South African roads are a seething mass of too many vehicles on an already strained infrastructure. There is a means by which to alleviate some of the pressure, but it’s seen as too risky and the process of getting a license is felt to be difficult. Motorcycles haven’t really been considered a viable option locally, yet in other congestion-filled countries, they’re viewed as pragmatic and fuel-efficient.
Traveling by motorcycle is very risky—there’s no denying this. However, due to the relatively small percentage of motorcycle commuters, the general level of awareness is greatly diminished. Of course, little mention has to be made of the speed at which some motorcyclists travel—the disparity between themselves and cars greatly diminishing reaction time.
While there are clearly issues with adopting two-wheeled transport en masse, theoretically this is a viable solution, reflected by the Gauteng transport authority’s recent statement. They have given the undertaking to AMiD (Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors) national director, Réhann Coetzee, that they will consider redrafting the legislature required for obtaining a driver’s license in order to ease the transition. This, of course, is good news for the flagging motorcycle industry which has been suffering the effects of the global economic downturn.
In 2011, some 34,214 motorcycles (excluding quads and off-road bikes) were sold, in contrast with the 54,720 in 2008. The pressure exerted by a very expensive Yen has also had its effect on sales, despite the Rand, Pound Sterling and Dollar being corrected to previous levels. Similarly, boats have been seen as luxury items and the playthings of the rich and have suffered the same decline. What is often overlooked, is that this industry creates some 3,500 jobs for local artisans and plays a significant role in South Africa’s economy. According to Vanessa Davidson, CEO of MIASA (The Marine Industry Association of South Africa), “South Africa builds boats to international standards and thanks to local ingenuity and the tenacity of our manufacturers, we are able to supply excellent boats to the local market and to export boats at competitive prices all around the world.”
There’s clearly much value and interest in both motorcycles and boats, and as such the first co-hosted event between AMiD Motorcycle and Quad Lifestyle Show, and the Johannesburg Boat Show and Outdoor Lifestyle Shows took place this August at the NASREC expo centre.
Around 30,000 people attended the event which was superbly hosted by SA Show Services. South Africa’s Olympic gold medal-winning rowing team was present to meet their fans and sign autographs, and lifetime achievement awards were handed out by the Gauteng Boating Retailers Association to industry icons Leon Prinsloo of Raven Boats, Derrick Levy of Marine and Boating, Don Jarred of Angler Boats, Ronnie Arenson (who established Water World in Gauteng) and Peter Lindenberg (multiple South African waterskiing and Formula One powerboat champion).
The exhibition also welcomed back iconic Italian motorcycle brands Benelli, absent for 25 years, and Moto Guzzi, absent for five years. The Benelli Motorcycle Company is more than a century old and has a proud racing heritage. Now part of the Chinese Qianjiang Group, the company still operates from its original site in Pesaro, Italy and is being distributed by Puzey Motor Corporation SA. Moto Guzzi won more than 3,000 races in their illustrious career, and famously pioneered the use of wind tunnel testing for motorbikes. Along with Aprilia and MV Agusta, these brands fairly complete the list of remarkable Italian machinery now available to local enthusiasts.
Not to be outdone by the flair of the two-wheeled exhibitions, but keeping with the Italian-made theme, the Johannesburg Boat Show had as their star attraction, a R5,8 million ($704,000) yacht on display. The Atlantis 38 Open-Class Power Yacht as its officially known, measures in at 11,62 meters and has been called “the upgrade to end all upgrades”. Able to carry 12 passengers with ease, the Atlantis is still so nimble that it requires no additional skills to pilot.
Another formidable vessel on display was the nine-meter long houseboat christened Sensation Living. The boat is completely self-contained and solar powered. The hull is made of glass fiber and the entire vessel acts like a giant cooler box, such are the levels of insulation it offers. The boat offers accommodation for six people and entertainment capabilities for 12. With only a normal skippers license needed, Sensation Living is aimed at serious water lovers who only intend to set foot on land on rare occasions—and with a price tag of R1.2 million ($145,800), we wouldn’t want to leave this vessel either.
If bikes or boats weren’t your passion, the expo also housed the Outdoor Lifestyle Show. Inside the hall were a range of diverse offerings—from scuba gear to barbecue equipment to model cars. There was something for everyone, and an expo such as this provides a valuable entry point for those wishing to get involved in activities by creating awareness and providing expert advice on hand.
Outdoor activities have always been an important aspect of South African life, given that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with a wonderful climate to boot.