Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley on Haibike SDUROs
The Haibike SDURO is a premium German MTB-style ebike featuring a Yamaha motor. Most of the Haibike range sports Bosch excepting the SDURO range (Xduro is Bosch-powered). The Yamaha system is a bit rarer but also used by Giant and other brands we don’t see much of in the NZ e-scene. I first heard about the SDURO when I watched a video featuring Suzanne Brüsh riding through the Western USA. These are 2016 models.
We rented the bikes from Arrowtown, a hardship we were willing to to endure for you, the reader. The cost was $120 per bike for the day, seemingly the going rate. Arrowtown is well placed as it puts you on the Queenstown Bridges trail heading for the Kawarau Gorge and Gibbston Valley, a place that in its harshness and vino-bounty is one of my favourite spots in all Godzone.
As I have come to expect with rental bikes they need a bit of tweaking to fit comfortably. The forks seemed over damped, quite possibly as the ambient temperature was 0deg! We first headed to Millbrook for a warming coffee, coming back to our vehicle to grab extra clothing! I was wearing a wool underlayer, my Castelli Perfetto jacket and a down jacket. I had a set of Sealskin gloves (recommended), a buff for my neck and face and a Gore-Tex cap under my helmet. A set of Macpac tights and some Icebreaker full length socks and I was away! ElectricMeg was similarly rugged up.
We crunched our way along the Anniversary track, crossing some beautiful bridges crossing the Arrow river. The track is wide but undulating, and the Yamaha responded beautifully to the ups and downs. We mostly rode in Eco mode which requires a tiny bit of effort but rewards amply on the uphills with a smooth power uptake and tons of torque (80Nm – the Bosch CX is 75Nm). For a MTB or trekking style of ebike it’s torque you want, and the smoother it kicks in the better. There are also no clunks or pauses when you change gear, it really feels quite natural. Kapai, Yamaha. I started off with a stated range of 116km on Eco. It seemed almost realistic, finishing on around 50km remaining after 40km and some high power boost on the way home. I believe the battery is a 400Wh unit so clearly it’s efficient too.
We cruised along typically around 20km/h which is a good speed on a trail. When commuting this would feel dreadfully slow, but for offroad purposes the Eurobike 25-27kmh limit seems perfectly fine.
There are a few suspension bridges, the Edgar being the most spectacular. Be sure to hop off the bike at the end or even walk it over, because when you are riding you can’t really look around as much as you’d like. That is a generally a lesson on any offroad bike touring routes including the magnificent Old Ghost Rd – leave enough time in your itinerary to stop and enjoy.
The Kawerau Bridge is one place you’ll definitely want to stop. Apart from being a magnificent vintage structure it is the launch pad for AJ Hackett Bungy. There is no feeling quite like watching someone else leap off a bridge attached to a bungy!
The trail continues on the river gorge with some spectacular views. The area is pock-marked with rabbit burrows and at any given time you are likely to see 5-10 of the furry bobtail critters. They might be an environmental menace, but they keep the farmers from running stock which is a blessing for our rivers. After a few winds of the trail there are signs pointing to Gibbston Valley Winery, and it would be rude not to stop for a meal and a glass of wine. We dined at the Cheese Shop which has lighter meals. Sacreligiously I had one of their craft beers while ElectricMeg sampled the local dry Riesling for which the winery became well known. Latterly Pinot Noir has become de rigeur for the area – we felt obliged to down a delicious Mount Edward Pinot Noir that we bought in the supermarket. Chard Farm down the way make a whole range of Pinot Noirs from different vineyards – my favourite being the Finla Mor in a more robust style.
The cheeses are also worth stopping for, tasting and buying. Gibbston Valley has a range (try the Romano as a Parmesan replacement that you can eat on its own) as does Whitestone which you could visit on the way back with a bit of a detour.
On the way home we decided to boost the power a bit to get home more quickly. It was a bit of fun to go a bit faster and quite OK as there were few other riders and walkers on the trail. As always, ride to respect other trail users. We don’t want them to hate ebikes.
We thought that the Queenstown Bridges Trail and Gibbston Valley was spectacular and doing this on an ebike made it so much more enjoyable even though we are fit riders. We rode 40km, enjoyed the scenery, had a nice winey lunch and came back pleasantly tired and definitely not exhausted. Hats off the the Queenstown Trails Trust for some great trails. We’ll definitely be back to try some more on ebikes. The beauty of these trails is that they turn Queenstown into a year-round destination.
My conclusions on the bikes? Brilliant! If it were me I’d go for the trekking model with mudguards and rack. ElectricMeg ended up with mud all up her back. The bikes are classy units that are comfortable to ride and the Yamaha drive system is top-notch – perhaps even smoother/quieter/gruntier than the equivalent Bosch and probably cheaper. I note than in later model years the display has shrunk – these look like they had been damaged in falls.
We rented from Paul at eBikes4Trails in Arrowtown who has a fleet of Haibikes. ChargeAbout is the original ebike rental business with Moustache based at the Hilton (Kelvin Peninsula) and through Queenstown Bike Tours in Arrowtown.