Max Rabalago is breaking barriers in the biking world.
Margate, KwaZulu-Natal - The green light is on. Whether it’s the latest Harley or the juiciest Yamaha, hundreds if not thousands of wheels are turning and heading towards Margate for the 2018 South Coast Bike Fest and music extravaganza. The dates to remember are Friday, April 27, when the Fest opens, to Monday April 30.

If 2017's inaugural event is anything to go by, more than 60 000 festival visitors are in for a biking and musical treat with a definite Caribbean vibe.

But before you throw your hands up in horror at the thought of a whole gang of rowdy bikers descending on the beaches, it’s time to forget all the bad and ugly news once associated with biker gangs. This is about a new elegance for the biking fraternity, which aficionados say includes respect, caring, mentoring and responsible riding.

Rambo rider

No one can tell that story better than Max Rabalago, chairperson of the Rainbow Mzansi Bikers Organisation, whose Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle has become an icon of transformation among riders.

One of the first organisations of its kind in South Africa, Rambo’s mission is to bridge the gaps between races and cultures, embedding the Ubuntu notions into a historically American culture. It represents the interests of many motorcycle clubs, primarily consisting of black bikers, spread across Gauteng, the Free State and North West.

“We are proudly South African,” said this larger-than-life biking missionary. “It is a big thrill to see how many top class black riders are joining the fraternity. For me, a passion for biking and a commitment to serve less advantaged communities are ways to break down barriers; it's about dignity and camaraderie across all cultures, and all races.

Yamaha MT10 rider shreds rubber.

He insists the old-style American biking scene synonymous with toxic vibes and bad attitude has no place in the South African biking world.

“We make sure we do not come across as ‘don’t mess with us’ tough guys." he said. "Many of our Mzansi motorcycle clubs are involved with charities - raising funds or organising rallies to create awareness about issues that affect their communities.”

But it's not all about guys, adds Rabalago.

“Biking should be a cross-gender thing," he said. “There are some great women riders out there. We would like to see more of them at celebrations such as this.”

As well as participating in the many biking events planned for the Fest, Rabalago will be representing Rambo at the South African National Biking Council Alliance meeting.

Enduro star

Herbalife Blu Cru Yamaha Time enduro rider Piwe Zulu, left, with Yamaha team-mate Thabang Katees.

This year the Fest organisers are promising a bigger and better programme that reflects the camaraderie of the motorcycling community and gives audiences a chance to enjoy incredible South African music talent.

Piwe Zulu, 33, from Gamalakhe, on the KwaZuluNatal South Coast, will also be among the bikers.

“I come from a poor area but I was lucky enough to get into motorbikes at an early age," he explained. "They are my life and my passion. I have a Yamaha WR250X and ride for the Herbalife Blu Cru Yamaha team. In the Roof of Africa rally I am in the silver class. That makes me very proud. It’s been a lot of hard work. I like to think the words that describe me are ‘love’ ‘dedication’ and ‘responsibility’.”

Zulu finished seventh in the recent CSMX Enduro Nationals in Cape Town. The endurance obstacle race through the streets of Margate, he says, is going to be “so much fun!”.

Sunday morning Show 'n Shine will feature a number of flights of fancy such as this one.

The musical line-up includes Michael Zuma, Big Dawg, DJ Fresh, DJ Bruce, DJ LeSoul, Felix Hlope, FlyMotion and Babes Wodumo. The Fest will be staged along the beachfront boulevard of Margate, where street buskers, marching brass bands, trade vendors and pop-up food villages will be the backdrop for bike enthusiasts to enjoy what is fast becoming the premier biking event in the country.

Max Mbili, municipal manager of the Ray Nkonyeni municipality, which includes the South Coast tourist mecca of Margate, believes the Fest is a new jewel in the tourism crown.

“We can’t wait to welcome bikers from all over the country," he said, "and make them feel at home here on our stunning shores.”

It’s a sentiment shared by chief executive of the South Coast Ugu Tourism Board, Justin Mackory.

“In 2017, we introduced the South Coast Bike Fest, which exceeded all expectations," he said. "We can’t wait for the show to begin.”

Sunday Tribune