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Raf Van Hulle “Winning is no longer the main goal, but…”

24.10.2023 - The Sun Trip
The Sun Trip The Sun Trip

Winner in 2013, runner-up in 2015, winner in 2018, non-starter in 2021, Raf Van Hulle will be at the start of The Sun Trip 2024 Destination Sahara! Although the Belgian champion doesn’t seem to be making victory his priority, there’s no doubt that he’ll be there with a bike capable of going very fast, the fruit of a long period of work carried out with its many technical partners.

Find out what motivates him in this interview conducted 6 months before the start, scheduled for April 12, 2024 in Lyon.

1. What do you think of this Moroccan edition?
For me, Morocco is still an unknown land, and I like it a lot. Bernard and Edgard’s photos made me dream. Leaving and arriving in France is also very practical for me. It saves us a return flight to Belgium and it’s good for the climate!

2. Are you coming back for the win?
Winning is no longer the main goal. I’ve won twice and I’m very grateful for that. Thanks to previous victories, I’ve been able to surround myself with experts, and every week we think about the perfect solar bike. We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years and the Sun Trip is a great opportunity to test our new models. But maybe the drums at the start line will awaken my inner runner again. Who knows?

3. A word about the bike you’ll be using on the Sun Trip 2024?
I’ll be riding an e-tandem prototype, the KISS, which we’d like to bring to market in a few years: . We’re keeping one front wheel, removing the passenger seat and pedal generator, and placing the aerodynamic windshield with solar cells closer to the steering for greater compactness. It’s my everyday bike, with which I do my shopping, visit friends and travel. That’s why it’s so trustworthy. My buttocks and back are at one with it, and I can pedal for days in this configuration. I mount a Solarwind2 on the rear, which gives the necessary solar boost: Especially for this Sun Trip 2024, we’re making an expandable variant that can charge up to 355 Wp.

4. Can you tell us how you work to promote solar mobility?
In addition to my work as an architect, I design mobility concepts that can accelerate the ecological transition. The sun is my partner in this. My creations are always born of my own needs. I want to live and move around without emitting CO2. This adds an extra dimension to the journey. That’s how my solar kayak came about. Overland travel became more complicated and the Suntrip 2020 to China was cancelled. And then a war started. It’s no longer possible to cycle to Asia. I missed the summer adventure, the steppe, the distant landscapes…

I discovered that traveling by water could be a new way of discovering the immensity of Kazach. On water, there are fewer rules and laws, no borders, no traffic lights. Instead of trucks, I see slow-moving container ships with strange inscriptions in the distance. If one day there’s a new virus and the borders are closed again, I know for sure what to do.

5. Do you think solar mobility will interest/involve more and more people in the coming years? Or is it only something of interest to people like SunTrippers?
That will depend on legislation. At the moment, it’s not allowed to charge a fast electric bike while riding, and these bikes aren’t authorized for sale. Until the law changes, solar bikes will remain the preserve of hobbyists who assemble their own solar bike. The sun’s energy is inferior to that of fossil fuels, so we need to use it economically. To get around, we need lighter vehicles. We’ll be swapping a metal cage and comfortable seats for a good raincoat. It’s a change of mentality that, fortunately, is taking place slowly.

6. The Sun Trip 2021 was a bad experience for you, what did you learn from it?
Belgium was very late with its Covid vaccinations. My vaccination was scheduled for the day after the start, and I hoped to still be able to reach the first riders. Unfortunately, the side effects of the vaccination – fever and a stiff arm – kept me at home. From my comfortable seat, I watched the films of the frontrunners who had already crossed the Polish pine forests and realized that I was no longer able to keep up with them.


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