So a small (but impractical) plane is faster than a vehicle on a cross-country jaunt. A motocross bike is faster in an off-road environment than an Isuzu bakkie, but you have to load the bike on the bakkie to get it anywhere further than around the block. We pitted the KB against a mountain bike, in a 4×4 environment. With a pro rider providing the pedal power.
We’re back in the Bushveld. Around the campfire. The assembled group, basking in the warm glow of the fire, is dead quiet. News has been delivered that a motocross bike was faster than the Isuzu KB in sand, on a cross-country dice, and in a 400m sprint. One patron is drawing circles in the sand with the right toe of his Crocs slip-on shoe. Another is sipping delicately on his Castle Lite beer, his face still bearing the bruises of the time he so realistically simulated the crash landing of a plane, and introduced his face to the gravel next to the campfire, during the previous get-together.
The couple from Modimolle, who are such big fans of character Stringfellow Hawke and his Airwolf helicopter, was eerily quiet, too. It was, truth be told, a bit like the quiet before the storm. The man with the bruised face broke the silence, bringing the profound moment of ponder to an abrupt end. “Thank greatness it was a Yamaha bike, and not a KTM. If it was a KTM, the bike would have won by an even greater margin,” he stated. Queue petrol added to proverbial fire. “What? Since when is a KTM faster than a Yamaha?” challenged the Crocs man, the one who started this whole scientific experiment, months before. The man from Modimolle did not have a particular opinion whether a KTM is faster than a Yamaha. But he was ready with an impression. He jumped up from his camping chair, assuming a type of motorcycle riding position. His supportive wife follows suit, taking up an apparent pillion rider position behind her husband.
The man was revving the engine of his ‘air bike,’ twisting the throttle with his right hand. “Guess what bike this is!” he shouted, excitedly. “Na-na-na-na. Naaaa-naaa-naaaa-naaaa-naaaa-na-na-na-na-na.” He did this very loudly. The bike impersonator and his wife, both still in a hunched, bike-riding position, both looked expectedly at their two fireside companions. However, both gentlemen were staring at the couple as if they were looking at a seahorse riding a lion. After a few awkward moments of staring, the bruised by-the-face man said: “Even a KTM bicycle is faster than a Yamaha.” “A KTM bicycle? Easy on the beer there, boet. What’s this nonsense about a KTM bicycle?” said the Crocs man. “Na-na-na-na. Naaaa-naaa-naaaa-naaaa-naaaa,” tried the motorcycle riding man again, twisting the throttle of his ‘bike’ in timing with the sound effects.
The Castle Lite man stared at his fireside companion, with an incredulous look about him. “Really? Do you live under a rock? KTM has been building bicycles since 1964. That’s 53 years ago.” “Jissie okes, it’s a Yamaha RD350!” said the Modimolle lad, obviously disappointed in his fellow man. “I used to pick up Susan from school on my RD. It was like super hot back in the late ’80s.” His wife, still in the pillion rider position, added: “Ja bokkie, you looked so handsome on that bike. You even had hair back then. Just like Stringfellow.” The Crocs man was back in the game, too: “Okay, so I didn’t know KTM made bicycles. I knew about the off-road bikes and even the X-Bow track car. Bicycles? No way.” “Yebo yes, bicycles,” said man-with-bruised-face. “And even the KTM bicycle will be faster than a Yamaha motorcycle. There was a moment of silence again. The Modimolle couple were, inexplicably, still caught up in their RD350 moment. Presumably riding off into the sunset. “No ways. A KTM bicycle, faster than a Yamaha motor-bike? Next thing, you’re probably going to claim the bicycle is faster than the Isuzu, too” said the Crocs fellow. And that, right there, sounded like an experiment that we needed to conduct using our highly scientific methodology.
Obviously an Isuzu KB – and any car for that matter – would be faster than a bicycle on a normal road. Not even a steroid-fuelled Lance Armstrong can keep up with a 0.8-litre hatch. There’s no challenge there. Our focus would rather be on three off-road tests, and we based our scientific endeavours at the Hobby Park adventure complex in Krugersdorp. The venue’s 4×4 trails offered challenges from mild to stupidly wild (like the infamous ‘Survivor’ climb). The first test was a steep, rocky 4×4 obstacle, which both KB and KTM (bicycle) had to scale. Once crested, both vehicles had to make a tight U-turn and head down the hill on a much smoother track. Theoretically then, the battle would even out. Our second experiment revolved around another steep, rocky hill. This time though, the vehicles had to head down the hill, over the rocks. We didn’t want to put a dent in the Isuzu KB300 D-Teq 4×4 AT, and our cyclist obviously preferred to keep his skin on his body. So a good balance between speed and preservation of skin and metal would be key.
Mountain biking, which is often described as the new golf because of its immense popularity, is a lot about cross-country racing. We obviously needed to include a cross-country dash. This we found in a 500m looped gravel route. This narrow track is lined with trees, and there are a number of ruts along the route, too. If we were in a purpose-built rally bakkie with a R600 000 suspension, then we could have tackled those ruts at full tilt. In a stock standard double cab 4×4… well, thankfully we were using an Isuzu KB, which certainly is of a more robust nature than some of its newer, flashier and more dainty double cab siblings. Again, the test brought a measure of equality to the experiment – the bicycle could obviously tackle the ruts at top speed. So that was the test sorted. Next we needed a KTM bicycle, and a suitable rider.
We go pro!
Daniel Alikisente hails from Uganda. The 36-year-old started cycling from a young age and decided that it was what he wanted to do with his life. A big crash and badly injured knee did not go down well with his concerned parents. They sold off his bike and kit. Daniel didn’t cycle for about a year while he was recovering. And scheming. He wasn’t going to give up on his dream, and eventually managed to buy his own bicycle. He was real good, too. By the age of 16, he boarded a plan to London to further his studies (and cycling career). For the next six years, he competed in road races all over Europe. He eventually returned to Uganda and started up a business. However, business was slow so he decided to head to South Africa. Here he was snapped up by local cycling legend Andrew Mclean, and was employed in Andrew’s booming Cycle Lab business.
And he rode his bike, of course. Riding for Andrew’s Cycle Lab Toyota MTB team in 2016, Daniel and his teammate Ben Mwanje won Bridgestone Route 69 Experience overall. This year he rides for the Inspire team, and he acts as leader and mentor for a new crop of young black riders who are fast heading up the cycling ranks. Daniel is also a KTM ambassador, so he rides a KTM. Just to give you an idea of his level of dedication: Daniel rides from his home in central Pretoria to the Cycle Lab shop in Fourways at least three times per week. Not because he has to, but because it’s part of his training programme. That’s around 90km. Cycling to work, and back again. As far as cyclists on a KTM bicycle go, it doesn’t get much better than this. We had a race on our hands.
TEST 1 – the (steep) climb
We kicked off the test with a humdinger, if you are on a bicycle, in any way. A very steep, slippery, rocky climb, followed by a U-turn at the crest, and a fast, smooth but very slippery downhill section to finish at the starting point again. We were quietly optimistic about this one… tackling the steep ascent from virtually a standing start would probably not work so well on a bicycle, no matter the bike or the rider. And so it proved to be. The slippery gravel, combined with the climb angle of about 30 degrees, proved too much; Daniel had to dismount and carry his bike to the crest, from where he could cycle at a rather brisk pace down the hill again. His time: 00:00:50:82.
The Isuzu KB was next. With low range engaged (via the twist dial in the middle console), the rear differential lock hooked up, and the automatic gearbox in ‘Drive’, we aimed the 300 D-Teq up the incline. The trick was to maintain a reasonable amount of momentum, but also to not go too fast. Leaving pieces of KB on the mountain was not part of the plan. With the tyres deflated to around 1.8 bar, it clambered over the rocks like a mountain goat, with no traction issues. The tight turn at the top was dispatched without having to stop and reverse, and down the hill went the KB, at a good rate of knots. 00:00:30:67. Whoop-whoop! Gravity can be a bastard. That’s Isuzu KB 1, bike zero.
TEST 2 – the steep downhill
What goes up must come down and our second test revolved around heading down a very steep and rocky obstacle. Here gravity was entirely in the favour of Daniel and his KTM bicycle. He didn’t even need to pedal. Instead, he had to aim, brake and jump. In the KB it was a different game altogether. Again mindful of not causing bodily damage to the bakkie, we had a practise run to check clearances and angles and other such highly scientific measurements. Finally, it was time for the timed run. With the rear differential lock again engaged to aid traction over the rocks, and with the automatic gearbox in first gear to assist with engine braking, we aimed the KB’s nose down the obstacle at a most inappropriate speed. 00:00:29:80. Daniel lined up. And off he went, the back wheel locking up under braking. Clearly he had much fewer concerns about causing damage to his ride. In the blink of an eye, he was down, having sailed over and around rocks like Lions rugby player Kwagga Smith scythes through the defence of opposing teams. He stopped the clock at 00:00:15:39. That was, like, half the time of the bakkie! This time gravity counted in the KTM’s favour.
TEST 3 – the cross-country jaunt
As mentioned before, this 500m, narrow track winds through some trees, and there is no real space for the Isuzu KB to build up a head a steam. Despite the fact that we had 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque peaking at a low 1 800r/min, and four-wheel traction instead of just one-wheel traction, the bakkie’s average speed would still be relatively low. Throw the ruts on the track in the game, too, and that average speeds got a few more knocks. Off we went, with the Isuzu in 4WD high range, and with all the electronic traction aids red carded. At first we could chuck the KB between the trees and branches, but then the first big rut loomed… so it was hard on the brakes, then back on the throttle. This process repeated itself a few times over the 500m. We managed to nudge the 60km/h mark for a brief moment before we had to slam on the brakes again. 00:01:05.11. Now Daniel and his fancy KTM 29-incher were in their element and he didn’t have to brake for any ruts. He was flying, especially on the downhill section. 00:01:16:55. The bakkie had taken the win by just over 10 seconds.
A highly scientific conclusion
The Isuzu KB won ahead of the acclaimed Daniel Alikisente on his fancy carbon fibre KTM mountain bike. Yes, of course the bakkkie would be faster in a straight dice, or when higher speeds come into play. But on a tight and technical 4×4 track, the bicycle had put up a spirited fight. Some food for thought: selling for R28 000, you can have 21 KTM Aera Comp bicycles for the price of one Isuzu KB double cab. If you are as dedicated as Daniel and ride your bike every day to work and back, you will not only turn into a fit pedalling machine, you’ll also save a bundle on travelling costs. And, says Daniel, it’s far less stressful to ride his bike than drive his car between Pretoria and Fourways. With the traffic as hectic as it is, it often takes him the same amount of time as it would have taken him in his car. But you can’t carry passengers on your MTB bike. Nor can you carry a ton of whatever on the bike. Or have air-conditioning and a cool entertainment system. Or drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town in comfort in about 12 hours and reach Cape Town in a state that you can actually still walk. We’ll leave the pedalling business to professionals such as Daniel, thanks.
Isuzu KB300 D-Teq double cab 4×4 AT
Engine Four-cylinder turbodiesel
Displacement 2 999cc
Power 130kW @ 3 600r/min
Torque 380Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Five-speed automatic
4×4 system Part-time (2H, 4H and 4Low)
Driving aids Traction and stability control, rear differential lock
Seating capacity Five
Consumption 10.1 litres/100km
Range Approx. 700km
Price R563 500
KTM Aera Comp 29-incher hard tail
Frame Carbon fibre
Gear set Shimano
Final drive Chain
Front suspension RockShox Recon Gold Fork, shock absorbers
Rear suspension None
Brakes Shimano hydraulic discs
Seating capacity One
Price R28 999
Thanks! This feature would not have been possible were it not for the following people and venue:
Shirley Phalane, Yokohama Driving Dynamics, who organised the Isuzu KB.
Daniel Alikisente, who rode the KTM bicycle. On his birthday.
Andrew Mclean from Cyclelab (cyclelab.co.za).
Hobby Park complex. Tel: 082 565 5634; hobbypark.co.za.
Text: Danie Botha Photographs: GG van Rooyen