Just a few of the estimated 7000 rider who took part in the 2011 Cape Town Toy Run.

At around this time of the year staff in toyshops around South Africa get used to the sight of large, menacing, leatherclad individuals looking at Lego sets and taking imaginary swipes with child-sized cricket bats - because it's Toy Run time again.

This is not only South Africa's largest motorcycling event by far - and the biggest, loudest biker party of the year - it's also where bikers get to play Santa Claus on a grand scale, on the last Sunday of November every year.

Rodney Ford, convenor of the Cape Town Toy Run, says that in the past six years the Charity Toy Run Trust has given away in excess of 190 000 toys - and that's just in the greater Cape Town area. There's an even bigger Toy Run in Gauteng and literally dozens in smaller centres around the country, on the same day each year.


On Sunday 25 November between 6000 and 7000 motorcycles - each carrying at least one toy - will converge from two start points to form the largest parade of motorcycles ever seen in Cape Town. The 15 kilometre-long procession will take more than an hour to pass any given point on the route and, when they reach the end venue at Maynardville in Wynberg, the riders will fill at least two five-tonne trucks to overflowing with toys - a sight that has to be seen to be believed.

The Toy Run will start simultaneously at 10.30am from the Pick n Pay Hypermarket in Ottery and the Cape Town Market in Epping; the twoprocessions will merge on Settlers Way and ride along Union Avenue and Tennant Road to Maynardville.

Any licensed rider on a street-legal motorcycle is welcome - just bring toys! Non-motorcyclists are invited to take positions along the route (the bridges over the M5 and under the oaks along Union Avenue are favourite spots) to get up close and personal at one of the world's great biking spectacles. Then come down to Maynardville and join the party - just bring toys!


For anybody who hasn't been behind the scenes and seen it for themselves, the sheer size and scope of the Toy Run is hard to imagine, involving dozens of traffic officers, several kilometres of temporary fencing, onsite security, portable toilets, litter bins, dozens of trade stalls and enough food and drinks vendors to feed 10 000 hungry, thirsty people in a few short hours.

At a media briefing to launch the 30th Cape Town Toy Run (the first Toy Run was organised in 1983 and it has been held every year since then), Ford made the point that the Toy Run had, in more ways than one, become a victim of its own success.

The infrastructure required to put on an event of this size, he said, cost in the region of R100 000 - and remember, the Toy Run has no income other than a small mountain of toys: the toy or toys you bring are your entry fee and your ticket.

Most of the goods and services required are provided free of charge by the City Council and a number of local businesses, but each year, he warned, there was a bigger likelihood that there would be a cash shortfall.


The Toy Run is also a very successful one-day motorcycle rally, with live music and entertainment, a huge array of trade stalls and plenty to eat and drink at reasonable prices. Each year more people turn up for the party and don't even bother to bring a toy.

We need to remember, he said, that the Toy Run is not about the noise, the music, the revelry or the fact that for one Sunday each year motorcyclists take over the streets of Cape Town in a way that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago.

It's about the tens of thousands of disadvantaged children all over the greater Cape Town area who won't know the meaning of Christmas until we show them. Which is why Rodney Ford, Mayor Patricia de Lille (she'll be there) comedian Kurt Schoonraad (he's always there) and host club the Italian Motorcycle Owners Club are all raising their voices to say: “Be there - and bring toys!”