Why you too should power- cycle like John Kassner.
At 75, the Clarendon resident still rides everywhere
JOHN Kassner, co- owner of the Jays B’ n B in Clarendon, is convinced that all drivers who spend hours sitting in slow- moving traffic have a death wish — to die of ill health.
A self- confessed fitness nut, Kassner ( 75) is not against cars. In fact, he still enjoys surprising the young racers between traffic lights in his 22- year- old Honda Ballade. But the former Johannesburg driver has no patience with traffic jams and even less with Sleepy Hollow’s famously inattentive drivers.
“You can actually see people nodding off at traffic lights!” he said, adding that he still believes his mother’s injunction that there are only two types of people: the quick and the dead.
Kassner retired as a geologist at 52 and has spent the past decade cycling everywhere, including Kashmir after he was inspired by Blonde on a Bike, written by Bridget Gonzalez, now co- ordinator of the Wessa/ WWF Eco- Schools Programme in Howick.
He said her cycling adventures in the Midlands, Norway, Europe, India, Far East, Tibet and South America led him to search for a bolt- on bicycle engine that could assist him up the Himalayan mountains. His research led him to order a kit from Golden Eagle Bike Engines, a U. S. company that claims to “design the most dependable and economical alternative transportation in the world”.
Because no one sells two- stroke oil high up in the Andes or Himalayas, he opted for a four- stroke Subaru Robin, a single- cylinder 34 cc engine typically used on brush cutters.
The bolt- on system worked beautifully to add power to his legs. During his preparations for the Himalayan tour, Kassner recalled doing 150 km on a day’s unplanned “fun ride” out to Dargle and back. He was 69 at that stage.
But the airline ensured that his plans to cycle the Himalayas in 2010 followed those laid by mice and men. After first sending the bicycles to the wrong country, airline security staff then also removed the tiny engine from his bike luggage as a “fire risk”, leaving Kassner to cycle up the highest mountains he has ever been on using only the leg muscles God gave him. “It was nine days of beautiful scenery and killer altitude, it just murdered me. They had to lift me out of there,” Kassner recalled.
Back home and reunited with his bolton kit, he sets an example for all unfit pensioners. He usually bikes the six kilometres to Hilton, averaging 20 km/ h up the steep Taunton Road.
“I disconnect [ the engine] on the flats and ride, so it does not cut the exercise — you still have to push it with all you got, but you do go three times faster.”
In this way he easily does 65 km a day and encourages anyone to get an assisted bicycle. “We all need to do a hell of a lot more exercise. You have a death wish sitting in that car. Apart from everything else, [ assisted cycling] is huge fun, more fun than a motorbike.”
He said there are many bolt- on engines to choose from pending budget and inclination, but advised people to start with a strong 24- to 26- inch frame, with 27 gears and good brakes.
The costs of fitness
A Golden Eagle 38cc 4 Stroke Motorised Bicycle Engine Kit now costs $ 529 ( about R7 600), including free shipping and a one- year warranty.
Ecotrax Bike Builders. a web- based company, has a 66 cc engine kit for R2 800 on special offer.
For comparison, Gary Peacock, a 4x4 vehicle builder in Pietermaritzburg, will fit a reliable 48 cc Chinese bicycle engine and fuel tank to a customer’s bicycle frame for R2 950, or an 80 cc for R3 950.
Contact Peacock at 060 995 6249.
KZN’s most ardent cyclist and fitness nut John Kassner, recommends assisted cycling for better health and a fun commute.