East London – Africa Bike Week has been held in Margate since 2009, but a change of venue was on the cards. For 2017, after four years of negotiations, the entire event was moved to East London, with Harley-Davidson remaining the title sponsor. The event was held from the 27th to the 30th of April.
The entire area in front of the Osner hotel, or Harley-Davidson Hotel as it was known over the four days, was bathed in orange. The organisers even had help from the Buffalo City Fire departments’ ladders to get banners up.
Event organiser Carl Frayne opened the festivities with inputs from a few dignitaries. The executive mayor of East London, Xola Pakati, welcomed the bikers, and said he estimated that the presence of the bike week would bring in an additional cash boost of about R10-million to the region.
He also gave his commitment that the event would return in 2018 and 2019. The organisers have aligned themselves with the mayor’s legacy project to restock the libraries of rural schools with books, so the event is not just about bikes but also a boost to the local communities.
Frayne explained that the venue in Margate was getting too small and stalls were disconnected, so the decision was made to rotate the venue to East London. The location offers almost 500 m² of additional space, and the entire event area is more integrated.
The entertainment area is much larger than what was possible in Margate, and the bar area alone could accommodate almost 4 500 patrons, as opposed to around 1000 in Margate.
Aidan Johnson, marketing manager of Harley-Davidson, explained their involvement: East London hosts a number of major events like Iron Man, surfing and boxing – and now there is Africa Bike Week. He stressed that the event is open to all brands of bikes.
This year they also hosted an off-road outride, even though Harley-Davidson doesn’t have an off-road model in their line-up. He was also instrumental in organising group rides to East London.
Most of the major Harley-Davidson dealerships were represented and there was a demo ride area where riders could take a Harley on a gentle guided cruise through the streets of East London.
For people whom have never ridden a motorcycle before, Harley-Davidson offered a stationary bike where you could try your hand at learning the nuances of riding a bike in a safe environment. Most of the stalls were also community-driven, and so Johnson was very excited to see money being plowed back into the local community.
Top bands such as The Parletones, Majozi, Monark and Blackbyrd performed every evening, but the event was also a platform for local artists to showcase their talent during the day. A local jazz band impressed so much that they were asked to perform the next day as well. Even a brass band from a local school joined in the festivities.
Stunt rider Patric Botha displayed his skills. After a massive accident a while ago that had him wheelchair bound, Botha dreamt of becoming a stunt rider. On the Friday and Saturday he was able to live his dream. A custom bike show on Saturday saw a number of impressive entries, and a mass ride on Sunday morning was equally successful.
The event provided ample entertainment and on Saturday night the venue was packed to capacity. The highlight of the evening was when one lucky visitor walked away with a brand new Harley-Davidson.