No matter what you think of them, eBikes are firmly part of the bicycle market, both globally and in South Africa. While events had begun to welcome eBikes before the Covid-19 lockdown, it was rather new and parameters weren’t firmly established. Now that events are starting up again, there’s already been some challenges. Here’s what the problem is…
By Sean Badenhorst
eBike riders wait for the start of their own eBike group at the 2020 Nissan Trailseeker race at Van Gaalen. | Photo: Henk Neuhoff
“We love eBikes. We love how they enable so many new people to gain access to mountain biking. And we love that eBike riders enter our events,” says Fritz Pienaar, Managing Director of Faces, the company that owns and organises the popular Nissan Trailseeker Mountain Bike Series.
“But we have had some had some problems with eBike riders in our events this year, particularly in our two most recent events at Buffelsdrift and Van Gaalen and we hope that we can sort this out as soon as possible,” added Pienaar.
The dedicated eBike batch, which does the half-marathon distance (about 35km) starts first, 15 minutes before the Elite men’s marathon batch at the Nissan Trailseeker events. It’s arranged this way to ensure all participants in the eBike group are well into their race before the other half-marathon groups start (they start after the marathon groups have left). This eBike batch is where all eBike entrants must start. But this hasn’t been the case.
“We have had eBike riders starting in other batches, which is causing us some trouble,” explains Pienaar. “It seems there are eBike riders wanting to do the race with a friend or family member or spouse. But while this support is encouraged normally, we can’t have eBikes mixing with regular bikes,” says Pienaar.
The dedicated eBike start group has been established specifically for eBike riders. But there are a number of eBike riders not adhering to this and creating problems by starting in other groups at the Nissan Trailseeker Series events. | Photo: Henk Neuhoff
The problems arise in three areas:
On uphills, where the eBike riders are able to get well ahead of other riders because of the pedal assist. It’s fairly obvious when a rider passes you quite comfortably and fast on a tough climb that they are on an eBike, which is frustrating when you know you are meant to be riding among others on regular bikes.
On technical descents, where many eBike riders lack the skill to be able to stay ahead of more skilled riders on regular bikes, causing delays and tension.
After the race, when riders on eBikes are recorded on the results sheet along with participants on regular bikes. There’s currently no differentiation method other than eBike riders self-selecting the eBike batch start.
“What we are asking is that eBike riders wanting to participate in any of our events, please enter as an eBike rider and start the event in the eBike group,” says Pienaar. “EBikes are only going to become more popular, which is fantastic, but when it comes to race participation, we need to establish some rules that give every entrant the opportunity to compete equally, without hindrance or frustration in his/her bike class and race group.”
The next events in the 2020 Nissan Trailseeker Series are:
10 October: Sondela, Limpopo
31 October: Cullinan, Gauteng
28 November: Legends MX, Gauteng
More information and online entry here