Our friends were scornful and eye-rolly when we began raving to them, a few years ago, about our recent ebiking expeditions.
We'd had an incredibly good time ebiking in the South Island and were keen to share our excitement at having discovered a way that enabled us to 'level the pedalling field' and cycle the same terrain together — hubby with the least power-assistance and me with the max.
"Oooow noooo," they replied snootily. "That's cheating. We're both faaaar too fit for ebikes. They're for wusses."
Fast-forward a few years and, strange though it may seem, those same friends have since become full-on ebike fanatics and are never home. In fact, there's no one around to play with at weekends these days. They're all off ebiking.
So when Electric Bikes NZ offered us two brand new Wisper Wayfarer ebikes to trial for a couple of weeks, we leapt at the opportunity as an ideal way to do some serious research into what ebikes to buy.
In early spring, we headed south to Central Otago where the cycle trails are legendary. We picked up a 4-berth Maui Cascade motorhome from Queenstown Airport and two ebikes from Electric Bikes NZ general manager James Speedy.
Nearing the end of a nationwide sales trip, James said the growth in ebike sales was nothing short of phenomenal. He was having trouble keeping up with demand.
Our first ride was from Frankton to Kelvin Heights along the shores of sparkling Lake Wakatipu. The track crossed the smart new Kawarau Falls Bridge, weaving around the lake edge in front of the Hilton Hotel and million-dollar mansions interspersed with quaint Kiwi cribs. The ebikes performed so well, we ventured far further than planned, ending up at Jack's Point in the shadow of the Remarkables, resplendent after a sprinkling of fresh snow.
In the days that followed, we put our Wispers to the test riding a rutted, rocky 4WD farm track from Raspberry Creek up the scenic Matukituki Valley to Mt Aspiring Hutt; an uppy-downy trail along the mighty Clutha River from Wanaka to Luggate; the lake-edge trail from Wanaka to Glendhu Bay past that tree; a wide, smooth, purpose-built cycleway from Bannockburn to Cornish Point on the spectacular but as yet unopened Lake Dunstan trail; a circumnavigation of Lake Hayes, famous for its mirror reflections; and an old favourite, the Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley trail following the Kawarau River all the way to Peregrine Winery where a glass of rosé popped into my hand.
We biked in sunshine and sleet, knowing that we could always beat a turbo-powered retreat to our cosy motorhome if the weather seriously misbehaved ... thanks to our Wispers.
We found them 100 per cent reliable, responsive and robust. The motors had plenty of power for the terrain we tackled and we never once got within coo-wee of running out of battery. I was much heavier on the turbo and the thumb-operated throttle than Chris but even after a whole day in the saddle, I had only used up half my 700Wh capacity.
Our models were mid-drive, a 'his and hers' combo with an easy-to-mount/dismount step-through style for me.
Sturdy mudguards ensured we didn't end up coated in muck when riding off-road in wet or boggy terrain and the wide puncture-resistant tyres gave us confidence and grip. Powerful lights meant we could leave the motorhome parked up at night and cycle to a restaurant for dinner.
The Wisper Wayfarers were perfectly summed-up in a recent review as 'a reasonable value, versatile ebike that aims at the 50+ casual rider, with both on-road and light off-road capability'.
Meanwhile, our friends have graduated to high-tech electric mountain bikes and grade 5 trails, far beyond our abilities. We're easy riders.
"Join us this weekend," they challenged us.
They bandied around words like "precipitous, steep, narrow, river crossings, dangerous drop-offs ..."
"Busy," we replied.
"Wusses," they said, rolling their eyes.
Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of THL in a Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome, and rode a Wisper Wayfarer ebike courtesy of Electric Bikes NZ