Jose Cuervo for the Flaming Eyeball

There is so much barbarity and horror in the news these days that when a feel-good story from another country pops up, it gives one sufficient cause to break out the amyl nitrate and dancing girls. It is only people who live in South Africa that would consider a deadly shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Texas to be a feel-good story. Maybe it’s just me.

I have always wanted to be in a motorcycle gang but I can’t grow a proper beard – it simply loiters with intent in the jowl area – nor do I have any tattoos. And I far prefer the snarling savagery of a dirt bike over the growling conceit of a Harley Davidson, a bike that’s all torque and no real action.

I like the names biker gangs have in the States. Hells Angels. Bandidos. Cossacks. Mongols. Outlaws. Pagans. The Hells Angels are so hardcore they don’t even bother with the apostrophe. It’s one of the reasons I could never join them. I’d be the one with the marker pen eventually getting stomped because I was forever fiddling with their leather jackets.

Ohio has the Zulus Motorcycle Club. They make it clear on their website that they “only accept real brothas that aren’t afraid to put it down on the slab”. What’s more, these brothas didn’t call themselves Zulus just for the hell of it. “Some of the original members actually met with Zulu tribesmen and learned the ways of being a great warrior nation.” The Zulus apparently saw their American brothas as “warriors that ride the iron horse” and gave them permission to call themselves Zulus, “with the promise to uphold the ways of the great Zulu tribe of Africa”.

In return, the bikers “gave sets of our colours to them so they have a piece of our club within their tribe”. I bet that’s what happened to Piet Retief and his men when they dropped in on King Dingane for a calabash of umqombothi. They were wearing the colours of Die Boere Bikers van God. Obviously there was going to be trouble.


We have our own gangs, but their names need work. The Sowetan Eagles sound like a newsletter produced by the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Roodepoort has the Active Disciples Riding 4 Jesus. I wouldn’t tangle with them under any circumstances. I bet they take Bible-punching to a whole new level. Cape Town has the Anonymous Riders but they never get together because none of the members know where anyone lives or even who they are. And, sure, we also have our very own Hells Angels. They have six chapters in South Africa. Or, as their website would have it, “charters”. No apostrophe and a spelling mistake? You don’t get more badass than that.

Speaking of Piet Retief and betrayals of trust, I once lost a much-loved motorcycle and along with it any hope I ever had of starting my own gang. I was living in Cape Town, the wrong place to own a 1974 Yamaha XT500. Endlessly kick-starting a pigheaded thumper in torrential rain is one thing, but crash-starting it down a wet hill at 3am only to have the back wheel lock up as you reach the intersection is another altogether. I had a decal of a flaming eyeball on the petrol tank and the brute had spent many years trying to kill me. It was time to part ways.

I put an ad in the paper. If someone was prepared to give me R9 500, they’d be saving my life and keeping me in beer for a weekend.

The first person who called asked about the condition of the bike. I lied like anyone else selling second-hand goods. He asked what time would be convenient to come around and take a look at it. I was in Hermanus sowing wild oats and other seeds of my ultimate discontent. The bike was parked on the pavement outside my rented hovel in Sea Point.
“I’m out of town,” I said. “But feel free to go along and take a look at it.” I told him where the bike was parked. He said he’d have difficulty making a decision without taking it for a ride. And that’s when it happened.

I don’t know if there was something in the filth I was drinking, but I was momentarily suffused with an overwhelming faith in my fellow man. I told him that he could start it with a 50c coin or even his house key. It’s one of Yamaha’s more intriguing security features on the older XT500.

“When you’re done, leave it where you found it and give me a call,” I said. There was a long silence. “What if I steal it?” he said. I laughed. “You won’t. You told me your name and I have your number on my cell.” He laughed, then I laughed. Then he laughed some more. “Call me when you’re done,” I said, instantly forgetting his name and accidentally deleting his number.

When I got back to Sea Point, all that remained of my bike was an oil stain on the tar.

I was saddened not so much by my own stupidity, but because me and the Flaming Eyeball had a history. We had been up mountains together. We had fallen over together. We had evaded traffic cops and angry motorists. We had done everything a normal couple does except bicker and throw things at each other. Also, we never slept together. Much like a marriage that’s gone on for too long. And like so many others, this was a marriage that had been destroyed through a betrayal of trust.

“I trust you” has overtaken “I love you” as the most treacherous phrase in common use today. Trust is a viper in the slippery hands of those who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Look, I’m not saying that I am weak and vulnerable. Far from it. I weigh 100kgs and have never had second thoughts about snapping the spine of a kabelou as it twists on the end of the line fighting to get at my jugular.
Several other people phoned about the bike in the days that followed. The words, “Sorry, it’s been taken” have never rung more true.

I expect every man, woman and child reading this to be on the lookout for a black unlicensed XT500 with dysfunctional lights, a broken speedometer and a flaming eyeball on the tank. Unless the thief is as moronic as I am, it’s likely that the Durban number plate is already a souvenir on someone’s bedroom wall. It also comes trailing a string of outstanding warrants, but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at it.
If you spot my bike, make a citizen’s arrest. Even if you are travelling at high speed, run him off the road. Try to minimise damage to the bike. There is a reward, of course. Vigilante justice doesn’t come cheap these days. Bring me my bike, or even one that looks like it could be mine, and you will receive a signed copy of my latest book and a bottle of tequila.

A Vicious Cycle


I never intended to enter the Cape Argus Pick ’n Pay Cycle Tour, but by Friday I was so sick and tired of these people taking over our restaurants and filling our brothels that I decided to teach them a lesson.

I approached Ted with the plan and he was up for it from the start. Right away he wanted to know what drugs we would be taking.

Not so fast,” I said.

First we have to get to the finish line. Ted seemed disappointed and mumbled something about stable doors and horses, but he misunderstood me.

Studying the route was key to winning the race. Eventually, after much poring over maps and pouring of beers, we found what we were looking for – a convenient cul-de-sac leading off Queens Road in Sea Point. All we had to do was find a couple of bicycles.

With so many in town it wasn’t that difficult. In fact, it took us less than an hour of driving around Bantry Bay with a bobbejaan spanner to acquire a couple of fine-looking bright red racing bikes.

Sunday morning found me and Ted lying low in the cul-de-sac arguing about what drugs to take. Narco-loading is vital for racers such as ourselves.

Essentially, we are sprinters. But jumping into the race two hours after the official start is not as easy as it sounds. The pack leaders swooping into Sea Point are usually in an ugly mood and timing is everything.

Even though our race would only be 3.5km long, we had to be fully prepared.

Ted had brought along two plastic bottles – one filled with white wine, the other with red. He said this was in case we changed our minds at the last minute and decided to jump into the race on the other side of the mountain, where people drink red wine. He was saving the cheap white for Green Point.

I had one of those cunning little backpacks designed to hold a litre of pre-mixed Jose Cuervo and orange juice. A plastic tube ran from the bottle to my mouth.

Ted wanted to take two Dexedrines to get his heart rate up and a Seconal to bring it down. He said that with a fluctuating pulse and arrhythmic heartbeat he would be unstoppable. His symptoms sounded like a cardiac arrest and his strategy made no sense at all, but I had more important things to worry about.

I had a dope muffin the size of a soccer ball in my backpack but I knew if I wolfed that thing down, there was a very good chance that the frontrunners would suspect something as I raced past them laughing at nothing and talking to nobody.

The alternative was a bankie full of stale magic mushrooms that I bought years ago from a dishevelled shaman hanging around the entrance to Stonehenge trying to get a lift back to Putney.

In the end I opted for a mouthful of each and told Ted to get ready. He swallowed his Dexies and within a minute he was anxiously pacing up and down the parking lot, babbling incessantly and gnawing the insides of his mouth to a bloody pulp. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

There is no doubt that drugs make any race a lot more exciting. For one, they help dissolve all those awkward social barriers that prevent you from openly taunting your opponents.

Steroids, needless to say, are the worst kind of drugs you can take. They do absolutely nothing for your mind and I, for one, applaud sports administrators for banning this scourge.

Unfortunately we had left it too late to buy Day-Glo orange lycra shirts so, the night before, Ted and I had produced a couple of hand-painted outfits that looked virtually identical to the real thing. All we needed to complete the ensemble were a couple of sponsors.

I chose Armscor and the Arthur Murray School of Dancing while Ted opted for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance and the SA Police.

I dredged up a pair of stretchy floral shorts from the back of Brenda’s underwear drawer (dear god, I hope they were shorts) while Ted had to make do with a baggy pair of semen-stained khaki Bermudas.

I threatened to pull out unless he changed his broeks.

What about you,” he said, snorting loudly. I asked him about the snorting but he quickly denied having been at the Colombian marching powder.

Before I left the house I caught a glimpse of myself in Brenda’s full-length mirror. Something was missing. At first I couldn’t work out what it was. I had everything the modern cyclist could possibly need – bright shirt, stupid shoes, funny helmet, drugs, alcohol, tight pants.

Tight pants! That’s what was missing. I rolled up a pair of socks and rammed them down the front. There. Much better. Now I looked like a real sportsman.

So it was with heads full of amphetamines, depressants, psilocybin, tedrahydrocannibanol and tequila that we found ourselves lurching out of the cul-de-sac as the first of the bunch came swarming past just after 8.15am.

We were half way to Green Point when Ted gave the signal to make our move. Much later he told me that this was, in fact, not the signal.

Narco-loading is great for short sprints, but one of the side effects is that you see and hear things that might not necessarily exist. Like the blonde who lifted her top, causing Ted to crash into the straw bales.

The upshot is that I held back until we were opposite the Green Point tennis courts and then made my spurt. In retrospect, I spurted way too soon.

When I got home and told Brenda, she made a rattling sound in the back of her throat as if she were laughing and said, “That’s my husband, alright.”

After holding the lead between the second and third set of traffic lights on Beach Road, the pack charged past me. I was even overtaken by a woman.

Later, while drinking beer to counter the effects of the post-race high, I told Ted how a muscle-bound lesbian had beaten me to the finish. He looked at me with a dazed expression and said, “It’s not about the dyke.”

Well, that’s all history now. The caravan has moved on, leaving behind more chafed crotches and sore bottoms than you might find in Sydney on the last night of Mardis Gras.