eBikes are the fastest growing segment in cycling. The NPD Group, an American market research firm, reported a 240% growth in eBike sales for July 2020 to July 2021 compared to the same period two years before. In South Africa, the electric bike market is booming too. With an ever-increasing number of ePowered riders taking to the local trails.
To accommodate the growing number of eBike riders the FNB Wines2Whales added an eBike race to the Pinotage event. The teams are given the choice of either starting ahead of the field and racing full gas, as Max Sullivan and Jason Boulle are doing, or starting in the last group and cruising through the trails. The only hitch for the riders taking on the challenge of racing is that they have to stay ahead of the fastest “normally aspirated” (as commentator Paul Valstar has taken to calling them) riders. If they get caught the eBikers are demoted to the touring eBike start group for Stage 2.
“It’s not as easy as people think it is” warned Corne Barnard, of Rockhopper Adventures. “Especially if you go flat taps all the way! Amazingly I managed to finish on one battery, but I only had 5% left when I crossed the finish line. It’s a lot of fun though and I really believe there is a lot of scope for this type of racing.”
“It’s so much fun! It’s outrageous” enthused Giant OverDrive!!’s Boulle. “The whole time you’re thinking ‘what would this be like on a normal bike’ not having ridden the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback on a normal bike. But on the e you’re just flying. On the little inclines and on the flats, you’re just whacking it; it’s insane.”
“To have a jol going up and going down is awesome” Sullivan added. “We had to do a little bit of battery management on the climb to the second water point. But from there to the finish, at Oak Valley, it was all turbo mode. We just flew!”
Tuesday’s Play Day will be the even better suited to the eBikes. “Tomorrow is going to be amazing” Sullivan said, looking forward to Stage 2!
To put the Giant OverDrive!! team’s flying in perspective they competed the stage in a time of 2 hours, 35 minutes and 51 seconds. The fastest ‘normally aspirated’ team was the Mood Coffee Baristas. Former professional mountain biker, Erik Kleinhans, and South African 1 500-meter record holder, Johan Cronje, are no slouches. Their time was 32 minutes and 11 seconds slower than the ePowered stage winners.