10 Dec, 2015

Riding for our freedom

As is common during mass participation events, the start was relatively slow for the “back markers”.
Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau officially started the ride. And he actually rode it too.
Riders received purple bracelets for the ride.
Two interesting father-and-son teams took part in the event, Malcolm and Tyler Lange and Jamie and Douglas Ryder.

The Johannesburg Freedom Ride has become a bit of an institution.

It has been ridden by a wide variety of people, from professional cyclists to others who have to dust their bicycles off once a year for the one ride they’ll do that year.

And the latest incarnation of South Africa’s largest city’s Freedom Ride was no exception.

Held on Sunday 11 October and with its start and finish line in Sandton, linking in with the EcoMobility Festival, the Freedom Ride took cyclists through Parktown, Hillbrow, Yeoville, Alexandra and then back to Sandton.

After a quick jaunt through the streets of Sandton, the riders headed towards the shady suburbs of Parkview. A helter-skelter down Jan Smuts Avenue led to the first really nasty hill up past the zoo.

A left turn onto Upper Park Drive, followed by a right turn up a relatively steep Ettrick Road got the riders onto Oxford Road and into Parktown itself with a left turn into Victoria Avenue.

Another left turn into Sam Hancock Street and the riders pedalled into Hillbrow itself. Then riders rode through the flatland of Hillbrow proper on Van der Merwe Street, many of the older cyclists not seeing these streets for decades.

It was a strange feeling for many riders who grew up enjoying the nightlife of Hillbrow during the 1970s and 1980s or perhaps even living in one of the many flats overlooking those streets during those years, and now riding through those streets with curious onlookers and city security and JMPD Metro cops looking after them.

Riders flicked through Olivia Road, Tudhope Avenue and Alexandra Street before hitting Yeoville. Saunders Street, then a left into Fortesque Road and a right into Raleigh Street all let the cyclists know they were definitely in the suburb which, together with Melville, gave birth to Johannesburg’s “café society” of the 1990s.

Followers of professional cycling would probably have smiled as they turned into Cavendish Road. And then, at the top of that hill, a left-and-right combination of turns and riders geared into their highest gears for the long downhill that is Louis Botha Avenue.

Reaching speeds in excess of 60 kilometres per hour, riders dodged taxis and other cars on this long stretch before turning left onto Rautenbach Avenue and then joining Grayston Drive for a dash back to Sandton and the “finish line” on Maude Street.

The October 2015 Freedom Ride was exactly 27,4 kilometres long with a fair 463 metres of climbing. Although, according to Strava, times of 1:05:32 were recorded on the day, the average cyclist would probably have made the distance in 1:30:00 to 2:00:00 And with all sorts of entertainment and family fun at the finish, it isn’t just a ride but is a good day out for the whole family.

Although fit or experienced cyclists could probably do the distance in less than an hour, the point of the Freedom Ride wasn’t how quick you could finish the distance, but rather that you could actually ride those streets with freedom.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |