The 2023 Version of the 1965Ride turned out to be a tough one for a number of reasons:
• We had to convince Free State Traffic authorities that we would survive their roads and deal with the last remaining detour on the newly rebuilt R26. We had to sign an indemnity to this effect before they gave us permission to ride.
• Two of our accommodation establishments cancelled our bookings at the last moment. In fairness, the one was only tentative, but the other, the Sandstone Heritage Trust, had been a confirmed booking for months and had been made by us after a special visit to inspect the premises and be content with the quality of accommodation provided. Big disappointments both. It put us into a bit of a spin but with help from friends of the 1965Ride we found particularly good alternatives in Boschfonteinmountain Lodge (albeit with a kilometre of dirt road to contend with after a long day in the saddle); and Bailey Country lodge (Still in the process of being opened). We were their first guests!
• Cyclists turned up with unserviceable bicycles which created consequences down the road that affected everyone.
• A week before our departure the entire confirmed support crew withdrew! We were desperate and lucky. Old Queenian Gavin Falconer phoned out of the blue 4 days before departure to volunteer his services and Monna persuaded his cousin, Pitso Dlamini, to use some of his leave and come to drive for us, as long as we bought him an air ticket back to Cape Town so that he could resume his career as a long distance truck driver.
It was, however, not all bad news. We had a little scramble with the provincial Traffic authorities, especially Gauteng who had appointed a new person to deal with these. We have already mentioned the conditions imposed on us by Free State. But these hurdles were minor, and we had all our authorities in place well before time and much earlier than usual. As usual Eastern Cape were first to approve.
This is the first year in 13 that we did not have to dip into our consignment stock of bike spares kindly lent to us by Melo Velo Cycles in Broadacres. We only 4 punchers (punctures for the uninitiated) and not one of them was Sili. Arno tried hard to take up the slack but only managed two!
The Route
2023 saw us return to our traditional well-used route down through the Free State via Frankfort and the new R26 which is no longer a donga.
Most of the road was very rideable but between Fouiesburg and Ficksburg road conditions were often appalling for long stretches. A relatively short piece between Ladybrand Hobhouse was also in an awfully bad state, but we survived and the good news for the future is that we observed the Free State Road survey crew surveying this very piece with the view to refurbishment/rebuilding of it. We will follow this with interest.

The 2023 Team
This year’s team was, arguably, one of the most interesting.
We had a good mix of new and experienced. This is always a good idea and makes for a much more enlightening tour.
Let us start with those upon whom the cyclists are totally dependent:
 Jordan Goddard: We start with Jordan because he was at the back for all the 800km and at an average speed of only 21,6km/h! Patience personified. He was new on the job but fitted in quickly, made himself indispensable and rapidly became a member of the family. He is a terrific addition to a long line of formidable personalities lent to us by Alderson Ambulance. He was such a willing and involved participant, nothing was too much trouble for him. A real pleasure to have on board.
 Pitso Dlamini: Pitso came in at the very last moment to replace the Support Team that had resigned because of health issues. He also drove long distances at a pace he had never driven before. He also helped with getting bikes repaired by driving off first thing in the morning to distant towns and bike shops. We would have struggled without his presence. Quiet and unassuming until he got going and then he was quite capable of saying quite a lot!
 Gavin Falconer: It takes courage and maybe a little madness to volunteer at last moment to do a job that you have never done before with a bunch of wild cyclists. But this is what Gawie did! It is made more difficult because requests come all at the same time and with competing interests. Gawie stuck to his guns, worked extremely hard at the most difficult job on the tour. He kept us nourished and watered every 25km and despite plenty of pressure he never allowed his sense of humour to be consumed by actions or pressures around him! “Oom G” we say thank you!

And now for the cycling crew:
 The Dirty Chains Team: The Dirty Chains Club is a great friend of the 1965Ride. We also know them as the Fancy Wheels club. They joined us last year, and this year again we had a great turnout. It is always fun to have such an energetic crew as part of the tour. They always bring different and delicious nourishment with them…. this year potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. We are profoundly grateful to them for their support and commitment.
 Kojo Owusu-Sekyere: The very first bursary recipient from the 1965Ride in 2011. Kojo returned this year for the QC reunion but also to demonstrate to the current generation of school-goers that nothing is for nothing and that giving is more important than receiving. Kojo struggled with the gears on his bike in the beginning but got stronger and stronger as the tour progressed. His speech to the more than 3250 schoolkids and 160 educators was excellent and memorable.
 Tabisa Konyashe: Tabz, as we know her, rode much better this year than last year with a little help from her eBike power pack. It was wonderful to watch her soaring up the hills with an inscrutable expression on her face. She is a bundle of energy and a proponent of saddle swag which she loves to flaunt. She adds lots of colour and energy to any group of which she is part.
 Siliziwe Mafika: Sili definitely qualifies to be a veteran of the ride after 3 tours. A very busy man who could be seen conferring with work colleagues before, during and after each day’s action. He is a strong personality and is always there to offer a helping hand whether on or off the bike. He is so busy in his professional life we are lucky to have him on the team. He is also a very strong cyclist and a member of the racing snakes on the last day.
 Setu Skepe: There was real doubt that Skeps would actually ride this year for a few reasons. Even until just a few days before the start we were not certain he would be with us. But at last moment he teamed up with Arno and Herman and they screamed up to Gauteng in his car which he had arranged to be driven back to Aliwal North. He is a genuine team player. He laughs a lot and easily; he is happy to laugh at himself and is always seen helping others. It is no wonder and well-deserved that this year he won the coveted Give it Horns trophy!
 Monaheng Mrwetyana: Monna is an active member of the Action Team that puts the tour together and makes the decisions about what needs to happen. We owe him a big debt of gratitude for his commitment and the beautiful Engen kit that we all received after strenuous efforts were made to get it from Jozi to Reitz. A powerful cyclist who has put in many cycling hours to prepare himself; he also spent many kilometres offering the helping hand ‘wind from behind’ to those that needed a little help up the hills. He was one of the crew that burnt up the tar in the last 20 kilometres before Bailey.
 Xabiso Lombo: Xabiso has trained hard since the 2022 version when she discovered the tour is much harder to do than it appears by just looking at it. She came well prepared for the trip this year but decided she would try it on an eBike. The experiment did not last long and soon she was on her regular Glide bike and glide she did. She rode well, finished strongly and can truly be proud of the improvement she achieved in the year gone by. Quiet by nature, Xabiso is strong on determination, and she showed this in 2023. She also enjoys fashion shots and there is plenty of evidence of this in the many photos taken along the way.
 Herman Venter: The strong man of the tour. Herman displayed amazing strength and power throughout the tour. When Arno’s bike collapsed Herman rode the eBike with the dysfunctional battery all the way uphill from Wepener to Zastron. This was just one display of his power. He was also recorded by Jordan hitting 50km/h uphill on more than one occasion. He was one of the two school Principals on the tour. This is the first time we have had senior school management on a tour. He and Arno made wonderfully positive contributions all the way. GetAhead Whittlesea can be immensely proud of their Head! He more than earned his 1965Ride Legendary status and in more ways than one.
 Ashley Truscott: Ashley has been down this road on 7 previous occasions. She is one of those that rode in the very first tour in 2011. She always brings grace, a powerful cycling posture and a never-say-die attitude. She is also one of the mainstays of the Action Team and has served on it since inception. Always helpful with many small things in the background she is the epitome of a great team player.
 Leon Jacobs: Leon is also one of those amazing people that committed in 2011. In fact, he was the very first person to sign up then and has now completed 3 of these monsters. If one bears in mind the fact that he was riding to join his classmates of 1973 for their fiftieth reunion of their matric, puts his performance in perspective. One of the more mature cyclists, Leon was always up with the group and his sense of humour was ever-present.
 Arno Swart: The big man of the tour on a big bike. Headmaster at Southbourne Primary, one of our QEF schools, so clearly lived the values of the 1965Ride. He cared for those around him, rode the heaviest regular bike, an MTB, and was always up for a joke and laugh. And at himself. He is the only cyclist in 13 years that was subject to seven bike changes! This was because his bike bearings suffered damage. But he managed it all with grit and a smile and some help from his friend and fellow-headmaster Herman Venter and finished happily on his own bike which was repaired at Berg Meubels in Aliwal at no charge thanks to Setu’s intervention.
 Jen Wilson: This, and all previous tours, would not have taken place without her amazing capacity for work and for spotting all the little things that need to be done…. for keeping the show on the road…. for following up all the loose ends. She, too, rode that first 2011 tour and now has 10 tours under the belt. This year Jen rode a magnificent Specialised Road eBike sponsored by Chanelle Houston. It was a change-of-life experience, and it was wonderful to see and hear her purring up the hills like a cheetah on the prowl!
 Sigqibo Sishuba: Siqgibo’s participation was in doubt until the very end. A week before he had been rushed to hospital and when released a few days later was told no cycling for 9 days. The result was that he joined us for the last 3 days. He said that he enjoyed all those days but there is some doubt about how much he enjoyed the last 10 kilometres to the top of Penhoek Pass. He was certainly with the racing snakes the next day. A quiet strong man.
 Jan Phelan: Granny Jannie is something of a miracle. To watch her cruise up the hills and leave much younger cyclists in her slipstream is a privilege few of us who have seen it will forget. Her head tilts to the left, she leans forward and then switches on her turbo and leaves most of us gasping. Always happy to laugh at herself, always present with a story to tell and one of those truly humble people that do a lot in a quiet unassuming way. It was a privilege to have her along and she thoroughly deserves her new Legendary 1965Ride status.
 Lucky Dlamini: It is always good to have newcomers join our initiative and it was lovely to have Lucky along with us for our first day! He is cheerful positive big presence, and it would have been great to have him along for the next 700km as well. Next year!