Monday, 25 January 2016

e-Bike Group Ride

Yesterday we went on a e-bike group ride, organised by Switched On Bikes. This is a company set up in 2015 by Ryan O’Connell, who is very keen to promote electric bikes as a great means of getting around Wellington. He has a fleet of e-bikes for hire, and also sells e-bikes, and he runs e-bike tours of Wellington. This ride was one of the free Wellington Region Summer Cycling Events

John had met Ryan before, but I hadn't. When we got there, Ryan greeted us with “Hi, I’ve read your blog”. Yessss!

There was quite a good turn out. Twenty people took part, including Ryan and his team of three. We met at the Switched On Bikes premises on Queen’s Wharf (near the Westpac helicopter). Some had their own e-bikes and some used hire bikes. One person hadn’t ridden any kind of bike for a long time. Those who hired bikes had the opportunity to cruise around the wharf for a bit to get the feel of the e-bikes.

Waiting for more people to turn up (photo by John)

There were several people there that we knew, and lots more that we didn’t. Alastair Smith – of Folding Goldies and Cycle Aware Wellington fame – was one of the ones we knew. It was Alastair who started us thinking about getting e-bikes, for which I, for one, am very grateful. I love my e-bike.

Another person we knew was Cliff Randall, who owns Wellington Electric Bikes, in Petone. He not only imports and sells a variety of electric bikes, but he also converts standard bikes into e-bikes. Whenever we are in Petone, John likes to drop by Cliff’s shop, to see “what’s new”. There is a friendly cooperation and sharing of information between Cliff and Ryan – and their clients of course. 

It was interesting to see the various different brands and models of e-bikes. SmartMotion was well represented, both in the folding and in the full size models, as were the Moustache bikes. Ryan offered everyone luminous yellow backpack covers, courtesy of the Wellington City Council – printed with their logo, of course. Just another way to make cyclists more visible on the roads.

Once everyone was ready to go, Ryan gave a brief introductory talk. He introduced his team – Sofia, Sylvie and Sean – who would be making sure such a large group was managed well through the Sunday traffic. Ryan would be leading the group, Sylvie and Sofia would be stopping traffic to allow our group to merge in, or to cross roads, and Sean would be closing up the rear, making sure we didn’t lose anyone.

Ryan and Sylvie (right and centre) (photo by John)

Ryan does his introduction talk – note his hi-viz backpack cover (photo by John)

Because it was quite busy along the front of Frank Kitts Park, Ryan asked us not to turn on the electric assist until we got to the bridge over the lagoon. Very sensible, especially for those people not yet used to e-biking. And we were told we should dismount near Waitangi Park, where the Sunday market was still in full swing.

We walked our bikes near the Sunday Market at Waitangi Park (photo by John)

Sofia stopped the traffic as we streamed from Herd Street into Oriental Parade, where we biked on the road rather than on the shared foot/cycle path. We pedalled along at a fair clip – thanks to our e-assist – until just past Cog Park on Evans Bay Parade. The northerly was quite strong, and it got quite fierce around some of the points along the way. I was very glad of my e-assist!

Round Point Jerningham (photo by John)

We stopped on a stretch of lawn close to Hataitai Beach, and Ryan had a a game for us to take part in: Bicycle Limbo. Does anyone remember the Limbo dance craze of the 1960s? Chubby Checker and his “Limbo Rock”? No? Well, I guess I am showing my age ... 

The idea was that participants had to bike under a rope (in this case an inner tube, I think) being held between two people. If your head or helmet touched the “rope”, you were out. Of course the rope is lowered as the game progresses, and the last person to pass without touching received a prize – a bike lock. Some people got cunning, taking off their helmets or sitting on their luggage carriers.

Bicycle Limbo (photo by John)

John got cunning by sitting on his luggage carrier, then others copied him. If he’d also taken off
his helmet, he would have won, but he considered that would have been “cheating”

We beetled along Evans Bay and Cobham Drive. At the Miramar Cutting, instead of going to Shelly Bay as originally planned, we went up the hill on Maupuia Road. This gave people new to e-bikes a chance to see how much easier it is to conquer Wellington’s mighty hills with some electrical assistance.

Some distance up, we diverted onto the Maupuia Walkway, a gravel track that skirted the edge of the hill overlooking the harbour, giving wonderful views over Evans Bay and beyond. And out towards the airport, if you looked behind you. We had not been on this track before, so that was a nice discovery.

Alastair Smith and David Lee on the Maupuia Walkway (photo by John)

The track was not very long, but some of it was reasonably steep and fairly narrow. I had one heart stopping moment, when I skidded and narrowly avoided a fall, right where there was a big drop to the left of me. Phew!

At the end of the track (photo by John)

At the end of the track we arrived at a road which led to the Miramar Water Towers. A great place for a stop. An open space, on top of the world, as it were. Not the best maintained area, but with great views in all directions.

View over Evans Bay – and some rather flash houses directly below (including
 the former home of the late Jonah Lomu) (photo by John)

View towards the northern suburbs, and Shelly Bay directly below (photo by John)

The concrete water tower is covered in graffiti (photo by John)

This was a “snack stop”, quite unexpected, and well appreciated. Ryan and Sylvie handed out bananas and large cookies.

Ryan unpacks the snack goodies

Time for checking out other people’s bikes and comparing notes

Of course we had to have a group photo, and this was an excellent place for it, with the fabulous view of Wellington behind us. Sylvie became official photographer, with several people handing her their cameras or phones for her to take photos with.

Group photo, taken by Sylvie, with John’s camera

Sylvie doing the honours by the graffitied water tower (photo by John)

I was rather glad that we did not return by the gravel track, but instead went flying down Akaroa Drive, back to the main road. There, Sofia again stopped the traffic on Shelly Bay Road to allow us all to cross safely. I heard her saying later “The hi-viz vest lends an air of authority”.

Back at Cog Park we gathered again for a brief stop, and Ryan mentioned that people might like to join him for a beer at the Karaka café/bar at the end of the ride. (Karaka Café becomes a bar after 4 pm.)

Ryan with some of the other cyclists (photo by John)

Riding back along the waterfront (photo by John)

Back at Karaka café/bar (photo by John)

Ryan took some people who had hired bikes back to the Switched On Bikes premises, then returned to join us at Karaka for a drink. It had been a most successful 25 km outing. It was great to meet Ryan and his colleagues, as well as meeting some other e-bike afficionados.


  1. Hi Desiree, great to ride with you and thank you for the write up! I didn't even notice John taking all of those photographs :)

  2. I used to take Seal the dog on the Maupuia walkway. Great views down to Shelly Bay. Nice photos of John's.

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