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Not spectating at the EWS

spectating at the EWS


Crankworx Rotorua 2019 has come and gone - the highlight for us was the Rotorua round of the Enduro World Series, and we proved to ourselves that it takes as much focus and single-mindedness to spectate as it does to compete.

On race day we headed out on our bikes to intersect with some of the best bike riders in the world tackling three stages in the local woods.

Well, we tried.

The problem on the day was the weather. The only significant rain around here since the start of the year was the day of our friends’ outdoor wedding, and the dirt has long ago turned to dust.

Bringing an EWS to town usually guarantees a deluge, previous editions in Rotorua have been very wet. True to form, the forecast was pretty bad, with solid rain expected in time to make the trails into a long quagmire.

The reality was something else entirely. Yes, it rained overnight. But only just enough to make the trails absolute gold. The exposed roots were slippery enough to be voted into high office, but the dirt was as tacky as a Las Vegas wedding. We only found one actual puddle, and it was well off the best line around my favourite left hand corner.

We found a viewing spot on one of the stages with enough satisfactory features for plenty of action. There was a selection of amateur commentators already on site, and they were warming up by heckling the various juniors and other sports classes bouncing through our field of view. They even heckled me for turning up.

It all looked pretty sound for a good afternoon of entertainment.

But what about those trails? That last one was ridiculous. Almost peeled the tyres off.

We couldn’t stay off our bikes long enough to wait around and see the pros. Within twenty minutes of finding our spot we had given up on spectating and were back in the trails, giggling like fools.

Maybe next time.


The Local's Hour

The Local's Hour


Obviously, a perfect Sunday would start with breakfast prepared by a skilled chef, and coffee ladled out by a barista.

After that, with no obligations on the agenda, there is leisurely preparation and a long mountain bike ride in a stunning location, perhaps followed by a swim, more food, and a nap.

If there could be more coffee and baked goods at the high point of the ride that would add some polish.
But that kind of thing doesn’t always eventuate. Perhaps never, precisely as described.

On those Sundays that don’t quite work out like the fantasy above, there is still a jewel to be winkled out.
It is that golden hour before dark, late enough so nobody except a local can fit in a lap of their patch before night falls.

To add a certain piquance on the way to the outing, we pass cars loaded with bikes, all heading the other way.

The trail head is more or less deserted. The trails are completely deserted.

The light is low and golden, the temperature is about perfect, and it feels pretty close to how it was to cut some laps of the back yard after dinner in the school holidays way back then.

It doesn’t last long, but it is so good that it’s almost worth missing out on perfection to turn any old Sunday into a very good one.


The Nzo Long Term Acid Test


When it comes to long term in-the-field testing of a mountain biking product, it is hard to argue with the patented method we have devised at Nzo.

To be fair, we only just realised we had devised it, but it is real and impossible to duplicate: it takes several years and unshakeable confidence in the product.

Here is how we do it: roll the thing into a courier bag, and send it to a publisher. Wait, feeling vaguely ill, until a few months later, when it appears in their publication.

Read what they say at least four times, mentally winnowing their phrases for gems which can be repeated ad nauseam.

Repeat them, ad nauseam. Hope somebody notices.

But copy and paste, and repeat, is only a sideshow in the Nzo Long Term Acid Test.

The next step requires patience and an eagle eye.

People with successful publications have an endless supply of new stuff to use. They must wade through piles of product samples to get to their palatial offices. Testing and evaluating new products is such a massive task they even shop it out to others.

So the thing we wait for is evidence that shows our product being used in a real-world situation by one of the reviewers. The older the product, the better. Long after the product was offered up for review, there it is, selected for an adventure as the preferred tool for the task.

At the top of this newsletter is a picture of the excellent journal produced by the folks behind a website I visit almost daily for inspiration, bikepacking.com. The journal is spectacular, but the thing we spotted is that the rider on the cover is wearing the Nzo Scuffers we sent her in 2015. The location looks adventurous, and not the kind of place to take shorts you are not sure about.

Below we include a photo from the latest issue of NZ MountainBiker. It features Carl, a discerning rider who knows his stuff, wearing a pair of Dobies we sent to him so long ago I can’t find proof of when it was. I know we haven’t made any with that rust coloured stitching for about four years.

Those are reviews that are definitely worth the wait.



Making stuff one at a time: why it's cool, and how it works, and what you get

Kelly Paul


One of the really cool things that has come along with Nzo's new customisation production facility is On Demand manufacturing.

The reasons this is cool are many. For you, it means the On Demand products are never out-of-stock. There is a much bigger selection available because we are not holding stock of these designs. For us it is cool because we can focus on keeping our 'Heritage' products in stock... the same team making the custom stuff is also making small batches of our stock products. Small batch production keeps quality front and centre, we can evaluate our processes and products more easily and make changes faster. 

For everybody it is cool because we can introduce new designs more easily, and keep improving.


Paul Kelly




The microwave bicycle: ride all day in a couple of hours



I have been riding bikes for most of my life. School bikes, road racing bikes, track racing bikes. Mountain bikes: the very first primitive versions, then bikes with suspension forks, dual suspension bikes, downhill bikes. In between there have been single speeds, a bmx, and restoration projects.

I thought maybe I had reached ‘peak bicycle’, and then along came e-bikes.

Not to be confused with electric motorbikes, an e-bike has no throttle. To make it go, you have to pedal. That means they are arguably not too different to a regular bike with a world champ on board, and so they are allowed to go on the trails.

My initial assumptions aligned with conventional wisdom: maybe they are ok for people too feeble to ride a regular bike. People in rehab after busting themselves. Old people. The recently ill.

Then I rode one. A Trek from RideCentral’s demo fleet was available on a sunny Saturday, and I took it for pretty much the same ride as I would have done on my regular bike.

My thoughts on e-bikes changed during the next couple of hours.

First: it doesn’t have to be a lazy way to go for a ride. You can get up a long steep climb at 20km/hr, but you have to work about as hard as normal. Just not for anywhere near as long!

Any single track is a blast - down, up, or traversing. Braking into corners when you are going uphill is ridiculous, but necessary. Climbing really steep stuff is fun - believe it or not.

Going downhill is always good, and the low-slung weight of the battery and motor combined with the beefy suspension and big tyres made descending on the electric beast a real treat.
I went all over the place, and milked the battery dry.

No doubt, e-bikes are going to be great for the people we thought they were for. They are also going to be a very tempting to a lot of others.

Serious riders, with time constraints. Older riders, who can’t go for hours and hours day after day like they used to.

And the big opportunity, and a symptom of our times: people who have always liked the idea of mountain biking but were put off by the steep fitness curve required. They can get on an e-bike and start having fun straight away.

As if to confirm all this, I met a posse of guys out exploring the forest a few days ago. They were midlife city dwellers, in reasonable nick physically, way out the back of the forest. Their e-bikes open up a heap of country beyond their means by muscle power alone.
They may eventually become bike riders like the rest of us, with e-bikes as their gateway drug.
Will I get one? Not yet, maybe never. But I am no longer ruling it out.



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