Updated: Jul 7
While Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z have long been purveyors of mountain biking (in fact, we know many who could ride before they could walk!) there’s a whole other generation of cyclists currently getting a new lease of life on your local trails. The new kids on the block are not actually kids at all, though. They’re the Baby Boomer generation – aged between 57 and 75 this year, and affectionately known just as ‘Boomers’ – complete with slick eMTBs and all the kit. If you haven’t seen them out on the trails (often riding in a large pack) you’re sure to catch a glimpse of them racing through the trees soon enough.
Two such Boomers are Tim and Pat Felton, although they prefer not to be called that. Full disclaimer here: Tim and Pat are my parents, so if my tone sounds a little endearing, it’s because it’s supposed to. The Felton’s are no strangers to mountain biking – Tim first bought mountain bikes for the family in the late 90’s, in the hopes we would all ride together out in the patch of forest now known as Woodhill Mountain Bike Park. Initial outings were somewhat disastrous (rugged tracks, ankle deep sand and massive tree roots come to mind) but some years later, when they became ‘empty nesters’, Tim and Pat bought new mountain bikes to take with them on campervan trips around New Zealand. During this time, they completed the Otago Rail Trail and the Twin Coast Cycle Trail to name a few great rides. Those mountain bikes (generic hardtails that did the job but were nothing special) were passed around the entire family, and then some. They’ve only just been handed over to new owners some 10+ years after Tim and Pat bought them. But room had to be made in the garage because [cue suspenseful music] the eMTBs have landed!
“On eMTBs we can explore places we’ve never been before – without having to worry too much about getting exhausted or riding too far and not being able to get back easily,” explains Tim. “Carrying supplies in a panier or pack is also easier and the added weight isn’t noticed, thanks to the power of the bike.”
Make that ‘thanks to the power of Bosch’, too. Bosch- powered eMTBs are partly responsible for this recent ‘boom’ in older, first-time mountain bikers, thanks to their modern technology, slick design and raft of features suitable for both beginner mountain bikers and those who are more advanced. Long battery range offers peace of mind when Tim, Pat and their friends head out on the trails for the day, while different ‘modes’ offer increased power meaning that it’s not just the downhills which are fun but the uphills and long straights as well. Even stretches of road – previously making for sluggish work on a traditional MTB – have become easy and enjoyable to tackle.
There’s a good reason bikes are in short supply countrywide. The ongoing pandemic and repetitive lockdowns have seen an increased number of sales, with the Baby Boomer generation keen to spend their money on high-end eMTBs and gear and get out on the trails as quickly as possible.
“We were already doing a lot of walking during lockdown, but getting the eMTBs enabled us to explore our own neighbourhood even more,” says Pat. “It turns out there are some great trails really local to us, including Shakespeare Park on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and Sanders Reserve in Paremoremo, which have been fun to practise on.”
And practise has been key. Although no strangers to cycling, riding eMTBs is a different game altogether and has taken some getting used to. “We were used to riding on the road – and even some light off- roading – as we’ve done that for years, but now we’re trying to build up our skills and confidence on slightly steeper, harder trails,” explains Tim.
Riding eMTBs is not just about learning something new and getting fitter, it has also opened up a whole world of possibility with regard to trips away within New Zealand. With the rest of the Felton family still based in the UK, regular trips across the globe were normal for Tim and Pat, during the pre-pandemic years, as it was their only means of catching up with their siblings and lifelong friends. Now, with the pandemic still raging, they’ve had to change their perspective on travel and pivot towards New Zealand based adventures – something that’s not hard to do when you’re armed with an eMTB and a luxury specific to Baby Boomers: time.
What this also means, is that Tim and Pat are rarely alone on their eMTBing adventures. The age and stage they are at in life means there is a slew of others in the same boat who are keen to join them.... and there’s no dawdling! In fact, seeing them all out together in a big crew you’d be mistaken for thinking they were a squad of riders half their age.
“As a group, we’ve done some of the great New Zealand rides over the years,” says Tim. “But now, with the eMTBs, it’s about pushing the limits a bit and going on some real adventures. We’re keen to head out into the wilderness a bit more and these bikes give us the opportunity to do that – without having to worry too much about fatigue or burning out on long trails.”
The Boomer ‘E’volution proves it’s never too late to hop on a bike and hit the trails or plan a multi-day bikepacking trip with a group of likeminded friends. There has to be some silver linings to this pandemic, and new people joining our mountain biking community – regardless of age, stage, skill-level or the bike they are riding – is definitely one of them. •
Words: Kerrie Morgan
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie