In a medical emergency, every second counts. But if the hospital is a long distance away over sandy roads, then you have to think outside the box. In Mozambique, e-bikes are a possible solution – tested by the world's best mountain biker and driven by a maxon BIKEDRIVE.

There isn't much that Swiss rider Nino Schurter hasn't achieved on a bike. He's a multiple world champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and probably the best mountain biker in the world at the moment. And yet he is deeply impressed by his visit to a small village in Mozambique, in southern Africa, where residents use bike trailers to transport pregnant women and other patients to the closest health center – on dirt roads. “I'm an elite athlete, but even I would find it hard to pull the heavy trailer with a patient on it,” says Schurter. That's why the health organization SolidarMed teamed up with maxon to retrofit two of the ambulance bikes with maxon BIKEDRIVE kits. A two-year pilot phase will now demonstrate whether the e-bike ambulance can prove its worth.

Nino Schurter is supporting the e-bike ambulance. The project is clearly close to his heart, which is why he makes an exception in Mozambique and rides an e-bike for once, to pull the heavy trailer. After all, he wants to find out what the ambulance is capable of. His initial assessment: “The motor is robust, but the quality of the bike isn't good enough yet. It's only a matter of time when repairs will be due.” The project leader for the e-bike ambulance on site is grateful for the tips from the world's top cyclist, as the prototype will undergo continuous development until the end of 2019. If the project is a success, SolidarMed would then like to expand the e-bike ambulance project to cover the entire region.

The visit to Mozambique has made a strong impression on Nino Schurter. “The landscape is beautiful, and the people are extremely friendly and cheerful.” He seems particularly touched by a bicycle race organized in his honor by locals, where he is the star participant – in this case, without a motor.

maxon BIKEDRIVE is supporting SolidarMed's e-bike ambulance project with two retrofitting kits, each comprising a motor, battery, and Powergrip. The maxon BIKEDRIVE can be installed in nearly any bicycle.

3 questions to Nino Schurter

1. Nino, you've always refused to ride an e-bike. Why did you make an exception in Mozambique?

Rural regions in Africa often lack basic healthcare coverage. People need to walk for several miles to get to the nearest health center – even pregnant women. In an emergency, a bicycle could save lives. That's why I definitely wanted to test the prototype of the e-bike ambulance. And it didn't just make sense, it was also a lot of fun!

2. Do you think the maxon BIKEDRIVE is ready for the challenge in Africa?

The motor is very robust. With the maxon drive, the locals were able to ride the e-bike ambulance intuitively and with little effort. I was quite impressed. Even I, as a high-level athlete, would have to work really hard if I were to pull the heavy trailer with a patient on it without an e-bike motor. The heat, the dust, and the bumpy trails were no problems at all for the motor. And the cool thing was that people could charge the batteries right there in the village. I'm really optimistic about the whole thing.

3. What do you think could be done to improve the e-bike ambulance or the drive?

The motor is installed in a bike built in Africa. This safeguards that consumables, like tires, are always available. However, the bike is designed for a small budget, and the components are accordingly simple. To make sure the components can handle the load of the trailer and the motor, SolidarMed is now looking for a workable compromise between quality and availability. My mechanic, Yanik Gyger, helps as a consultant.

Ralph Näf is testing the maxon BIKEDRIVE