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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.


Like a road race, only crunchy


As the seasons roll by the motivation to enter stuff gets harder to muster.

Unless there is a damn good reason, it’s easier to just go for a ride.

The Dirty K is a damn good reason. Not only is it a ‘gravel race’, and therefore a logical outing for my latest bike, it is around the top end of Coromandel, and any excuse to go there is a good one.

The event tags on to the K2 road race, a 200km hillfest that circumnavigates the middle of Coromandel Peninsula from a different start point each year. In 2018 it was Coromandel town, so when the idea of a rugged alternate ‘race’ was hatched the route north was chosen. A 70 kilometre lap was sorted out, about half of which is unsealed. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Throw in 1350m of climbing, and it becomes an honest day on the bike.

The format was new: instead of the usual road race start to finish timing regime, the Dirty K had a timing pad at each end to make sure nobody went missing, but no ‘result’ was calculated form them. Riders all used Strava to record their own efforts on four “stages”, which could be attacked or ignored at the rider’s whim.

Format schmormat. It was actually about getting there, hanging out, riding with mates, seeing places, eating stuff, and using low gear for over twenty minutes at a time.




The variety of people and bikes that turned out on the day reminded me of Round Taupo 20 years ago, or the early days of mountain bike events. There were people on state of the art ‘gravel’ bikes, hand made ‘gravel’ bikes (that are also state of the art). There was at least one full fatbike, and mountain bikes of various stripes, including a few that were pristine examples of the breed from the mid-nineties. I saw one e-bike, with a happy owner, at the 15km mark. I hope her battery held out for the last climb - it was a monster.

In our gang we had 28mm road tyres (brave, but logical given the featherweight rider), 47mm semi-slicks, and 2.2 inch mountain bike tyres. We had carbon fibre, hand made steel, and steel stitched together in Asia.

The people riding the bikes ranged from current hitters to the likes of us - on the road to see what would happen.

Which was rolling through stunning locations, grovelling up long steep climbs, and negotiating some really hairy descents. Discomfort was mitigated by rest stops featuring electrolyte and jellybeans in one case, beer and free stickers at another.

The Dirty K is the only event we have attended where the finish arch was positioned at 90 degrees to the road, and crossing the finish line meant entering a garden bar that was already crowded with people and bikes.

If at all possible, try not to miss the next edition, or try something similar where you live.