Justine Tyerman finds a sneaky way of keeping up with her super-fit husband ......

Rocks on a cycle track are like magnets to my front wheel. The more I try to avoid such obstacles, the more likely I am to hit them and go flying. The same applies to negotiating narrow tracks. I suddenly become so wobbly, I have to get off and push my bike.

That's all very well if you are riding an ordinary bike, but pushing an electric bike — especially uphill — is a different story altogether. They are much heavier than their unpowered cousins thanks to the grunty battery pack attached to the frame.

I was a little dubious about the e-bike concept before we tried them in Wanaka late last winter. I regarded them as a wee bit "cheaty", not real exercise. However, after our expedition along the banks of the mighty Clutha River — and in spite of the rocks and the narrow tracks — I'm hooked.

We hired SmartMotion e-bikes from Solarcycles, a small rental business in Wanaka. Designed by a clever Kiwi called Anthony Clyde and exported all around the world, these e-bikes are simple to operate and incredibly zippy.


The day was gloriously clear and the mountains, dusted with fresh snow, were spectacular. During our six hours' biking, we saw only a couple of other cyclists and hikers so we virtually had the track to ourselves.

We rode a 50km loop track from Wanaka to Luggate and back, stopping along the way for a riverside picnic lunch in the warm winter sun — yummy chicken wraps from The Good Spot in Wanaka.

The route alongside the aqua-turquoise Clutha ranged from a narrow, windy, rocky path on the river's edge on the way to Luggate, to a broad, straight, relatively-smooth track high above the river on the way back.

The Clutha River. Photo / Justine Tyerman
The Clutha River. Photo / Justine Tyerman

The ride was quite an adventure. We know Wanaka intimately after holidaying there for decades but this track was new to us and gave us an entirely different perspective on the river — one of the swiftest in the world — and its surrounds.

The terrain was probably too technical for me as a novice rider but the experience was hugely exhilarating. We had a map, spare clothes and the weather was perfect so there was never any risk involved ... apart from me wobbling right off the track.

It was thrilling for me to climb hills with ease and be able to keep up with my super-fit husband for once. The exercise factor was as strenuous as I wanted it to be and when I was tired, I just cruised for a while.

My husband, on the other hand, had a great work-out. He did a lot of unassisted pedalling in order to conserve his battery power in case I had squandered all of mine and we needed to swap bikes to get us both safely back to base.

Wise fellow! When my battery ran dry at the bottom of the last steep hill, he had sufficient left for me to coast home on his bike while he sweated his way uphill unpowered on mine, giving him more than enough exercise for the day. Needless to say, he did not go for his customary run that evening.

The author on the Smartmotion e-bike she cycled along the banks of the Clutha River. Photo / Justine Tyerman
The author on the Smartmotion e-bike she cycled along the banks of the Clutha River. Photo / Justine Tyerman

A former flat-terrain-only cyclist, the e-bike concept has opened up a vast world of possibilities to me. We are now contemplating buying e-bikes of our own and plotting our next expedition, which can include serious hills for the first time.

In the meantime, I'm honing my rock-avoidance technique and practising cycling across a narrow footbridge to eliminate the wobbles.

Further information: See smartmotionbikes.co.nz.

Justine travelled to Wanaka with JUCY.