For a second year, Hayden Brown and I were hired by Supergroup to document their journey at Sani2c.
Last year we used a car to follow the team. Not being able to follow the race route meant that we ended up getting lost more times than I’d like to admit and losing a ton of time trying to find the riders again.
So while I was mentally preparing for the Supergroup project I had the bright idea of following the team on an e-bike. I had briefly seen one of the Giant E-bike models a month earlier and I contacted my friends at Bike Hub to see if they knew who I should speak to.
Two days later, Iwan Kemp had organized two 2018 Giant E-Bike Full E+1.5 bikes for us to ride. Now that my idea was a reality, I had to face my own realities: my relative inexperience riding a mountain bike.
For those that don't follow stage racing, Sani2c is a multi-day race with three events starting on consecutive days. The three events are the Trail, Adventure, and finally the Race. We were following the second event, the Adventure.
Our goal was to ride with the Supergroup team allowing us to not only experience the journey but scout out special spots that we would not be able to access by car. While the goal and idea were grand, nothing ever goes exactly to plan, and due to human error, the chargers for the Giant E-bikes had not been packed. So I started the first day with only 30% battery on the bike.
I made 30km +- before the battery ran out. Now as I mentioned before I'm not a cyclist, and riding the bike with zero power just wasn’t an option at my fitness level, so I caught a lift to the finish line where a plan had been made to get a charger.
On the second day with a fully charged bike, we looked forward to the incredible drop into Umkomaas Valley and the grueling Iconic climb. This was most definitely my favorite day.
Firstly, the sunrise at McKenzie is spectacular. With the sun still peeking its way over the hills, we reached the Umkomaas Valley with the most amazing view and single track. There’s nothing quite like it. The hardest part is trying to keep your eyes on the trail.
I took my time here, stopping often to capture shots of the Supergroup team. Time well spent soaking in the route and atmosphere.
I also stopped to help a crashed rider who took a serious tumble over his handlebars. I waited with him and his partner for around 30 mins until the helicopter flew over us and acknowledged our position.
I then had to try and catch up to the group. While assisting the injured rider, I had fallen behind to starting batch M, with most of the Supergroup team being in batch I. Thankfully, with most of the downhill out of the way, I could now use the power of the Giant E-bike to catch up.
By the time I reached the waterpoint 1, I had caught up three or four batches, and was back on track. I snapped some images of the Supergroup team at the waterpoint, grabbed some liquids and snacks for myself and began the next 30km of climbing.
Straight off the block I started overtaking riders on the climb, and continued to do so for the next 30 km. I was blown away by the power and torque created by the bike.
I must admit I needed to use the higher power option since I just didn’t have the training and strength that the rest of the riders had. I received an array of comments while passing riders.
"-Ah! its an E-bike"
"Are you going camping with that backpack?"
And many more. It really was a mix of feelings, but mostly people were impressed if not intrigued.
On the Iconic climb, most riders walked except for the odd few exceptional riders showing their strength/training by getting to the top without putting a foot down. I was not one of those people. While the Giant E-bike could make mince meat of the climb, I lacked the skill to accomplish the task. I still did my best and had some dropped jaws while passing a bunch of riders and making it look effortless. We even stopped to photographed some Supergroup team riders and then jumped back on the bikes to pass them again.
Unfortunately, due to using the highest power option on the climbs I ate through the battery and made it to the 60km water point 2. Again I was left with a 23kg bike and no power. Now if I had trained and was just reasonably fit, I have no doubt the bike could make the finish line. However, since I hadn’t and didn’t have any fitness, I was stoked to reach 60km and had a ton of fun while doing it.
The final day was met with rain and lots of it. We decided not to ride because of our camera gear, not because of the bikes, and unfortunately, we shot the final day from a vehicle.
Firstly, thank you to Giant South Africa for lending us their brand new Giant E-Bike Full E+1.5. The bike really allowed us to cover the race beyond what would have been possible with a car.
With a central Yamaha motor and dual suspension with 140mm travel. The bike is an amazing ride. I enjoyed the ride, and that’s what it's about, isn’t it? You don’t purchase an E-bike to race, you buy it to have fun. The Gaint handled the single track like a pro, felt well balanced, and did what it was built to do on the climbs: obliterate.
However it does weigh 23 kilograms, and when the motor was off on the flats or you forgot to turn it on up the climbs you could feel that weight. That’s probably the only downfall of this bike is the weight. But when the motor is on it feels light, nimble, almost like a muscle car. I even had guys come to me at the finish line and drool over the bike like is was some sort of super car.
Man oh man did I have fun. And being able to do my job and experience the Sani2c race in a whole new way was worth it. I think e-bikes and media at races will definitely become a big thing.
- Frame SizesS, M, L, XL
- Frame ColorsBLACK / BLUE
- FrameALUXX SL-grade aluminum, 140mm Maestro suspension system, 'Boost' 148x12QR
- ForkSR Suntour Aion 35 LO-R 27.5+ 140mm travel, tapered steerer, Lockout, 'Boost' 110x15mm Quick-Loc thru-axle
- ShockSR Suntour UnAir 185x52.5
- HandlebarGiant Connect TR 730x31,8mm
- StemGiant Connect [50 S, 60 M/L, 70XL]
- SeatpostTranz-X height adjust SP
- SaddleGiant Contact neutral
- PedalAluminum Platform
- ShiftersShimano Deore 2x10sp
- Front DerailleurShimano Deore
- Rear DerailleurShimano XT shadow
- BrakesShimano BR-M506/407 180/200mm Disc
- Brake LeversShimano BL-M506
- CassetteShimano HG50-10 11-36T, 10-sp
- ChainKMC X.10e, e-bike specific
- CranksetCustom forged crankset by FSA, 28/38T, 'Boost' 4-bolt 104BCD Yamaha specific spider
- RimsGiant GE35, 584x35mm Sleeve Joint aluminum, TL ready
- HubsGiant Tracker Boost, Sealed Cartridge bearing, IS 6-bolt, [F] 110x15 [R] 148x12mm Thru-axle
- SpokesDT Swiss Alpine® black, DT Pro Lock® Squorx nipples (check possible China suuply for 2.3-2.0 butted spoke)
- TiresSchwalbe Rocket Ron, 27.5x2.55(584x65mm), Performance Foldable, SnakeSkin, Tubelss Ready
- ExtrasGiant EnergyPak 4A fast charger
- MotorGiant SyncDrive Pro, powered by Yamaha
- SensorsGiant PedalPlus 4-sensor technology
- DisplayGiant RideControl EVO, grip launch control with walk assist, mini USB charger
- BatteryGiant EnergyPak500, 36V 13.8Ah Rechargeable Lithium-Ion