Ac­tion Fig.

E-biker Eelco Mey­jes

Bicycling (South Africa) - - Inside - IN­TER­VIEW: MIKE FINCH PHO­TO­GRAPHS: SUP­PLIED

The e-bike phe­nom­e­non is very exciting. They are big in Europe, and par­tic­u­larly in Ger­many, but it’s still new here in SA.

I did the 55km MTB and the road race at 947 last year. It was fan­tas­tic, and I ar­ranged with the or­gan­is­ers to give them feed­back. Mostly it was good, although a few peo­ple said I was cheat­ing.

I’ve even con­tacted the guys at Joberg2C, and they are very keen to find out more about the e-bike cat­e­gory. They have of­fered me a free ride, but they ob­vi­ously need me to han­dle the lo­gis­tics of bat­ter­ies. They can’t use 20% of their re­sources on one guy when they have 750 other peo­ple to look after.

There are a lot of peo­ple who couldn’t man­age an event like Joberg2C on a nor­mal bike, but would still se­ri­ously do it. For Joberg2C or­gan­is­ers it makes sense to ex­plore this, be­cause its busi­ness for them. Joberg2c are get­ting re­quests from over­seas, be­cause in Europe there are 1.6 mil­lion e-bikes. When I started putting the feel­ers out on Face­book about e-bikes, there were a cou­ple of peo­ple who were anti – but a lot more who were for it. It’s the fu­ture of cy­cling… like it or not!

There are two kinds of e-bike riders: those who like tour­ing and trav­el­ling, and those into the rac­ing side of things. The guys that are into rac­ing on e-bikes could cre­ate prob­lems if we don’t man­age this prop­erly.

I’ve done a ton of very long en­durance rides, in­clud­ing rid­ing from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. So I can proudly say that I’ve es­tab­lished my cred­i­bil­ity.

I’m 68 now, but I’ve learnt a lot about plan­ning ev­ery de­tail be­cause of the long en­durance rides I’ve done. It’s a cru­cial thing, when it comes to rid­ing e-bikes.

I got into e-bikes when I went to visit my son-in-law in Monaco in 2016, and saw lots of peo­ple rid­ing them. In 2016 in South Africa, a lot of peo­ple told me that e-bikes were a load of rub­bish. That year, they couldn’t give e-bikes away – but by 2017, they didn’t have enough stock. If the bike in­dus­try snubs their noses at e-bikes, then that busi­ness is go­ing to go some­where else. Peo­ple are buy­ing bikes for their wives and hus­bands, so that they can ride to­gether. If you don’t em­brace it, busi­ness will walk out the door.

There are two kinds of e-bike riders: those who like tour­ing and trav­el­ling, and those into the rac­ing side of things.

E-bikes are a fun cat­e­gory. They can bring fam­i­lies to­gether. For a guy who may not be as fit as his wife or vice versa, they could re­ally help peo­ple spend time to­gether. They also suit older peo­ple, in their 60s and 70s,

who still want to en­joy cy­cling but may not be as strong as they were. At the end of the day, it’s about get­ting more peo­ple on bikes.

There are a lot of CEOs who are buy­ing e-bikes. They may not have the time to train, but they have the money and love the out­doors.

At the mo­ment, Cape Town is the Mecca of e-bikes in SA. I’ve ap­proached the Cape Town Cy­cle Tour, but they’ve been so busy han­dling the wa­ter cri­sis that it’s not a pri­or­ity for them at the mo­ment. But they have promised to re­view it and look at the po­ten­tial im­pact.

E-bikes are a bit like Le Mans in mo­tor rac­ing, where older driv­ers go and have fun. They still en­joy it. E-bikes will be the bikes Chris Froome will ride one day… mark my words! I know that even Christoph Sauser is rac­ing and rid­ing e-bikes nowa­days.

If we can be suc­cess­ful in get­ting e-bikes into races, it will lead to an e-bike ex­plo­sion.

To fin­ish a long race of around 120km, you may need two bat­ter­ies. So you need to carry at least one of those bat­ter­ies with you. You may just need an­other bat­tery as a back-up, that you could pick up at a wa­ter point.

The only prob­lem in a stage race comes when you have to charge a bat­tery, and then sud­denly or­gan­is­ers have a prob­lem with the gen­er­a­tors or the sup­ply. Then I’m up the creek for sure…

They call me the e-man al­ready, be­cause I see the enor­mous po­ten­tial in e-bikes. There are so many ad­van­tages – for things like se­cu­rity, peo­ple run­ning game lodges, anti-poach­ing trans­port, etc etc.

We have the best cy­cling events in the world, and the best race or­gan­is­ers, and can change a lot of at­ti­tudes glob­ally.

I un­der­stand that events like the Cape Epic won’t al­low them; but for short multi-day events, they have the in­fra­struc­ture and num­bers to han­dle this. It shouldn’t be a rac­ing cat­e­gory, any­way.

They are al­ready look­ing at things like so­lar pan­els for charg­ing e-bikes, which would make a big change for tour­ing bikes.

EELCO MEY­JES BE­LIEVES E-BIKES HAVE A PLACE IN ALL RACES IN SOUTH AFRICA

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