It’s been funny how many people on the periphery of my social circles said they were searching for eBikes and found my blog post about it here – I’m thrilled others have been enjoying it. One thing I’ve been wanting to add to my eBike experiences is a genuine overnight camping trip, and I did a ‘range testing’ ride in mid January in anticipation of this:
The range testing ride proved I could go over 100km with over 1350m elevation and still have some juice in the tank so I targeted a trip to Akaroa, on Banks Peninsula, a beautiful township on the waterfront with a real variety of Māori, French, and English history all mixed into one. With the national holiday celebrating Waitangi Day (accessible history overview here) falling on Saturday, I knew it would be “Monday-ized” so I decided to take Friday off as well to enjoy a 4 day weekend and build my first ‘touring eBike’ adventure into the long weekend.
I mixed this on my wife’s iPad Pro with iMovie – I’ve used iMove on MacOS many times and found that the iPad Pro version was a little limiting, so didn’t spend too much time on this. Just trimmed the footage down to something manageable:
Day One: Christchurch to Akaroa via Little River Rail Trail
This was always going to be the easy route, following the Little River Rail Trail that I’d done in December 2020 with my wife. It’s a great trip, easy as most of it is off the main roads and a cruisy ride to Little River for a late lunch:
If you’re new to the Little River Rail Trail, then this is the official website, however DoC also one here here. Suitable for any age, with different sections you can attempt, it’s a super ride. Do pick your day: it can get very windy and also very hot – not a lot of drinking water stops along the way so be prepared.
Approaching Little River is Lake Forsyth which had stunning views across the water with a lot of wildlife. A photo from Motukarara Railway Station isalso included:
After a quick lunch at Little River (the cafe there does awesome food), I was ready to tackle the first and only serious climb of the day – up to Hilltop Tavern.
Thanks to the range testing, I was super confident in battery life, so used mostly “Sport” boost mode on my eBike and really experienced no difficulties whatsoever. Stopping for some stunning photos from the summit was a treat, before a very fast and windy descent into French Farm. Given the weight of the SuperCharger 2 and the thick tyres, you feel very secure riding at high speed downhill, with me averaging between 50-65kph on the downhill section I was easily keeping up with the few cards on the road.
There are a few more bays that need to be navigated before getting to Akaroa and I opted for the more circuitous route to get a better view of Onawe Peninsula, a place rich in local Māori history. I actually recalled I took my whānau there in 2017 and captured some drone footage too – see below (I can’t for the life of me explain/justify the awful soundtrack I put to the video – apologies!):
If you want to read a brief overview of the history of Onawe Peninsula, this is a reasonable starting point. It always captures my attention, to know we’re walking on the sites of major historical conflicts and I was fortunate to capture some great photos of it.
Before long I was rolling into Akaroa and parking up at the Top 10 Holiday Camp where, for $20 a night, I had an unpowered campsite but access to the amazing facilities which included full kitchen, hot (and high pressured!) showers, swimming pool, playground etc. I charged my eBike batteries in the kitchen and pitched my tent before kicking back to relax in the early evening sun:
In anticipation of these types of rides, and thinking I might not always be able to secure my bike to a fixed object overnight, I purchased the ABUS Bordo 6000a Folding Lock which I locked between the frame and rear wheel. The benefit of this alarm is that it has a motion sensor and if moved it initially gives off a few warning beeps. If someone continues to interfere it triggers a 90 decibel alarm – enough to dissuade most would-be thieves from persisting! During the night I did hear it trigger the “warning beeps” briefly which woke me up, but I realised that a crab apple had fallen off the tree I was camping under and hit the back of the bike – good to know the alarm alerts me!
It was a perfectly still night in Akaroa and after dinner I walked around the deserted harbor front enjoying the solitude as the evening slowly slipped into the bay:
One thing I did notice in the township was an Orion Energy electric vehicle charging station – great for cars, not so great for eBikes! Given the unrelenting push for greener vehicles on our roads, I don’t hear anything about eBikes and the rapidly expanding infrastructure to support EV does not seem to be taking eBikes into consideration. Consequently, I could not help agitating:
Day Two: Akaroa to Christchurch via Pigeon Bay, Port Levy, Diamond Harbour.
After a pretty good night sleep, I woke up with a decision to make: return the way I came, or explore an alternative route home. With some range anxiety and trepidation I opted for a new route and tried to plan out the distance and elevation on Google Maps:
The distance of less than 50km did not phase me – it was the elevation of 1600m that made me wonder how battery life would go, especially as I read that some of the climbs were 20% gradient.
A Note About Dynamically Calculating Range On Bosch Powered eBikes
A quick note on this: it’s one of the key features of Bosch powered mid drive eBikes – that they take around 1000 readings a second to dynamically calculate your range. This is awesome but can be misleading, and certainly left me with serious range anxiety almost immediately. Taking readings such as cadence, torque, speed, wheel rotation etc, it was telling me I had a range of only around 40km from the outset of my journey.
I believe this was because the start of the journey was immediately on steep roads and I was going very slowly (10-15kph). I also knew I was going to need to bike over 75km to get home as the range to Diamond Harbour was only 45km or so, I would still need to do the steady climb out of Lyttelton Harbour and then through the city back to my house. Consequently, I went into serious battery preservation mode from the outset:
- Using Eco boost wherever possible.
- This proved near impossible on the steeper hills, given the weight of the bike, me and the camping gear I would not have got up those hills. Consequently, I did short bursts on Tour and Sport modes for additional power assist.
- Turning off assist altogether on downhill descents and when on flat ground in and around the bays.
As it would turn out, these precautions were entirely necessary as I finished the ride home with 2km range remaining (and given the final 20kms were very flat and consistent speed, I believe that 2km reading was very accurate!)
On with the show!
The trip over to Pigeon Bay was largely uneventful, and whilst there was some hill climbing, Tour mode made mostly light work of it, and I was rewarded with a beautiful descent into the stunning Pigeon Bay. This war memorial caught my attention:
If, like me, these war memorials interest you, here is a map of the majority of them in New Zealand courtesy of NZ History. I ambled around (under no boost assist) to the Pigeon Bay Campsite which was very full on Waitangi Day, before starting the arduous ascent towards Port Levy. I won’t lie – on a gravel road with some very steep sections, this was a long, hard slog up the hill, ascending over 500m
One thing to note about Gates Carbon Belt Drives – they’re awesome in they don’t need oiling, but I did find that when it got very dusty it became quite squeaky. I had noticed this on day one too on the Rail Trail and remembering I’d read something about this I gave the belt a squirt of water from my drink bottle and the noise immediately went away! I probably had to do this 3-4 times across the two days given the hot and dusty roads I was on and it was nothing compared to oiling and maintaining a tradtional chain, but I share this with readers if you face the same squeak on your belt drive.
Given the gravel, it was a relatively cautious descent into Port Levy as, with no cell phone reception, I didn’t want to crash my bike and have limited means to get home! As it was Waitangi Day, I expected activity around Tūtehuarewa Marae located in Port Levy, however it was completely deserted (I subsequently learnt that celebrations were taking place at neighbouring Okains Bay). I talked to a couple of families fishing on the jetty instead:
With one final, major climb to complete I was starting to get a bit nervous as to whether I’d make it with my battery charge – I felt confident I would get to Diamond Harbour – whether I’d have battery to get out of Lyttelton Harbour would be another story!
With some fatigue, I found the climb out of Port Levy to be perhaps the most taxing and was very glad when I finally reached the summit and glimpsed the sparkling waters of Purau in the distance. The descent was fast and I saw some other bikepacking adventurers coming up the hill towards me – no eBikes in sight! I yelled a cherry greeting of encoruagement as I whizzed down the hill past them!
I messaged a friend who lives in Diamond Harbour with the intention of stopping in for a drink of water and a quick battery top up, but with no response I headed straight to the wharf and waited for the hourly ferry. At NZD$6.70 one way and no cost for the bike, I thought this was a great way to finish my trip.
Diamond Harbour wharf on the left and Lyttelton Harbour on the right.
The ferry ride was lots of fun and I spoke to a regular who often took his eBike on the ferry to bike into the city – what a great way to get around! As he was over 65yrs old it was entirely free for him!
With one final ascent of around 200m to complete, I eased up out of Lyttelton and down into Sumner, heading home on Eco boost with a strong easterly ushering me home. As mentioned, I finished with only 2km range on the bike having completed 78.22km and 2009m elevation gain. Who says eBikes can’t go touring?
For those interested in touring on your eBike I hope this blog post has inspired you to give it a go. These were not the longest rides ever, but I think they represent what can be done in terms of distance and elevation.
Here are some stats:
Interesting reading that now and seeing there was only 10km difference between the two days, but over 1000m additional elevation gain on Day Two nd that is where all the battery power went!
I’m not going to list all the gear I took with me on this trip, but I did make a conscious effort to not take my camping cooking gear and food, instead preferring to eat out in Akaroa for dinner/breakfast so this reduced my gear load.
All up, thrilled I did this, thrilled the bike performed so well, and can’t wait to do a new ride soon.