En­gine-driven cy­cle a novel way of ex­plor­ing PE’s fringes, writes Sarah Dir­suwei

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Weekend Life -

One lucky Week­end Post reader can win a trip for two with E-Bike Ad­ven­tures on the Cross­ways trail. The prize is val­ued at R1,600.

I have al­ways liked the idea of moun­tain bik­ing – cy­cling up pris­tine moun­tain paths and down charm­ing coun­try lanes with a gen­tle breeze in your face, the bliss­ful si­lence only bro­ken by the crunch­ing of gravel be­neath your tyres and the beat­ing of your heart as it pumps en­ergy to your legs.

I tried it once through a game re­serve at Lake Jozini and al­though the first 20 or so kilo­me­tres were en­joy­able, the only thing that forced my weary limbs to push up the fi­nal in­cline was a bolt of light­ning that struck so close I could pic­ture my­self as a molten pud­dle of graphite and ny­lon.

Af­ter that trip, I hung up my bor­rowed ly­cra out­fit and cleated shoes, de­cid­ing it was way too much ef­fort and that hik­ing was my pre­ferred hol­i­day pur­suit.

How­ever, when I spot­ted Port Elizabeth’s lat­est fam­ily ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­ity, e-bik­ing, I knew I had to give it a try.

The “E” in e-bik­ing stands for elec­tric, as in elec­tri­cally pedal as­sisted.

The bikes don’t have throt­tles – they have built-in mo­tors that boost your ped­alling en­ergy, mak­ing it much eas­ier to climb up hills and al­low­ing you to cover far more ground than un­der your own steam alone.

E-Bike Ad­ven­tures is the brain­child of avid Port Elizabeth moun­tain biker Neill Kemp.

Kemp says he first tried an ebike when his fa­ther bat­tled to keep up with him and his brother on their bikes, so the fam­ily pro­cured one for him.

“When we then bat­tled to keep up with my dad, we de­cided to give it a try,” he laughs.

Al­though some moun­tain bik­ers con­sider it a bit of a cheat, he sees it as open­ing up a whole new moun­tain bik­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with riders able to cy­cle faster and to cover a much vaster dis­tance per ride.

It is also a fab­u­lous way of en­abling ama­teur riders like me to en­joy the sport and keep up with the ul­tra-fit, mak­ing it a per­fect ac­tiv­ity for the fam­ily to en­joy to­gether.

E-Bike Ad­ven­tures of­fers three routes – Cross­ways, Tsit­sikamma and Baak­ens Val­ley.

We chose the Cross­ways route which starts and ends at Cross­ways Coun­try Kitchen, 20km west of Port Elizabeth.

The trail is about 29km long and be­gins with cy­cling along the old Ap­ple Ex­press rail­way line, lead­ing into the sleepy town of Thorn­hill.

The flat ter­rain at the start of the ride is per­fect for get­ting used to the feel of the bikes.

The en­gines can be ad­justed from reg­u­lar moun­tain bike rid­ing with no as­sis­tance, to mild, medium and full as­sis­tance. The bikes also have the com­plete range of moun­tain bike gears, so we played around a bit to see what level and gear suited us best.

I set­tled into a safe medium level, but the kids went straight to turbo boost and shot off ahead with one of the guides.

From Thorn­hill, we headed to­wards the hills down charm­ing coun­try lanes and through a spec­tac­u­lar river val­ley with a gur­gling stream dot­ted with wild flow­ers.

Once across the river, the climb be­gan, with a traf­fic sign in­di­cat­ing a steep in­cline ahead loom­ing fore­bod­ingly on the side of the road.

Kemp as­sured us the en­gines would kick in and make the up­hill climb a breeze.

We set our bikes to max­i­mum as­sis­tance and geared down as the road got steeper. And by gosh it worked! The ped­als felt as light as a feather and al­though my heart rate went up, it was no worse than walk­ing up a shal­low in­cline. We climbed up and up un­til we en­tered the Long­more Plan­ta­tion.

Cy­cling through the trees with the smell of fresh pine was made even sweeter by the light mist in the cool moun­tain air. Our trail veered off into the moun­tains and be­came quite rocky, and we had to con­cen­trate to keep the bikes up­right over the rough ter­rain.

We cy­cled around the gravel track cling­ing to the steep hills, past a wa­ter­fall and all the way up into the clouds at the top of the moun­tain.

There is a viewpoint right at the top look­ing over Lady Slip­per and the farm­lands, but the misty clouds were so thick we could just make out the shapes of the trees tow­er­ing in the for­est around us.

Al­though we were very much elec­tri­cally as­sisted, it was still a great work­out to get to the top, tak­ing us around two hours to climb the 600m el­e­va­tion.

For ev­ery up­hill there is a down­hill and, af­ter tak­ing a lovely break at the peak, we hit the tech­ni­cal sec­tion of the trail, where our brakes be­came far more im­por­tant than our elec­tric en­gines.

We slowly bumped down the wind­ing track be­fore it opened into a wide farm road and here was my ab­so­lute favourite part of our ride.

I let the bike do all the work, stand­ing on the ped­als and let­ting it gal­lop down the track – the wind in my hair.

We ar­rived back at Cross­ways with smiles on our faces and hap­pi­ness in our hearts.

Please Santa, bring me an ebike for Christ­mas!

● Sarah Dir­suwei is the writer be­hind the Port El­iz­a­beth­based fam­ily travel blog, Chas­ing the Rain­bow. See www.chas­ingtherain­ for more of the Dir­suweis’ ad­ven­tures.

I let the bike all the work, stand­ing on the ped­als and let­ting it gal­lop

Pho­to­graph: SARAH DIR­SUWEI

PEDAL POWER : Neill Kemp leads the Dir­suwei fam­ily through Thorn­hill

LET’S MOOOVE: E-Bike Ad­ven­tures takes par­tic­i­pants through the scenic Cross­ways with its farm­lands

BREATH­TAK­ING VIEW: Jes­sica Leach af­ter pow­er­ing up­hill and ad­mir­ing the view from the top

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