Blue Weekends: The Suzuki weekend away.

The new GSX-S 800S was on display.

By Shado Alston. Pics by Trixie and SASA.

Leaving Pretoria late one Friday morning, myself and Mrs donned our backpacks and mounted our Suzuki GSX-S 1000 and headed east with the mission of arriving at the Hotel Numbi and Garden Suites before the evening’s pomp and ceremony commenced. The GSX-S fuelled and warm, we took to the road and planned our first stop at the Alzu services. 

Only having ridden the GSX-S once before, around the West rand for a few kilometres, it was entirely unknown what the bike would bring on the commute to ‘ET’. That being said, the naked machine is touted for more of a town ‘hoon’ machine than a touring option. 

With the tiny rear seat, the Gixxer is better suited to solo rides. What a cool bike though.

A little about the machine; 

It’s loosely based on the ‘kanniedood’ power plant of the K5 GSX-R1000 of what’s almost yesteryear. Being mated to all new fuel injection and Euro spec anti-climate change tech, the character of the motor is a little less “raw” than the GSX-R it was some 15 years ago. Much of the GSX-S chassis appears to share similar or possibly even the same componentry as the 08 Gixxer, just fitted with prettier plastics, suspension, brakes, LED Lights and digital instrumentation.

The tech on the GSX-S is perfect for purpose and allows for adjustments to the power curve, traction control and possibly even some ABS characteristics, but I never bothered adjusting too much as we were actually just there to enjoy the ride. 

Ok, I lie. I did turn the traction control off and set the management to deliver maximum power, as it always should be!

2-up, down the highway to what would be a first time attendance of the Suzuki weekend away, with a lot of new faces and one or two familiar ones! 

We took about 7 hours to get to Hazyview. It could have been quicker, but there are twisties to be twisted and roads to be ridden. Belfast to Lydenburg and then Graskop was the route to Hazy, after leaving the N4. 

The roads were reasonable and not too badly peppered with potholes, there were a few but nothing that a watchful eye wouldn’t miss. 

We bought Tricksy a pillow... it helped a lot.

Arriving at around 18h00 in the evening, we were welcomed by the ever-so-friendly staff at the Numbi and quickly checked in to our room. We received goodie bags with Suzuki apparel and some electronics to assist us on the adventure that awaited us in the morning.

A smorgasbord of colourful salads, meats, starches and puddings to satiate every desire Was served for dinner. 

We’d need to re-set the suspension in the morning.

After dinner formalities were concluded, Stuart Baker of Suzuki SA, (hereafter SASA) informed the crowd of around 140 people what the course of events for the next day would be. Excitingly enough, the event would follow a different format to previous oned, incorporating the wonderful little device which carries the sum total of the world’s knowledge in your top pocket! 

It sounded interesting and the new format of the day’s event was received with some wonder and apprehension, which was soon enough quelled and turned into a collection of spirited teams of people sharing knowledge and helping hands where necessary. 

More about that a little lower in the story…

Briefings were entertaining. And did we mention the great chows?
The friendly Numbi Hotel team with the new DL800.
Clubs and Suzuki dealers were well represented.

We then grabbed our phones, downloaded apps, formed teams and signed in for the upcoming challenge.

Fast forward to the morning. We got our minds around QR codes, challenge layouts, routes and checkpoints. Our team consisted of My Mrs, Trixie, Myself and Ian van der Merwe of World of Motorcycles Suzuki. As there were only three of us on the team, that was destined to be our team name; Team Three. You’ll see the irony a little later!

Having experienced a good few RFS bike economy runs, I was quite interested to see how the routes, waypoints and stops would work for the day out. The bike Econorun being arranged and run by ex-rally driver and personality Francois Jordaan would typically see competitors follow a rally-style road book, in boxes with rollers and controls and checkpoints of the same origin. Being a more ‘serious’ timed competition or event, the economy run was by virtue more competitive than the Suzuki weekend away happenings.

The mood for the day was safe fun and camaraderie. 

The event is open to all brands.

In a nutshell, it was like the amazing race met geocaching. Geocaching is a fun activity that is a challenge for travellers and enthusiasts alike, where GPS coordinates are followed to obtain a cache of some sort anywhere in the area,  country, or world for that matter. 

There are caches all over ZA and folks should at least once follow some of the coordinates to see what may lie hidden on the other side of your GPS screen! It’s a great activity on its own for families and any folks up for some searching along the wayside activities!

We all know the TV show the amazing race where contestants are given challenges along routes to a final destination. The Amazing Race is just that, a race. 

The weekend away was not timed and the bright folks at ‘GO Team’ solved the logistics.

Basically, the GO Team application is downloaded to your handheld device, a phone or tablet. The event is activated by scanning a QR code supplied by GO Team prior to the start. The QR code opens the door to the preconfigured routes, waypoints, challenges and scoring. All these are predefined by the organisers and the app tells you where to go via the GPS maps and checkpoints. Once you arrive at a checkpoint, the app automatically checks you in and starts your challenges. 

It might sound pretty simple, but man it was fun!

GS1000 shafty.
2nd gen Katana
2-Stroke GT.

Challenges ranged from answering questions about points or items of interest on the route, from the vintage motorcycles in the museum at Caster Bridge, taking selfies or group photos performing activities, or even just finding the waypoint. We even had one or two instances where a song was played and we had to complete lyrics or fill in the missing phrases and such. 

All of these were for points and some of the challenges were timed, so for instance, we had four minutes to find a 2 litre bottle and provide the last five digits of the barcode. I imagine it is possible to create any framework of challenge-and-response  tasks, data acquisition tasks or even video and audio captures to suit whatever the organisers would want and construe as a successful task completion. 

A great setup and every initiative was used within the app to make it user-friendly and fun!

Team shots...
All while enjoying Mpumalanga's great roads.

As far as the geographical challenges and logistics went, the preconfigured routes were easy to follow in the app as it used a map set akin to Google maps with much of the same functionality. All  tailored to provide information about the waypoint appearance and location to make it possible to find with some ease, unless of course it was a random tree on a D route road in the middle of nowhere. 

Which is, in fact, just what we had to do.  

Further to the nitty-gritty activity stuff, the app also contained information for organiser contact, medical assistance and route assistance, a necessity that wasn’t used, thankfully. 

We are always a thankful lot when a designated medic is available but doesn’t have to do his job on the weekend!

Lunch saw us stop at Aronica’s Nursery and tea garden just outside of Barberton on the R40 toward Mbombela. Here we had some well-deserved coffee, koeksusters and a challenge involving blindfolds, gelatine and loud voices over the lawn. Four massive plastic buckets were filled with dirty water containing hundreds of gelatine balls and random objects from buddy cooldrink bottles, main bearing caps, figurines to wheel spacer discs. 

Two members of a team partook one, being able to see, would go fish for an object and shout the description over a distance to the other team member. 

Blindfolded, the other team member would have to find the matching item in the bin before them. Each item was worth points, and the time taken to complete the 5-item challenge would set the serious contenders apart from the regular ones. (I only say this because Ian and I completed it in record time and got all five items correct!)

The Bucket challenge...
Where wives are legally allowed to shout.

Aronica’s is a superb nursery and paintball venue, currently gearing up for functions and things of the like. A small kitchen and coffee bar was available for food orders and a good cuppa mud to warm the cockles on an almost cold day! The owners are friendly and greeted us with a smile upon our arrival and a wave with well-wishes when we departed. They will definitely see us again!

More pictures were taken and challenges were completed before returning to Hotel Numbi along the route from Barberton. We stopped along the road next to the Klipkoppie dam for some final photos and watched some of the hooligans in the group lift the front wheels up for a little just before sunset!

Returning to the hotel, we completed the activity on the GO Team app and went to have a power nap and freshen up for dinner and prize-giving. Dinner again was par-excellence, served in the banquet hall, with tables set beautifully, and again, another team number being issued! This time, the tables were teams and the MC commenced with a few rounds of trivia via a tablet on each table. Questions were asked, answers were chosen, lyrical knowledge was tested and upon completing the trivia, prizes were handed out to the winning teams.

Team 3. What a team!
Team Suzuki

Throughout dinner, the staff of SASA kept us amused and paid tribute to their staff achievements and the GO Team crew published all of the photographs that were uploaded onto the socials with the hash tag, #SuzukiWeekend2023. I believe a search on the hash tag will direct you to all things captured and tagged for the weekend away.

Finally, the prizes for the GO Team activities were given. Our Team 3, managed to bag a second place! Not bad for a first time attempt by a team of three noobs!

To wrap up, the Suzuki weekend away was an epic weekend with a sterling crew from Suzuki Auto South Africa, showing what it is to give back to the biking community by way of engagement, eventing and being present! They knocked it out of the park with this weekend away and we believe that there is one planned for Cape Town in the coming months! 

If you’re anywhere close by, keep an eye on their social pages, website and of course our fine online magazine, Ridefast!

Massive thanks go to Yvonne and Stuart from Suzuki SA for allowing us to use the GSX-S long term loan unit for the weekend and assisting with the accommodation, great memories were made! Apart from My Mrs’ posterior being rearranged by the penny-sized pillion seat, the riding was superb and I make note of how easy the GSX-S is to ride with faultless performance, rider ergonomics and handling! 

I also make note that it is a great bike for most, if not all bitumen roads, just not for lifting long distance for extended periods of time.

Thanks guys!

Shado Alston

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