Electric Storm Strikes at 2021 Munga
The sixth edition of arguably the toughest mountain bike race on the calendar, The Munga, just got a little more interesting! Dot-watchers (the people who spend just as much time awake as the riders, following them on their laptops) are in for a treat as three e-bikers are tackling the 1 200-odd-km off-road route from Bloemfontein to Wellington from Wednesday, 1 December.
Nope, you didn’t misread that. In conjunction with Toyota South Africa, three riders – including former Munga finishers – will be experimenting on the route to suss out the viability of e-bikes for ultra-endurance eventing. They won’t be interfering with the real racing, they start three hours before the field, but what they will be doing is helping develop protocols for future e-bike events, providing feedback for designers and battery technicians and pioneering what could be a whole new sub-set in the South African stupid-idea-let’s-do-it milieu. They will be backed up, all the way, by Toyota’s new Corolla Cross hybrid, making this hybrid race the perfect cross between endurance and energy conservation.
Part of the aim of Toyota’s sponsorship is to help South Africa become the world’s best playground for e-bikes. The Munga e-bike ultra long-distance endurance test will be used as an active case study to advance battery knowledge substantially, and to grow the expertise of the three e-bike electricians who will be servicing the teams.
Road pro, Munga finisher and general ride-anything expert Myles van Musschenbroek, sports and exercise medicine physician Dr Phathokuhle Zondi and Wade Mostert are the three guinea pigs for an experimental attempt at one of the world’s greatest endurance mountain bike races, with 200km-range batteries and Corolla Cross support all the way making this hybrid race the perfect cross between endurance and energy conservation. Part of the aim of Toyota’s sponsorship is to help South Africa become the world’s best playground for e-bikes. The Munga e-bike ultra long-distance endurance test will be used as an active case study to advance battery knowledge substantially, and to grow the expertise of the three e-bike electricians who will be servicing the teams.
BUT THE MUNGA IS FAR!
Yup. With 200-250km between each race village, riders have been supplied with two 625Wh batteries, which should do the trick. Van Musschenbroek has eked 150km out of a 625Wh battery in training, riding on Eco mode and switching it off on the descents. “you can’t really ride in Turbo, or anything other than Eco. We should be good for each race village, but that’s part if the experiment – we aren’t 100% sure.”
The goal isn’t to win anything – purely to finish. “I rode 89 hours last year, at a fairly relaxed not-racing pace. If I can manage that again, that would be cool. There are factors in play, though, that make it different. We are forced to have long stops in every race village – we need 3.5-4 hours to recharge the batteries, there’s no way to avoid that. I think we will ride together to Vanderkloofdam [the first race village, at 224km], but after that we get onto the longer open roads, which are rutted and it might be windy. My KTM stops giving assist at 25km/h, the others run up to 32km/h. We obviously can’t sit at those speeds all day, we will kill the batteries, but there will be differences in speed – we have different comfortable riding speeds. If I can match that 89 hours, that would be cool.”
WATCH IT UNFOLD
You can track all the Munga riders on www.themunga.com, from midday 1 December.
Stay up to date with live news from The Munga e-bike endurance test by following Toyota SA’s social media channels (Instagram and Facebook), and watch how the action unfolded when it airs on the Toyota Cadence show on SuperSport in coming weeks.