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One of the first benefits of mastering a bicycle for the first time is the increased scope of the master.

The world expands, and what was once a boring footslog to your mate’s place down the block becomes a 30 second warm up. The entire town is now available for plunder, and as expeditions are made in various directions over the years, favourite routes are hard-wired into young brains. Parks that connect streets become shortcuts, bits of track or grassy knolls become highlights, special places with the correct attributes become destinations if they provide the right conditions for learning some new trick using the bicycle that got you there.

The maps that are made of your voyages out into the world get a lot bigger once you have a bike, and they only exist in your head. They are personal, and they are modelled for self-propulsion. Only another bike rider would understand why it is better to go from one side of town to the other by a route twice as long as the direct way, but flatter.

Only a kid would see the sense of going to school via the top of a small grass-covered volcano that is five blocks off course but has a northern face that slopes downwards at 30 degrees, and is punctuated by ancient earthworks that might have been made for launching bikes off.

At least, until mountain bikes were invented.

Since then, almost anybody can be walking around with a virtual map humming under their hat. All day long, while other stuff gets varying degrees of attention, the map is constructed, modified, planned to a ridiculous level of detail, and sometimes adjusted as weather and time of sunset intersect with the hour of departure. What seemed a perfectly good set of options at breakfast becomes likely to be wet and slippery by lunchtime, then afternoon sun fools the planner into forgetting that the wet bit also faces south and won’t get any sun. Then some other thing delays the getaway by a mere 15 minutes, but that is the quarter hour required to get back from wherever it is by dark. So that extra bit in the middle has to be trimmed out so the good bit at the end can stay in.

And on it goes.

Apparently, if you could see inside the cranium, the brain is divided into sections for thinking up stuff, deciding what to eat, and how to tie shoelaces. These areas are discreet and may light up when activated. So thought the Phrenologists. Mountain bikers use the brains mainly for deciding where to ride, and in what order, then they shut their thinking glands down until they get back to the carpark. Or so it seems.

Endorphins are produced, brain feels strangely good, repeat as necessary.





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