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Old riders don’t die, they just lose their hair




The annual event is organised by the Harley Owners Group (HOG) and hosted by Free Chapter Cape Town (an independent Harley Club) and attracted a whopping 700 official participants this year – although Bagraim, a prominent Cape Labour attorney, a member of Parliament and a past national chair and president of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, said that there were ar least one thousand riders who had turned up.


For the past seven years, says Bagraim, the event has been held at Montagu. The townsfolk love the three day affair and even line the streets of the sleepy town and clap raucously to welcome the bikers – who book out the entire town, erect a tent village and rent spare bedrooms from Thursday to Sunday. And, spend a heck of a lot of money.

Bags RallySpeaking to Jewish Report on Sunday night, Bagraim shouted above the background noise that “there must be about forty Cape Town Yids here – I keep bumping into them.”

RIGHT: Bagraim is bracketed by Alan Joffe (Left) Nicky Eisen at the festival on Friday


Bagraim says that the average age of a Harley owner is around sixty and the average profession is a doctor or a lawyer.

So, while it is loud and proud, he says, the 24-hour rabble rousers don’t have many tattoos, do not get into fights and don’t have much hair to let down either! “Just imagine how much beer is being consumed here?” he said.

“There are 24-hour facilities including food and beer outlets, shops and stalls selling Harley paraphernalia, its madness,” he said. As an old hand at this, he hires a self-catering chalet and gets someone who is driving up to bring a bag of food for him. He says that it is impossible to get a booking at a restaurant.

Despite preparing for the annual invasion, says Bagraim, “one bar ran out of beer on Friday night – they had to get restocked on Saturday.”

Little wonder that Harley Davidson are not attracting younger buyers. Bags says to buy a Harley in South Africa will set one back a minimum of R250,000 – “and that’s just for the basic bike, like mine,” he says.

Of course a lot of the enthusiasts ‘pimp their rides’ and enter into the customised competitions at the rally. One told Bagraim that he had spent over R1-mil on his bike!

Bagraim boasted that he was eating local nuts with a hechsher on the packet, and said he had no idea how the facilities that were available were going to be able to feed a thousand people later on Saturday night.

When they had got the idea of putting together a Shabbos minyan and a dinner, Bagraim said, the planners ‘hunted down’ any Jewish Harley owners they could find in Cape Town.

They needn’t have bothered, says Bags, who couldn’t believe that there were about forty Jewish riders at the event. “I keep bumping into Capetonian Jews who I never knew rode Harleys,” he said.

Among those attending the rally were riders from throughout SA, but also many overseas riders who fly in from numerous countries, hire Harleys long ahead of time and join in. Bagraim says overseas participation keeps growing. This year there was a single group of French riders from a Marseilles club.

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Michael Bagraim at the main tented enclosure in Montagu – this is the biggest Harley rally in SA and attracts a growing number of foreign attendees

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Like a proud parent strutting his stuff, Michael ‘Bags’ Bagraim pushes out his chest when being photographed with his ‘ride’

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Bagraim on the road – he has it all (except the tattoos, the hair, the bulging biceps and certainly not the six-pack!) But how cool is that front-end leather of his – really looks like it’s from the Wild West…

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