BOSCH X ROTORUA TRAILS TRUST
Maintaining trails takes a lot of effort. It’s tempting to think that the trail fairies just magically appear each evening and fix everything, after we’ve all been skidding through on a wet winter’s day - but believe it or not, those ruts you’ve just made actually don’t just magically disappear! Hard to believe right? Actually, they grow to the point where they are wheel swallowing monsters and soon that trail you used to love is no fun at all. But, if you’re lucky, a dedicated team of local volunteers may actually cart their tools into the forest and spend their weekends digging and keeping their local trails in as best condition as their small team can muster.
That’s how a pretty typical local trail network might operate. But, the trails at Whakarewarewa forest in Rotorua have grown so much in the last few decades that the sheer number of kilometres of single-track to maintain, would vastly overwhelm that model. Luckily for all of us, the economic impact that mountain biking has on the Rotorua economy has meant that the Rotorua Trails Trust (RTT) has been able to emerge to play a pivotal role in keeping the trails in fine form. However, even for an organisation like RTT, the network is vast and the staff are relatively few. RTT Trails Manager, Damian Clarke, was excited when Bosch (yes think eBike motors and power tools) approached the organisation looking for ways they might be able to work together to create a fun promotion for Bosch whilst maximising the efficiency of the manpower RTT has.
“Bosch approached us wanting to do something for Crankworx, and their idea was something like an ultimate trail-building E-bike. That idea sounded good but the more we thought about it, the more we realised that actually what we needed was a way to transport tools around our network - and particularly, we realised it was about carrying more stuff, more than even a rider could carry on an E-bike,” said Damian. “After a bit of thinking, we thought ‘what about an ultimate trail maintenance trailer?’”.
The idea was born! Soon local fabricator, and all-round bike guru, Jeff Anderson of Jeffson Bikes was involved to get working drawings for a concept, ready for approval. Jeff said that it had been a fun project to work on. “It’s been great to work with the Rotorua Trails Trust, they’ve been been really understanding of the process because with jobs like these - where we’ve never done anything quite like this before - everyone has ideas, but no-one quite knows how it’s going to work out. The funny thing is, that after a few iterations and versions explored, we’ve ended up pretty much right back where we started, but that’s all part of the process.”
During the process of design and review, the decision was made that actually, two trailers would be better than one - but each unique and with a specific role. “We realised there are two quite different parts to trail maintenance. There’s just your regular touch-up, smaller-level maintenance, and then there are the occasions where you need bigger, heavier tools as well,” explained Damian. “So we’ve ended up with two trailers - one single wheel trailer, that is great for taking less tools through tighter, more technical terrain, something we think could go down a Grade 4 trail; and a two-wheel trailer that is suited more to Grade 2 Trails, but could haul at least 50kg of equipment”.
Part of the design process has been to work closely with the staff employed by RTT to build and maintain trails. Casey King is a Trail Builder for Rotorua Trails Trust. Casey was enthusiastic about the new equipment and had his own perspective: “It’s going to be great,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us to have to haul a lot of equipment around the forest - 20 litre fuel cans for the diggers; sometimes the digger is in the forest and we need a ‘rock bucket’, a claw type attachment for the digger, and that weighs 35kg. To be able to put that in the trailer and ride in to where we are working and just get on with it, is going to save lots of time.” There are also some safety issues that this addresses which will be great for users like Casey. “So often we would just be riding in with tools strapped on our backpacks, and there is a safety issue there,” he explained. “So it’s going to be great to be able to put all our tools straight in the trailer and not worry about that at all.”
All of this has created an interesting design challenge for Jeff. “We have to remember we are still pedalling this in, even if it is on an eBike. It’s that challenge to make it light and strong, and also maneuverable. They are shaped a little bit like a boat, which might look a bit funny, but we hope they can just bounce and slide off the inevitable trees that they will probably clip out on the trail.” Jeff is also keen to be a part of an ongoing process with RTT and see how the concept might evolve. “It’s going to be interesting to get feedback from the users and see how they actually use them and what we can improve.”
Casey also liked the quick removal design, “It’s looking really good - we can unhook the trailer in two seconds. We’ve got our bikes right there with us, so we can actually spend some time riding the section we might have just been working on, to see if we’ve achieved the kind of flow we are looking for - which is great.”
Of course, all of this has been made possible by Bosch, Damian explains. “Bosch have been really generous to us, not only they have paid for the trailer to get made, and have donated literally thousands of dollars of power tools for us to use on an ongoing basis, but they have really listened to us and partnered with us through this whole process, and we think we’ve got a really good, practical outcome to show for it. We’ve also got three Trek E-bikes that have Bosch motors on them, so it’s great to be powered by Bosch all the way."
Bosch documented the entire project and have a video due to release on the 7th May 2020. Stay tuned!
Words: Lance Pilbrow
Images: Cameron Mackenzie