Braking news: The arrival of Bosch ABS

Words Alex Stevens
Images Cameron Mackenzie

Imagine this: you are riding down the road at 32km an hour on your eBike, en route to the trails and, suddenly, a car pulls out in front of you. It’s one of those moments when time slows down, and split-second reaction times are the difference between disaster or a close call. You grab a handful of front brakes to try to stop in time, only to end up going over the bars or sliding across the bonnet. Sounds nasty, right?

So, when your mate goes; “Pedal full gas down the road, grab all the front brake you can to try and send yourself over the bars….” you’d agree that sounds like a silly idea. Still, here we are, sprinting down the road full speed, pulling the front brakes on at full power and expecting to do a front flip. But, instead of finding myself laying in the middle of the road wondering why I agreed to such a stupid idea, I came to a stop safely, still fully clipped in and upright. The Bosch eBike ABS system has kicked in.

While we’re used to finding electronic braking control on cars and motorcycles, on an eBike it is a little more unique. This innovative technology has now started gaining traction in the eBike industry and we’re seeing some exciting progression as brands like Magura and Tektro team up with Bosch to equip their powerful 4-piston brakes with the ABS system, to ensure you’ll come to a stop safely.

It blew my mind that the ABS system does everything possible to keep you tyre side down and to reduce the likelihood of going over the bars no matter how hard you try slamming on the front brake at 32km an hour.

Bosch’s ABS technology is finding its way onto the eMTB models of many brands, not solely featuring on road and commuter bikes. The arrival of ABS on mountain bikes is where I was most intrigued to see how it would stand up to a variety of trail conditions, and to find out how much of a difference this new style of braking provided. Could this be a whole new world? eBikes have already opened up so many possibilities within mountain biking and I wanted to see what this new innovation was all about.

I got the opportunity to test out the Cube Stereo Hybrid 140 ABS and I’d have to say it made for a fun ride with a lot of learning. Riding this bike across a wide range of trails in Christchurch, from the Port Hills out at Godley Head to the steep descents at the Christchurch Adventure Park, I gave the ABS system a thorough test, throwing every type of terrain I ride regularly at it. Even on the tight, twisty, steep turns of SMC and Pork & Pūhā, at the Christchurch Adventure Park, the braking was 100% in control all the time, and not once did I feel like I was going to go over the bars.

So how does this all work? What’s impressive about this technology? Speaking to the bike nerds and naysayers, it’s all about brake modulation – the ability to precisely and accurately control the amount of clamping force on a disc with a given amount of pedal input. That is not easy to pull off with a 25kg eBike. These things just love to pick up speed and slowing them down whilst keeping in control can be tricky.

The Bosch anti-lock brake system works a treat. It prevents the front wheel from locking and the back wheel from lifting, essentially allowing the rider to avoid skidding when grabbing too much – or not enough – brake. It is an odd feeling at first, having this additional reassurance to get used to and, because of this, the way you normally brake on a mountain bike is adapted ever-so-subtly. The system is run by a sensor on the inside of the lower fork, which is powered by the battery. Magura has 203mm rotors with sensors that measure the rotational speed of both wheels to ensure you can use both brakes simultaneously and confidently.

The Cube Stereo Hybrid 140’s I rode had a solid build kit with a mixture of in-house components and the “workhorse” parts. Motor and battery, of course, are taken care of by Bosch eBike Systems with the Performance Line CX motor and a 750Wh battery. Fox suspension with a 34 Rhythm and a Fox DPS Performance rear shock keep the bike planted whilst soaking up all the big hits. The bike’s geometry is nothing radical; it’s certainly a capable trail bike. In terms of numbers, the size XL I was testing, runs: reach 497mm, head angle 66mm, seat angle 75.5mm and wheelbase 1283 mm. Long story short, this bike is super stable at high speeds and can handle all the types of trails you’ll be riding it.

Another interesting thing I found was the cockpit reach levels were a little bit different to accommodate the ABS system. The Magura levers weren’t the normal ones found on their mountain bike brakes. Rather than something like an MT7, they were long straight-type lever blades that didn’t offer much reach adjustment. The Shimano shifter had this super weird matchmaker system which made it sit really far down so that changing gears was tricky since I don’t have the biggest hands. These are pretty minor issues and easily fixed so aside from those the rest of the build kit is spot on and top value for money.

It was my first time riding the Bosch system and I enjoyed the clean display screen, smooth and consistent power output and different modes of power assist. eMTB mode gives you the perfect level of power assistance and the bike doesn’t feel like it’s going to run away from you. It even tells you when to change down gears to ensure you aren’t over-torquing the drivetrain if your cadence is too low. And you’re not going to run out of power on your all-day ride with the massive 750-watt battery. Laps on laps, what more could you want? Range anxiety is non-existent here.

Riding the Cube was confidence inspiring. It blew my mind that the ABS system does everything possible to keep you tyre-side down and to reduce the likelihood of going over the bars, no matter how hard you try slamming on the front brake at 32kmph. The addition of ABS means it’s not just your average eBike but, once you’ve got your head around its nuances, it becomes just like riding any other mountain bike with the one caveat: exceptional braking performance. Doing nose wheel pivot turns is impossible with ABS but if you’re not into riding tight, janky tech trails then this bike is right up your alley.

Does ABS belong on mountain bikes? I’d argue yes. If you’re a full-on enduro racer I’d say the benefits are there but only incremental gains. Generally racers have a clear understanding of braking and often years of fingertip control and intuition that has been developed. But, if you’re a casual trail rider who lives for riding their bike as much as they possibly can, and wants to tackle more challenging trails with reassurance, then this technology is for you. It can provide that extra confidence boost that can see you navigate your way through to the bottom of trails you would otherwise not consider, providing a safe pathway to up-skill. It also makes sense for the adventurous riders heading into remote backcountry trails. It is an additional ‘insurance policy’, not to be used to push beyond your limits but about having an added layer of safety to mitigate some of the risks that we all take riding.

Just like the growth of eBikes now representing a huge portion of the bikes we all ride and see on the trails daily; ABS will become a compelling addition to making the ride experience better. I can see that it will help make for more confident and safe riders that will hopefully keep the ACC stats down and backcountry heli-vacs reduced. It will be exciting to see more bikes come to market with this feature in the coming years.

Next time you grab a full handful of front brakes and go over the bars on a steep descent, or lose some confidence with your braking whilst riding and having a near miss, the thought of ABS reassurance may just creep into your mind.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #112

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #112

Because I Can

Words & Images Gary Sullivan

Last weekend, for the first time in years, I hung a number on the front of a bike to go racing.

Spotting the difference between me racing and me just aimlessly riding around in the woods is not easy. Averaged out over any decent amount of distance, the pace is about the same. Keen observers on the day would note the conga line of other riders, some yelling “on your right”. I was somewhere in that mess, and therefore, “racing”.

The team at the shop I associate with got excited about the project, and offered me a loaner for the big day: a svelte race machine a bit lighter and leaner looking than my personal deluxe trail sled. I took it for a midweek spin to figure it out and, while it felt very fast, how fast something feels is very subjective. Against my historic efforts along the same trails, it was pretty good. The historic efforts that were faster were a while back, and so the ravages of time need to be taken into account. And I decided, if it feels faster, maybe that is enough. Every little bit would help me achieve my goal, which was to finish.

The event I entered was the Whaka50, which is the sweet spot event in the Whaka100 weekend. I know from bitter experience that the Whaka100 needs to be taken extremely seriously, and the 100 Mile version – with a start in the dark and over 4000 metres of climbing – is beyond my comprehension or scope in this lifetime.

Neither too short nor too long, the 50 can be attacked without much preparation. If you are moderately skilled at mountain biking, it is achievable. If you don’t go too hard, you can finish it in reasonable shape and even enjoy some of the experience.

Probably because of these things, it attracts the biggest field; sold out at 1200 riders. It gets a day of its own, sandwiched between the eliminator battles on the Friday night and the big kahunas on Sunday. This makes the incredibly well-executed logistics of the whole thing more manageable.

As far as management goes, the Whaka100 weekend is the gold standard for events, in my opinion. Tim and Belinda Farmer and their team do an incredible job. Everything has been thought about, a lot. The race village is a work of art. The course marking is very complicated, wringing 160 kilometres out of a spaghetti bowl of trails takes some major mental gymnastics. It is completely nailed down. The 50 is mercifully simple, as a local I was familiar with every trail.

Here is how it went for me in the middle of the pack:

First of all, the day was spectacular. Dry, high cloud; warm without being super-hot.

Coffee/breakfast executed without issues.

Arrive at venue; meet fellow competitors, banter.

Short warm-up.

My spot in the start chute was far enough back from the start line itself that we had that weird delay between the sound of the start signal and actually moving. And, even once we got underway, there was serious traffic. Into singletrack; fairly flat, very tight, and more or less one lane. There were very few places to pass, and little point in doing so. Admirable patience was displayed by nearly everybody. Only a couple of deranged, over-caffeinated units attempted it, and didn’t really progress much. The one-lane queue situation continued for the first quarter of the race, but that was actually a good thing. It meant I couldn’t follow my natural instinct to go like a mad rabbit until the lights go out, usually long before halfway. Like everybody else, I went as fast as the rider in front of me.

When things finally opened up, the field had strung out enough that for the rest of the ride there was plenty of room. I got lucky enough to have a clear run on all the sections I was looking forward to (the downhill bits) and only a few people for company on the bits I was not so keen about (the uphill bits).

Sometimes, in events like this, a duel is generated by chance. That is one of the very good things about mountain bike races. No matter where you are in the proceedings, there will be somebody else to try to beat. For us (a guy in a blue Lycra outfit and me) the thing lasted almost the entire race.

He was much better than me at going uphill, I was a bit more useful at going downhill. Between us, our advantages averaged out. Two photos taken 35 kilometres apart show us together, and yet, for most of the event we were not even in sight of each other. He got past me for the final time near the end, and whatever gas I had left in the tank was not enough to do anything about it.

A few hours in, I questioned what I was doing, and why. The event was in my local patch, and I am lucky enough to be able to ride the same trails any day of the week, free of charge.

These questions were repeated, often, once we got to the pointy bit of the course. The long climb to the top of Lobotomy, for example. On the constant pinch climbs of Old Chevy. And, after the indignity of the pond. The course is completed by the crossing of a little pond, which can be done neatly and almost bone dry if you hit the little ramp just right and clear the thing. A crowd gathers to watch, and riders can hear them yelling and laughing for quite some time before arriving on the scene.

A sharp left turn off a small ridge drops riders down a steep chute to the crossing. I should have had a look at the run-in to the ramp before the event, my habitual exit to that particular trail avoids the pond altogether.

I didn’t, so my attempt to jump the pond fell short by a metre.

The struggle out of the muddy slot created by hundreds of people doing their own versions of my stunt is an ignominious end to an otherwise great day.

Cursing my stupidity in even entering such a ridiculous race only lasted a few seconds. Then I was on the grass, between the banners, and arriving at the finish line in one piece.

The next few minutes is a bit of a blur but, soon enough, I was in a patch of shade, laughing with some mates and feeling really good about the enterprise.

At that point, I could clear my head and figure out why I signed up for the race -and realised that probably the main reason for doing the thing was, simply, because I can. No matter where you are in the proceedings, there will be somebody else to try to beat.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #112

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #112

Plastic Memories

Words & Images Lester Perry

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get my own space in our house. It’s an office, gym, bike and gear storage room, and a place to keep many years’ worth of bike-related things. Some may call it a man cave, others may call it a mess – whatever it is, it’s mine and it’s just how I like it.

This new space came with fresh, blank, unadulterated walls; the perfect spot to add some character and colour. Moving boxes from the shed to the new room gave me the opportunity to crack open a bit of a time capsule of sorts, a cardboard box that’s previously sat in the corner of my garage gathering dust and spider webs. Within this box was a treasure trove of memories in the form of event number plates, over 100 of them, dating back as early as 2009. This is by no means a complete set of all the events I’ve attended in my time, but offers a good cross-section of places ridden, and time spent riding with other like-minded bike nutters.

One dreary Sunday afternoon, banished to the four walls of my new space with monsoon-like conditions outdoors, I sat with a fresh packet of Blutac and began arranging the number plates in some sort of fashion on one of the newly finished walls.

The wall now covered with these rectangles of numbered plastic represents the ebb and flow of my riding over the years. From strictly gravity-based pursuits in the earliest events (although I don’t have many plates from these days), through some solid roadie hit outs, to cyclocross, cross country, and even some fixed-gear races, all dispersed with plenty of Enduro race plates (maybe too many of them). My wall is now representative of almost every cycling genre.

For whatever reason, I’m not usually one to dwell on an event. Pay the money, attach the number, wait at the start line; the gun goes, max heart rate for a while, possibly some chill times, hopefully stay upright and, finally, cross the finish line. And on to the next one.

Sorting through plates, the memories return. Each number plate is a portal to a set of memories, filed away in the catalogue of my mind. Seeing each plate again returns memories to the fore, if only for a brief minute. I’m surprised how many of the events I remember; not the bad times, or the suffering, just the good times. The physical suffering at a race is fleeting and quickly forgotten, but the memory of the whole vibe lasts forever. The specifics of each event have faded over time, only pivotal moments remain; maybe a good result, a crash or mechanical, or even the feeling on a particular section of trail. The specific pain of any of the numerous crashes is quickly forgotten, just the scars remain to remind me of those. It’s just the positives and the overall feeling that remain months or even years after an event.

I’ve never thought of myself as much of a competitive person, and I’ve won very few races, but judging by the sheer quantity of number plates now crowding my wall, there’s something that keeps me coming back to competition. Maybe it’s the camaraderie with my fellow racers, that collective feeling that we’ve invested in something that takes some physical and mental fortitude. Maybe it’s the challenge involved, that Type 2 fun; hard at the time, but rewarding once complete. Possibly, it’s a course of habit and these events have become a reason to get out and ride; a definitive date in the calendar rather than a “we’ll wait and see if I can get a ride in this weekend” sort of scenario.

Some plates hold more weight and value in my mind space than others. These ones sit pride of place, in their own space of prime real estate just beside the desk where I type these words. When I look at these plates there are some common threads. They’re either an overseas epic or a multi-day adventure right here at home; all experiences differing from your average single-day affair. Whatever the reason for continuing to line up at events, each of these number plates has come at some sort of cost: time away from family, the cost of gas to get there, and of course the actual entry fee, not to mention the cost of the bike itself and keeping it running. What price do you put on memories and experiences?

While sticking numbers onto the wall, I began to think about the total value of entry fees that I’ve shelled out for since this collection began, so I pulled out the trusty calculator. Even the most conservative estimates would put entry fees alone around the $10,000 mark, let alone all the associated costs. What else could I have done with that money? Maybe a completely different hobby could have consumed the dollars, but no other hobby sits right or makes clear sense to me. It seems bikes weren’t only right for me back in the early days, but still are to this day; a part of my DNA in some strange way.

Judging by my wall planner for the coming summer, there will be a few more memories made, and associated number plates added to the wall. This strange bike racing addiction is set to continue for another season and, once all’s said and done, all that will remain are number plates and memories.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #112

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #112

Musings Issue 110

Words and illustration by Gaz Sullivan

“What I saw when we went for a day in Taupo was mind-boggling…”

We live in Rotorua. We came here for the forest, the trails, the lakes, and the space. It’s great to be able to go to the trails whenever the mood strikes me, which is most of the time. Many visits to the same place do not take the shine off – for me, anyway.

Even so, sometimes it’s good to go somewhere else and, for us, that is often Taupo.

Just north of town is a small, but beautifully formed, mountain bike park everybody calls Craters.

The trails surround a thermal area that was created as a side effect of the bores that drive the Wairakei thermal power station. It is called Craters of the Moon, and that is a fair sort of description of the place.

We have been riding there since the late 1980s, and the trails have evolved, slowly increasing in length and variety.

Craters has a character of its own. With a few exceptions, the trails are narrow and have a carpet of pine needles that results from fairly light traffic. There is not much elevation available, but the builders have been very creative with their use of what they have.

The thing that sets Craters apart for me, is the connectivity of the place and the way it is integrated with the trails that run along both sides of the Waikato River. A rider can set out from town – and I mean the centre of Taupo city – and ride singletrack to the mountain bike park. Then, they can ride trails for hours without having to ride any forestry road at all. The trails are not very technical, but they are fun – and there are places hidden away in Craters that are downright amazing.

 

A trail drops into a tight little canyon with a waterfall tumbling out from under a tangle of huge boulders, and I take the same photo of my bike parked next to it every time I visit. Can’t help myself. Another follows a different canyon past cliffs on one side and a precipitous drop to a thermally heated stream on the other. Climbing singletrack rewards riders with big views of mountains and lake. It’s easy to clock up 50 kilometres of continuous trail in an outing, maybe many more. I always run out of gas before I run out of options.

The Hub is a well-designed carpark with a cafe directly opposite. It sits one flat white and a muffin from town, and has a nifty underpass taking riders under the main road into Taupo – and the trails beyond.

Well, it did until Cyclone Gabrielle visited. The underpass is there, but Craters is closed. The carnage and heartbreak caused by that storm is well documented, and it may sound petty to be talking about the damage to a mountain bike park when so many people have lost everything, but what I saw when we went for a day in Taupo was mind- boggling. For those of us who dodged any of the serious effects of Gabrielle, it is a sobering snapshot of what happened.

The park was closed when we visited, and it will be for a long time. Could be six months, maybe more. The friendly woman in the Hub Cafe reckoned there were 15,000 trees down. The hill that is visible from the Hub looked like an active logging site, nearly every tree on the exposed slope facing the highway was laying on the ground. Areas further south had trees uprooted, trees snapped off halfway up, or split down the middle. It is an unbelievable mess, and under it all is a lovingly nurtured network of trails.

The ride down the river, past Huka Falls to Aratiatia and back along the other side, has reopened and so that is where I went. It’s bizarre how some trees stand, completely undamaged, right next to a tangle of trunks and branches that are torn and smashed.

Like most places we ride, the trails at Craters didn’t make themselves. They were built by the usual combination of passionate volunteers, people drafted in to help passionate volunteers, and – on a few sections – commercial trail builders. It took decades of applied enthusiasm because, while new stuff was being created, the existing stuff had to be maintained. Again, like most places we go to ride.

Some of the places we go, that are shared with commercial foresters, get periodically wrecked by harvesting – but that is the deal. We know that going in. We try to get started in young trees, to get maximum bang out of our thinly stretched buck.

When a weather system lays waste to a whole trail system in one go, those plans become meaningless. The work in front of the Taupo team is huge – a restoration job that won’t really start until the forestry crews have done what they can to make the place safe to enter.

One thing you can be sure of: it will re-open. The same enthusiasm that built Craters, will rebuild it.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #110

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #110

Bosch eBike systems take digital theft protection to a new level

Words: Alex Stevens

Ebike sales have been on the rise for the last few years and, unfortunately, so have eBike thefts. Chances are you saw the recent story about one particular enthusiast who was so keen to get his hands on his dream bike that he broke into his local store and pedalled away on a $17,000 rig.

Once upon a time, a lock and chain used to be enough to deter potential thieves. Now it seems our prized possessions are not safe even when locked away inside a shop with a burglar alarm system. The bike thief did forget one important thing: the charger. The store owner is hopeful this might be his downfall and buying a new one might be how he gets caught. Fingers crossed.

There is actually one system which could have helped save the day here, or at least led to a speedy retrieval of the stolen bike. Bosch’s new eBike Alarm function provides more safety and better protection. The alarm is able to tell users the location of their eBike and sounds an alarm in the event of suspicious movements.

We tested it and can confirm that ‘suspicious movements’ include moving the bike just a couple of centimetres when you’re in the middle of servicing it and forget that the alarm is enabled. We were treated to an ear-piercing screech that would surely be enough to deter even the most determined thief. If, however, the eBike is stolen, you would receive a push notification on your smartphone along with location tracking via the eBike Flow app.

After a one-time installation via the eBike Flow app, your smartphone serves as a digital key. If you switch off your eBike, eBike Alarm activates automatically. There’s a two-stage system to the alarm and the smart motion detector can tell whether your eBike has been moved a little or a lot. In the case of slight movements, the eBike system emits several short warning tones as a deterrent.

If the eBike is moved a lot and the matching digital key, i.e. your smartphone, is not nearby, it sends out a loud alarm tone as well as a notification to the smartphone. To use eBike Alarm, the eBike Lock feature must be activated in the eBike Flow app and the new ConnectModule installed on the eBike by a specialist dealer. It can be installed on any Bosch Smart System-equipped bike. The paid component is installed on the eBike and contains a radio and GNSS module, a separate battery and various sensors. You can only use eBike Alarm after installing this component.

Users who decide to purchase a ConnectModule, receive eBike Alarm for twelve months at no additional cost. After that, they can decide whether they want to continue using the digital service at a fee – eBike Alarm is not charged for automatically.

After the free trial year, the feature costs 4.99 euros per month or 39.99 euros per year. The subscription is charged in euros since Bosch is based in Germany, but the service is available further afield, including Aotearoa.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #110

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #110

Red tape runs down volunteer enthusiasm

Words: Meagan Robertson
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie & Henry Jaine

As a longtime supporter of volunteer trail builders, Trail Fund NZ increased its focus on advocacy four years ago. The catalyst was when it came to light that the classification of bikes as ‘vehicles’, on public conservation land, was causing significant delays to projects around the country and meant that iconic trails – including several Great Rides – did not comply. Since then, it’s been a slow ride towards resolving the issue, and several passionate volunteers are feeling defeated.

“Old Ghost Road, Great Lake Trail, Paparoa, Timber Trail… these are only a few of the country’s Great Rides that have sections that don’t comply with the local Conservation Management Strategy,” explains Trail Fund Advocacy Manager, Jimmy Young. “It is understood that numerous Great Rides have sections that don’t comply, and dozens of other iconic mountain bike trails are also caught in the crosshairs.”

The knot at the bottom of these cross hairs appears to be the Conservation Act 1987, under which bicycles are considered vehicles. However, most (if not all) of these trails have been built since then, with DOC permission an integral part of the planning and execution processes.

What changed?

At some point around 2018, Department of Conservation (DOC) staff started taking a different approach towards applications for cycle trails on department land. According to DOC, it is due to increased interest in biking around the country, but cycle trail managers and administrators say there appears to have been a complete reinterpretation of the 2005 legislation that overlaid the conservation management strategies.

“The ‘new’ approach was that a region’s Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) needed to identify the locations and use of vehicles (bikes in our case) and other forms of transport on land owned or administered by the department,” explains Jimmy. “However, DOC now wanted the locations of current and proposed cycle trails to be listed in the strategies before an application could be made to build them.”

Basically, bikes can only be used on trails explicitly specified (in a list) in the CMS, as opposed to assessing bikes on trails through an ‘effects–based approach’, which is the approach Trail Fund and other bike organisations are suggesting.

While this might not be an issue if the CMS’ were reviewed every few years, this is far from the case in New Zealand. CMS’ are only meant to be reviewed every 10 years and, in reality, seven of the 16 are current, two are under review, one is under development and six are overdue for review. Some are more than 20 years old.

Taupō trails on trial

Bike Taupō, which has built tracks and provided community representation for all Taupō cyclists since 2002, was one of the first clubs to face DOC’s ‘new’ interpretation of the Act. Chairperson, Pete Masters, and committee member, Rowan Sapsford, reached out to Trail Fund, and Jimmy has been working with them and other groups since then.

“We have more than 200kms of trails that we manage and approximately 160kms of these are on public conservation land,” explains Rowan. “A number of them were purpose–built by Bike Taupo, including the Great Lake Trails and the Rotary Ride, which were developed back in 2003.

“Approximately four years ago we were told that these trails were ultra vires (which means an act that lies beyond the authority of a corporation to perform), as they were not scheduled in the local CMS, despite all trails being developed with signed management agreements with the Department.”

Rowan says this has been extremely problematic for several trails on public conservation land managed by Bike Taupō, as they have not been able to renew management agreements or access funding – despite support from the local DOC office.

This prompted Bike Taupō to start working with Trail Fund and other trail groups around the country to request that DOC move away from the scheduling approach. Four year later, the discussion continues.

“We believe an effects–based approach, where trails are assessed against the values at place rather than just being written off because bikes will be ridden on them, should be adopted,” says Rowan.

The club felt like maybe it was making headway when the Department recently agreed that a new cycle trail within the Taupo Tongariro Conservancy, which is not scheduled in the CMS, will be able to proceed.

“While this is great news for the club and the community on this one trail, it’s not reassuring overall, as we’ve been told by the Department that this will not apply to any other trails in the area,” says Pete. “This makes no sense, and feels like a cop out if the Department planners are going to take a consistent approach.”

With management agreements for some of the club’s trails up for renewal soon, Bike Taupo says it will be a real test of the Department’s approach.

“We have awesome support from the local DOC team, but I guess we will have to wait and see if the Department refuses to renew our management agreements for biking trails which have been in place for 20 years, such as the Rotary Ride between Taupō and Huka falls.”

Kaihu cut short?

On 10 June, 150 local cyclists were thrilled to cross the new Ahikiwi Bridge at the official opening of stage one of the Kaihu Valley Trail, a 30–kilometre route between Dargaville and Kaihu comprising two off–road trail sections currently linked by low–volume roads.

Once complete, the Kaihu Valley Trail in Northland is intended to allow cyclists and walkers to wind their way through forest and farmland, and along the Kaihu River from Dargaville to Donnelly’s Crossing – a distance of some 45km. It will largely follow the historic rail line built in 1896 to service the kauri industry. The top third of this old rail corridor is stewardship land administered by DOC.

However, excitement was muted due to news received just weeks before that the DOC concession for Stage 2 of the trail – which would take riders off the narrow state highway and reduce climbing – was declined.

In late 2022, DOC staff were asked if there were any issues related to the concession. They advised no, then took until May 2023 to decline the application.

Local Steve Gwilliam from the project team says the concession application was made in mid–2021, and the team reached out to Trail Fund for support in early 2023, in desperation.

“They declined our application despite granting a concession a year before, for the bridges and trail in Kaiwaka township (50km away), which specifically states ‘walking and cycling’,” says Steve. “This should have set a precedent or provided exceptional circumstances for consideration.

“It’s disappointing that it took 20 months for DOC to respond to the project team and advise the application for cycling was inconsistent with the General Policy Statement (GPS) and CMS,” says Steve. “Even more disappointing is that the corridor, which has little conservation value, is farmed (stock, vehicles etc) by adjoining farmers ‘without’ any concession, which is in complete breach of the GPS and CMS. In our view, it’s likely a cycle way would offer more protection to the remaining historic rail corridor and features, than the current illegal farming operations.”

Ironically, Northland MP, Willow–Jean Prime, who is also Conservation Minister, joined Kaipara District Council deputy mayor, Jonathan Larsen, in cutting the ribbon at a June 10 ceremony hosted by Ahikiwi Marae in Kaihu.

“This is an investment in the region,” said Prime. “It is good for locals and their wellbeing and also for visitors who come to the region.”

The track will form part of existing and proposed trails traversing the whole Northland region, including the Kauri Coast Cycleway Heartland Ride, which runs southward from Rawene on the Hokianga Harbour – and which itself links to the Twin Coast Cycle Trail from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga, one of the 23 Great Rides of New Zealand.

The trail has received significant investment from various sources, including $4 million from the Infrastructure Reference Group, a $600,000 contribution from Waka Kotahi and funding through the government’s COVID–19 Response and Recovery Fund from MBIE.

Unfortunately, the MBIE funding had a deadline and, due to the delay on DOC’s part, Steve says the opportunity to build the section of trail that had the most benefit to riders – by taking them off the narrow state highway and public roads with 100km/hr traffic and no shoulders, taking away substantial climbs and travelling through some iconic northland topography – has now been missed.

The concession application has been amended to be ‘walking–only’ in hopes it might get traction, but has heard nothing since.

“It’s pretty demoralising to put in so much effort and just feel like you get nowhere, despite everyone being seemingly on board in public,” says Steve.

Under pressure

Despite the frustrations, many bike organisations are loathe to publicly criticise local departments for fear it could make things worse, or because there’s generally a good relationship locally. However, one region’s results suggest public pressure could do the trick.

This is what happened in Otago, where the department – under pressure to consider many new cycle trails, including the Kawarau Gorge link between Queenstown and Cromwell funded by the Government as part of a grand cycleway from Central Otago to Dunedin – was forced to take action.

DOC launched a partial review of the 2016 Otago CMS, which attracted almost 1750 public submissions in 2019, and a decision listing 112 possible cycle trail sites was issued in July 2022.

However, the proposals still needed to go through an assessment process, including engagement with Ngāi Tahu and consultation with the Otago Conservation Board, and organisations spent thousands of hours covering every piece of land where they might want to develop a biking track.

“While it’s great that a partial review means there’s the possibility of new cycle trails that are in line with the CMS, retaining this approach isn’t the answer,” says Jimmy. “What we need is an effective mechanism for assessing tracks on their merits and impacts – not one approach for walking tracks and another for cycling.”

Looking ahead

Despite little progress in three years, Trail Fund and the organisations it’s been working with continue to strive for a solution.

“We really want to work with DOC on this for the cycling stakeholders and provide greater access opportunities for recreation,” says Jimmy. “We are keen to be part of the solution and assist DOC to come up with a pragmatic solution that can solve the issue permanently.

“We all want a result that legitimises the activity of cycling on public conservation land and values the time and resources that committed volunteers put into trails around the country, week after week.”


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Musings

Words and illustration by Gaz Sullivan

“I hit ‘Buy Now’ and moved into the post-purchase second-guessing period…”

A couple of weeks ago, the stars aligned, and I added two new bikes to the stable at once. By a combination of circumstances that are best left unexplored, I stepped up to a brand new trail bike. Part of that exciting transaction was keeping all of my previous trail bike, except the frame.

As many of you will understand, there are already more bikes in my shed than I really have time to use. Each is suited to a particular purpose, and there is surprisingly little redundancy across the fleet. Some of them get out several times a week, some of them might hang there for months, waiting for the day when what they are useful for is what I am going to have a crack at.

So, with that in mind, a sensible person would turn the pile of pretty nice parts into cash via some sort of online marketplace.

That is what I set out to do. Honest.

My first step was to browse around, trying to establish a value for all this stuff.

There were similar parts with prices ranging from depressingly low to delusionally high.

And there were a lot of things available. I started thinking about the sheer tedium of listing everything, communicating with tyre-kickers, and then trying to send a pair of wheels to Invercargill.

Wondering if anybody would want the entire pile, and because I have a short attention span, I wandered over to the ‘frames’ department on the off chance there might be some path to follow there.

The very first thing I saw was a brand-new hardtail, my size, and completely compatible with everything in my parts trove except the bottom bracket. Plus, it was steel, which made it cool and very desirable.

A short but fierce mental argument followed. I bet you have endured similar battles. One part of my brain was of the opinion that a seat tube diameter matching my functional-but-virtually-worthless dropper post was a sign from heaven, and I should immediately buy the frame before anybody else did. Another part kept chiming in with the various things I could do with my winnings if I carried on with the original plan and ditched the parts. The first part came back with the very sound reasoning that if I acquired the frame, built it up, and then fell on hard times, a complete bike would be easier to sell than a pile of parts, and there would be nothing left over except a rear shock. Which would be left over anyway, and can be sold. It might even pay for the required bottom bracket.

The ‘buy the frame’ faction had the upper hand, but the other side somewhat lamely countered with a comment about the number of bikes already in the shed, pointing out how rarely some of them escape into the wild.

That was fairly easy to ignore – we are well-practiced in doing exactly that.

The final straw was somebody asking a question about the frame while I was looking at it.

I never found out what the question was, and didn’t wait for the answer. I hit ‘Buy Now’ and moved into the post-purchase second-guessing period.

The excitement of the new possession was far more powerful than the slowly fading doubts, and soon enough the frame turned up and the parts were bolted on.

The bike came out even better than Mr Positive Brain imagined, and the naysaying lame-o in the negative has not been heard of much since, except for a brief appearance the first time we took the new beast into the trails.

A sort of ‘see? I told you this was a dumb idea’ popped out on the first bit of fast, choppy trail, as my body tried to adjust to life with no rear suspension. How we rode places like Moab, Utah on a rigid hardtail is beyond my ability to recollect, but we did, and I have doggedly continued to try to do so.

I am not really getting any closer to floating over the ground like I should, and rides on the new dually are certainly much easier on the joints and fillings. But me and my mental go-for-it are still very happy we went for it.

Nothing like a different bike to make a ride fresh and new.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Trail Builder: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Words: Meagan Robertson
Photography: Specialized

Thanks to its Soil Searching initiative — created to recognise, celebrate and support trail builders — Specialized has helped enable future trail building efforts through one local legend and a generous Trail Fund donation.

Talk about making the most of winter — while some hung up their bikes to avoid battering sloppy trails, and others jetted off for an overdue overseas trip, Specialized set its sights on finding and rewarding the nation’s top trail builder with a limited edition Soil Searching Specialized Levo, then auctioning off a second and donating all the proceeds — an incredible $17, 850! — to Trail Fund NZ.

BUILT FOR TRAIL BUILDERS

Designed for trail building, and to reward trail builders, the Mountain Guardian is one of 50 Soil Searching Specialized Levos produced worldwide. Featuring the Specialized Soil Searching logo to reiterate the importance of trail building while following sustainable building practices, the custom made eBike boasts Soil Searching Paint, RockShox Zeb Select + Fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Select + Shock, SRAM XO1 Groupset, Code RS Brakes, Soil Searching Tyres, Roval Traverse Alloy Wheels and TCU2 Display.

In mid-July, Specialized put the call out to ensure one of the two Mountain Guardians in New Zealand landed in the hands of New Zealand’s best trail builder. In a country known for its incredibly high number of volunteers, the nominations came in hard and fast, with more than 100 committed and talented trail builders in the running.

THE REAL DEAL

With only one Mountain Guardian to give, Specialized NZ reviewed every application and, according to Specialized’s Marketing and Events Coordinator, Ben Crowley, choosing the winner was no easy task.

“Trail builders are the unsung heroes of mountain biking, and we are committed to changing that by recognising, celebrating, and supporting the trail builders who help shape our sport and our stoke,” explained Ben.

“That said, there are a lot of them, and so many are volunteering in a way that is truly outstanding that it made the choice incredible difficult. In the end, we decided on a guy that sums up what Soil Searching is all about — Marty Richards.”

A key part of the Cable Bay Adventure Park trail crew based in Nelson, Marty is a trail builder that leads by example.

“Marty is a serial volunteer whose contributions to various projects have improved the trail offerings for all in Nelson and, over the past three years, he has had direct involvement with all of the 18 trails built at Cable Bay,” says Richard Ussher.

“Marty is super approachable and always willing to help or give advice to new trail builders. He never asks for anything, or expects anything in return, and truly does it for the love of mountain biking. He has inspired and imparted a lot of knowledge to a wide group of people, which has helped grow the competence of trail builders in the region.

“Probably the biggest influence he has had is with the ‘Sunday School’ team. This is a group of teenagers from a variety of backgrounds who come out to the Adventure Park to regularly dig and maintain trails with Marty. Nicknamed ‘Dad’ in the group chat due to his mentoring, Marty organises transportation, oversees the trail building and drives shuttles for them afterwards.

“The Sunday School crew often do some of the toughest yards on the sections that others shy away from, and it is easy to see the positive influence impact he has had on them.”

Richard says Marty is so committed to ensuring the best experience for Cable Bay riders that he has — largely by himself — built a 1km walking track for the sole purpose of getting walkers and other non-mountain bike users off the main exit trail at the park.

“It is hard to overstate what a positive member of the mountain bike community he is. He is never looking for recognition and just gets on and does what he loves — digging and riding. The region would undoubtably be significantly poorer without his massive efforts.”

Marty was absolutely thrilled to receive the Mountain Guardian and is already putting it to good use!

“I feel so privileged to know such an awesome group of people and so humbled from the support I’ve received from the Nelson MTB community and Cable Bay Trail Crew,” said Marty.

“It’s been quite overwhelming. I think I’ll go hide in the bush for a bit… and go dig a track.”

Marty Richards.

PAYING IT FORWARD

With one Mountain Guardian out the door, Specialized looked to further support trail building through a different channel — Trail Fund NZ.

“We created Specialized Soil Searching to fuel and support the energy and passion of the trail building community,” says Ben. “So, we thought, what better way to do that than fundraise for an organisation that is already doing that on a regular basis?”

Founded in 2012, Trail Fund NZ is a not-for-profit organisation, run solely by volunteers, supporting the development and maintenance of publicly available, environmentally sensitive and sustainable mountain bike-accessible trails in New Zealand. It is also committed to providing funding for — and education on — trail building, as well as advocating on behalf of mountain bikers to Government.

Since its inception, Trail Fund has distributed more than 150 grants — totaling more than $400,000 — to a wide variety of mountain bike trails. From Thames to Taupo to Wanaka to Bluff, from Grade 5 singletrack to skills parks, Trail Fund has tried to cater for riders of all abilities around the country.

And now, thanks to Specialized donating the proceeds of the second Mountain Guardian to Trail Fund NZ, the organisation can provide even more grants than normal in the coming months.

“We are so thrilled to be able to pass on the money raised by Specialized to trail building groups around the country using our well-established funding process,” says Trail Fund president, Hasely Lobb.

“This is the most substantial donation we have received to date and it’s great to see bike brands investing in the trails their customers love to ride.”

Thanks to the donation, Trail Fund’s next funding round is our biggest in many years, with four grants of up to $4,000 available. The deadline is 1 December. For more details, see the ‘Get Funded’ section on trailfund.org.nz


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #108

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #108

Beer Guide Issue 108

‘No alcohol’ is the boom category at the moment, and New Zealand craft breweries make some of the best non-alcoholic beverages in the world.

You’re reading a mountain biking magazine. You love being fit and getting the most out of your body and being in the outdoors.

That makes you a target audience for “lifestyle” beers — which means low and no alcohol, low carb and gluten-free options.

These are sometimes called “better for you” options. And the good news is that “better for you” also means better tasting these days.

Let’s go through some recommendations in all these categories.

THE HEROES OF ZEROES

‘No alcohol’ is the boom category at the moment. I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that New Zealand craft breweries make some of the best non-alcoholic beverages in the world. Believe me, I’ve tried everything on offer.

It’s fair to say imported beers never taste as good as they would if you bought them in the country of origin. “Beer should be drunk in the shadow of the brewery”, is a phrase that still holds true because travel of any kind takes the edge off even the best beer. That’s even more so for non-alcoholic beverages because alcohol is a preservative and therefore, a zero-alcohol beer is not going to travel anywhere near as well as something with alcohol in it, so I’d avoid imported beers in this category.

It’s worth nothing that the legal definition on non-alcoholic in New Zealand is less than 1.15 per cent ABV, which seems high by world standards. While that’s the legal benchmark, most breweries work to the accepted guideline of less than 0.5 per cent ABV.


Bach All Day Hazy IPA

Bach created the breakthrough non-alc craft beer with their All Day IPA and this hazy version is a step up from that. Stick with the original if you like clear beer, but this hazy has heaps more flavour.

Garage Project Tiny
Almost a cult beer now because it’s from Garage Project. Lightly lemony hoppy.

Brothers Beer Fill Yer Boots
Another hazy (and as a rule hazies work really well in this category because of the fatter mouthfeel). This has a nice tang of grassy bitterness.

Good George Virtual Reality
A superb offering from Good George. Up there with Garage Project and Bach.

Sawmill Bare Beer
The one non-alc pale ale in this line-up and the only one in a bottle. This has a bite more bitterness than the hazies.

LOW CARB ULTRA TRENDY

While non-alcoholic beers are trending, there’s nothing growing as fast as low-carb beers.

There are many reasons to choose a low carb beer — it could be that you’re on a ketogenic diet, or just trying to reduce the carbohydrate you consume. Or it could be for more important reasons, such as having Type 1 diabetes.

Beers labelled “low carb” have been tested and should come with nutritional panel telling you how many carbs per 100ml they contain. A good guideline is that a low carb beer should have 1-2g of carbohydrate per 100ml.

It’s important to note that low carb does not equal low calorie, though in the case of the beers listed here, some are definitely lower in calories as well. A beer’s ABV (alcohol by volume) will play a big part in the total calories as alcohol sits somewhere between carbohydrate and fat in its calorie density. So, if cutting calories is your thing, do check the labels.

The best thing about modern low carb beers is that they are super- flavoursome. Brewers use a special enzyme, naturally found in malt, to help ferment out any residual sugars.

That has a number of effects on the beer. First, the lack of residual sugar means the beer doesn’t feel as heavy in your mouth. In fact, low carb beers are often very light-bodied and quaffable. Second, low carb beers finish very dry compared with normal beers, which many drinkers prefer anyway.

Low carb pale ales and IPAs are a great place to start if you’re after flavoursome low carb beers. That because the extra hop additions add both mouthfeel, through hop oils, and added flavour. Plus fruity varieties of hops can add a perception of sweetness that covers up the lack of sugar.

Epic Blue Pale Ale
4.8%, Carbs 1g/100ml As you’d expect from Epic, it has great hop flavour — juicy and citrusy — that’s well integrated into the light body. It’s so good for a low carb beer that it made it into the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top-30 on its merits as a pale ale, that’s how tasty it is.

Deep Creek LoCal IPA
3.5% ABV, Carbs 2g/100ml A super low ABV beer compared to others in the range, but you’d struggle to pick it. Brilliantly executed in terms of balance and flavour. A gold medal winner at the 2022 Australian International Beer Awards. Very low calorie count to boot.

Urbanaut Miami Brut Lager
5%, Carbs 1.5g/100ml Packed to the seams with sweet passionfruit and lime hop flavours. A sparkling carbonation and punchy hops on a light and airy body. You won’t pick it as low carb. Urbanaut’s Copacabana IPA is also officially low carb now and is one of the best beers on the market, full-stop.

Emerson’s Super Quench
Pacific Pilsner 4%, Carbs 1.9g/100ml Super pretty beer to look at and, frankly, delicious. Hoppy, refreshing and spritzy light without any soda water notes.

Bach Brut Ultra IPA
4.4%, Carbs 1.7g/100ml Super-fruity with aroma and hop flavour rolling out of the glass thanks to a massive dry-hop bill that features all your favourites: Citra, Mosaic, Riwaka, and Rakau.

LIGHT BEERS ON THE RISE

We don’t use the term “light” the way Americans do to reference their very pale lagers. Here, light means low alcohol — generally regarded as anything below 2.5 percent.

The range of beers in this category is more expansive than in the zero and low carb range, as that little bit of ABV helps create a canvas for flavour.

North End Petit Luna
A clever little beer. Hibiscus brings some fruity character and a lovely pink colour. Kaffir lime coupled with spicy Belgian yeast does some heavy lifting when it comes to flavour. Slightly tart and spritzy.

Sunshine Light Pilsner
Smells like the real deal and tastes great too. The body, naturally, is a little shallow, but shallow can be good: like standing knee deep in the ocean and having the waves splash around your legs. A hoppy aftertaste, with a broad bitterness.

Croucher Low Rider Small IPA
Probably New Zealand’s most celebrated low-alcohol beer. In many ways, it’s almost become the flagship beer for Rotorua’s Croucher Brewing — a remarkable feat for such a low ABV product. It’s changed and evolved over the years into an almost perfect distillation of all the best aromas and flavours of an IPA.

Townshend Half Mast
Typically, of Townshend beers, this is all about balance and the fruity expressive hops are perfectly restrained to match the 2.2 percent base. A wee gem.

8 Wired Lo-Fi
This hoppy sour is sharp as a tack with pinging citrus and light acidity it packs way more flavour that should be feasible at 2 percent ABV.

GLUTEN FREE

It used to be that gluten free was a dirty word in beer (in short they tasted foul) but Upper Hutt’s Kereru Brewing have changed the game dramatically. They are unrivalled when it comes to gluten free beer.

Their Hazee, a gluten-free hazy pale ale, has to be tried to be believed. It’s as good as a normal hazy pale and you don’t even notice the gluten-free aspect. They have a standard gluten-free APA, nice and hoppy, and a clever raspberry-infused version of their original Auro, a golden ale. And they’ve just released a gluten-free Mocha Porter. You can order a mixed box of the gluten-free beers from their website.

 

 

Words: Michael Donaldson
Photography: Henry Jaine.


Musings Issue 108

Words and illustration by Gaz Sullivan

“Leaving the power setting on high makes me feel both good and bad at the same time.”

Elsewhere in this very magazine, I wrote a piece about my time aboard the Trek EXe, my first extended period atop an electric-assist machine. I finished by saying: “when I get one”.

Going trail riding on the e-bike is ridiculous fun. The e-assist provides the buzz of riding a mountain bike fast, almost anywhere. The speed available on a flattish trail makes the chore of climbing to the top of a downhill run almost unnecessary. And of course, if you do want a downhill run or three, they are easier to get to.

Surely that is what we look for when we go mountain biking?

It is hard to express exactly why we ride. Sometimes it is for that endorphin payoff available when a difficult task is performed as well as we can do it. Everybody has their own little envelope of bike riding ability and being out there in the woods doing your best is part of why we go out. The desire to do that more often, to make more of your bike time inhabiting that zone, is what has driven the whole phenomenon of shuttling, and for that matter, adding electricity.

A pile of watts that can’t be delivered personally gets us more of that sweet spot we look for.

Well, maybe.

Meanwhile, the Luddite in me has been quietly niggling away in the back of my mind.

I really like the simplicity of basic bikes. I like steel frames, five of the six rideable bikes in my stable are ferrous. I like bikes I can work on myself, which means they have to be simple. I can dismantle and reassemble any of my steel bikes without needing assistance or therapy afterwards.

My carbon, fully-suspended mountain bike with hydraulic brakes and tubeless tyres is bristling with things I don’t feel qualified to mess around with. Yes, I know, these are personal shortcomings I could address, but adding electronics, several batteries and a motor won’t help.

I like going out on my bike with no fixed plan, and riding until I can’t. Having a digital readout on the top tube telling me how much range I have left is a different experience. After a dozen rides I have figured out how much of the battery is required to get me up various hills, in various power modes. Because I know my patch pretty well, I can wring the thing dry most rides. I took great pleasure in arriving home with the readout showing less than ten percent. Several times it was two, and on one occasion, one. How that would work out in unknown territory is something I have yet to experience.

Part of bike riding is also sort of masochistic. People say that getting fitter doesn’t make things easier, just faster. I like to feel how I feel… hard to explain to the outsider but getting to a particular part of a certain ride and feeling slightly less discomfort than the previous episode in that place is a good thing. Adding an external power source doesn’t remove that possibility, but it makes it harder to judge.

Maybe that is the niggling thought I have. When I am on the E, hooning up the climbing section of the jungle trail that is my favourite five kilometres in our local patch, the most accurate description of what I am feeling is probably guilt.

Like, this should be harder. I can make it harder, by buttoning down the power. But I don’t, because the power is what makes this section with the diagonal roots across the trail so much fun.

And leaving the power setting on high makes me feel both good and bad at the same time.


This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #108

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #108