How electric bikes can push the boundary of what’s possible

Written by: Ryan O’Connell- Switched on Bikes owner

Wellington – Cape Palliser – Remutaka Incline – Wellington

When most people think of electric bikes they think of them as the solution to get from A to B a little easier. While that may be true, my favourite thing is pushing the boundaries of how eBikes can be used to make the journey an adventure!

I was recently invited to stay at a bach at Cape Palliser and I thought I’d give it a shot to eBike there from Wellington City rather than drive.  I’m not afraid of long journeys on a regular bike – I’ve done some cycle touring through Peru, Ecuador and Colombia before starting Switched on Bikes – but with limited time and not wanting to camp along the way, taking an eBike made the journey realistic in just one day.

Wellington to Cape Palliser

I picked up one of our rental eBikes from Switched on Bikes. I chose a Merida eBig Tour with a 500w/hr battery and took a spare battery in the rack bag, as the distance I was planning on riding was 100km in one direction and 140km back.  Of course, most people don’t own two batteries, but you can always hire an extra one from us. We usually have Shimano and Bosch batteries available. When riding high kms and further afield I like having the comfort of a second battery!

The adventure-mobile

My route from Wellington to Cape Palliser was to take the East by West Ferry from Queens Wharf (2 min from Switched on Bikes) to Days Bay, ride around the coast past Pencarrow lighthouses and Baring Head and on toward Featherston until I made it to the bridge over the river to the Cape Palliser/Lake Ferry side.

Fueled up with a coffee and scone from a Days Bay café I rode past Burdans gate, cruised the gravel road and passed Pencarrow lighthouse.  I rode most of this way with no power or just on low power as there was no wind to ride against.  It’s a wide gravel road with clear sightlines. I was trying to keep up a good speed so I could clock up the km in case I faced challenges later in the day. I preferred to ride in the daylight and it gets dark just after 5pm in late June.

The lower pencarrow lighthouse

Caution: eBikes can’t swim!

Following the Remutaka Cycle Trail, I headed over the hill passing farmland and cruised down a steep hill and to the road that connects Wainuiomata to Baring Head, then rode the tar seal to the coast.  From there it’s really bumpy around the coast and there are a couple of sections of sand.  On this bike, I could ride most of it, but it chewed through my battery trying to keep momentum in the sand and there were a few washed out sections.  It’s a nice riding challenge, but it probably would have been more sensible to push the bike through these parts.  I didn’t see any people on this part of the track until I got to Corner Creek where there were a bunch of surfers trying to warm themselves around a bonfire on the beach.

There were two rivers to cross.  In summer I had ridden through them but they were much deeper at this time of year and flowing quite swiftly.  I threw the bike on my shoulder and carefully crossed the river. If I lost my footing it would be a long walk home – electric bikes are designed to be ridden in the rain but the motors won’t handle being submerged in water. This eBike weighs about 21kg plus I was carrying an extra battery, but despite the heavier load I had no trouble lifting it across.

On the road past Wharekauhau the road is sealed again, but steep. Using the low power setting it got my heart beating, but it was easily manageable.

Caution! Sheep.

The gap between Onoke Spit and the Lake Ferry looks so small on Google Maps that I was tempted to ride or walk out there and see if I could cross at low-tide.  I imagine this isn’t a good idea…

Ocean crossings aren’t recommended on an eBike…

…I had to ride an extra 50km to get to the first bridge at a place labelled Lacewood to cross the Raumahanga River.  There is nothing at Lacewood. I imagined what this pasture area used to be before it was cleared for farming.  I did pass a regenerating wetland which was heartening.  I crossed one more hill, which would be a slog at the end of the day on a standard bike, but easily achievable on the electric bike.  I cruised down a steep hill to the DOC bach- Te Kopi Homestead at start of the road to Cape Palliser.  A gorgeous sunset made for a rewarding and memorable end to the day’s ride.

A good day!

Day 2

Cape Palliser is great and the Te Kopi DOC hut there is luxury with a heat pump and BBQ.  The walk to the Pinnacles is just down the road and there are seals to see and a lighthouse to climb to not far away.

If you haven’t been, the pinnacles are definitely worth the trip – such a crazy landscape!

Day 3

I rode from the Cape Palliser coast back to Wellington City via the Remutaka Incline (140 km).  I left at 11:30 am and got to Wellington City about 5:30pm.  The weather wasn’t as good on the return and I faced gale force winds on the Wairarapa side.  The wind didn’t drain my spirits like it can on an unplugged bike, but it did drain one whole battery before even reaching the Remutaka Incline.  I made it to Petone before running out of my second battery. I could have chosen to take the train at this point, but I had a tail-wind and wanted to finish by pedaling.

For this whole journey I didn’t need to do any maintenance on the bike.  However, I was prepared to fix things, pedal without battery assistance or walk the bike out if something went wrong – all part of any further afield adventure!

Riding 100km on a Friday afternoon and then riding 140km on a Sunday isn’t something I’d likely consider as my transport option when heading out to a bach, but suddenly it is achievable on an eBike.  In summer I rode from Days Bay across the Remutaka Rail Trail and back to Wellington in one long day – that was 165km.  I don’t think this would be possible on a standard bike – at least I haven’t met anyone who has done it.  It’s this kind of boundary pushing that makes eBikes so exciting for me!

Bike Details

2018 Merida eBig Tour 300 EQ with 2x 500 w/hr batteries

Planning An Adventure

If you’re after an adventure around wellington, get in touch! Whether you’d like to take one of our bikes or just get some advice, we’d love to help. You can grab one of our eBikes for a multi-day adventure, or just cruise to some of Wellington’s best beaches.  Getting people outside on bikes is our passion, and we can’t wait to see where an eBike takes you!







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