,000, or about £200. Ouch!