Crash story: Pando Moto Jeans vs Antelope
Hungry for the adventure
I had time off from work to take before the end of the year and I was hungry for adventure, but wasn’t sure where to go. After some thinking I decided that new adventure was calling me: I was going to go on a solo motorcycle road trip in South Africa.
All the gear, all the time
So I started spending hours reading blogs, forums, and travel agency tours to plan the perfect trip: looking at the points of interest, the best roads, passes, restaurants, and coffee shops along the way. After a few days, I had it all mapped out: I would leave from Cape Town, and via the Garden Route, head to the Drakensberg for some hiking, and then head back.
While I was prepping the trip, I remember coming across this rule; when riding in South Africa it’s “ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time”. The hiking gear, I had. The motorcycle gear needed a bit of an upgrade mostly in the trouser department. I remember seeing a pair of Pandomoto Karl Devil jeans on a friend of mine on the last ride we did and they looked sweet, so I did my research on what was on the market and ordered them in a heartbeat. A few days later, the jeans arrived and I was ready to go.
Twisty dirt roads
I flew in to Cape Town on Saturday morning, the rest of the day was spent sight-seeing and relaxing. The next morning, at 9am sharp, I picked up the bike, a BMW F800GS. It was the perfect bike for this trip, lighter than its big sister the GS1200 but with more than enough power to take my 100kg body (+ bags) across the dozens of passes and dirt roads awaiting us. Twisty dirt roads going up mountains and offering a different view after each and every turn. It was hard to ride without stopping regularly, either for a picture or simply to take in the view and the beauty of Mother Nature.
No no no… (and a few swear words)
Unfortunately, time flies, and even more so when you enjoy off-road tracks. The tar road leading to Willowmore is straight, the mountains in the background seemed to be calling for me, and the light purple sky gave me enough visibility to go a little harder on the throttle.
I was riding at speed limit, 120km/h, in the middle of the road, with my hand covering the brakes. There was no one in sight, my eyes were wide open, only for an antelope to cross the road in front of me seconds later. I barely had time to hit the brakes, yell “NO NO NO” (and a few swear words) while desperately trying to regain control of the bike…
Things start to come back.
The next thing I know, I open my eyes, and I’m lying in an ambulance. The lights seem so bright and I am being asked what I’m doing in South Africa. I’m lost. “I’m in South Africa?” I ask. “What the hell am I doing here?” It takes me a few long minutes to understand if I’m dreaming, and why so many questions are going through my head. At this stage, I still haven’t assessed my injuries, but nothing seems to hurt more than it should. I’m more focused on remembering what happened. I then start to remember and tell the first responders what happened.
-“Where are you taking me?”
-“Uniondale hospital, sir”.
How did i get there?
After dropping some volunteers in Willowmore, they were heading back to Uniondale. It was completely dark and on the side of the road they saw a light. As they approached, they recognised a motorbike. Not too far away, I was laying on the floor. One arm up. At this point, I managed to stand up, walk two steps and collapsed. The rest is me speaking nonsense until I finally woke up in the ambulance.
The jeans that saved my life
They kept me in the hospital for observation overnight and I was released the following morning. Ok, my ankles hurt when I walk, I must have sprained them and banged my feet on the ground quite badly. My hip is a bit banged up and my head feels quite empty, but I’m alive. My helmet, my jacket, my Karl Devil jeans and my shoes took the brunt of the trauma so my body didn’t have to.
All of a sudden, the multiple warnings to keep “All The Gear, All The Time” made sense. What I wore didn’t prevent me from sustaining a few minor injuries, but thanks to my equipment it was limited to bumps, bruises, and sprains.
Meeting the bike
Time to release me, doctor. Now to see the bike. First challenge? Trying to locate my ride.
Once released from the hospital, and after thanking everyone for saving me, I was met by one of the farmers, who took me to the bike. It didn’t look too good.
The fork was bent, plastics were broken or missing, the gear box was stuck… But it started! After pushing it a bit, the gears were back in order. The fork wasn’t just bent, it was broken. No going any further with this bike.
Because I’m stubborn, and I didn’t want my trip to end like this, so I decided ask the rental company to send a new bike to my location by Friday. My trip wouldn’t go as planned anymore and I probably wouldn’t have time to hike in the Drakensberg.
Getting back on the road
The new bike ended up being delivered on Thursday. After resting 3 days, I was able to get back on the road, and enjoyed more of the Garden Route. I would ride back to Cape Town over the course of 5 days and try to discover more roads.
First stop: the crash spot
But first, Uniondale. Yes, you read that right, I went back where the accident happened to see it for myself. I wouldn’t call myself superstitious, but I felt like I had some unfinished business to handle. After a short break, I headed towards the spot where I crashed. It took me a while to find the exact place. The scenery was still stunning, with the mountains in the background. I found the skid marks. I had barely had time to brake. With that out of my system it was time to say good-bye to Uniondale, for good!
Lucky to be alive to tell my story
This trip clearly didn’t go as planned, but I’m lucky to be alive to tell my story. I’m even luckier to have met amazing people after the accident. From the first responders, to the many bikers, and the South Africans who opened their doors and shared their tables with me. It also taught me that being reasonable doesn’t necessarily get in the way of a good adventure.
A story by Sébastien Szymkowiak