I spend a lot of time zipping around Auckland on two (self-powered) wheels. I am a daily cycle commuter covering around 30km a day to and from work, doing an extra-long loop in the mornings to spend a bit more time in the saddle. My weekends also generally involve at least one outing on a modern velocipede. So what would I need with an ebike you might wonder?
Well, I also have three kids, all of whom seem to have inherited dad’s love of riding. We can often be found around some of the great cycling facilities near us – Taumanu Reserve on the Onehunga foreshore, Cornwall Park, the Esplanade in Mangere Bridge, even the school yard across the road.
We also have a bike trailer, which the kids love being towed around in (perhaps more than getting around under their own steam – check out one of our favourite routes here: https://www.noted.co.nz/life/urbanism/where-to-go-on-your-next-bike-ride-in-auckland/). Unfortunately for me (from a cycling perspective) the kids are getting bigger and heavier. Hauling the trailer up and around Auckland’s precipitous gradients is testing the rapidly ageing quads, and trying to juggle everyone’s demands for dad-powered cycle ventures is becoming quite problematic.
Enter the ebike… I’d been thinking for a while how cool it would be to get one. The weekend bike trailer escapades could continue on for a bit longer and we could explore a bit further around Auckland’s rapidly growing cycleway network. We could also fill the gap of the second vehicle we don’t currently have but are increasingly contemplating as our parental responsibilities morph from simple primary care-givers to taxi-drivers, no.1 cheerleaders and prop/costume/general random stuff designers/makers/sourcers. I hadn’t really got far in researching options when I was lucky enough to win an ebike courtesy of the Onehunga Business Association Big Hoot 2018 prize draw. You’ll hopefully all have seen the Big Hoot owls dotted around the city to raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation, if not check out https://www.thebighoot.co.nz/.
I picked up the Volterra step-through ebike from the OBA just over three weeks ago and have already covered 200 km. Many of those k’s have indeed been spent carting the kids around trailer-style. We’ve managed to traverse most of the local cycleways – down to Onehunga lagoon, along the Waikaraka Cycleway and even across the old and new/old Mangere Bridge to Ambury Regional Park. One of the highlights has been hauling two of the kids up to the top of Maungakiekie, something I definitely wouldn’t have attempted without the ‘e’ (or the recent closure of the summit to cars – nothing worse than having a revving engine snapping at your heels as you grind up an incline). We’ve also made a bit of a Saturday morning tradition out of ebike+trailering to our 3 year old’s gym class. The looks of amazement as we weave through the weekend soccer crowds at Keith Hay Park have become almost as entertaining as the ride itself.
The ebike has also become an occasional substitute for the regular work commute too. The 25km/hr limiter on the motor and relatively flat route means that the ride is no quicker than when I’m under my own steam, but it is immeasurably less sweat-inducing. This has made the ebike a particularly handy option for those days when I’ve got a pre- or post-work event on and want to be relatively presentable on arrival.
All in, how have I found the ebike? Pretty freakin fun-dabidozi. Will it replace my regular commute bike? Probably not. The convenience and civility of an ebike is undeniably alluring, but I still love the feeling of powering myself across the city and the lung-busting satisfaction of the ride. That said, the ebike has enabled us as a young family to broaden the extent of our two-wheel adventures and further reduce our reliance on the autowagon. And that for me is undoubtedly the most fantastic thing about the ebike revolution. The more people who see cycling, whether self-powered or e-ssisted, as a legitimate alternative to driving, the more awesome, sociable and sustainable our cities will become.