Need a recharge? - Just apply brakes

e-bike guide

I move about Cape Town mainly by bike. Cape Town is a mountain city; headwinds and lateness are also an occasional challenge. On a day when I haven't pedaled, I feel under-energized, slightly twitchy. Going home, my final stretch demands an uphill slog; at times I feel like getting off and pushing. Or receiving a gentle shove.  Matt, a friend, said an e-bike would enhance my daily ride. ‘Look, I can see sedentary types would go for it,’ I said.


'Or people with special needs,’ said Matt, who imports these


‘And those who enjoy pricey toys.’

motor fitted fat -ebike

The way I see it is that my legs should keep my heart fit the good old way. Adding a sophisticated Korean battery, Taiwanese motor and attendant electronic circuitry would complicate things, no?

Still, I was curious to try.


I got my chance having planned a weekend mountain hike. Trouble was, the Saturday night went on a bit. Next morning, feeling our (very middle) age, an assisted pedal seemed more sensible. ‘But the motor’s noise will make my head worse,’ I objected mainly to keep conversation going.


‘They don’t emit a decibel,’ countered Matt, surely exaggerating, and then machine-ground some coffee beans.


By db comparison, and after coffee, having set out for the mountain slopes, not one of the three e-bikes we spent the day test-riding made the faintest hum or electro-whine.


I started on this Silverback Sola 3 fitted with a 350W direct drive rear-hub motor, powered by a 48V / 10aH Samsung battery. My impression? Well, to this novice, it did the trick.


From mounting, to actually going, nearly everything about the ride felt familiar. But instead of drenching sweat, my light perspirant sheen was cooled by the breeze coming off the oncoming slope.

man-at deer-park

We paused to take pictures.


A man who stopped to get some water, greeted us.


He and Matt chatted.


Looking out at where we’d come from was impressive: a couple of hundred meters up steep road, and instead of stopping for lung-wringing rests, I felt only slightly puffed, similar to the satisfying exhilaration of a bout of light cardio-exercise.

a gauge on an e-bike
bicycle ridden in Cape Trekking e-bike tours in Cape Town

Depending on your choice of 4-level assistance selected on the handle-bar, you get much the same physical satisfaction that makes cycling such a fun healthy outdoor activity.


Also absent was the usual lurch of uphill starts. Pedalling through the 360 was fluid, and there was barely any fatigue-induced wavering of speed. This is because the e-bike’s torque sensors regulate an efficient, steady use of energy. State-of-the-art e-bike software works out algorithmically (by tracking the force each leg exerts) the required assistance needed per crank. It makes for a most fluid ride.  


Instead of being distracted by the effort of pedalling and maintaining balance on long severe uphills, you can choose to enjoy the ride by exerting as much or little torque as you want. It’s like you effectively flatten hills. But remember, as advanced as the battery is (designed to move average-sized riders about seventy kilometres) whirring uphill will shorten its charge-life.  


The same for pushing faster on flatter surfaces. However, on this bike, unless you really work hard or there's strong wind at your back, you can't go more than 25 km/h, in compliance with EU e-bike speed limits. 


Battery-life on this model is recharged by repeated braking - by up to twenty percent, apparently. I didn’t feel like challenging this claim. I was enjoying myself. And I’d soon change bikes.


We pressed on, hit dirt road. Though I know the mountain fairly well there are always surprises. Today’s was potentially dangerous you soon realize on entry by low tunnel. 

mountain-bike powered by a Samsung 36V / 10aH battery and 350w rear hub motor

 Devil's Peak Quarry to Newlands by e-bike


We paused to rest and change bikes at this quarry on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. It is an isolated tin mine last used in the early twentieth century. It’s the kind of place to sit and enjoy were one not so vulnerable to attack. We moved on. 


Now I was riding the other 29 inch wheel mountain-bike.  Powered by a Samsung 36V / 10aH battery and 350w rear hub motor. It has two speeds that self-adjust according to gradient, as well as your choice of the 5 level throttle. Within each level you can play the range of manual multi-speed gears.


The LCD digital dashboard registers speed, odometer readings, also time and temperature. It is back-lit for night riding. I only referred to it to check which level of assistance I was on. For the moment the views pulled focus. Then the terrain become more demanding.


e-bike gauge


On unpaved mountain tracks though, the 29 inch wheels augment the rider's sense of control provided by the motorized assistance when handling tricky or potentially dangerous steep rutted sections, like the ones we approached.


When it became too steep we got off and pushed. By keeping your thumb on a handle-bar mounted button the bike’s motor kicks in, ‘knowing’ how much help you require - which was quite a bit. It was now close on midday with the sun beating through the winter breeze.  


Along with the superior suspension, the 29 inch wheels felt safer than on 26 inch wheels - so I noticed when we stopped and switched bikes again as we headed down off the mountain through Newlands forest and had lunch at a restaurant.

(c) Nicholas Ashby

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