On Friday 26 August, Johann Nothnagel (61) leaves Cape Town in an attempt to ride over 4 000 km in support of people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The illness makes riding a motorcycle over such a great distance extremely hard, but biking is something Johann, a software developer, has always enjoyed.
“I was diagnosed with MS in February 2009, but in retrospect I can recognise some symptoms back to 1971,” Johann says. “At the end of 2010 I was faced with huge medical bills. Although I mentioned it to certain friends, I never expected any help. Unbeknown to me, the Think Bike members of Cape Town collected money and eventually covered my medical expenses.”
This lead to the first Unchaining MS ride in 2011. Johann’s bike at the time, a Buell Firebolt XB12R, was belt-driven, in stead of the more common chain drive. And so “Unchaining MS” was born and Johann completed it on the Buell, riding solo most of the journey.
Johann’s message when he visits MS support groups and pwMS (persons living with MS) around the country is this: MS doesn’t mean giving up on everything you enjoy doing.
Through the media and interaction with groups and individuals, Johann aims to give people a better understanding of the condition. Unchaining MS raises funds too. Hyundai, Kawasaki, Sintrex and a private donor are this year’s logistics sponsors, so all monies raised go to MS South Africa for the support of its members. More specifically, it’s used for financial assistance of PwMS, home visits (where possible), counselling, support groups and info talks, a volunteer programme, workshops, advocacy, resources, referrals and guidance.
“We invite all bikers to join us on the road to show their support or donate, or just because they enjoy the feeling of freedom that comes with riding,” says Justus Visagie, co-rider and co-organiser. “If you’d like to meet up with us, on the road or in your city or town, please contact us before we pass through,” he says.
In 2013, Johann rode a Triumph Tiger 800 and he was unaccompanied for most of the journey, as in 2011. This year there’s a team of three: Johann on the Kawasaki Versys 650 and Justus and Stephan Lourens taking turns to ride the Versys 1000 and drive the Hyundai H1 Panel Van. The van can transport a bike if the team encounters a serious problem.
The group leaves Cape Town at 13:00 on 26 August and spends their first night in Barrydale. The major cities on the route are Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Durban and Port Elizabeth (full list below). MS Unchained 2016 should reach the Mother City again on 7 September.
Fri. 26 Aug: Cape Town (Milnerton) → Barrydale
Sat. 27 Aug: Barrydale → Graaff-Reinet
Sun. 28 Aug: Graaff-Reinet → Bethulie
Mon. 29 Aug: Bethulie → Bloemfontein
Tue. 30 Aug: Bfn → Welkom → Parys → Joburg
Wed. 31 Aug: Joburg → Pretoria → Joburg
Thu. 1 Sept: Joburg → Bethlehem → Clarens
Fri. 2 Sept: Clarens → Durban
Sat. 3 Sept: Durban → Ugie
Sun. 4 Sept: Ugie → Port Elizabeth
Mon. 5 Sept: Port Elizabeth
Tue. 6 Sept: Port Elizabeth → Mossel Bay
Wed. 7 Sept: Mossel Bay → Cape Town
There are four ways to support the MS Society and Unchaining MS:
Make a deposit to MSSA WC, Standard Bank account no. 0730 84 697, Tyger Manor branch code 05041000. Please reference Unchaining MS. Tax certificates available on request.
Go to http://Facebook.com/UnchainingMS and click on GivenGain in the left-hand column
Give cash or a cheque when you meet the team. (You will be issued with a receipt.)
Pay with WeChat or SnapScan from a smartphone. WeChat will credit users for all donations made with the WeChat Wallet, up to R200 per payment. So if you give R200, you WeChat Wallet is credited with R200! Use the QR code to the right.
Please use the hashtag #unchainingms
Founder: Johann Nothnagel, 083 626 8906, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media: Justus Visagie, 082 440 4410, email@example.com
Sponsorships: Non Smit, 021 948 4160 (office), 082 550 5486, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.multiplesclerosis.co.za
Social media, safety and video: Stephan Lourens, 082 972 9452, email@example.com, http://twowheeltrainingacademy.com
If Johann or Justus do not answer, please message or e-mail them.
More about Johann Nothnagel
Before being diagnosed with MS, Johann didn’t have comprehensive medical aid cover, so he ignored the strange symptoms he experienced over a number of years. Decision time came when he joined a group of friends for a walk on the beach at Mossel Bay and was shocked to find that after 500m he did not have the energy to pick up his right foot from the beach sand.
In 2009 Johann was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. Finally he could put a name to what had become his way of life. The diagnosis could not dim his passion for motorcycles. Johann is a true biker, enjoying the open road and all aspects of motorcycling since age 16. He owns a Triumph Tiger 800 and rides it despite these symptoms – a weakened right leg, (left leg also starting), almost permanent leg pain, regular leg spasms, regular severe headaches, needles and pins in hands and feet, permanent tinnitus in both ears and severe fatigue.
Johann loves his two Jack Russell Terriers, Lula and Mila, his constant companions. But it is the MS community that has his heart. It is their needs that Johann wishes to bring to the attention of the public.
– Non Smit, Director, Multiple Sclerosis South Africa Western Cape.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an illness of the central nervous system. For unknown reasons, the immune system attacks the body, damaging the myelin coating around nerves, which causes messages from the brain to not reach their destination. This damage to the nervous system affects people in different ways, but all MS sufferers experience extreme fatigue, find it hard to balance, and may find all or some of their senses suddenly not working as they did before. MS cannot be cured and often has a devastating effect on the lives of the person with MS and his or her family and friends. Visit Multiplesclerosis.co.za or Facebook.com/multiplesclerosisSA.