Eelco Meyjes foresees e-bikes becoming a firm fixture at cycle events after making history by completing the recent 947 Cycle Challenge on one of these motorised bicycles.
Meyjes, part of the “I am an E-Bike Experiment”, became the first e-bike rider in the history of the 21-year-old event, in which he had participated on mountain bikes as well as road bikes.
No stranger to long-distance riding, the 68-year-old has cycled from Johannesburg to Cape Town and vice versa, and this year rode from Cape Town to Victoria Falls via Namibia.
Now he wants to encourage others to participate in events, either on a normal or an electric bike.
His interest in e-bikes started last year while he was visiting his daughter and son-in-law in the south of France. They went to Monaco, where he caught his first glimpse of an e-bike.
“I saw a bike going up a hill; faster than one would expect to see. I asked my son-in-law what it was all about and he explained that it was an e-bike,” said Eelco.
Intrigued, he returned to South Africa, eager to find out all he could about e-bikes.
He approached numerous retailers, but was disappointed to find there was “a lot of misinformation being disseminated”.
“When I asked if I would be allowed to ride an e-bike in the 947, some said it wouldn’t be a problem. Others said I should just go ahead and not tell anyone.”
He then approached the organisers, hoping to enter on his e-bike. His request was initially turned down but race director Jenni Green saw the possibilities, having seen their popularity overseas.
“I think event organisers are so keen to look at it seriously because one can be a purist only up to a point. But if you receive requests you won’t want to turn that business away,” said Meyjes.
The reaction to the experiment was positive.
One of the 120 riders who had taken part in every edition of the 947 voiced his concern that he may soon be lining up for his last. However, he felt he would probably be back if e-bikes were allowed next year.
Meyjes acknowledged separate e-bike categories should be subject to stringent conditions and rules to prevent them interfering with the main field.
“If they start interfering and interrupting the race they will aggravate cyclists, and that’s the last thing that must happen.”
The Parkhurst resident will submit a report to race organisers, outlining his findings and offering suggestions about how e-bikes could be incorporated into established events.
The nine-time 947 Cycle Challenge rider said the main thing for him was to get as many people riding as possible.
He felt the 947, an all-embracing event that welcomed riders of all skill levels, was the ideal platform to do that.
“I first cycled in 2009, when I did my first 947, and since then I’ve ridden thousands of kilometres.
“If it wasn’t for that first 947, I would probably still be on the couch at home. So I want to be able to do the same for others by being an ambassador for e-bikes.”