The world record setting E-Bike Africa expedition from Glasgow to Cape Town has successfully arrived in Paris, the destination of the tour‘s first leg.
The organizers and riders, Bruce MacLeod of the Purple Heart Network and Susanne Brüsch of Pedelec Adventures presented their ambi- tious project at the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris in early December.
Having cycled almost 900 km (560 miles) from Glasgow to Paris in wind, rain and snow, both, Cape-Town-born, Glasgow-based entrepreneur Bruce MacLeod and journalist, photographer and founder of Pedelec Adventures Susanne Brüsch, were praised by locals along the way and by the international audience at COP21 for the inspiration E-Bike Africa spreads.
“We met so many amazing people, climate activists, scientists and citizens who were so supportive of our aims and actions” says Bruce. “It was very inspiring and we are now even more determined to promote environmentally sensitive actions and technologies, like electric mobility, as part of the solution to climate change.”
To get to Paris the team rode electric bikes, provided by Haibike, Germany’s leading e-perfor- mance bicycle brand. Epowered by Bosch‘s widely used eBike System, the expedition bikes of Haibike‘s XDURO line are high-performance pedelecs, which means they require the rider to pedal for motor support. A 500 Watt motor assists up to a speed of 45 km/h.
Custom designed solar trailers “give us the independence to charge our bike batteries and electronic equipment using renewable energy, anywhere at any time”, says Susanne. This is the same technology that will get E-Bike Africa out of Europe and over the remaining 19,000km to Cape Town, while leaving the lightest possible carbon footprint.
Glasgow to Paris - a journey full of contrasts
The first leg of the expedition kicked off from Nelson Mandela Place in Glasgow on 19 Novem- ber 2015 and over the next two weeks Bruce and Susanne travelled between 50 and 110 km a day to reach Paris.
Travelling South across Scotland into England the expedition encountered snow-covered hills and severe winds. The beautiful scenery, friendly faces and cosy village pubs helped them on challenging rides to reach Newcastle Upon Tyne, where they crossed to Amsterdam by ferry.
“Coming from the UK, where we often struggled to find cycle-friendly routes, Amsterdam
was heaven,” remembers Susanne. In Europe‘s cycling capital, cyclists come first, always and everywhere. The excellent urban and inter-urban network of cycling lanes made for a fantastic riding experience all over the Netherlands.” The country‘s flat, picturesque scenery of canals, windmills and the space-age architecture of Rotterdam added to the journey.
Reaching Belgium the team encountered amazing hospitality that turned bad luck into high- lights when students in Ghent opened their home to the adventurers as all hostels and hotels were full and a hidden military canteen near Antwerp served them a slap-up meal when all other places were closed.
Leaving behind quiet towns in rural France and finally reaching Paris only three weeks after the terrorist attack, “we found a vibrant, well-functioning city with its pride and energy still intact”, says Susanne. An ocean of flowers had been laid at Nations Square, and although there was constant, visible Police presence, a sense of hope filled the air as people from all over the world had gathered in Paris to show their commitment to tackling climate change.
Both project partners, The Purple Heart Network and Pedelec Adventures, welcome the COP21 agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. At the same time they are convinced that this target won’t be reached through policy alone, it’ll be achieved through people power.
“This is where the actions of The Purple Heart Network come in, raising awareness of climate change through projects like E-Bike Africa, to make sure environmentally sensitive solutions and technology is available to everyone,” says Johanna Speirs, Chair of the Scottish Charity. “We believe that protecting the planet for future generations begins here at home.” In testing and showcasing what is possible on electric bikes powered by renewable energy “Pedelec Adven- tures supports the goals and values of The Purple Heart Network while reaching out to a global community,” says Susanne Brüsch.
Test run for African leg
The first leg from Glasgow to Paris was the “easy part”, the adventurers admit, “except for
the weather conditions”. There was easy access to accommodation, food and facilities and paved roads to cycle on. The same won’t be true in Africa where the team will cross expansive, undeveloped landscapes; however the first leg was “a great test run and highlighted a range of improvements that need to be in place for the 2nd leg, particularly in relation to security and efficiency,” says Bruce.
To make time for these improvements the 2nd leg of the journey will start in Summer 2016 from Paris, allowing the team to include the world’s leading bicycle show, Eurobike, in Germany in late August into the tour schedule. Via Switzerland and Italy the expedition will hit the African continent in Alexandria, where a new challenge begins.
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Text and photo: pedelec-adventures.com
29 December 2015