With entries now open for the aQuellé Tour Durban MTB and road cycle races on 27 and 28 November, the organisers have made it clear that E-Bikes are welcome to enter all of the races on a non-competitive basis.
eBikes have emerged as a popular innovation in the last five years, with an on board battery that provides power to the crankshaft on the climbs.
In close co-operation with the Cycling South Africa rules, both the MTB and road races of the aQuellé Tour Durban are taking E-Bike entries across all of the race distances, subject to rules that determine that the rider will not be eligible to win any prizes and will start in a batch behind the riders using conventional bikes.
While E-Bikes are a popular innovation that have put enjoyable social cycling within the reach of less fit athletes and those whose cycling is frustrated by any one of a number of challenges, the new technology makes them fairly expensive but they are slowly gaining widespread acceptance amongst traditional cyclists.
“When I first experienced an E-Bike come past me in a stage race on a particularly gnarly section of a climb, there were not too many good thoughts that popped into my head in between the rasping noises of my breathing,” said seasoned Durban cyclists David Yapp, who is one of the riders to have enjoyed a conversion to E-Bikes, albeit through a bout of Covid-19.
“After 23 days on my back and an extended stay in hospital, my muscles had all gone to pulp. Already a sufferer of a respiratory auto immune disease called sarcoidosis the journey back to fitness, strength and the ability to just keep up with my mates on the promenade, was definitely an epic challenge.
“Support from the mates was good for a while but soon I realised I was compromising their daily rides. They went up the hill and I simply popped off the back like a cheap champagne cork,” recalls Yapp.
“At this stage my mates organised me a ride on the Cannondale Habit E-Bike from Zululand Cycles. Sean was amazing, offered me a demo bike to “have some fun with”. To be honest, I was really intimidated at first, getting used to four speeds, how the motor engaged, when it engaged, what cadence to ride when asking the bike for help up a hill.
“Then I took it into single track. Again, its heavier and less agile than my carbon MTB. But the more I rode it the more fun I had. The more I rode it, the more I realised, I was in charge as to how much effort I wanted to put in. Make no mistake, the harder you ride any MTB bike the more skill you should have. When you press the pedal, the motor kicks in and you go, regardless of what is in front of you.
“This for me defines clearly the two riders of E-Bikes. First, the social rider who can now keep up with their partner and friends, not impeding their quality of ride. This rider could be slightly aged or physically challenged. He or she just wants to be out and about whenever they feel like it. Then, you get me. I have the choice to get out on my bike and clear my head, have coffee with my mates, ride back to back days…and do it as hard as I choose, not my friends I ride with.
“I was wrong to think it’s a free ride. It’s not. I guess as I’ve said before, it can be. It’s now your choice. So if E-Bikes offer riders a chance to get back in the saddle, it makes sense to include them officially in races, but in their own category.
“I think the dynamics would be interesting. People of all shapes and sizes that have long since given up the idea of participating in racing, albeit socially, can now come out to play…again
“Do we need an E-Bike podium? I for one, am extremely competitive, but given there are way too many factors in how you measure this “category” I don’t believe it is necessary,” said Yapp.
The aQuellé Tour Durban will be raced with strict limits to the MTB and road races to conform with Covid compliance and has become one of the first major events to take E-Bike entries across all of its event.