Gaz Sullivan is one of the real legends of mountain biking in this part of the world.

He was an early adopter of MTB back in the 1980s and he and his partner, Glen Anderson, moved to Rotorua 20 years ago to start their clothing business, Nzo.

Recently, he's been sampling an e-bike:

"I've been riding bikes for most of my life. School bikes, road racing bikes, track racing bikes," he says.


"Then, mountain bikes, the very first primitive versions, then bikes with suspension forks, dual suspension bikes, downhill bikes. In between, there have been single speeds, a BMX, and restoration projects.

"I thought maybe I had reached 'peak bicycle' with my current fleet, which includes examples of most of the above, and then along came e-bikes.

"Not to be confused with electric motorbikes, an e-bike has no throttle. To make it go, you have to pedal. That means they are arguably not too different to a regular bike with a world champ on board, and so they are allowed to go on the trails.

"My initial assumptions aligned with conventional wisdom. Maybe they are okay for people too feeble to ride a regular bike. People in rehab after busting themselves. Old people. The recently ill.

"Then I rode one. A Trek from Ride Central's demo fleet was available on a sunny Saturday, and I took it for pretty much the same loop as I would've done on my regular bike.

"My thoughts on e-bikes changed during the next couple of hours.

"First, it doesn't have to be a lazy way to go for a ride. You can get up a long steep climb at 20km/h, but you have to work about as hard as normal. Just not for anywhere near as long.

"Any single track is a blast - down, up, or traversing. Braking into corners when you are going uphill is ridiculous, but necessary. Climbing really steep stuff is fun - believe it or not.


"Going downhill is always good, and the low-slung weight of the battery and motor combined with the beefy suspension and big tyres made descending on the electric beast a real treat.

"I went all over the place, and milked the battery dry.

"No doubt, e-bikes are going to be great for the people we thought they were for. They're also going to be a very tempting to a lot of others.

"Serious riders, with time constraints. Older riders, who can't go for hours and hours day after day like they used to.

"And the big opportunity, and a symptom of our times, people who have always liked the idea of mountain biking but were put off by the steep fitness curve required. They can get on an e-bike and start having fun straight away.

"As if to confirm all this, I met a posse of guys exploring way out the back of the forest a few days ago. They were midlife city dwellers and in reasonable nick, physically. Their e-bikes open up a heap of country beyond their means by muscle power alone.

"They may eventually become bike riders like the rest of us, with e-bikes as their gateway drug.

"Will I get one? Not yet, maybe never. But I'm no longer ruling it out."

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