Thys wears this helmet as the national president of a motorcycle ministry club and, of course, when he is out and about on his motorbike. eish! caught up with Thys at the end of a ride.

How long have you been a biker?

Since I can remember. I always jokingly thank my mother for buying me my first plastic scooter when I was just a little tyke of two years. Back then I was so enthusiastic about my “bikes”, I used to ride them ‘till the wheels literally came off.

How many motorbikes do you own?

At present, I own nine bikes. My wife reckons I have a problem, but all I know is that I love my motorcycles even though we have a slight parking problem at home. I own five Hondas, one Kawasaki, one Triumph and two Suzukis, and they vary from superbikes and commuters to dual-purpose bikes and classics.

What is it about motorcycling that tickles your fancy?

The speed, the open road and the adrenaline are contributing factors, but ultimately it is about the people and the camaraderie.

Tell us more about your motorcycle ministry club

It has chapters in Gauteng, Southern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and in essence aims to transform the hearts and minds of bikers and the broader community as well. The club links very strongly with our shared fellowship. It is extremely rewarding to see people changing their ways and giving testimony on how God’s grace saved their marriage, repaired a broken relationship or healed an illness.

The ministry also deals with sadness and loss. Many a time we are called out to accident scenes to assist bereaved friends and family, and we assist with burials, hospital visits and counselling. When a fellow rider passes on, we also help – if need be – to raise funds to cover expenses like funerals or hospital bills.

And then there is our community outreach. As a club we take part in numerous charity drives, awareness campaigns and outreach initiatives.

Does your family support your biking and ministry activities?

We have a golden rule in hour house: family first. They are a vital part of my support network and the choice is theirs to get involved or not. More often than not they do get involved with the ministry’s activities.

What do you say to people who disapprove of the biker culture?

I believe this is based on fear of the unfamiliar. Bikers have big hearts and quickly mobilise to assist the vulnerable among us – be it to bring Christmas toy cheer to children or to raise funds or awareness about societal issues.

The stereotype biker is a rebel who doesn’t live by society’s laws and norms and I think that idea is further romanticised by the media. This is not how we see ourselves.

This professor wears many hats – and helmets

Prof Thys Swanepoel has worn many hats in his seven years with the School of Accounting Sciences at the campus in Vanderbijlpark. One of his more unusual hats – or should we say, helmet? – has nothing to do with academia.

Thys Swanepoel says his dream motorcycle is, without a doubt, a Honda Goldwing. “But I don’t think I am old enough to appreciate that bike yet – I will wait until I retire one day,” he adds.