Ebikes aren't the next big thing. They are well and truly here, right now.
Thanks to the team at Cyclezone, I took out a state of the art, Specialized Turbo Levo a couple of weeks ago. It was my last ride in the Whakarewarewa Forest for a while. That made the ride special. So did the effortless way the bike allowed me to explore a whole range of favourites and a couple of trails new to me over 40 kilometres and two and a quarter hours.
I'd debated a possible route (with myself) and discussed it with others. I was leaning towards a big climb, say Direct and Frontal Lobotomy followed by a descent of Billy T and G Rock or Eagle vs Shark.
The evening before I picked the Levo up, Rick Todd dropped in. He's someone who deserves a lot of credit for the work he contributed to mountain biking in our town. Trail crew wrangler for the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club in the early 2000s, then cross country course designer for the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships.
His master work, though is Old Chevy, started in 2007 and chipped away at by a great team of volunteers with help from Red McHale and the Department of Corrections crews. It's still a favourite of mine and I once cleared it on my singlespeed. I haven't got the legs anymore and when Rick suggested it for my ebike challenge it rang a bell.
Aaron at Cyclezone set me up on the Levo and I headed south down Fenton St to the Hemo Gorge trail. I rode the first generation of Turbo Levo back in 2016 and was impressed. The new one is at another level with a new motor, more compact battery (with a 40 per cent jump in range) and it was styled alongside the new Specialized Stumpjumper. It's lighter, slimmer, more streamlined and with controls on the bars that allowed me to switch between the three power modes.
Old Chevy zigs and zags, climbs and descends, steeply in both cases, through a beautiful stand of Douglas Pine between Reservoir and Hill Rds - riderotorua.com/Old-Chevy
The Turbo Levo coped comfortably with both. For the climbs I found I preferred low power or economy mode adding just enough watts to my legs and using the gears, as well, with a quick punch of mid-range and turbo power for the pinches.
The second generation Turbo Levo is still a big bike. However, it felt agile on the descents with so much of the weight concentrated at the centre of gravity.
Out of Old Chevy and in to another favourite, Yellow Brick Road, up Sandy Skid Road to Pondy New (at an average speed of 27km/h, yikes), to Dragon's Tail and Te Ara Puna, up Larch and Nursery Roads to Challenge Roadside, back up Nursery, down Exit then up the tarseal section on Nursery and the grovel that is Tokorangi Pa Road to Box of Birds and Fluffy Ducks.
"One of the best trails in the forest, really well hand-crafted, great work" is a bold claim. When it's made by someone with years of trail building under his belt (like the original Tickler plus a lot more), it's worth a listen. It's Pat Tickelpenny's verdict on Box of Birds... My verdict on the Turbo Levo? A brilliant take on the new-fangled ebike phenomenon and a big leap from the first version showing just how rapidly the technology is advancing.