Traffic & the idea of commuting go hand in hand … traveling at a snail’s pace in your alloy and steel self-isolating vehicle for hours at a time – twice a day, 5 days a week. Surely there’s a better option.
As bike riders we already know of such an option – we can ride our bike to and from work. I did almost every day for 4 years while living in London – rain or shine, smog or fog. Usually all of the above, on the same day too. Nothing like 18 kilometers each way on a bike to kick start or end your day … I loved it. It kept me healthy, sane, saved me tons of money and taught me more about the layout of the city than if I just took the ‘tube every day. But there are cons to this lifestyle – especially in our climate – arriving sweaty, a lack of facilities at the workplace, speed of travel, how much you can carry, etc. etc.
But we are at a point, particularly in Cape Town, where we need to make an impact on the state of the traffic – it’s a mess. No finger-pointing or blame storming – it’s just a mess pure and simple. If each of us took a turn at commuting by bike a couple of times a week we’d create a critical mass where we’d have much more say in infrastructure & safety decisions on future bike-friendly expansion which in turn would lead to more folks on bikes and so on and so on.
Normally I ride one of my fancy bikes to and from meetings and commitments on the other side of town, but the past month or so I’ve been on Trek’s SuperCommuter+ 7s. A few years ago, I’d have scoffed at the idea of riding an electric city bike. But just one ride on the SuperCommuter+ and I was hooked. And that feeling has stayed with me the entire month. It’s a very different vibe to your usual carbon fiber wonder bike – but that’s the point. The SuperCommuter+ allows the fancy bike to take a breather during the week and rest up for big days at the weekend.
Power delivery is excellent from the 350 W/500Wh Bosch system, taking you all the way to a limited top speed of 45 km/h. When you consider that the average speed of London traffic is about 12 to 15 km/h in rush hour you can see the advantages here. Trek advertise this as a “no-sweat commuter” and I definitely agree with this statement – I did a bunch of rides to and from photoshoot jobs using the SuperCommuter and despite carrying my 8 or so kg camera bag I arrived fresh, dry and raring to go after a 20 or 30-minute commute each way. And I didn’t have to worry about parking.
The more upright position on the city-style bike sits you up nice and high for drivers to see and for you to catch their eye and try gauge their intentions pretty early on – which is necessary at the pace you’ll be traveling at. Despite the South-Easter blowing regularly on my commutes, I would sit quite comfortably at an average of 32km/h in a blend of Eco, Sport & Tour modes. I used the different power modes more than I thought I would – and this was due to the helpful range calculation that was shown on the Bosch Purion digital readout – every time you switch modes it shows how far you can expect to travel. I found this particularly handy when I took an extended loop home which had a fun few kms of gravel on it while running low on battery. Switching between modes got me home with power to spare despite me underestimating the distance. A helpful tool when you take the scenic route home after a long day at the office.
There are a two items on the spec that I’d like to highlight – the horn and the brakes. Yes, it’s got 10 speeds, an always-on front light and brake-activated rear light for safety – but the items of spec I cherished the most on my time with the SuperCommuter+ were the brakes and the horn. Remember that speed differential I mentioned earlier, well let’s say that our drivers aren’t used to bicycles going faster than them on the daily commute. Some take it well, others not so much. So you tend to be leaning on those powerful four-pot Magura MT5s quite a lot when you are on shared roads and folks try take gaps that might have worked against a normal bike. Then as you fly away under power the horn sends a chirpy reminder that you are a valid part of the whole road sharing vibe.
One anecdote I’d like to leave you with, dear readers, is how after a meeting in downtown Cape Town I had to do a shoot near the Table Mountain Cable Station – so in rush hour traffic, with a camera bag, mudguards, and a pannier rack, I headed up Kloof Nek from town – Strava has this segment at 1.8km, 9.2%, 173m elevation gain. Now, to be honest, I was pushing it a little bit effort-wise – and had it on a mix of Tour and Turbo – but in casual shoes on flat pedals, dodging traffic and this almost 50-year-old still took the analog KOM before editing the activity to an e-bike ride as you should before the roadies had a meltdown. I shudder to think what it could do with a more concerted effort.
|FRAME||| Hydroformed e-Bike frame, Integrated battery, Motor Armor|
|BATTERY||| Bosch PowerPack 500 Wh|
|CONTROLLER||| Bosch Purion|
|MOTOR||| Bosch Performance Speed, 350 watt, 45 kph|
|FORK||| Rigid, Carbon, thru axle design|
|LIGHTS||| Busch & Muller IQ-X E front and Busch & Muller rear with brake light|
|BARS||| Bontrager Alloy, 31.8mm with 15mm rise|
|STEM||| Bontrager Blendr|
|SEAT||| Bontrager H1|
|SEATPOST||| Bontrager SSR|
|WHEELS||| Bontrager Hubs, Alex Volar Alloy rims,|
|TYRES||| Schwalbe Super Moto-X, 27.5×2.4˝ with puncture protection|
|CASSETTE||| Shimano Tiagra, 10 speed, 11-32t|
|MECH||| Shimano Deore Shadow+|
|SHIFTER||| Shimano Deore|
|CRANKS||| Miranda Delta, 18T|
|CHAIN||| KMC X10E|
|BRAKES||| Magura MT5E, 4-piston|
|WEIGHT||| 23.6 kg|
|RRP||| R59 999|
The SuperCommuter+ may not be on everyone’s radar with all the flash racing machines out there – but this is a whole different category of bicycle. It’s one that could help contribute to alleviating congestion, pollution and all that goes with that. It could be a catalyst to get more people out on bikes in cities to help convince city managers to develop more & better cycling-friendly infrastructure to reduce the number of unnecessary car journeys on our roads. And that folks is a wonderful thing. But more than all that, it’s a bicycle that will open up whole new avenues of commuting and experiencing of our cities streets while the world rushes by at 45km/h without breaking a sweat.