E-biking: An Adventure Electric

Posted by Caroline Webb on 18 July 2019

There are several e-bike tours available, but this one will give you a realistic bash at mountain biking.

What: Vineyard E-Bike Meander
What: Durbanville, Cape Town
Who: Caroline Webb

I have it on good authority that the guy riding behind me was rather amazed at the varied and creative ways I found to come off a bicycle. The best was riding calmly off the side of a low log bridge and tipping sideways into a bed of long grass, as if I’d decided I just had to stop and have a snooze right then. A ride through the vineyards on an electric mountain bike sounded easy enough, delightful even, so I signed up. I’m a total beginner as far as mountain biking goes, and this seemed like a good way to try it out. It is, but don’t think it will be easy.

A rest stop to take in the scenery on Altydgedacht estate.Image credit: Caroline Webb

We met at ride-leader Grant Frye’s house, where we were introduced to the Specialized Turbo Levo e-bike (best on the market). It has 11 gears (that’s about 10 more than I’ve ever had on a bike) and a choice of Eco, Trail and Turbo modes for the electric side of things. The battery, which lasts a day – as long as you don’t ride in ‘Turbo’ all the time – makes the bicycle weigh a good 23 kilograms. We set off for the trails on suburban roads, allowing us to get used to riding an e-bike. It feels almost ‘alive’, as if it’s raring to go. It gives you a sense of having extra juice, not just the bike but your own muscles. The bike’s not a scooter – you still have to pedal to get up those hills, but it feels easier, almost effortless. You can cover a lot more ground without getting as tired. Add to that the attraction of mountain biking itself, which is to go where road bikes can’t, and you start to feel kind of like a superhero, perhaps even invincible. And that’s when you wipe out.

Elise Kirsten zooms along some flat track. Image credit: Caroline Webb

Mountain biking takes plenty of concentration. There’s little time to enjoy the scenery as each fresh challenge presents itself – deep sand, loose gravel, a ditch, a tree, a cow (I hope she understood I was wrangling with my wider-than-normal handlebars). The A-frame turnstiles over fences are the most intimidating of all. Going straight downhill is trickier than a twisty-turny path or an uphill (and doing it in Turbo mode could send you flipping forwards or backwards, as I did). When we did stop for breaks, we had lovely views of Table Mountain, the coastline and over to Stellenbosch; we had sunshine, fresh air – a mix of fynbos, trees, earth and vines – and an exhilarating sense of freedom. And these are the memories I took away, beyond the stiff muscles and sore butt.

Risk Factor – 6/10. The e-bike makes it easier if you’re unfit (I was surprised to hear I’d ridden almost 25 kilometres), but you’re still on MTB trails.

Verdict – The sheer amount of ground we covered, over four wine farms and a few hills (total elevation gain: 417 metres) in a couple of hours, was wonderful. To walk the route would’ve taken all day. My colleague Elise, who mountain bikes regularly in this area, had a very pleasant outing; for me, the rookie, it was a bit more challenging.

Cost – R1,500 per person for this half-day ride (includes permits, bike, helmet and guiding).

The details – Each tour can take up to eight people; which routes you do will depend on your level of experience. Wear any practical, comfy clothing but must-haves are closed shoes, gloves and sunglasses.

Book – 083-251-4389, capetownebiketours.co.za

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