Why you too should power- cy­cle like John Kass­ner.

At 75, the Claren­don res­i­dent still rides ev­ery­where

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

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.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

KZN’s most ar­dent cy­clist and fit­ness nut John Kass­ner, rec­om­mends as­sisted cy­cling for bet­ter health and a fun com­mute.

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