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E-Bike Cityscapes

Words By: Kelsey Timpany
Images By: Cameron Mackenzie

When people think of Wellington, the first thing that comes to mind isn't usually "mountain biking." Similarly, when e-biking is mentioned, most don't immediately associate it with Wellington.

For someone who has based their mountain bike experiences around the meccas of Whistler, Queenstown and Rotorua, Wellington has never been on my radar as a biking destination – let alone on an e-bike. When the opportunity fell on my lap to sample Wellington’s trail network and on a Pivot Cycles Shuttle LT, I was in.

Wellington, known for its tight windy streets, tucked away cafes and bars, bright weatherboard villas perched on steep slopes and wind that blows right through your bones, is far from what an uneducated visitor would describe as a mountain biking playground.

The best part, I soon learned – amongst the cool hummings of the city are three quality mountain bike zones, that tick all mountain biking boxes. Steep and tight, fast and flow, jumps and views, technical root chunder and with most good networks leading directly to a pub or cafe.

The mission:

Ride and sample as much of Wellington’s goodness in the space of an afternoon and on one battery charge. Easy.

The team of choice: Latham Collet, local Wellington shredder, fresh off his first season Privateering in Europe. Latham is your classic Welly young gun: heaps of style, fit as anything from the Wellington streets and a tidy mullet. Cam McKenzie was tasked as day director and responsible for finding the trendiest bars and cafes, although Latham’s recommendation of a Brumbies smoko was probably a highlight.

Our choice of Pivots played a valuable role in our Wellington mission.

I opted for the Pivot Shuttle LT, a formidable machine that promised to deliver stability and control with playfulness in the zones we were about to explore. Latham, on the other hand, went for the Pivot Shuttle SL, which he reckoned felt exactly like his trail bike, with the convenient battery assist to take on the windy Welly roads.

It started like any other Wellington day.

Wet and Windy. We had to pivot (pun intended) our plans drastically to avoid the torrential downpour. Cam and I put our heart rates in the red zone from one to many decent coffees at Cafe Neo and did the classic pre-bike faffing at Pedal Project, where Latham conveniently works. The heavens parted and we were finally on our way to explore the city-scapes.

First up was Makara Hill

a zone known for its tight single track against the backdrop of native bush and panoramic views. The usual 45-minute climb from the city was quartered thanks to boost mode and it felt like we were on top of Wellington in no time at all. On a good day, you can see the South Island, and the start of the snow-capped Southern Alps, however today we could only see as far as each other. Despite the morning’s weather tantrum, it was impressive to see many Wellingtonians out enjoying Makara Hill, doused in mud and wrapped up – as though it’s a normal day. The weather definitely makes you tougher around these parts of the world and that was definitely apparent with the hardy riders on the tracks. 

Anticipating muck, we were pleasantly surprised to find the trails rode epically wet. We were treated to tight singletrack, natural side hits that started exposed and ended in dank native bush. Here, the Pivot Shuttles showcased the ideal blend of power and playfulness, especially for Latham who was throwing the LT around like it was his Firebird. Makara set the tone and pace for the afternoon, we were all stoked and excited to unlock the other zones. A quick pit stop at Brumby’s bakery to smash a mince and cheese pie, and we were on our way to zone number two.

Next up: Polhill Reserve, smack bang in the heart of Wellington, and a convenient quick link on the e-bikes through the city streets.

There is nothing more satisfying than riding on a busy street, matching the traffic speed- convince me otherwise.

The Pivot Shuttles were up for the job, getting up to effortless speeds of 50 km winding between cars and traffic lights. The reserve’s mountain bike trails, with their natural terrain, winding routes and technical challenges, were another exciting opportunity to put the e-bikes to the test. The Shuttles allowed us to navigate the terrain with ease but also punish the corners and chunder with playfulness and ease that truly defines Polhil. Latham and I had another sweet session of ripping corners, navigating steps, steeps and rocks and finding little hidden trail relics such as baby dolls and car parts, that make Polhill iconic.   

We found some jumps that the local kids have been labouring on over the winter, lined with shark fins and drops, that I admittedly was too much of a baby to try. Latham held down the fort and greased them all with style and ease. For an onlooker, no one would suspect he was actually on an e-bike. It was awesome to see the love and care put into these jumps by the gromies, and a testament to the quality of shredders that are coming out of the city.  

After exploring two zones

it was time well and truly time for a beer. Luckily for us, Polhill Reserve trails basically pop you straight out to Garage Project, one of the top-tier craft breweries in the city. Cam and I went for classic hazy styles while young Latham who is still on his beer journey opted for a sweet tequila sunrise vibe. He’ll get there eventually. The taphouse was a melting pot for students, hipsters, professionals and filthy mountain bikers like ourselves, where no one batted an eyelid at our mud-crusted faces and bums.  

With refreshments annihilated and tanks full, it was time to hit Mount Victoria or the Big V, but not without a few urban hits for Latham. Stairs, who needs them when you can jump them on an e-bike?  

The Shuttle LT battery had only dropped one bar

despite already covering 1500m of climbing over four hours. With a couple of hours of daylight left, it was time to really put the e-bikes to the test and see what juice we suck out of them.   

Mount Vic proved to be the most technical and challenging riding of the day. Latham led us directly to the wettest, steepest roots, proud to show us Wellington’s finest chunder. Despite the wet and buttery clay, Latham owned the lines and greased them with ease. We sampled the jump line with good sized tables that flowed really well. The best part is you can lap the jump line on the road and fill your boots with airtime – double points on an e-bike! 

By the time we were finished with Mount Vic, well it actually finished me, it was dark and most definitely time for a well earned feed.

Wairoa Brewery in Hataitai was a natural choice, where we were welcomed by another cool Welly bartender and a group of ‘fun mums’, whose decibels were increasing each round. We demoed some Burger Fuel in the brewery and debriefed about the epic afternoon that was had.

Bellies full, legs medium-rare-tired, arms exhausted and in complete darkness, it was time to cruise back to where we left the cars at the bottom of Makara. No problem with batteries with enough juice to weave through traffic and city goers gearing up for a boozey night in the city. A highlight was witnessing Latham’s cat-like reflexes when he nearly crashed into a street sign at full speed.   

I came to Wellington with a neutral attitude about what our mission had in store, albeit with a hint of skepticism that the city could meet all my expectations for a mountain biking adventure. My eyes have well and truly been opened to the world of e-biking, the volume and quality of riding that can be achieved in one wet afternoon while maintaining a high standard of excellence and sophistication. Teamed with an epic crew of Latham and Cam, the seamless blend of e-biking and epic Wellington trails is absolutely one for the books.   

Welly on a good day: they say you can’t beat it. Welly on a typical day and with an e-bike, I will wholeheartedly back that you can’t beat it.   

Words: Kelsey Timpany
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie