Getting an up close and personal view of Wanaka’s beauty needn’t be a strenuous ordeal. Well, as long as your battery doesn’t run out. Words Justine Tyerman
Whizzing up a steep hill on my e-bike, passing my super-fit husband is an experience I will always treasure. I stopped at the top with a look of triumph on my face and cheered Chris on as he heroically pedalled his way up to meet me, sweat pouring from his brow.
It was the end of our first ever e-bike expedition and I had unwisely squandered my battery during our 50km ride while my chivalrous husband had conserved his, suspecting I would need it to get back to home base. As anticipated, my battery conked out at the foot of the last hill so we swapped bikes and I coasted home with the aid of the turbo boost while Chris had a week’s exercise in one hit.
Pedalling an ordinary bike uphill is tough enough, but an unpowered electric bike is a different story altogether. They are heavier than their traditional cousins, thanks to the grunty battery pack attached to the frame.
We were riding SmartMotion (smartmotionbikes.co.nz) e-bikes designed by a clever Kiwi called Anthony Clyde. They were simple to operate for novices and incredibly zippy.
We spent the day cycling along the banks of the mighty Clutha River on a gloriously clear autumn day with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains.
The loop track took us along the edge of Lake Wanaka to the outlet where the aqua-turquoise Clutha, one of the swiftest rivers in the world, begins its 338km journey to the sea. We followed a narrow, rocky, uppy-downy path right on the water’s edge for about 25km, crossing a bridge just before the small township of Luggate. The return trip on the other side of the river was on a broad, straight, relatively-smooth track high above the river with magnificent views of the ancient glacial terraces enclosed within a necklace of mountains. En route, we stopped beside the river in the warm sunshine for a picnic lunch.
The ride was quite an adventure. The terrain was probably too technical for me as a novice rider, but the experience was hugely exhilarating. The exercise factor was as strenuous as I wanted it to be and when I was tired, I relied on the battery to assist my pedalling and just cruised for a while. I obviously cruised a little too much, but Chris saved the day.
A former flat-terrain-only cyclist, the e-bike concept has opened up a vast world of possibilities to me. It’s levelled the pedalling field for Chris and me, and means we can enjoy cycling together . . . up and down.