Powering along Nelson’s mountain bike trails on an ebike
With most of my cycling trips made between home and work on a six-speed vintage bicycle, I’m not the best candidate for a mountainbiking trip.
But when the opportunity to try out one of Gravity’s top-spec e-mountainbikes came up as part of the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust’s Backyard Passport, I saw it as a chance to explore a part of the region off-limits to my old clunker.
Lacking experience, knowledge or skill, I collared my colleague Carly Gooch to join me. Carly had mountainbiking experience and most importantly, a personal locator beacon.
At Gravity’s hire shop on Bridge St, Scott patiently explained how my 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler worked. It was fairly straightforward, with gears and three power settings. The highest of these was “boost”, a setting, I was warned, that many find on the fast side.
After a cautiously slow ride up Brook St, we turned into Codger’s Mountain Bike Park and headed up the Dun Mountain track.
While the power-assist requires continuous pedalling to keep the electric motor running, the level of workout is up to you. On the medium setting, it feels like a giant hand giving you a firm push.
But if you’re unwilling to break into more than a light sweat getting up the hill, turbo-boost sends you flying up the slope.
The ride up the trail to Third House was a brisk hour-long trip, including stops to admire the views across Brook Valley and Tasman Bay.
By now, e-bikes are nothing new. Sixty-five thousand were imported into New Zealand in 2019, a huge leap from the 3000 that arrived in the country in 2014. I can’t find figures showing the mountainbike share of that number, but ask any mountainbiker and they’ll tell you the power-assist bikes are a common sight on busy trails.
I asked Gravity founder Alistair Matthew what he thought about novices like me who head to the hills to turbo-boost their way along the edge of a steep drop.
“There’s always going to be a few retro grouches, saying, [e-bikes] aren’t good for the sport,” Matthew said.
“But they’re probably the same people who complained when suspension came in.”
Like it or not, the e-bike scene has “exploded,” he said.
While they’re popular with people over 50, e-mountainbikes are also favoured by “time-starved” 30 to 40-year-olds.
“People who don’t have the time to get fit, but still want to razz around, get some fresh air and get back in time to the kids and chores.”
Power-assisted bikes allow you to keep up with fitter friends, and for experienced mountainbikers, it maximises the time they can spend out on the trail.
“We can do so much more riding in a shorter period of time,” Matthew said.
The field-levelling factor of e-bikes allowing more people to get out and about can only be a good thing, he believed.
“The physical and psychological benefits of getting people onto bicycles and into the fresh air outweighs any small conflicts.”
Gravity has deals for full suspension E-Bike rental and family coaching sessions in Your Backyard Passport.
Your Backyard Passport can be bought for $50 at your local NBS branch, or online at https://www.helirescue.co.nz/backyard/