Freedom Rider: Kevin Davie

19 June 2013

He battled rain, hailstorms, blizzards, 40˚C heat and 10,000km on a mountain bike.

There are many ways to explore a country’s terrain, meet its people and experience its character. Perhaps one of the most intimate is to break down the wall between traveller and local and immerse yourself in the land and culture. This is the journey Kevin Davie embarked on when he covered more than 10,000 kilometres of South Africa’s harshest terrain – on two wheels.

Kevin Davie’s autobiography, Freedom Rider, describes in simple prose his uplifting trek across South Africa. A seasoned cyclist, Davie completed several of South Africa’s off-road trails, one of the highlights being the 2300km Freedom Challenge. In his expeditions, he experienced the vastness of South Africa on his mountain bike. He encountered its remote expanse of space, challenging navigation and harsh climate. But more importantly, he met its people. Locals opened their homes to him, shared food and nourished him with water and provided him with a place to sleep. “They told us that we could stay and fed us vetkoek and tea. By 6 p.m. we were shown our headquarters for the night, which were in the next hut. There were foam mattresses on the floor and eight Basotho blankets… “We were
given a basin and hot water to wash and a bucket to pee in. You would not want to step out in the night, even for a short period”.

He witnessed, first hand, the kindness of the human heart and a stranger’s compassion for an individual facing the ultimate in perseverance sport. “In 10,000km of riding in South Africa, I never felt threatened in any way, but I was often swamped by the kindness of strangers, both rich and poor,” he says.

Davie’s journey began as a dedicated bike tourer, a ‘bikepacker’ as the popular European custom had become. Having always been an endurance sport enthusiast,
bikepacking morphed into expedition riding that tested his willpower and determination.
Not only was this a monumental physical challenge, but also an exercise of navigating the various land laws and cultural territories left behind by our country’s past.

Davie’s story is not simply an account of travel or fortitude, but a wander into history and culture. One where most individuals do not usually venture.

For any adventurer, this is prime reading and will catapult you into a world of discovery, nature, people and community. Davie writes as if he is speaking to you personally. He relays his journey of discovery, both the internal as well as physical battle, he as an athlete pushed himself to endure.
“My expedition riding has no greater goal than trying to better understand my own limits while taking in parts of the country that I would not normally visit. At its very best, trail riding is where I today celebrate the ancient capabilities of the road hunter.”

We often find ourselves disillusioned by our country or by the human spirit, but ‘Freedom Rider’ challenges that and proves both the capabilities of the human will and the power of a generous hand.