DON’T MISS IT:
Engine-driven cycle a novel way of exploring PE’s fringes, writes Sarah Dirsuwei
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.chasingtherainbow.net for more of the Dirsuweis’ adventures.
I let the bike all the work, standing on the pedals and letting it gallop
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