and track bikes, (which have only one fixed gear and no brakes at all – the only way to slow it down is to pedal slower, or push back). ‘Guys, thanks for coming. There’s a neutral zone till after we cross Jan Smuts. The racing is fast, but please stick with others for safety. Remember, this is Joburg – a red light doesn’t mean the cars will stop.’ Melvin Neale, the honcho organiser, always makes a cursory speech regarding housekeeping. Some half listen to this weekly announcement in case there’s any new information – most have been here before. The few that haven’t are tucked under the wing of someone who has. ‘Please point out obstructions and potholes in the road to others – it’s dark.’ Neale ends with a perfectly contextualized suffix: ‘And have fun!’ A homemade air cannon fires off an empty cola bottle to send them off. Within seconds, the bunch is sprinting as fast as it can go. The few at the front push hard – only around 12 are capable and willing to risk it all for a spot on the leaderboard. In unison, the pack leans deep into the first corner, stops pedalling at the last possibly millisecond before gouging shoes into the tarmac. They brush past the apex, then
wrench the bikes upright to get back on the power again, ASAP. It’s an elegant string of riders – a perfect line, defined by the forces of aerodynamics and physics. The skill of MotoGP riders, the nerve of base jumpers and the power of two horses (riders can churn out up to 1600W in a sprint) combined. Johannesburg city centre at night. High speeds. Skinny tyres. Traffic. No brakes. Each of these individually would spell danger. The sum of which could define a pure form of insanity, but totally justifiable. It’s the Jozi Hustle – a 25km urban nighttime bike race that’s as terrifying as it is magnetic. It’s barely legal, and would surely be monitored more closely, if the police didn’t have other priorities.
Johannesburg city centre at night. High speeds. Skinny tyres. Traffic. No brakes. Each of these individually would spell danger.